by Andre on 7 April 2006
That’s right, paleontologists have discovered a “missing link” between fish and land animals! Unlike silly PZ Meyers, I can see the true significance of this result: rather than showing that evolution makes verifiable predictions even when operating in historical mode, it actually shows that creationists are scientists too since you can no longer deny that they make falsifiable predictions. You see, they assume that Earth was created in basically its present form and so there is no need for transitional forms with the obvious prediction that you won’t find any! Now that someone has found one,* creationists can happily join the ranks of respected scientists with their spectacularly falsified predictions.
And the best part? Just like real scientists, the more they learn, the more questions they have, i.e. Where are the missing links between normal fish and Tiktaalik roseae and Tiktaalik roseae and land animals? The corresponding prediction: “Bet you won’t find them!”
You can’t argue with that.
I saw Edward Daeschler at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadlephia last year where he gave an informal presentation on this work and about the expedition. One thing I noticed in the talk is that, although they knew what they were looking for and knew roughly where to find it, the fraction of candidate sites that they could actually excavate is minuscule. They were either unbelievably lucky or these fossils are actually pretty common in the area. So, here is your homework: develop a large scale ultrasound device that can detect the difference between fossilized animals and rock and then scan the whole ridgeline where they were looking, discover incredible fossils, get many Nature covers as you let the results trickle out. Repeat in other fossil rich areas. Enjoy fame and fortune.
Another thing I noticed is that only the supervisors are listed as authors on the two papers they published. I know there were many grad students also involved in the project because Daeschler showed a picture of someone fighting off a dust storm trying to get gear from a landing helicopter and he joked that that’s what they’re for. At least, I thought he was joking… Maybe it’s a palaeontology thing, but if this was say, a particle physics paper, all the significant contributors would be there. Get a load of this from the acknowledgments:
The illustrations are the work of K. Monoyios. Specimen preparation was performed by C. F. Mullison and B. Masek. NUFV 108 was discovered and quarried by S. Gatesy.
Poor S. Gatesy. (S)he doesn’t even have a first name.
So the authors didn’t discover or quarry the fossil or take care of the specimens, and they didn’t even prepare the figures! But they’re supervisors, they must have at least named it… oh wait, they also acknowledge
M. Shuvinai [who] coordinated the naming effort.
**The first comic in that series is here.
Update: It turns out that S. Gatesy does have a first name—Stephen—and that it’s unlikely that he was cheated or mistreated in this case since he’s already a tenured professor at Brown and apparently has known at least two of the papers’ authors for something like 20 years. The reader that brought this to my attention, who would like to remain anonymous, also suggested that there is a significant cultural difference between paleontology and lab sciences that could go a long way towards explaining the apparent differences in authorship practices.