Posted by: paulgarner | November 22, 2013

Phil Senter responds to more creationist claims

One of the things I’ve done on my blog is to highlight the ongoing series of papers by palaeontologist Phil Senter that respond to creationist claims. So far these contributions have included papers about Lucy, vestigial organs, the Kachina Bridge “sauropod”, dinosaur baraminology (parts one and two), Flood geology and putative herbivory in theropods.

Since taking my break from blogging he has made at least four further contributions, which I thought were worth highlighting now that I’m back. Do let me know if you’re aware of any others. The first three concern more examples of supposedly “anachronistic” dinosaur depictions and the fourth addresses the hoary old chestnut about women having one more rib than men. Here are the citations with abstracts:

More “dinosaur” and “pterosaur” rock art that isn’t
Senter, P. Palaeontologia Electronica 2012;15(2):22A:14p.

Abstract. To support claims of the coexistence of humans with dinosaurs and pterosaurs, young-earth creationist authors have identified several pieces of ancient rock art as depictions of dinosaurs or pterosaurs. Here, nine such claims are investigated. An alleged pterosaur painting in Black Dragon Canyon, Utah, is actually not a single painting. Its “head” and “neck” are a painting of a person with outstretched arms. Its torso and limbs are those of a painting of a second person with outstretched arms, whose body continues into the “pterosaur’s” “wing.” The other “wing” is a painting of a horned serpent. The three paintings only appear connected because someone outlined the group with chalk. An alleged dinosaur petroglyph in Havasupai Canyon, Arizona, is a stylized bird with an extension on one foot; the hooked line that represents its head and neck is a stylized bird head. A second alleged dinosaur petroglyph in Havasupai Canyon is a stylized bighorn sheep or rabbit. An alleged dinosaur cave painting in Tanzania is an obvious giraffe. Three alleged cave paintings of long-necked dinosaurs in Zambia have short necks and most likely represent lizards. An alleged dinosaur painting on Agawa Rock in Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ottawa, represents Underwater Panther, a supernatural lake guardian of Ojibwe tradition. An alleged pterosaur painting at Alton, Illinois, is the product of the imagination of a nineteenth-century American author. These pieces of rock art now join the ever-growing pile of discredited “evidence” for the ancient coexistence of humans and dinosaurs.

Investigation of a claim of a late-surviving pterosaur and exposure of a taxidemic hoax: the case of Cornelius Meyer’s dragon
Senter, P. and Wilkins, P.D. Palaeontologia Electronica 2013;16(1):6A:11p.

Abstract. Here we investigate a claim that pterosaurs survived into the seventeenth century in Italy. In 1696 Dutch civil engineer Cornelius Meyer published an engraving of the skeleton of an alleged dragon from near Rome. Some recent young-Earth creationist authors have used the engraving as evidence against the separation of humans and pterosaurs by millions of years, claiming that the skeleton is that of a pterosaur that was alive in the seventeenth century. The engraving is detailed enough to identify the skeleton as a composite of bones from various extant animal species. Until now, however, no one has attempted such identification. Here we identify the specific animals that were used in the construction of this taxidermic hoax. The skull of Meyer’s dragon is that of a domestic dog. The mandible is that of a second, smaller domestic dog. The “hindlimb” is the forelimb of a bear. The ribs are from a large fish. Ostensible skin hides the junctions between the parts of different animals. The tail is a sculpted fake. The wings are fake and lack diagnostic traits of bat wings and pterosaur wings. No part of the skeleton resembles its counterpart in pterosaurs. This piece of young-Earth creationist “evidence” therefore now joins the ranks of other discredited “evidence” for human-pterosaur coexistence and against the existence of the passage of millions of years. Also, a three-century-old hoax is finally unveiled, the mystery of its construction is solved, and an interesting and bizarre episode in Renaissance Italian history is elucidated.

Dinosaurs and pterosaurs in Greek and Roman art and literature? An investigation of young-earth creationist claims
Senter, P. Palaeontologia Electronica 2013;16(3):25A:16p.

Abstract. Many young-Earth creationist (YEC) authors claim that ancient Greek and Roman writings describe dinosaurs and pterosaurs, and that Greco-Roman art illustrates Mesozoic reptiles. Such claims are used as “evidence” against evolutionary theory in an attempt to cast doubt on the separation of humans and such animals by millions of years. However, examination of the Greco-Roman materials in question reveals that none of them actually depict Mesozoic reptiles. In descriptions of “dragons” (Greek drakōn; Latin draco) in Greco-Roman literature—which YEC authors claim are dinosaurs—coils and the epithets ophis, serpens, and anguis reveal that the ancient authors are describing snakes, often large constrictors. This is the case for the draco described by Pliny. Phrygian dragons described by Aelian, the Vatican Hill child-eater mentioned by Pliny, the Bagradas River dragon, the legendary dragons that Alexander the Great supposedly encountered, and dragons in Greek mythology. An alleged theropod dinosaur in the Nile Mosaic of Palestrina is a mammal, possibly an otter. An alleged dinosaur in a Pompeii fresco is a crocodile. Herodotus’ description of winged snakes is anatomically incompatible with pterosaurs and possibly refers to cobras. Alleged pterosaurs on an Alexandrian coin are winged snakes. An alleged Etruscan pterosaur head sculpture depicts a mammal. Two alleged Tanystropheus in a Roman mosaic from Lydney Park, England are mythical sea monsters. These YEC claims now join the ranks of discredited “evidence” against evolutionary theory.

Genesis & the human ribcage: an opportunity to correct a misconception & introduce an evolution lesson into the anatomy class
Senter, P. The American Biology Teacher 2013;75:128.

Abstract. Many anatomy students begin the course with a misconception that human males and females do not have the same number of ribs. At the root of that misconception is Genesis 2:21–22, in which God removes a rib from Adam to make Eve. Removal of a body part is a surgical procedure, and one does not pass on the results of surgery to one’s offspring. The prevalence of this misconception is therefore an opportunity to discuss Lamarckian inheritance in the classroom.

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