Dinosaur man: playing creationists at their own game

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Dinosaur man: playing creationists at their own game

PostPosted by verdilak » Fri Aug 13, 2010 2:43 am

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727725.800-dinosaur-man-playing-creationists-at-their-own-game.html wrote:Palaeontologist Phil Senter has a persuasive strategy for convincing doubters that all life on Earth has a common origin

As an evolutionary biologist and atheist you've used the research techniques of creation science? What are they exactly?

Creation scientists take data from nature and try to reconcile it with a literal interpretation of the Bible, such as the creation of the world in six days. Nowadays many have real scientific training, with PhDs in geology, biology or chemistry, and their procedures often involve testing of hypotheses through observation and experimentation - the essence of science - although mainstream scientists interpret their results very differently.

Why are you using these techniques?

It's important to demonstrate evolution in a way that cannot be countered by creation science. One way of doing this is to use creation science itself to demonstrate evolutionary principles.

How is it possible to use creation science to evaluate evolution?

Like evolutionists, creationists assess relationships between animals by comparing their morphology [physical characteristics] and their molecules. They continue to doubt the geologic timescale and that all life shares a common origin, but most creation scientists accept other evolutionary concepts such as natural selection and beneficial mutations. Creationists believe different "kinds" of organisms - "baramins" - were created separately about 6000 years ago. They accept that diversification has taken place within each baramin and have methods for determining whether different species belong to different baramins, by finding morphological gaps between species, or large differences in genes or molecules.

You used creation science to prove that birds evolved from dinosaurs. How does that work?

I used a statistical technique called classic multidimensional scaling, which creation scientists use to quantify morphological gaps between species. I wanted to determine whether morphological gaps separated Archaeopteryx - the earliest known bird - from the various non-avian coelurosaurs, the group of predatory dinosaurs ranging from tiny Microraptor to giant T. rex. I showed that within this group there is too much similarity to indicate separate baramins. Contrary to the previous creationist view that these animals were separately created, their own pet technique shows that these animals shared a common ancestor (Journal of Evolutionary Biology, vol 23, p 1732)

How have creation scientists reacted to your findings?

So far the reaction has been positive. The creationist camp's militant reputation comes mainly from vocal but ignorant internet posters. Creation scientists themselves tend to be well educated and polite. My own attitude - building bridges plus engaging in friendly mischief such as my paper - may contribute to the positive reaction from "the other side". My goal is not to make enemies with cold-hearted debunking, but rather to set the record straight about certain things that both sides need to be educated about.
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