Dino Horns: Is Smaller More Evolved?
One can never tell which way the evolutionary path will take to determine fitness. Could be bigger, could be smaller. Could be faster, could be slower. Could be better camouflaged, could be flashy. Michael Ryan (Cleveland Museum) decided that shorter horns on his dinosaur constituted better fitness. CNN says his discovery, a 20-foot dinosaur in Alberta, was on the way to evolving shorter horns. Associated Press began, “A new dinosaur species was a plant-eater with yard-long horns over its eyebrows, suggesting an evolutionary middle step between older dinosaurs with even larger horns and the small-horned creatures that followed, experts said.”
A dinosaur alleged to be 12 million years older also had large horns. Dinosaurs thought to be later in the fossil record had smaller horns. One paleontologist had predicted something like Ryan’s specimen would be found. When it was, he exclaimed, “Lo and behold, evolutionary theory actually works.”
David Tyler commented on this story on Access Research Network.
…which wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week. Do you think this paleontologist had any doubts? Was he relieved that his colleague was able to stuff data into a preconceived set of assumptions? This is like the magic trick where a jokester says to his dupe, “pick a finger – any finger.” Once selected, the magician scrambles his fingers rapidly then – alacazam! He finds the correct finger that the victim had selected. Evolution is a foregone conclusion in spite of the data. If horns were getting bigger, that would mean evolutionary theory actually works. If they were getting bigger then smaller, or smaller then bigger, that would also mean evolutionary theory actually works. Evolutionary theory is a GIGO game (garbage-in, garbage-out) where any combination of input produces a satisfying confirmation of expectations (for swine).