Dinosaurs and delusion

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Good article, Dinosaurs, depression, and delusion, concerning the film, We believe in dinosaurs, by Linda Blackford of the Lexington Herald-Leader. The article features Dan Phelps and David MacMillan, both of whom generously contribute to PT. But do not miss the last few paragraphs, where Williamstown resident Elmer Virgil tells you all you need to know about the bounty that the “Ark” was going to bring to the area.

Fire-Breathing Dinosaurs?: A book review

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Book cover

Jonathan Kane is a science writer who has written four previous posts for Panda’s Thumb: Creationist classification of theropods, Five principles for arguing against creationism, General intelligence: What we know and how we know it, and John Woodmorappe vs. modern creation science: a response. He is the editor and primary author of God’s Word or Human Reason? An Inside Perspective on Creationism, co-authored with Emily Willoughby, T. Michael Keesey, Glenn Morton, and James R. Comer, published December 2016 by Inkwater Press. This post is a review of Fire-Breathing Dinosaurs? The Hilarious History of Creationist Pseudoscience at Its Silliest by Philip J. Senter. Published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 211 pages. Matt Young is this post’s moderator.

While I was writing and editing my book God’s Word or Human Reason? a few years ago, one thing I often was struck by is how rare it is for mainstream scientists to make a concerted effort at answering creationist arguments. As I mentioned in my article “Five principles for arguing against creationism”, the website Talk.Origins used to be the best resource available for closely examining and critiquing creationist models, but now that that website is no longer updated, there are only a small handful of authors who have tried to pick up where Talk.Origins left off. One of those authors is Phil Senter, a paleontologist at Fayetteville State University, whom I consider to be the most knowledgeable and effective current opponent of creationism in the fields of paleontology and geology.

Senter is the author of critiques of creationism such as “The Defeat of Flood Geology by Flood Geology” and “Using creation science to demonstrate evolution” (in two papers, here and here), which show a level of knowledge about creationist research and methods that is unmatched by any other currently active critic of creationism. The latter pair of papers has had a measurable impact on creation science: one or both of them is cited in the baraminology papers by Cavanaugh 2011, Garner et al. 2013 and McLain et al. 2018, all of which replicate Senter’s conclusion that using the systematics developed by creationists, it would be reasonable to classify Archaeopteryx as a theropod dinosaur. I was therefore excited to learn from a mutual friend that Senter was writing a book devoted to debunking creationist arguments about dinosaurs. (I was informed of this by the paleoartist Lenadra Walters, who provided his book’s cover illustration.) The book’s publisher, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, has sent me an advance copy of the book for the purpose of reviewing it here.

Dicromantispa sayi

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Photograph by Mark Sturtevant.

Photography contest, Winner.

Mantid fly
Dicromantispa sayi – mantidfly. The photographer writes, "Mantidflies belong to the insect order Neuroptera and are related to more familiar insects like lacewings and antlions. Adult mantidlfies clearly show convergent evolution with praying mantids, which are members of a completely different insect order. Both kinds of insects are visual predators that use their raptorial forelimbs to grab up insect prey. Mantid fly biology is otherwise very different from praying mantids. These insects have a larval stage, and during this stage they are parasitoids on other insects or spiders. ‘Parasitoid’ is the technically accurate term since they kill their hosts rather than merely encumber them. The larva of this species of mantidfly enters the egg sac of a spider (usually one belonging to a jumping spider) and eats the eggs, all while the female spider is guarding them!"

Will vegetarian crocs be a creationist treat?

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Crocodile
Nile crocodile; Oasis Park, La Lajita, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain. Photograph by H. Zell. CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Guest post by the ever-alert David MacMillan. Mr. MacMillan is a freelance writer, paralegal, and law student in Washington, DC, and features in the independent documentary We Believe in Dinosaurs. A former creationist apologist and blogger with ties to Answers In Genesis, he now speaks out actively against science denial and creationism. Mr. McMillan blogs at Medium.

Young-earth creationists, who believe that all species are secretly capable of thriving on an entirely herbivorous diet (due to their interpretation of Genesis in which God created all carnivores as immortal vegetarians in the Garden of Eden), are quick to seize upon any example of omnivory in defense of their beliefs. They argue that it is impossible to tell whether a given species was carnivorous from fossils alone, as this would be “historical science” and thus entirely impossible to draw any firm conclusions about. They even suggest spuriously that because male camels have sharp front teeth, “If scientists had discovered the skull of a camel without knowing what living ones were like, they might well have reconstructed it as a vicious meat-eater based on its jaws and teeth.”

As an ex-creationist, I have a pretty good idea how groups like Answers In Genesis will respond to new findings in science. I predict they’ll greet the following news as proof they’ve been right all along:

Photography Contest XI: Finalists

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Here are the finalists of the 2019 photography contest. We received 15 photographs from 5 photographers. All of the pictures were excellent, as you will no doubt see during the coming months. With assistance from our wife, we chose 1 photograph by each photographer and display them below the proverbial fold. We chose the photographs more on the basis of their pictorial quality than on their scientific interest. The text, if any, was written by the photographers and lightly edited for consistency.

The finalists are presented in alphabetical order of last name. Please look through their photographs before voting for your favorite. Polling will close Friday Monday, July 8, at approximately 9 a.m. MDT, and we will display the winner at noon that day.