Last updated: February 15, 2015
Two newly discovered fossil mammals possessed multiple "adaptations" similar to their modern counterparts.
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Modern Mammals Flourishing In Mesozoic?
I recently had a short discussion on Facebook with a good friend of mine, MB, ignited by a recent article These Two Ancient Fossilized Ancestors of Mammals Reveal Early Evolutionary Diversification. I thought it worth sharing it here, as it touches on what I consider to be very relevant issues to the whole concept of mammalian (and bird) evolution.
My First Reaction to The Article
Whatever happened to the idea that mammals did not come to dominate the scene until after dinosaurs went extinct? This article is making news now with turning the whole concept on its head, purporting to show that mammalian diversity really began 160 million years ago, long before dinosaurs actually went extinct.
As Philip Skell famously said, the theory of evolution is so supple, it can accommodate anything. One cannot help but wonder if such a theory has any scientific merit at all.
"We consistently find with every new fossil that the earliest mammals were just as diverse in both feeding and locomotor adaptations as modern mammals,"
"It appears dinosaurs did not dominate the Mesozoic landscape as much as previously thought."
MB's replies are placed in block quotes for ease of reading.
That's what apologetic thinking brings - confirmation bias. Dating fossils and studying their distribution in layers is paleontology, not 'theory of evolution'. What else is 'evolution for you'? Astrophysics? Geology? The study of continental drift and glacier layers?
I realize it is convenient to use a label to avoid addressing the issue I raised above, and while I feel tempted to label this tactic as avoidance/denial bias, or something similar, I would suggest we stick to the facts. And I say that because time and again, evolution promoters tend to suffer from memory loss.
Speaking of facts, we should not forget that:
The claim that dinosaurs dominated the Mesozoic landscape and that modern, warm-blooded mammals "burst" onto the evolutionary scene only after dinosaurs went extinct has been, for many decades, a dogma in evolutionary circles. Before that, it was claimed, only a few tiny, shrew-like, primitive mammals had evolved. In fact, I think most readers still remember statements from leading evolutionists according to which we, humans, owe our very existance to that meteorite that killed the dinosaurs and allowed mammals to evolve. (Stephen Jay Gould, for example, wrote: " If a large extraterrestrial body had not struck the earth 65 million years ago, then dinosaurs would still be dominant and mammals insignificant (the situation that had prevailed for 100 million years previously)."). Some textbooks are still pushing this view, despite the fact that more than 400 different species of modern mammals were found in dinosaur rocks so far, and despite the fact that the majority of these mammals (with the exception of the extinct ones) look very similar to their modern counterparts.
But don't take my word for it - here is an abstract from the journal Science, published in 1998, around the time this view started to collapse among evolutionary scientists:
"The long-standing view from the fossil record is that mammals first appeared 225 million years ago as small, shrew-like creatures and that only after a mass extinction 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period killed off the dinosaurs were mammals able to evolve into everything from primates to rodents to carnivores. But in this week's issue of Nature, a pair of researchers compared genes from hundreds of vertebrate species and used the differences as a molecular clock to date when animal lineages originated. The molecules show, they say, that the modern orders of mammals go back well into the Cretaceous period, in some cases to more than 100 million years ago." - article link.
It was data from comparative genetic studies that prompted the scientists to acknowledge that modern mammals coexisted with dinosaurs.
- A similar reality is found when studying birds and dinosaurs - there are numerous birds, similar to modern ducks, flamingos, etc., that are found fossilized in dinosaur layers. Same story for the major types of plants.
To this day, the above facts are not reflected in the way dinosaurs are presented to the public by museums and textbooks. Most dinosaurs depictions show only "primitive", exotic birds, and it is more likely to see meteors than mammals in these rather sci-fi representations. Some have suggested there might be ulterior motives behind this practice. I am not going to comment on that more than to acknowledge that the evolutionary story telling is bound to lose a lot of its appeal if exhibits would match reality.
I do agree with MB on one issue, in the context of the comments I made above, and that is that fossils and the layers they are found in are facts (except when they are forged - see below). The rest is interpretation of facts.
But I must add, in the same context, that any interpretation given needs to be logically and scientifically sound, for it to have real scientific merit.
"It was a well known fact that mammals existed during the Mesozoic age."
I don't want to sound malicious, but you are using a slight of hand here. The question is not whether evolutionists have historically acknowledged some primitive mammals existed during Mesozoic age, but rather whether they admitted modern mammals coexisted with dinosaurs. Until the late 1990s, evolutionists said they had to wait for "the great die-off". Now they seem to embrace their existence.
It was only a few months ago, during a similar discussion on FB, that you challenged me to provide a fossil of a modern mammal found in dinosaur layers, further stating that such a find would be fatal to the whole theory of evolution. There are over 400 species of mammals found in these layers, and they look very similar to their modern counterparts. In fact, the article I commented above states the obvious reality that "we consistently find with every new fossil that the earliest mammals were just as diverse in both feeding and locomotor adaptations as modern mammals."
"The fact that they were more diverse doesn't prove or disprove anything."
Wait a minute: if fossils of modern mammals show up only AFTER dinosaurs go extinct, it is OK to use them as proof of evolution. But if they show up in the same layers, then they don't prove or disprove anything? I say, they do! It proves these mammals were there, and if somebody would be able to travel in time, they would find a very familiar environment, with the same flora and fauna we see today, except for dinos and a bunch of other animals and plants that went extinct in the interim. I would also submit that such an experience would hardly induce any evolutionary thoughts in the mind of such a hypothetical time traveler.
"What about the morphological characteristics of these 2 mammals? What do they indicate?"
The authors of the study I quoted are quite clear: their morphological features are a perfect fit for the environment they were living in (trees and underground), and there is nothing there suggesting transitional/vestigial organs, or showing they were in any other way evolving into something else. They also state they are very similar to their modern counterparts.
"What about other ancient mammals that lived with dinosaurs? Why don't we find them now? Why do they have mixed reptile - mammal features?"
We don't find them for the same reason we don't find woolly mammoths or other extinct animals. The mixed, reptile-mammal features are overblown, to make a case for evolution. See more details below.
"Why do other fossils show a smooth progression from dinos to birds?"
This is moving the discussion to another topic, but that's OK. They actually don't. A "smooth progression from dinos to birds" is not what fossils show. A couple of further notes on this issue:
The evolutionary propaganda machine at National Geographic was so eager to promote the idea of dinos to bird evolution that they went ahead and published in 1999 the infamous article on Archaeoraptor, despite the fact they were aware the fossil in question was a forgery. It would have been a lot less risky, had they had other real fossils that documented the transition, to have used those, rather than to resort to a fake.
You will probably rush to say we should not write off the whole concept because of one fraud. I would point out, though, that the theropod origin of birds is far from being embraced even by a consensus of evolutionists - take the time to read Storrs L. Olson's (Curator of Birds at the Smithsonian) open letter to NG. He is a recognized world authority on birds. I am including a short, but very relevant excerpt below. You can read the whole letter here:
"The idea of feathered dinosaurs and the theropod origin of birds is being actively promulgated by a cadre of zealous scientists acting in concert with certain editors at Nature and National Geographic who themselves have become outspoken and highly biased proselytizers of the faith. Truth and careful scientific weighing of evidence have been among the first casualties in their program, which is now fast becoming one of the grander scientific hoaxes of our age---the paleontological equivalent of cold fusion."
This whole episode appears suspiciously similar to the bear/cow to whale evolution story. It was not the first time, and sadly but probably neither the last time, when a fraud was used to "prove" a crucial tenet of evolution.
A Final Note
One may wonder whether the host of researchers that dig up fossils willfully hid, or ignored, modern mammal fossils present in Mesozoic strata. I don't personally buy into conspiracy theories like this. I do think, however, that they were blinded by their worldview, and a lot of them simply didn't even look for such fossils, and when they saw them, they failed to connect the dots. Again, don't take my word for it - here is a candid admission of this phenomenon in an article published in 1998 in Science:
Paleontologists rarely look for mammalian fossils in rocks formed during the Cretaceous period. With luck paleontologists may reconsider, and start looking in these previously neglected strata for mammal fossils during the time of the dinosaurs.
With luck, they may reconsider? That doesn't sound very scientific at all! But guess what: whey they looked for these fossils, they found them. This, in my opinion, is another example of obstruction of scientific progress caused by evolution. It may be unintentional, for any particular scientist involved, but it is an obstruction nevertheless. Junk DNA is another sad example, but I will save that for another day. For now, I will end by by wondering what else may be hidden in the fossil record, not because somebody is hiding it, but simply because those looking at it are not open minded enough to see it.
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