October 26, 2017 | David F. Coppedge

Selective Extinctions Defy Logic

To believe the standard evolutionary timeline, you have to accept some highly unreasonable notions.

Museums and nature TV shows routinely show the march of evolution through time. The story is punctuated by several major extinction events, the most famous of which is the death of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. The current popular theory is that an asteroid slammed into earth, causing the death of all the dinosaurs, pterosaurs and marine reptiles in a geological instant (called the KPg boundary). Do viewers ever ponder the fact that many delicate animals lived right through this catastrophe as if nothing happened?

Genomic evidence reveals a radiation of placental mammals uninterrupted by the KPg boundary (PNAS). The early placental mammals (a group that includes us humans) were believed to be rather small, perhaps badger size, at the time of the extinction. They were no match for T Rex and Triceratops. Why, then, did they survive “uninterrupted” right through the disastrous extinction event? This group of evolutionary scientists, using different assumptions for dating ‘divergence times’ (when mammal groups supposedly branched into different families), believes that’s exactly what happened.

We produced a genome-scale dataset from representatives of all placental mammal orders to infer diversification timing relative to the Cretaceous–Paleogene (KPg) boundary. Our sensitivity analyses show that divergence time estimates within placentals are considerably biased by the specific way in which a given dataset is processed. We examined the performance of various dating approaches using a comprehensive scheme of likelihood analyses and computational simulations, allowing us to identify the optimal molecular clock parameters, gene sets, and gene partitioning schemes for reliable dating. Based on the optimal methodology, we present a hypothesis of mammalian divergence timing that is more consistent with the fossil record than previous molecular clock reconstructions, suggesting that placental mammals underwent a continuous radiation across the KPg boundary.

Creationists would say that the techniques are circular, because they assume evolution to prove evolution. What’s interesting is that to believe the evolutionary story, you have to believe that furry mammals lived through a global catastrophe as if nothing happened.

Speaking of this PNAS paper, John Gatesy and Mark Springer took strong issue with the team’s phylogenetic methods in a letter to PNAS the following week, complaining about “homology errors and zombie lineages” in the analysis. In their reply, Liu et al. defended their work. This interchange reveals the high degree of subjectivity in the sausage-making business of piecing together animals into ancestral trees. Apparently, “zombie lineages” are just fine if they keep the tree standing:

Gatesy and Springer are concerned that “zombie lineages” compromise our conclusions. We acknowledged zombie lineages as a reasonable concern and discussed such discrepancies and their likely causes at some length in our study. At the same time, our analysis is an advance because many more fossil and molecular divergences, particularly ordinal divergences, are now better reconciled. Hard bounds on priors can work but are also more likely to mislead than the soft bounds we used. Even sophisticated approaches can misestimate divergences in some cases, while uncertainties in the phylogenetic placement and dating of fossils may often yield false assumptions about fossil ages used for calibration.

Geese-like birds seem to have survived the dinosaur extinction (New Scientist). Jeff Hecht acts surprised that birds like ducks, geese and chickens lived right through the dinosaur-killing event. Hecht introduces a little disagreement between evolutionists about the dating and phylogeny, but in the end, quotes German researcher Gerald Mayr, who thinks “most of the known modern-looking birds from the late Cretaceous were aquatic, so Mayr says the ancestors of today’s birds may have been at least semi-aquatic.” So how, exactly, did waterfowl live through a global extinction event that wiped out all marine reptiles around the world? Many evolutionists ignore this conundrum, arguing that the extinction of the dinosaurs paved the way for more diversification of mammals and birds. A picture of loons graces the opening of Hecht’s article, suggesting a certain cartoon title.

One trick is to claim that birds are the living descendants of dinosaurs, as Science Daily claims. Even if one believes that, it still doesn’t explain why the smaller, more delicate birds survived while dinosaurs of all sizes all vanished. This particular article commits another theory rescue strategy, to reconcile the “rocks and clocks” debate. There’s been a long-standing discordance for evolutionists between molecular clock dates and fossil dates. The solution? “by speeding up avian genetic evolution, the K-Pg mass extinction may have temporarily altered the rate of the avian molecular clock.” The jargon term for this ad-hoc rescue device is “rate heterogeneity.” In plain English, it means factoring with fudge (see also, Darwin Flubber). A third fudging strategy is the old Sidestepping trick. The reporter pivots to talk about conservation of today’s large mammals, as if we humans could stop an asteroid.

Toxic algae may be culprit in mysterious dinosaur deaths (Science Magazine). A jam-packed bone bed in Madagascar is generating another conundrum for evolutionists. In an area one third the size of a tennis court, 1,200 bones have been recovered. Carolyn Gramling writes,

Seventy million years ago, they all came to drink in the rapidly drying river: long-necked sauropods, fierce theropods, crocodiles, lizards, and raven-sized birds. They never left. The giant and the tiny were entombed together in the riverbed, forming what is now a spectacular series of mass graves in northwestern Madagascar. Last week, researchers proposed a culprit behind this ancient mystery: harmful algal blooms (HABs), in the very water that had lured the animals.

No evidence of algae has been found, though. Obviously, they are struggling to find answers for what killed so many animals so fast. One chunk “is the most fossiliferous package of rock I’ve ever seen,” said Raymond Rogers, a geologist from St. Paul. Many of the dinosaurs were found in the “dinosaur death pose” with head arched back, indicating suffocation, as with drowning.

New research proves that birds and flying reptiles were friends, not foes (Phys.org). Contrary to evolutionary expectations of a ‘struggle for existence’ between airborne vertebrates in the Cretaceous, this article suggests that birds and pterosaurs got along just fine. Why, then, did the birds luck out in an event that wiped out all the flying reptiles? This article gingerly tiptoes past Darwin to avoid upsetting his stomach.

New Macquarie University research, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, has shown that birds and pterosaurs did, in fact, co-exist for millions of years peacefully, as opposed to the long-held and historical belief that birds competitively-displaced pterosaurs as suggested.

It had previously been suggested that birds and pterosaurs competed with each other during the Cretaceous, a period more than 65 million years ago, and that this led to pterosaurs evolving larger body sizes to avoid competition with the smaller birds. However, after comparing jaw sizes, limb proportions and other functional characteristics not explored in previous studies, lead author Dr Nicholas Chan says this is not the case.

The mass extinction that might never have happened (New Scientist). Do evolutionists really understand the history of life on earth? Colin Barras reports that one of the five major extinctions touted in museums and on TV may be a myth.

Should the “big five” really be the “big four”? For decades, we [who’s “we,” paleface?] have recognised five devastating mass extinctions that punctuate the last half-billion years of evolution. But now two geologists are controversially arguing that the end-Triassic extinction – often described as the third largest – has no place on that list.

“Certainly there was an environmental crisis, but it’s not a mass extinction per se,” says Lawrence Tanner at Le Moyne College at Syracuse, New York. “It’s misleading to  continue to call it one.” If he is correct, our understanding of the early evolution of dinosaurs will need rewriting. [who’s we, paleface?]

It’s worth mentioning that butterflies and many small insects came through the dinosaur extinction event just fine, as well as fish, petunias and most plants.

If anyone still trusts evolutionary stories about natural history, maybe they could leave a comment justifying it.

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