Are recent natural disasters evidence for the end times, global climate change….or both? A new survey suggests that nearly half (49%) of Americans think the former and more than three in five (62%) think the latter, meaning, because the total is more than 100%, some conclude it could be both.
I was skimming through George Barry O’Toole’s The Case Against Evolution (1926) recently, and I was struck by the following sentence (from a chapter on “Homology and its Interpretation”): “In practice, however, the classifications of systematists are often very arbitrary, and we find the latter divided into two factions, the ‘lumpers’ who wish to reduce the number of systematic groups and the ‘splitters’ who have a passion for breaking up larger groups into smaller ones on the basis of tenuous differences.” What struck me about the sentence is not any misrepresentation, but the up-to-date sound of “lumpers” and “splitters”: “these more or less self-evident terms,” as Richard Dawkins describes them in The Ancestor’s Tale (2004), “for taxonomists who habitually lump animals (or plants) into a few large groups, or who habitually split them into lots of small groups.” Calling the terms self-evident, though, obscures their history, which turns out to be complicated and hard to decipher.
Last week, we explored what it takes to become a fossil and what exactly fossils are. Hopefully, you have some appreciation for the relatively rare conditions necessary to become a fossil. But let’s say you beat the odds and die along a floodplain and get buried in sediment before decaying or getting eaten. Is it time to break out the balloons and celebrate? Start designing your cushy museum exhibit? Not quite…you may be on your way to being a fossil, but now you have to be found.
Last week on Fossil Friday, we encountered a little ocean delight and we asked, what’s its genus...and its very lovely common name? The common name should have been obvious. Just look at it—it looks like a flower, and sure enough this organism is called a “sea lily.”
But what was the genus? Why, it is a Glyptocrinus, of course. Well done, Gerald Wilgus!
This week’s Fossil Friday is from our Fossil Friend Dan Phelps. He just got the fossil cleaned up recently, and let me tell you, the before and after images are pretty amazing. Maybe if we ask nicely, Dan will post them in the comments below. But in the meantime, can you figure out the genus of this organism? What about its very lovely common name?
“In the year 1806 the French Institute enumerated not less than eighty geological theories which were hostile to the Scriptures; but not one of those theories is held to-day.” In part 1, I explained that Luther Tracy Townsend’s Collapse of Evolution (1905) attributes that sentence to “the eminent geologist, Professor Charles Lyell,” but found it, apparently, in Albert Barnes’s The Progress and Tendencies of Science (1840) instead. In part 2, I added that Barnes included a footnote to Lyell’s Principles of Geology later in the same paragraph, which probably misled Townsend into thinking that Lyell was the authority for the claim about the eighty-plus geological theories. And in part 3, I traced the claim instead to Georges Cuvier, who alluded to eighty-plus geological theories in 1806, but conspicuously didn’t describe them as “hostile to the Scriptures.”
In last week’s somewhat belated post, I gave a long introduction to this question: What does it take to become a fossil, and what does it take to be found? I made the claim, too, that if you can understand how rare quality fossil finds are, you can begin to appreciate all that we do know and get excited about what we have yet to discover. So let’s get cracking!
Last week's Fossil Friday was a beachcomber's delight. According to our fossil friend Gerald Wilgus, these fossils apparently wash up on Lake Michigan to this day.
What is it? Well, I’ll let Gerald supply the answer:
This week on Fossil Friday, we are relying on our Fossil Friends once again to keep us out of the gambling hells of Nevada and on the road to fossil salvation. This week’s fossil comes from Gerald Wilgus, who says that size might not matter, but shape is everything when it comes to this fossil! Coming from Michigan but originating in the Devonian, this species is a favorite among beachcombers, Gerald says, as it still washes up on the shores of Lake Michigan to this day.
I’ve been discussing the following claim, “In the year 1806 the French Institute enumerated not less than eighty geological theories which were hostile to the Scriptures; but not one of those theories is held to-day.” I explained in part 1 that Luther Tracy Townsend’s Collapse of Evolution (1905) attributes it to “the eminent geologist, Professor Charles Lyell,” that I was unable to find it in Lyell’s work, and that I was able to find it, more or less, in Albert Barnes’s The Progress and Tendencies of Science (1840). In part 2, I added that Barnes included a footnote to Lyell’s Principles of Geology (1830, although Barnes cited the 1837 Philadelphia edition) later in the same paragraph, which probably misled Townsend into thinking that Lyell was the authority for the claim about the eighty-plus geological theories. But there’s still a loose end. If not from Lyell, then from whom?