Paleontologists Find Medium-Horned Dinosaur, Ecstatic

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AP: “Museum IDs New Species of Dinosaur”

Question: what caused Utah paleontologist Jim Kirkland to claim, this week, “Lo and behold, evolutionary theory actually works”? Answer: a new species of dinosaur that had horns longer than some dinosaurs, but shorter than other dinosaurs.

Not quite as sensational as you were expecting? It wouldn’t be the first evolutionary “evidence” foisted on unsuspecting readers. Still, this one may be a leading candidate for most underwhelming. Let’s read the findings reported by the Associated Press:

A new dinosaur species was a plant-eater with yard-long horns over its eyebrows, suggesting an evolutionary middle step between older dinosaurs with even larger horns and the small-horned creatures that followed, experts said.

No, not much there …. That’s like saying people with normal-length arms are evolutionary middle steps between long-armed people and short-armed people.

The dinosaur’s horns, thick as a human arm, are like those of triceratops which came 10 million years later. However, this animal belonged to a subfamily that usually had bony nubbins a few inches long above their eyes.

That’s like saying people with normal-length arms are evolutionary middle steps between long-armed people and short-armed people.

Next we read some information about where and when the fossil was found, and then comes a big, exciting, information-less quote:

“Unquestionably, it’s an important find,” said Peter Dodson, a University of Pennsylvania paleontologist. “It was sort of the grandfather or great-uncle of the really diverse horned dinosaurs that came after it.”

And now from the AP, here’s a little information about whom the species was named after; then come size and age estimates (20 ft/6.01 m long and 78 million years old); finally, the name and age of the “oldest known horned dinosaur.”

That makes the newly found creature an intermediate between older forms with large horns and later small-horned relatives, said State of Utah paleontologist Jim Kirkland, who with Douglas Wolfe identified Zuniceratops in New Mexico in 1998. He predicted then that something like Ryan’s find would turn up.

That brings us back to Kirkland’s quote, “Lo and behold, evolutionary theory actually works.” Here’s the problem: there’s a big difference between saying, on one hand (pun intended), “This guy ten generations ago had long arms, and this guy five generations ago had short arms, so I predict a guy with normal length arms somewhere in the intervening generations,” and saying, on the other hand, “All three of these guys are the chance accumulations of genetic mistakes over the eons that started when some clay got hit by lightning.”

In any event, this article is one of the most hyperbolically pro-evolution articles to appear in the major media in recent times.


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