I guess ‘eponymous’ wasn't on the LSAT

Nick Matzke, one of the world's leading experts in detecting absurdities in creationist texts, has discovered a real howler from Casey Luskin. Luskin is complaining that he, Junior Woodchuck lawyer for an intellectually bankrupt propaganda mill, can't find the wrist bones in Tiktaalik when Neil Shubin, world-class paleontologist, is directly describing them. This is, admittedly, a fairly high-level discussion by Shubin, but it's amusing that Luskin isn't tripped up by the science — it's his command of the English language that lets him down.

When discussing Tiktaalik's "wrist," Shubin says he "invites direct comparisons" between Tiktaalik's fin and a true tetrapod limb. Surely this paper must have a diagram comparing the "wrist"-bones of Tiktaalik to a true tetrapod wrist, showing which bones correspond. So again I searched the paper. And again he provides no such diagram comparing the two. So we are left to decipher his jargon-filled written comparison in the following sentence by sentence analysis:

1. Shubin et al.: "The intermedium and ulnare of Tiktaalik have homologues to eponymous wrist bones of tetrapods with which they share similar positions and articular relations." (Note: I have labeled the intermedium and ulnare of Tiktaalik in the diagram below.)

Translation: OK, then exactly which "wrist bones of tetrapods" are Tiktaalik's bones homologous to? Shubin doesn't say. This is a technical scientific paper, so a few corresponding "wrist bone"-names from tetrapods would seem appropriate. But Shubin never gives any.

"Waaaaah," whines Luskin, "Shubin didn't tell us the names of the corresponding tetrapod wrist bones!"

Only he did. I guess "eponymous" is too difficult a word for a Junior Woodchuck.

Shubin is saying that there are bones with the same positions and articulations with neighboring bones in tetrapods and Tiktaalik, and that they have the same names. They have a small wrist bone that articulates with the ulna called the ulnare, and they have another bone called the intermedium. They have the same names.

Here's a nice diagram, color-coded and everything, just for Casey. Here are some fish:

And some tetrapods:

These clowns at the DI would be much funnier if more people would realize that they are performance artists with little talent and no expertise, except in lying and tripping over their own shoes.

Carl Zimmer has also noted Luskin's absurd error.