I’m in a retrospective mood today–maybe because 2020 is racing by so fast, even with the Great Quarantine to paralyze it.
Behold the mighty Trachodon, the pre-eminent “duckbill dinosaur,” as faithfully rendered into plastic by the Marx Toy Co. I still have a troop of these in my animal and dinosaur box. Nor was there, when I was acquiring those toys, a dinosaur book that didn’t mention Trachodon.
I don’t wanna hear it, that there never was a Trachodon! I don’t care if all they ever had was a few teeth somebody dug up in 1850–Trachodon was in all the books, I had the toys, I’d even seen the straight-up-standing skeleton in the American Museum of Natural History–and now you want to tell me there was no such thing? Away wi’ ye!
We will never be able to see live dinosaurs, so we will never know just how wrong we were about them. Which icons of today’s Settled Science will follow Trachodon into oblivion?
“I knew him, Horatio: he was a dinosaur of infinite jest. How his broad duck bill would gape with laughter!”
I’d like to know what we’ll be laughing at twenty years from now.
The scientific world got a shock recently when archaeologists discovered cave art that could only have been made by Neanderthal people. Although their brains were actually a little larger than our own, it was Settled Science that Neanderthals were “primitive.”
What we’ve got is fossil clam shells with abstract designs carved on them, dated to 540,000 to 430,000 years ago. Young Earthers, stay with me: there is not supposed to be any such thing as Homo erectus art, no matter what the age.
So… what was Homo erectus? An ape-man? A missing link? Here’s a skeleton:
This was once a 12-year-old boy in East Africa, now known as “the Lake Turkana boy.” In life he would’ve been on his way to six feet tall–no stooped, crouching ape-man here. From the neck down, only an expert can tell that this is not a modern human skeleton. But the head is shaped differently from ours.
Were these people, or something else? It wasn’t so long ago that Western scientists were debating whether modern Africans were people. It’s like, they’ve gotta look like us or they’re not human. You could find a carved ivory chess set clutched in the skeleton hands of a deceased Homo erectus, and some still wouldn’t accept him as human.
As for, “Well, Homo erectus simply Evolved into more modern forms of pre-humans, until finally the real human threshold was reached”–fap! There were erectus men and women living at the same time as “modern” humans and really “primitive” characters like little-bitty Homo habilis.
So now we’ve got erectus art. Never mind the dating: it makes certain persons uncomfortable.
Keeping up with dinosaur discoveries is probably more work than actually making the discoveries.
Back in the Nineties I enjoyed reading about Aliwalia rex, the super-predator of the Triassic Period, already as big as an Allosaurus long before carnivorous dinosaurs had actually sorted themselves out. It lived in South Africa and ate everything.
Imagine my recent disappointment when I learned that Aliwalia rex… is no more. Worse, he never was.
See, they found this great big leg bone, and a jawbone with some sharp teeth in it, and a scattering of other bits and pieces; and acting under the presumption that all these pieces came from the same animal, they cobbled together a super-predator the like of which no one had ever suspected could possibly have lived in the Triassic. Wow! Carnivorous dinosaurs got terrifyingly huge right from the git-go!
Well, they looked again, and now it’s been decided that those pieces don’t belong together, after all: so much for the super-predator. He struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. Except his part got written out of the play before he ever got to play it.
I don’t mean to make fun of paleontologists. Their field of study naturally lends itself to human error. They do the best they can.
But I sometimes think they take too much upon themselves. The Mesozoic Era, the Age of Dinosaurs, scientists have divided into three periods–Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous. These are pretty much arbitrary terms. No dinosaur ever turned to another and said, “Dude, don’t you get tired of living in the Triassic? Why couldn’t we live in the Jurassic?”
The Triassic is fun because nobody’s quite sure what to make of it. The discovery of Triassic pollen was a shock. They repudiated the Triassic bird footprints, so that embarrassment has been dealt with, for now.
But if you can cobble a dinosaur together out of unrelated parts, and call it real, and put it into textbooks–well, how hard can it be to cobble together a Triassic Period? Or even a whole Mesozoic Era? The modern discovery of soft tissue in dinosaur fossils will lead us–where?
Sure, you can find literally hundreds of Centrosaurus fossils, and for that species you don’t have to do much cobbling. But so very many dinosaurs are “known” only from a single bone, a tooth, or a chip of broken bone. It doesn’t stop speculation from running wild. I don’t blame scientists for that. Where’s the fun in paleontology, if you don’t let your imagination loose?
But hard, fast, solid, incontrovertible, settled science… uh-uh. Not even close.
We often hear “It’s settled science!” as the argument to shut down any and all discussion about Man-Made Climate Change. Back in the mid-19th century, it shut down the one doctor whose methods were the only methods that could stop the “child-bed fever” that was killing multitudes of pregnant women in hospitals.
Today Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss, of Hungary, is memorialized on coins and postage stamps, with more than a few hospitals named for him. But in his own time, Semmelweiss was reviled, denounced as a charlatan, rejected, refused permission to carry on his work, and finally died in a mental hospital.
This was because Semmelweiss insisted that doctors under his authority wash their hands before tending their patients. At some hospitals, the mortality rate for women giving birth was around 18%. Women who gave birth in the streets had a lower mortality rate than that! But where Semmelweiss was able to get doctors to wash their hands, the mortality rate plummeted to 2%. In fact, in some months, no patients died of child-bed fever.
So Semmelweiss had the results; but that was all he had, and the scientific community ignored them. This 15-minute video by The History Guy on youtube tells the whole story: watch it before it’s taken down.
Thanks to my wife for impressing me with the importance of this history–to say nothing of its applicability to all eras of history, including our own.
It doesn’t look like much–but ask any museum curator what kind of shape any painting would be in, after being neglected for 65,000 years.
Young Earth creationists, please stay with me. The point here is not how old the paintings are, but that they exist at all. For the sake of argument, we provisionally accept the dating of the art, which was accomplished by dating calcium carbonate deposits that formed on top of the images. And the age they came up with was some 65,000 years before the present.
According to the same scientific establishment, modern humans–Homo sapiens, like us– didn’t arrive in Europe until circa 40,000 years ago. The only people there, back then, were Neanderthals. The artists must have been Neanderthals. They painted abstract symbols whose meaning is long since lost, along with stenciled hand prints and a few damaged, but still recognizable, pictures of animals. In the photo above, you can just make out a horse’s head off to the right.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that Neanderthals were able to create art. Their skeletons were sturdier than ours, their heads shaped differently from ours–and their brains were slightly larger than ours. Why shouldn’t they have been capable of creative thought?
Well, because the Settled Science of the past hundred years said they couldn’t. In plain English, the term “Settled Science” translates as “Shut up!”
In real science, the jury’s always out. Whenever it tries to come in with certainties, it turns out to be wrong.
Well, something’s wrong here. Either Neanderthals were not some kind of para-human evolutionary dead end, or Homo sapiens was in Europe way earlier than the established timeline allows.
But it’s an exciting discovery, isn’t it? Maybe the perceived differences between us and Neanderthals are only superficial. Maybe the reason that there aren’t any more of them is only because they were absorbed into the general human population–in which sense they are still here, as part of our own ancestry.
God didn’t create two Adams, but only one–from whom we are all descended.
Heer at Collidge we has Discuppered “that” Thincking “is” jist anether fourm “of” Racism,, and eevin Werse, it herts Yore Brane!!! So us at the Stodent Soviet we has past a roole that fromb Nhow on thare woont be No moar Thincking hear at collidge!!!!
And besydes,, us Interllecturals we dosnt has to Thinck at alll!! So we nevver do it!!! All we has got to Do is wattevver The Centrul Camitty thay says we got to Do!! This hear it “is” Reel Jenuwine Smartness becose “the” Party it is nevver Rong!!!!!
Our Stodent Soviet Party Bosss she toled us “how elss do yiu spose Trans Gender it got Inventid?? If peple was Thincking, it “nevver” woodve got Inventid!!! And that gose for Evvry Thing that “is” “in” Socile Jutstus!! And” she sayed aslo “al that evver Got dun bye Thincking is jist ownly Opresstion and the Paytree Arky!!”
So we “are” goingto Ograniyze Antie Thincking Squawds to go al round “the” Campas to checke on peeple and Sea iff thay “are” Thincking and iff thay Are,, whel—whatch Out!!!!!! thay whill be sari!!
Reely this heer it Is Not teereny,, it “is” foar thare Own Good!!! Becose Settled Scyance it prooves that it dont taik That Mutch Thincking to putt Hoales in yore Brane!!! And then watt”s Lefted over it whil Fall Out!!! The good nooze is iff it All falls Out then yiu woont be Doing “no” Moar Thincking. Thiss is watt hapened to Addem Shift oncet and “he” been All Rihght evver Sincet!!!
It’s official now: Transphobia causes Climate Change.
That’s the finding of the Settled Science Institute at Fimbo University. According to project director Drogo Baggypants, “Unless transphobia is energetically suppressed by all the world’s governments, the earth’s surface temperature will rise to 600 degrees Fahrenheit in just three years. And the science is settled, so I don’t have to answer any questions you might have.”
Dr. Baggypants pointed out that no planet with a majority transgender population has ever suffered from Global Warming. “If you want to go on living,” he said, “the science says you’ve got to live trans.”
Anticipating “some minor and ineffectual criticism,” the project director said “Even a microscopic amount of dissent from this position constitutes an anti-science attitude, and cannot be tolerated.”
For a full copy of the project’s report, just whistle.
Jambo! Mr. Nature here: and our safari today takes us into the world created by artist Rudolph Zallinger in his 1947 mural, The Age of Reptiles.
I am particularly interested in Podokesaurus–because it has a cool name, hardly anyone has ever heard of it, and it’s so much smaller than all the other dinosaurs. In the picture above, you can just make it out: it’s that tiny little thing just below the Plateosaurus (the big purple thing) that’s bending over to much some plants.
Podokesaurus was discovered in 1910, in Massachusetts, by a Mt. Holyoke College geology professor and her sister, who were taking a walk together and happened to spot traces of bones in a boulder that had somehow split open–and what are the odds of that? The original fossil was destroyed in a fire in 1917, but the casts were saved; and in 1958 another Podokesaurus specimen was found. This one, scientists estimated, grew maybe up to nine feet long. The one found at the college was only three feet long.
When I was a little boy I used to gaze in fascination at pictures of this mural: must’ve spent hours doing it. This was another world. I couldn’t tear myself away.
Nowadays Zallinger’s renderings of dinosaurs are considered wildly inaccurate; but in 1947 they were Settled Science.
One thing about Podokesaurus–it was small enough to hide. Keep your eyes peeled, next time you go camping.
Incredibly rigorous research by Settled Science “R” Us has found that liberals–especially politicians and college professors–have imaginary friends all throughout their adult lives.
“The science is settled, so shut up already!” said Dr. X, who wishes to remain anonymous. “A lot of people have imaginary friends while they’re little kids, but big libs have ’em all their lives.”
Why do grown-up liberals have imaginary friends?
“First, what other kind can they get?” said Dr. X. “But second, and more importantly, who else but an imaginary person is going to provide the liberal with the constant reassurance he needs that he’s really, really smart, infinitely more virtuous than all those people he hates, and much, much nicer than everybody else? No real person is ever going to do that!
“You can’t help feeling kind of sorry for them. They think they’re so terribly smart, but they’re mostly rather stupid. They think they’re good and kind–well, that’s a lie! They think they do everything from the purist motives. That’s a laugh. Really, if they didn’t do so much freakin’ damage to the country, you could almost take up a collection for them. They haven’t got the ghost of a suspicion of how obnoxious they are. And they are appalled and mystified that ordinary people don’t bow down to them and acknowledge their greatness. Ah, me! Being the smartest persons in the world–it’s a thankless job!”
Liberals who do not yet have an imaginary friend, he added, can always get one just by watching CNN or MSNBC. “You’d be surprised how many of them have adopted one of the noozies they see on TV every night,” said Dr. X. “They love getting interviewed on an imaginary Sunday talk show by one of their imaginary friends–and they get a real charge out of it when Rachel Maddow or somebody praises them on international TV. That none of it’s real is something they lose track of rather quickly.”
Is this study saying, then, that the average adult liberal is… crazy?
As long as we’re talking alternate reality, I simply must put in a word for the jackalope.
Skeptics say the jackalope’s not real–but pictures don’t lie! Jackalopes proliferate–am I allowed to use that word? it looks a lot like “pro-life”–during periods of Global Warming and Hate Speech, thriving on Income Inequality, Nationalism, and Transphobia. This is settled science, so everybody just shut up about it.
I think I might have seen one at our supermarket this morning, just as it ducked out of sight near the Easter candy display. Then again, it might have just been a store employee tidying the shelves.