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Storrs Olson and the Last Crusade (was Re: New bird refs)



Ben Creisler wrote:

Storrs Olson reviews New Perspectives on the Origin and
Early Evolution of Birds. Proceedings of the International
Symposium in Honor of John H. Ostrom. pp. 1202-1205
[[No real surprises in what they have to say I'm afraid.

Nevertheless, the level of shrilleness and vitriol contained in the review is a little surprising. Below is a few choice excerpts. My comments are brief, since I have to rush off to the local chapter of the Fundamental Cladist Church of Birds as Latter Day Dinosaurs.


Here we go.  Says Olson:

"One of the rituals of the Birds-Are-Dinosaurs-Movement (BADM) is to hold periodic symposia to reaffirm the belief that birds really are dinosaurs, much as Southern Baptists hold revival meetings." [Olson enjoys his religious analogies. There's more coming up. You may want to clutch the nearest crucifix before reading on.]

"The volume reviewed here is the metastasis of one of these symposia, which honors Yale paleontologist John Ostrom..."

"Kevin Padian, the Elmer Gantry of the theropod crusade, is an author on no fewer than four contributions, which does nothing to diminish the impression of the whole volume as a dreary, sectarian tract from the Kingdom Hall of Hennig's Witnesses."

"Having to suppress one's gag reflex as early as page 3, where we read about ?the considerably more lively varieties [of dinosaurs] flitting about our backyards,? only generates queasiness for tackling what follows." [I hope Storrs didn't read the volume with a full stomach.]

"The whole underpinning of the BADM is cladism, a systematic formulation elevated to a religion years ago and with adherents as fervent as any biblical zealot."

"Reconstructions of Mononykus, covered with imaginary feathers, of course, appeared all through the print media and even made the cover of Time magazine." [The 'parafeathers' of Longisquama are, of course, authentic. Or para-authentic.]

"The study [showing that Caudipteryx and the Oviraptorosauria are flightless birds] is seemingly unassailable from the standpoint of strict cladistic orthodoxy, but is still likely to elicit criticism from someone in the BADM because it eliminates the only example of a ?dinosaur? with real feathers". [At the time of writing, Feduccia and Czerkas were marching Cryptovolans at gunpoint from the dinosaur camp into the bird camp.]

"Unscientific noncladists could look at those taxa [Mononykus and Caudipteryx] and see that the first was a dinosaur and the second was a bird." [Wonder what those same 'unscientific noncladists' would do with plesiosaurs and pterodactyls. Or Big Bird and Barney the Dinosaur.]

"None of this ?dino-fuzz? exhibits the structure of a pennaceous feather. Furthermore, there reportedly are in the same deposits various other organisms, unrelated to birds or theropods, that sport those same filaments. If so, the information has been suppressed." [I knew it! There's a cover-up! Mulder and Scully, stop whatever you're doing, and get to the bottom of this conspiracy.]

"Furthermore, the only integument preserved with any of the preceding dinosaurs is the skin of Carnotaurus (Bonaparte et al. 1990), which consists of ?non-imbricating scales similar to those which are known from herbivorous dinosaurs?" [I keep on forgetting, but kudos to Olson for remining me: all theropods are the same. If one has scaly skin, they all had scaly skin; if one has serrated teeth, they all had serrated teeth.]

"Prum's own essay is little more than naked proselytizing, designed to cajole the heathen onto the path of enlightenment."

Well, that's enough from me. I'm off to Mass. Today we're going to sacrifice an avian dinosaur and read its entrails, in order to divine cladistic character states.

Go in peace.

Brother Tim



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