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Re: Origins (was: Re: Sharovipteryx)

>How about some other opinions from other pros and enthusiasts, this is a
>really important point to nail down.

I can't think of much to add, except "Yeah - what he said."  But here's a
point I often make to students who argue that the historical sciences
(including paleontology) aren't "real sciences" because they involve events
we can no longer observe:

Think of the germ theory of disease.  Has anyone actually observed the
influenza virus penetrating the cells of someone's respiratory tract,
causing the flu?  Of course not.  We know that people with the flu tend to
be infested with one or another strain of the influenza virus; we know from
laboratory work how viruses (including influenza) work within a host cell;
we even know some of the specific mechanisms by which influenza viruses
cause some of the symptoms of the flu.  But since we have never actually
seen influenza viruses doing this in real flu sufferers, we don't actually
*know* that the influenza virus is the ultimate cause of the flu.  This is
why the germ theory of disease is still a theory, in precisely the same way
that the theories of evolution, universal gravitation, and plate tectonics
are theories, whether they belong to the realm of historical science or

I generally don't regard modern medicine as an assemblage of "just-so
stories," but following the reasoning that George has expressed, we cannot
really distinguish possible causes for the flu - it could be a virus, or an
imbalance of body humors, or an evil spirit, or a bad alignment of the


Christopher A. Brochu
Department of Geology
Field Museum of Natural History
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605

voice: 312-665-7633
fax: 312-665-7641
electronic:  cbrochu@fmppr.fmnh.org