Posted by: paulgarner | July 7, 2011

More on dinosaur baraminology from Phil Senter

I just have time today to mention Phil Senter’s latest salvo on dinosaur baraminology in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology.

You may recall Senter’s first paper on this subject in which he noted that creationists have applied certain scientific methods to detect the morphological discontinuities or gaps that demarcate the created kinds (what we call statistical baraminology). One of these methods is CMDS or classical multidimensional scaling. But application of CMDS to dinosaurs, says Senter, leads to conclusions that creationists can’t accept, e.g. it seems to show continuity (not the predicted discontinuity) between certain dinosaurs and birds.

Todd Wood responded to this by showing that Senter had actually applied CMDS in a way that baraminologists do not and should more properly have used another method (distance correlation). When that method is used on larger datasets, the results do not unambiguously support the conclusions Senter had drawn.

In the new paper, Senter applied distance correlation to even larger datasets, and concluded that indeed morphological discontinuities were found that appeared to distinguish eight dinosaur kinds. However, he suggests that this raises other problems for creationists, namely: (1) that the diversity within these kinds is enormous and extreme, (2) that some morphological gaps appear to have been filled by subsequent fossil discoveries, (3) that at least one morphological gap identified by Todd Wood was filled when using more extensive datasets from existing museum specimens, and (4) that the basal members of all the major dinosaur lineages appear to be morphologically continuous.

And that is where the debate currently stands, though I’m sure we haven’t heard the final word…

In fact, dinosaur baraminology is going to be the subject of two presentations at the upcoming CBS/CGS conference in South Dakota. I hope to see you there.

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