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Education Science

Evolution of Mammals Re-evaluated 249

AaxelB writes "A study described in the New York Times rethinks mammalian evolution. Specifically, that the mass extinction of the dinosaurs had relatively little impact on mammals and that the steps in mammals' evolution happened well before and long after the dinosaurs' death."
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Evolution of Mammals Re-evaluated

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  • by elhondo ( 545224 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @03:30PM (#18520023)
    I had thought this point was actually a point of disagreement between Gould and Dawkins, with Dawkins pointing out that the cambrian explosion wasn't as sudden as Gould had pointed out. I think this particular point was discussed in Bryson's "A Brief History of Nearly Everything". I didn't think anyone still held this viewpoint about mammalian evolution anymore.
  • by jeevesbond ( 1066726 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @03:44PM (#18520217) Homepage

    From Conservapedia [conservapedia.com]:

    The Theory of evolution is a materialist explanation of the history of life on earth. Despite being the scientific standard, in the United States, there are a significant number of lay people who do not accept evolution. According to a CBS poll, only 13% of American adults believe humans evolved without divine guidance.

    A CBS survey said there's no evolution! If 87% of people say there's no evolution then this article is a sham sir!

    Back on-topic, what interests me is:

    But the researchers conceded that much more research would be required to explain the delayed rise of present-day mammals.

    If it wasn't the dinosaurs stopping the evolution of mammals (i.e. dinosaurs dominating the habitat), then what did? Could it be that the available habitats were just better suited to dinosaurs vs. mammals? That's the first thing that springs to mind (although am no paleontologist). As ever with this sort of thing, the finding raises more questions than it answers!

  • Yes, and.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Conspiracy_Of_Doves ( 236787 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @03:58PM (#18520399)
    Specifically, that the mass extinction of the dinosaurs had relatively little impact on mammals and that the steps in mammals' evolution happened well before and long after the dinosaurs' death.

    Do they think that those steps ever could have taken place if the dinosaurs were still around?
  • by Coryoth ( 254751 ) on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @04:13PM (#18520579) Homepage Journal

    Does it raise questions in no one else's mind when it is quite consistently being "rethought?" It seems it should not be dogmatically asserted as it is now, nor should a "rethinking" be taken in stride as if it's entirely normal behavior for science. And yes, I know it's not a scientific fact, it is a scientific theory, as most scientific thoughts are - but most school kids don't know much of the difference between "fact" and "scientific theory." It's simply taught...Maybe informative materials should be re-evaluated when the theory itself is re-evaluated.
    I think we should be clear on what is being re-thought here. The theory of evolution itself, that variation and descent, combined with selective pressure, will lead to complex organisms with the appearance of design, is not being rethought. The theory that evolution via natural selection is responsible for the diversity of species of life on earth is not being rethought. All that is being rethought is the particular history regarding the evolution of mammals. That the theory of evolution can be used to explain this particular history, but there are unknown factors in the specifics of the history, so the particular explanation provided as the most likely by evolutionary theory may change as particular facts regarding the particular history of a particular line of organisms changes. Let's consider an analogy: the theory of gravity is a relatively well accepted theory. It can be used to provide an explanation for the history of the development of solar systems, and has been used as a basis for developing a theory as to how our particular solar system developed. As it happens, that particular history is being rethought [newscientist.com], as we don't know all the facts about the particular history of our particular solar system. As the available facts regarding the particular history of a particular solar system (ours) have changed, the explanation of that particular theory furnished by the theory of gravity has changed. You have no more reason to think that "informative materials regarding the theory" of gravity should be re-evaluated than you do with regard to "informative materials regarding the theory" of evolution.
  • Re:Get a clue retard (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 28, 2007 @08:24PM (#18523465)
    Yup. You can either have "faith" in the observations of hundreds of thousands of scientists over the course of over a 150 years from a great many different disciplines all reaching a consensus that evolution happens and that there are known mechanisms behind it, or you can have faith in a narrow, sterile, intellectually and theologically bankrupt literalistish interpretation of a particular book that has been mistranslated (both intentionally and unintentially), selectively edited, and modified from a pile of papyri and scrolls written by a bunch of uneducated Roman zealots describing events that were reported to them second-hand or worse, glommed onto a stack of equally selectively edited mistranslated pile of dusty old scrolls written by a pack of even more ignorant Bronze age shepherds from a third-rate regional power, and all of the fabrications, lies, and contradictions therein. Such as Genesis I and Genesis II--the order's different but 999 out of 1000 literalistish fundies don't know that...with the remaining 1 selling snake oil and scientific creationism (but I repeat myself).
  • by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Thursday March 29, 2007 @12:40AM (#18525053)
    The dieties in the old testament are not the all-powerful, all-knowing Diety in the new testament. The god in the old (who admits he is actually one among many in the first commandment through forbidding of the worship of the others) might be significantly more powerful than a mere human, and immortal to boot, but not nearly as "perfect" as the God in the new. Attempts to reconcile the two would only result in numerous logical inconsistencies. Why, for example, would an omniscient diety need to test believers. The omniscient already knows whether Abraham would sacrifice his own son. Further, if the diety of the old is not omniscient and perfectly good, then how did the death of Jesus transform said diety into one who is omniscient and perfectly good. And why was magic commonplace and an accepted part of life in the old but considered taboo in the new? Did said diety suddenly revise his stance when he ascended from mere god-dom to God-dom after the death of his supposed son?

    Don't forget that Christianity was historically a weapon used to control the masses. In order to control people through belief, original thought must be extinguished. Those are the easiest people to control: the ones who are so desperate for something--anything that might bring meaning to their life that they'll eat up every lie the controllers tell in order to keep them in line and remain in power.

    The tale of Noah's ark is littered with signs of ignorance. Certainly, a flood could have happened way back when, and someone could have built a giant ark to live upon before that flood, and that person could have loved and kept all sorts of animals on said ark, but to say that the flood covered the whole world, and all the animals of the world were in the ark, would be quite impossible. Human technology and dominance has never been more advanced, and such a feat today would not be possible, simply because we have not yet categorized all the animals in the world, nor are we capable of building self-contained environments wherein the species within would survive for a long period of time. Both are due to the lack of knowledge, something that cannot be reconciled by the non-omniscient old testament diety. That, and even if both the knowledge and technology were sufficient at that time, such an ark would be of a fair enough size that it would have left enough traces for us to easily validate its existence. As such, we still don't know where it is, if there ever was one.

    Personally, if the knowledge and technology existed for such a creation as described in the old testament, I would think that Noah actually took the ark and his family into space and never came back. After all, who would want to live on a planet that's controlled by such a wrathful diety in the first place?

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky