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Alan Feduccia's medievalism in the February 2003 Discover



Both Kris and Mickey make points that are to be
considered. Perhaps Kris does not wish to be
disrespectful to AF...I do. He has done this pedantic
tap-dance in the past, and has been refuted rather
thoroughly (most notably by Kevin Padian). Yet...there
will come a point when he will use someone's name in
conjunction with accusing a feathered dinosaur
specimen of being a forgery...at which time, he will
be sued for intentional slander/libel, and, hopefully,
moves will be made at his university to have him
disciplined  for professional misconduct in 
promulgating the statement.  Until then, dinosaurology
ignores him, and his few published papers are riddled
with pseudoscience (his recent forays into the
ontogeny of the avian hand ignores the fact that manus
topology is I, II, and III),laboratory conclusions
bordering on...well, I could go on. He is one of the
few individuals in my lifetime for whom silence could
be capital punishment. I have refused to allow any of
his work to be in my archive, I do not cite him in my
book-in-progress's bibliography. I believe to cite him
in a discussion of evolutionary processes is to grant
him a legitimacy he will never possess until such time
as he publicly apologizes. (My only criticism of Greg
Paul's brilliant monograph is that he did not, as
Kevin Padian has done, publicly rebuke scientifically
Feduccia's interpolations.)
And yet. I agree that something could be done. My
suggestion would be for Jacques Gauthier et al. (all
of the contributors, e.g., to the YPM symposium) to
prepare an open letter, containing a refutation to
Feduccia (remember when Hoyle said Archaeopteryx was a
forgery?)predicated upon the scientific realities.
This has reached the stage, in my mind, where
Feduccia's ideas are not disagreements of
interpretation of the data, but a deliberate attempt
to distort and malign individuals' work. Peter
Makovicky/Gareth Dyke, Richard Prum, Chris Brochu,
Mark Norell, Jacques Gauthier, Kevin Padian...all have
exposed Feduccia's pseudoscience. Kevin's paper, in
particular, should be duplicated and sent to Discover
Magazine.
Kevin lays it on the line. Feduccia & co.: "(1)have no
alternative hypothesis that can be tested, (2) do not
use methods of phylogenetic analysis accepted in the
field of systematic biology, (3) have never analyzed
the vast majority of the characters that support the
theropod ancestry of birds, and (4) do not explain
what methodologies, if any, they are using to reach
their conclusions".
While writing the above paragraphs, I realized that
Kevin Padian's paper is an excellent route to be
taken: have all of the participants in the YPM
symposium, and all members of the Dinosaur Mailing
List, send copies to Discover Magazine's editors. As
Kevin notes, "unanimity is not required to in the
establishment of scientific knowledge". Disagreements
about data, taxonomy, etc., are the wellsprings of
scientific debate, so that either/or scenarios are
often nebulous (e.g., I do not believe sauropods were
"pure" endotherms based on their probable
cardiovascular requirements, but this does not mean
they are not active animals).
Let me close with Kevin Padian's concluding words:
"...Their arguments amount to a disagreement with the
theropod hypothesis. This disagreement rests on
assumptions about the evolutionary process, not on a
willingless to test the evolutionary pattern through
the accumulation and analysis of character-based
evidence. Consequently, the dissenters do not feel
bound to accept or analyze the hundreds of shared
derived characters that independent cladistic analyses
have used to locate bird origins within coelurosaurs.
These characters, and the methods used, are simply
dismissed with the usual 'garbage in, garbage out'
bromide. None of this is science, and there is no
further reason for the scientific community, or the
public, to treat it seriously".
None of what Discover Magazine has done in their new
issue re: Feduccia is science, and while I absolutely
reject censorship in all facets regardless of ideas
articulated, I believe Discover should be censured for
not allowing, in the same pages, a genuine scientific
forum to refute Feduccia. And if the magazine decides
to air ideas in an on-line forum (a form of indirect
censorship in itself), this is unsatisfactory: it must
be in the pages of their magazine.


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