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Re: Alan Feduccia's medievalism in the February 2003 Discover



HP Pickering castigates AF using quotes from Kevin Padian:
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".
and
"...Their arguments amount to a disagreement with the theropod hypothesis.
This disagreement rests on
assumptions about the evolutionary process, not on a willingness 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".

The accusation in the quotes selected is that AF refuses to accept
cladistics as a methodology and to acknowledge the results of cladistic
analyses as unarguable.
If that were all there was supporting birds as dinosaur descendants, then AF
is home free.  All he has to do is concentrate on the limitations of
cladistics and ignore the facts, the accumulated observations which do make
a compelling case under any methodology, and he can argue cogently as long
as he likes.  He can even make the opposition seem cliquish, requiring
belief in cladistic analysis as a precondition for membership, rather than
objective.
The strategy for presenting conclusions is also important.