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An Evolutionary Fly in the Turtle Soup

A new fossil turtle was found.  Is it a missing link?  That depends on whether you believe the popular press or the scientists.     National Geographic News and Science Daily both led off with the missing link angle, complete with an artist reconstruction of the fossil turtle found in China named Odontochelys.  “Since the […]

How Floppy Feet Produced Marathoners

A picture of a muscle-bound furry gibbon adorns a story on Science Daily that claims, “Floppy-footed Gibbons Help Us Understand How Early Humans May Have Walked.”  The story describes how two European researchers photographed the footwork of wild gibbons to find connections to human evolution.  It turned out that gibbon footfalls are very different from […]

Turtle Vaults Over 65 Million Year Evolutionary Hurdle

The Scots are bragging about their latest missing link – a swimming turtle.  The BBC News could hardly contain the excitement over this claim to evolutionary fame: “The new species forms a missing link between ancient terrestrial turtles and their modern, aquatic descendants,” the article said.  But along with celebration, there were admissions of ignorance: […]

Polishing Darwin’s Icons

Finch beaks, peppered moths, transitional forms – the standard props for evolution have been scrutinized ad infinitum for decades.  Can anything new be said about them?  Find out in these recent articles. Peppered moths:  The peppered-moth story just about collapsed when investigators realized that the famous pictures that adorn textbooks were staged, because the moths […]

Scientific Terms Can Obfuscate, Not Enlighten

When scientists classify things and use scientific terms, are they really shedding light on nature and natural history?  It’s possible they may just be glossing over their own ignorance, suggested three articles in Nature last week.  They underscore cases where subjective human conventions are falsely assumed to correlate with external realities.  They lead us to […]

Monster Mash

Just before Halloween, it’s time for tricks and treats about monsters in the fossil record.  Here’s a list of recent stories about scary beasts: Dino Dance:  Are these potholes tracks or weathering marks?  PhysOrg and Science Daily were among news outlets reporting a new interpretation of formations by a grad student at the University of […]

Another Strange Chinese Fossil Found: Dinosaur or Bird?

Feathers and wings are among the most distinguishing characteristics of birds.  “Integumenary features” have been found on some dinosaur fossils, and true feathers have been found on some strange-looking extinct birds.  The news media often try to marry the two into a committed relationship using exaggerated artwork.  They have been found imagining feathers on fossils […]

Nonsense and Nonscience

For an enterprise that prizes itself on objectivity and careful thought, science occasionally makes some outlandish claims.  Here are some things that slipped past the scientific method into the popular news media. As good as it gets:  Steve Jones says men have stopped evolving.  Better enjoy what you have, because it’s not going to get […]

A Turtle Missing Link: Are We Missing Something?

Everyone knows the iconic drawing of the parade of human evolution (see 09/23/2008 commentary); now, its turtle counterpart is making the rounds.  An article on New Scientist shows the march of progress from lizard to turtle.  The title says, “Fossil reveals how the turtle got its shell.”  Something is missing from the article, though: a […]

Walk the Ediacara Two-Step

Controversy is swirling around claims that footprints have been found in rock 30 million years earlier than the Cambrian explosion.  The press release on Ohio State shows a picture of parallel rows of dots that a team from Ohio State claims look like footprints of a worm-like or millipede-like animal.  The rocks are said to […]

Brain Candy as Tiger Milk

Observation: the human brain appears able to use lactate as fuel instead of glucose during strenuous exercise (see Science Daily).  Deduction: From an evolutionary perspective, the result of this study is a no-brainer.  Imagine what could have or did happen to all of the organisms that lost their wits along with their glucose when running […]

Did This Dino Have Bird Breath?

Birds are the only vertebrates with a unique one-way, flow-through breathing system that includes hollow bones.  Their unique respiratory system is part of the set of features that allows flying with its need for rapid metabolism.  Science news outlets are clucking wildly about another putative missing link between dinosaurs and birds: “Meat-eating dinosaur from Argentina […]

End of the Neanderthal Myth?

A grim Neanderthal face stares out from the cover of the October 2008 National Geographic Magazine.  Coinciding with the cover story is a TV special, Neanderthal Code, about the Neanderthal genome.  Both are replete with artwork from the magazine’s army of illustrators charged with putting flesh on bones and bringing lost prehistories to life.  The […]

Is Dinosaur Diversity an Artifact of Headline-Hunting?

Many dinosaurs classed as different species are actually the same animal with different names, a publication of the Royal Society announced.  Read two news reports on this, however, and you will get two different opinions about how serious the problem is.     Rex Dalton in Nature News sounded the alarm: “One hundred and thirty-five […]

Looking for Laws to Make Darwinism Scientific

Science needs natural laws.  Darwinian laws that have been put forward by evolutionists contain so many exceptions and complexities, they seem to have a bad case of physics envy. Coping with Cope’s Rule:  Evolution tends to make animals larger over time – except when it makes them smaller. In Science,1 Kaustuv Roy lamented the perils […]
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