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Re: What is biomechanics? (or, The Truth About Flying Snakes - Was: Re: science and philosophy)

John Conway wrote -

>I'm sorry, I don't think there is "confusion" among cladists that you
>refer to. In fact there is remarkable consistency - Dromaeosaurs and
>Troodontids are the closest to birds.

Which just supports my point.  Dromaeosaurs and Troodontids make pretty poor
precurosrs for a flying animal (from a biomechanical point of view), if you
ask me.

Look, I know that this is the sort of statement that gets quoted back at you
20 years later to show just how bad humans are at making predictions, but;
....If I was charged with turning a theropod dinosaur into a bird then
_Velociraptor_ or _Troodon_ are not the sort of animals I'd be starting off
with.  I'd be looking for a small insectivorous thing scurrying around in
the forests.  Interestingly, forests don't tend to be that great at
preserving fossils, do they?

And I wouldn't be wasting my time in the Upper Jurassic.  I'd be going back
to that part of the Mesozioc in which just about every fundamental body plan
of terrestrial vertebrates seems to have evolved - the Middle Triassic.

Jeez, they do sound like famous last words, don't they :-)

>The disagreement (confusion, if you prefer) is coming from those not
>using cladistic analysis.

John, I wish that you (and every other cladist who squeals about someone
daring not to see the 'truth') could hear yourself!  You're saying that the
only thing that upsets the beauty of your prefered hypothesis is people who
use a slightly different methodology!  Can't you see the logical
inevitability here?  Don't you see that its the corroboration of hypotheses,
through the use of differing methodologies, that sorts good hypotheses from
the bad?  If your theory relies upon people using one particular
methodology, then all you have is the result of one form of analysis.  Big
deal.   How do you know if that result says anything resembling the 'truth'
without cross checking it using other approaches?

And rejecting other analyses because they
(a) don't use the method you approve of, and
(b) don't produce the result you like,
isn't scientific at all - it's more like religious dogma.

I'm just amazed at how dogmatically some palaeontologists cling to
cladistics, to the seeming exclusion of all other approaches.  It's like
trying to get a behavioural ecologist to use something other than Selfish
Gene theory.  It also seriously detracts from the useful things that
cladistics can show us.  I'm sure that Tom or Mickey M wouldn't try to
suggest that cladistic analyses, even at the level that they use them, are
the only possible way that phylogenetic signals can be discerned.  And I'm
also sure that they wouldn't reject outright an analysis that produces a
result that conflicts with their own work - they'd examine the new approach
on its merits and accept or reject it accordingly.  Discounting data because
you don't like the method is ridiculous.

>Besides, it is highly unlikely that we have -
>or ever will - find the actual ancestor of the Eumaniraptora.
>Eumaniraptoran fossils from the Late Jurassic are, sadly, very rare

What, you can cling to your belief that dromaeosaurs are actually ancestoral
birds because you don't think that we'll find any fossils that will
contradict you?  How convenient.

Sometimes I really think Tracy's hit the nail on the head.  There are a lot
of closed minds out there.