Skip to comments.Fossils Bridge Gap in African Mammal Evolution
Posted on 12/03/2003 4:53:26 PM PST by Pharmboy
LONDON (Reuters) - Fossils discovered in Ethiopia's highlands are a missing piece in the puzzle of how African mammals evolved, a team of international scientists said on Wednesday.
Little is known about what happened to mammals between 24 million to 32 million years ago, when Africa and Arabia were still joined together in a single continent.
But the remains of ancestors of modern-day elephants and other animals, unearthed by the team of U.S. and Ethiopian scientists 27 million years on, provide some answers.
"We show that some of these very primitive forms continue to live through the missing years, and then during that period as well, some new forms evolved -- these would be the ancestors of modern elephants," said Dr John Kappelman, who headed the team.
The find included several types of proboscideans, distant relatives of elephants, and fossils from the arsinoithere, a rhinoceros-like creature that had two huge bony horns on its snout and was about 7 feet high at the shoulder.
"It continues to amaze me that we don't have more from this interval of time. We are talking about an enormous continent," said Kappelman, who is based at the University of Texas at Austin.
Scientists had thought arsinoithere had disappeared much earlier but the discovery showed it managed to survive through the missing years. The fossils from the new species found in Ethiopia are the largest, and at 27 million years old, the youngest discovered so far.
"If this animal was still alive today it would be the central attraction at the zoo," Tab Rasmussen, a paleontologist at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri who worked on the project, said in a statement.
Many of the major fossil finds in Ethiopia are from the Rift Valley. But Kappelman and colleagues in the United States and at Ethiopia's National Science Foundation (news - web sites) and Addis Ababa University concentrated on a different area in the northwestern part of the country.
Using high-resolution satellite images to scour a remote area where others had not looked before, his team found the remains in sedimentary rocks about 6,600 feet above sea level.
There is nothing false about Newtonian physics; it simply fails to map to observation in extreme cases. Ultimate, all physical theories meet this fate.
But you have cleverly led the discussion away from your original misstatement, whis was the assertion that scientific statements are based on belief rather than objective evidence.
I am waiting for you to find the equivalent of religious sects within the scientific community. Find me a body of scientists who do not "believe" that Einstein's equations don't map to observation better than Newton's. Yet religious believers are at each other's throats constantly over such fundamental concerns as what is permitted to eat, drink, wear, and boink.
Not false, just not broad enough to cover all the bases. Newtonian physics works great for the macro universe of planets and suns and spaceships (though not Star Trek spaceships) -- it simply breaks down at the micro scale of subatomic particles.
LOL! Obviously you've never been to a scientific conference or symposium in your life.
HINT: There are two main ways to make a big reputation in science. Come up with your own major discovery or theory; or shoot down somebody else's. The second option is the easier and invariably pursued with gusto given the slightest hint of an opening.
Most scientists are highly intellectually aggressive. Evolutionists are no exception. You would have us believe that they put some supposed nefarious ideological cabal above their own critical instincts and their personal interests in career advancement and prestige. This is silly.
The current ruling science cabal is silly? Silly? The combined intellectual enforcement arm of Darwin Central, the Trilaterist Commission, the Bilderbergers, the International Communist Movement, and the Flat Earth Society is silly?? Well, harrumph! Harrumph, I say!
If you're going to just copy and paste material from a creationist website (with minor changes to conceal the source, like dropping "Strobel discovered" and changing molecular names to molecular formulas) instead of using your own words, it's considered plagiarism if you don't cite the source.
Freepers are invited to compare Leonine's passage above with:
But in the 1980s, NASA scientists proved "that the primitive earth never had any ammonia, methane, or hydrogen," Strobel discovered. Instead, NASA found it was composed of water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen. And as one scientist put it, "you absolutely cannot get the same experimental results with that mixture."And you even managed to mess up one of the formulas -- methane is CH4, not CH3. CH3 is ethane.
-- from "Pre-biotic Soup"?: The Case for Faith
Meanwhile, let's compare the website's version with Strobel's original:
"From 1980 on, NASA scientists have shown that the primitive earth never had any methane, ammonia, or hydrogen to amount to anything," he said. "Instead, it was composed of water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen--and you absolutely cannot get the same experimental results with that mixture.Note how the creationist website changed "never had any...to amount to anything", into "never had any...". The original admits the existence of those compounds but implies that there weren't enough to matter, whereas the website (and Leonine's plagiarization of it) alters that to "never had any" at all, period. That's a significant and misleading difference.
-- from "The Case for Faith" by Lee Stobel, pp. 300
Also note that it carefully removed any reference to who was speaking and reduces him to an anonymous "one scientist". That was probably wise (albeit not very honest), because the speaker was Walter L. Bradley, who is not (as the altered passage tries to imply) either a "NASA scientist" or a respected organic chemist stating mainstream knowledge in his field. He is instead a creationist MECHANICAL ENGINEER. Organic and environmental chemistry is *way* out of his field.
In fact, I often amuse myself by tracking down the credentials of the various folks that creationists put forth as "experts" supporting their beliefs. About nine times out of ten it's either someone with no relevant background whatsoever (like a lawyer turned "science expert") or someone in a technical field working outside of their field of expertise (like say a mechanical engineer dabbling in organic chemistry, *cough*). Even the creationist sources seem to realize what a stretch this is, and often go to ludicrous lengths to try to explain why their out-of-field "experts" are actually appropriate authorities on the subject at hand. For example, one creationist website makes this claim about Bradley: "His work in polymer science gives him a background suitable to address origin of life questions." Ooookay.... Whatever you say, guys.
Evolutionary science, on the other hand, most often relies on primary sources, consisting of scientists working within their own field of expertise.
This of course doesn't mean that laymen or people working outside their field can't properly understand something in another field. But one has to wonder why creationist writers so often seem to rely almost *exclusively* only such "amateurs". And it doesn't inspire confidence when their hand-picked "experts" so often get even the easy stuff dead wrong. Bradley, for example, just two paragraphs before the above quoted passage, makes the following howler: "Oparin was smart enough to know that if you start with inert gases like nitrogen and carbon dioxide, they won't react." ROFL! Neither nitrogen nor carbon dioxide are "inert" gases. Carbon dioxide undergoes decomposition under a variety of conditions present locally on the prebiotic Earth, including high temperatures or high pressures (e.g. volcanoes), electrolysis (lightning, cosmic rays), ferrite mediated reactions (present in tidal pools), etc. Nitrogen likewise undergoes decomposition under various conditions, including alkaline ferrite reactions (again, prebiotic tidal pools) which results in the production of ammonia (!). Hey, I thought Mr. Creationist Expert Bradley claimed that there *was* no ammonia on "primitive Earth"?
Hmm, I guess that's what happens when you rely on a mechanical engineer to do an organic chemist's job... But then, the mechanical engineer gave the (incorrect) answers that the creationist writer was looking for, so I suppose that's what really matters.
And yet many textbooks still reference the Miller (nee Soviet) experiment--sounds like an agenda.
"Soviet"? What are you smoking? Harold Urey was born in Walkerton, Indiana, and was third-generation American.
As for textbooks referencing the Urey-Miller experiment, of course they do. It was a seminal experiment in organic chemistry, and proved for the first time that complex organic molecules could be formed by simple processes acting on basic inorganic compounds. At the time this was an enormous surprise and an eye-opening discovery. Prior to that it was thought that only the mechanisms of life could synthesis such compounds. The reviewer at the first science journal the paper was submitted to simply set it aside and ignored it, since he considered it too preposterous to be true. The findings of the Urey-Miller experiment revolutionized the understanding of organic synthesis and led to countless subsequent experiments and discoveries, and as such deserves to be covered in textbooks just as the Wright brothers' first short flight is covered in textbooks on aeronautics, and for exactly the same reason -- they proved what was possible and consequently created new fields of study, no matter how humble the beginnings or how modest the results compared to further developments (like jet fighters, etc.)
Creationists like to imply (or actually are misinformed enough to believe) that all abiogenetic research still relies on only the Urey-Miller experiment, but this is poppycock. Although Urey-Miller's original "soup" was likely not representative of Earth's actual early atmosphere, countless further developments have been made in the last 50 years advancing the field, which creationists seem blissfully unaware of (or unwilling to address). Instead, they just keep pounding on their straw man of "the 1953 Urey-Miller experiment didn't completely reproduce Earth's early atmosphere, therefore the entire field of abiogenesis relies on a lie and is bunk, so there, those evolutionists are so stupid, what's wrong with them". It's like trying to discredit McDonnell-Douglas engineers by harping on how inappropriate the Wright brothers' wood-and-fabric flier would be at Mach 2.5 (F-15 speeds).
Nice try, but no cigar.
For a taste of how the field has progressed since Urey-Miller half a century ago, check out for example On the origins of cells: a hypothesis for the evolutionary transitions from abiotic geochemistry to chemoautotrophic prokaryotes, and from prokaryotes to nucleated cells, or any of its five pages of references, or The emergence of life from iron monosulphide bubbles at a submarine hydrothermal redox and pH front.
|Most scientists are highly intellectually aggressive. Evolutionists are no exception. You would have us believe that they put some supposed nefarious ideological cabal above their own critical instincts and their personal interests in career advancement and prestige. This is silly.
Even many people who suspect philosophical naturalism maybe be empty or even false will admit that methodological naturalism is necessary for science. It's basically what science is about, the study of nature.
You may not be able to study the "supernatural" but you can rule out natural causes.
As a practical matter, it's never happened so far. "Natural causes" in the investigation of a death does not mean the same as "natural causes" as opposed to "unnatural causes." Maybe if God popped out from somewhere, said "Here I am!", and started doing sufficiently wonderful magic we could eliminate "natural" causes. Or maybe we would just be discovering more than we had known before about what "natural" includes.
Anyway, we don't have anything like that problem. Science has to do its job and will. People who think the world runs some other way are simply not interested in science and would be more honest to butt out rather than pretend they have the real facts.
And I've always said that the governing philosophical presuppositions of science are determined by the theoretical content of science, rather than the other way around. (Historically these presuppositions have always been modified to accommodate genuinely successful theories, as for instance with Newton's "occult" force of gravity. It violated the classical dictum of materialism: that force could only be transmitted by physical impacts between bodies.)
All you need is one important and manifestly successful scientific theory incorporating a "supernatural hypothesis" to change the ruling assumption of methodological naturalism. So go ahead and do "then a miracle happens" science. No one is stopping you. On the other hand no one will follow you in such pursuit either, unless and until you can show that it works. Ah, there's the rub.
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