Stupid Science and Evolutionary Biology

In researching the validity of this anti-ID article I came across this pro-evolution article called Putative amphibian fossil shows “broken” bone; said to be first indication of terrestriality. The article itself is decent, but the underlying ‘scholarly paper’ is a great example of stupid science.

The conclusion, from a new paper in PLoS ONE by Peter Bishop et al., is that the fossil, Ossinodus sp., shows a callus on its radius…analysis suggests in turn that the animal fell nearly a meter onto its leg, breaking the bone. Because such falls presumably cant occur in water, the authors conclude that this creature fell on land.

So many things wrong with this paper:

      1. They say the callus forms from a cracked bone and they rule out every cause of the cracked bone other than a fall. Of course, there are many other plausible sources of cracked bones. It could have gotten its leg cought in a rock formation and broken it getting loose. They do a good job arguing that it wasn’t the result of a bite from a sharp-toothed animal, but it could have been bitten by an animal with blunt teeth, or otherwise crushed or broken by an animal without the use of teeth. Something outside of the water like a bolder on a cliff could have fallen into the water onto it.
      2. If it was a fall that doesn’t imply it was on dry land, and if it was on dry land that doesn’t imply that it lived on dry land. I don’t know if this animal was saltwater or freshwater, but a freshwater animal could have broken the bone over rapids or a waterfall and a saltwater animal could have had a leg squished under an object crashing under a wave, or it could have been the object crashing into the ground or something from a wave.
      3. As the blog article notes, the crack could have been post-mortem and the sample size is very small as this is the only observation. Despite the small amount of evidence, the evolutionary biologists are happy to make the exceptional claim that this is the earliest tretrapod ever found. Aren’t scientists supposed to provide extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims?

Fortunately even the blogger at Why Evolution Is True is skeptical about the paper. Maybe I will read a bit more over there.

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