Home » Human evolution, News » Re human evolution: “There are probably more paleontologists than there are important fossils in the world.”

Re human evolution: “There are probably more paleontologists than there are important fossils in the world.”

Pos-Darwinista tells us that the publications of Neanderthal genome mapper Svante Paabo are available here. Here’s the Edge interview (7.4.09):

One thing that we’re beginning to see is that we are extremely closely related to the Neanderthals. They’re our relatives. In a way, they’re like a human ancestor 300,000 years ago. Which is something that leads you to think: what about the Neanderthals? What if they had survived a little longer and were with us today? After all, they disappeared only around 30,000 years ago, or, 2,000 generations ago. Had they survived, where would they be today? Would they be in a zoo? Or would they live in suburbia? These are the questions I like to think about.

And it’s the question and not the answer that’s interesting because these questions have no answers. We will never know. But they are interesting questions to think about because they somehow reflect how we think about differences between us and our ancient ancestors.

Also, this eye-opener:

As an outsider to paleontologists, I’m often rather surprised about how much scientists fight in paleontology. And I am thinking about why that is the case. Why do we have less vicious fights in molecular biology, for example? I suppose the reason is that paleontology is a rather data-poor science. There are probably more paleontologists than there are important fossils in the world. To make a name for yourself is to find a new interpretation for those fossils that are extant. This always goes against some earlier person’s interpretation, who will not like it very much.

There are many other areas of science where we can agree to disagree, but at least we often generally agree on what data we need to go out and collect to resolve the issue and no one wants to come out too strongly on one side or the other because the data could, in a year or two, prove you are wrong.

But in paleontology you can’t decide what you will find. You can not in most cases go out and test your hypothesis in a directed way. It’s almost like social anthropology or politics — you can only win by somehow yelling louder than the other person or sounding more convincing.

Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista

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7 Responses to Re human evolution: “There are probably more paleontologists than there are important fossils in the world.”

  1. Considering how many plants and animals there are in the world and how few get preserved, it’s pretty amazing how well they confirm common descent.

  2. Common descent or common design?

  3. Is that the Cambrian explosion that confirms common descent for you???;

    Darwin’s Dilemma – Excellent Cambrian Explosion Movie
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUkLKZjJuU0

    Exotic Cambrian Animals and Plants and Ediacaran biota – Animated videos
    http://www.lightproductionsvid.....imals.html

    Fossil Gallery – images of species from Cambrian period – Main Gallery
    The Main Gallery is a comprehensive source of information based on the latest scientific research covering the majority of species so far described from the Burgess Shale. It contains a growing collection of over 500 high resolution images representing 184 species in 135 genera. In addition, dozens of scientifically accurate drawings and breathtaking digital animations will allow you to visualize these organisms in three dimensions and see how they lived.
    http://burgess-shale.rom.on.ca.....pecies.php

    Anomalocaris – The largest predator of the Cambrian (3D Animation)
    http://burgess-shale.rom.on.ca.....ntro_1.php

    Virtual Sea Odyssey; Observe the creatures who lived in the Burgess Shale community from a “virtual submarine”. – video
    http://burgess-shale.rom.on.ca/en/sea-odyssey/

    “Darwin’s Dilemma examines some of the most important fossil discoveries ever made and with them, a mystery deeper than Charles Darwin ever imagined. For the fossil record of the Cambrian Explosion does not reveal the gradual development of life forms as Darwin posited in his work, but a period in which compound eyes, articulated limbs, sophisticated sensory organs and skeletal frames burst into existence seemingly out of nowhere.” -
    Anika Smith – Discovery Institute

    Deepening Darwin’s Dilemma – Jonathan Wells – Sept. 2009
    Excerpt: “The truth is that (finding) “exceptionally preserved microbes” from the late Precambrian actually deepen Darwin’s dilemma, because they suggest that if there had been ancestors to the Cambrian phyla they would have been preserved.”
    http://www.discovery.org/a/12471

    Deepening Darwin’s Dilemma – Jonathan Wells – The Cambrian Explosion – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4154263

    Challenging Fossil of a Little Fish
    What they had actually proved was that Chinese phosphate is fully capable of preserving whatever animals may have lived there in Precambrian times. Because they found sponges and sponge embryos in abundance, researchers are no longer so confident that Precambrian animals were too soft or too small to be preserved. “I think this is a major mystery in paleontology,” said Chen. “Before the Cambrian, we should see a number of steps: differentiation of cells, differentiation of tissue, of dorsal and ventral, right and left. But we don’t have strong evidence for any of these.” Taiwanese biologist Li was also direct: “No evolution theory can explain these kinds of phenomena.”
    http://www.fredheeren.com/boston.htm

    Or is that the subsequent explosions in the fossil record that confirm common descent for you???;

    Punctuated Equilibrium and Patterns from the Fossil Record – Casey Luskin
    Excerpt: “The Cambrian Explosion is by no means the only “explosion” in the fossil record. One evolutionist concedes that for the origin of fishes, “this is one count in the creationists’ charge that can only evoke in unison from paleontologists a plea of nolo contendere [no contest].” Plant biologists have called the origin of plants an “explosion,” saying, “the … radiation of land (plant) biotas is the terrestrial equivalent of the much-debated Cambrian ‘explosion’ of marine faunas.” Vertebrate paleontologists believe there was a mammal explosion because of the few transitional forms between major mammal groups: “There are all sorts of gaps: absence of gradationally intermediate ‘transitional’ forms between species, but also between larger groups — between, say, families of carnivores, or the orders of mammals.” Another study, “Evolutionary Explosions and the Phylogenetic Fuse,” found a bird (as well as a mammal) “Early Tertiary ‘explosion’” because many bird and mammal groups appear in a short time period lacking immediately recognizable ancestral forms. Finally, others have called the origin of our own genus Homo, “a genetic revolution” where “no australopithecine (ape) species is obviously transitional” leading one commentator to call it, like others called the Cambrian Explosion, a “big bang theory” of human evolution.”
    http://www.ideacenter.org/cont.....hp/id/1232

    “In virtually all cases a new taxon appears for the first time in the fossil record with most definitive features already present, and practically no known stem-group forms.”
    Fossils and Evolution, TS Kemp – Curator of Zoological Collections, Oxford University, Oxford Uni Press, p246, 1999

    “Every paleontologist knows that most new species, genera, and families, and that nearly all categories above the level of family appear in the record suddenly and are not led up to by known, gradual, completely continuous transitional sequences.”
    George Gaylord Simpson (evolutionist), The Major Features of Evolution, New York, Columbia University Press, 1953 p. 360.

    “No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It seems never to happen. Assiduous collecting up cliff faces yields zigzags, minor oscillations, and the very occasional slight accumulation of change over millions of years, at a rate too slow to really account for all the prodigious change that has occurred in evolutionary history. When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the organisms did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on someplace else. Yet that’s how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution.”
    Niles Eldredge , “Reinventing Darwin: The Great Evolutionary Debate,” 1996, p.95

    “Enthusiastic paleontologists in several countries have claimed pieces of this missing record, but the claims have all been disputed and in any case do not provide real connections. That brings me to the second most surprising feature of the fossil record…the abruptness of some of the major changes in the history of life.”
    Ager, D. – Author of “The Nature of the Stratigraphical Record”-1981

    “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology.”
    Stephen Jay Gould

    “Why, if species have descended from other species by fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion, instead of the species being, as we see them, well defined? But, as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth? But in the intermediate region, having intermediate conditions of life, why do we not now find closely-linking intermediate varieties?”
    Charles Darwin – Origin Of Species

    Or is it really, as has been said numerous times before, “Darwinism/Natural Selection may explain survival of the fittest but it does not explain arrival of the fittest!”

  4. Considering how many plants and animals there are in the world and how few get preserved, it’s pretty amazing how well they confirm common descent.

    “I wouldn’t have seen it if I didn’t already believe it!”

  5. Funny and amen.
    There are few fossils about and there is little hope to have a achievement in these fields unless one puts in other, safe, interpretations.
    Wrong ideas are substained by committees and not actual vigorous investigation.
    The scientific method is to reduce arguement and not inflame it.

  6. Why, if species have descended from other species by fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms?

    Did you even read my post?

  7. Well, I would have to disagree with both positions in the Edge interview:
    1) All scientific fields are vicious. Especially fields that have money.
    2) We are NOT “beginning to see” “s that we are extremely closely related to the Neanderthals”, this is what we EXPECTED to see. Everyone thought until Paabo did the genome sequencing, that Neanderthal’s were going to be ancestors to modern man. Not even close. Divergence dates were 500,000 years, while Neanderthals appear 250,000 years ago. But because some things were vaguely similar, we are told 6% mixing occurred. In other words, they diverged 100% /1/2 a million years ago, and then converged by 6% in the past 50,000. Now I ask you, have you ever heard such a story about any other mammal? Okay, any other reptile? Where do these denials of Common Descent with their weirdly branching and converging tree trunks come from? Which is more important–maintaining the fiction of Common Descent or the fiction of Neanderthal ancestors?

    Maybe the reason for all the yelling and shouting in paleontology is because the field is falling apart.

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