A research team headed by a biology professor at the University of New Mexico are claiming that mammals had a field day when the dinosaurs went extinct. They got bigger and more diverse, filling in the ecological wasteland left by the missing giant reptiles. Their analysis was published in Science.1 In addition, they think the mammals waxed and waned with the temperature. According to lead author Felicia Smith [U of NM], quoted in Science Daily, “Global temperature and terrestrial land area set constraints on the upper limit of mammal body size,” Smith said, “with larger mammals evolving when the earth was cooler and the terrestrial land area greater.” But isn’t there more to evolutionary theory than changing times? A look at how they used the term evolution in their paper shows a rather cavalier assumption that evolution just happened. As to how animals could evolve, they tried a random model, like Brownian motion on a large scale, and a saturation model, with evolution reaching to fill all available space somehow: “as maximum body size evolves, the evolutionary possibilities for increasing size are progressively exhausted.” Other than that, the authors treated evolution as a category of stuff happens, speaking of “the evolution of” this or that. They even invoked the convergence notion (01/26/2010): “the patterns suggest that large mammals convergently evolved to fill similar ecological roles.” As for the atmospheric and geographic influences on evolution, they were gracious enough to warn, “However, some caution should be used in the interpretation of our results.” There’s a lot of uncertainty, after all, about how oxygen levels and other environmental factors could influence evolution. “Nevertheless, the potential role of abiotic factors in the overall trajectory of mammalian evolution cannot be ignored, and the available data suggest interesting and important trends, which should be explored further.” Their last paragraph summed up their ideas:Our analysis implies that the increase in the maximum mass of mammals over the Cenozoic was neither a statistical inevitability driven by increasing species richness nor a random evolutionary walk from a small initial size, but rather reflected processes operating consistently across trophic and taxonomic groups, and independent of the physiographic history of each continent. We find no support for other hypotheses for the evolution of maximum body mass, including the expected increase in variance due to random divergence from a common ancestor or to increasing species richness; nor do terrestrial mammals ever approach sizes that might invoke biomechanical constraints. The K/Pg extinction provided the ecological opportunity for mammals to become larger. Terrestrial mammals did so in an exponentially decreasing fashion, reaching a more or less maximal size by 40 Ma as evolutionary possibilities for increasing body size were progressively exhausted and abiotic factors began constraining the upper limit.The authors did not speculate about the cause of the dinosaur extinction. In the abstract, their hypothesis was summed up in the statement, “the primary driver for the evolution of giant mammals was diversification to fill ecological niches, [but] environmental temperature and land area may have ultimately constrained the maximum size achieved.” Reporters leapt onto this idea, saying “Dino Demise Led to Evolutionary Explosion of Huge Mammals” (Live Science), “Giants among us: Paper explores evolution of the world’s largest mammals” (PhysOrg) and “Size of mammals exploded after dinosaur extinction” (PhysOrg again), New Scientist confidently explained “Why mammals grew big and then stopped,” while the BBC News teased, “Dinosaur demise allowed mammals to ’go nuts.’” The quotes refer to a statement by lead author Felissa Smith, who pretty much summed up her idea in a colloquial way: “But we had a giant Earth with nothing big on it anymore; and so I think that ecological opportunity allowed mammals to just go nuts.” For the benefit of any culturally deprived readers, the BBC hastened to explain, “‘Going nuts’ meant land mammals diverging in shape and size.”1. Felissa Smith, “The Evolution of Maximum Body Size of Terrestrial Mammals,” Science, 26 November 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6008 pp. 1216-1219, DOI: 10.1126/science.1194830.Has a more vacuous scientific explanation ever been submitted in a serious scientific journal? This is nothing more than the “If you build it, they will come” theory of evolution. Simply provide the opportunity, and Darwin will send in his army of Tinker Bell helpers to zap the leftover animals with their mutation wands, and presto: giant mammals will emerge. It’s like a land grant or homesteading act advertised to pioneers: “Go forth and build your towns, your factories, your civilizations! Give me mammals to match my mountains!” The only caveat is that intelligent design is not allowed; everything must be undirected, purposeless, mindless, and random. Notice, further, that Smith and her co-conspirators ruled out all the other vacuous evolutionary explanations before coming up with their vacuous evolutionary explanation. Can’t say it was “statistically inevitable.” Can’t say it was a “random walk” in the evolutionary park. Can’t say it was biomechanical constraints, nor “expected increase in variance due to random divergence from a common ancestor” nor due to “increasing species richness.” No; all those vacuous, circular, question-begging Darwinian explanations are not vacuous enough. We need a really vacuous explanation: “we had a giant Earth with nothing big on it anymore; and so I think that ecological opportunity allowed mammals to just go nuts.” Any wonder why long ago we instituted a Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week award? For more nonsense about mammal evolution, see:12/24/2009 on natural variation vs. progress,12/18/2009 on Australian mammals,12/13/2009 on contenders for SEQOTW,12/11/2009 on the horse series,12/04/2009 on vacuous explanations,11/19/2009 on evolutionary works in progress,09/22/2009 on use of the Stuff Happens Law,06/30/2009 on the elephant explosion,06/03/2009 on evolution as a catch-all explanation,03/24/2009 on trying to fit animals in uncooperative evolutionary trees,07/04/2008 on explanation by assumption,03/06/2008 on translating Darwinese,01/21/2008 on backtracking earlier claims,04/25/2007 on telling time tales,03/29/2005 on mammals (or evolutionists) going crazy after the dinosaurs,08/27/2004 on the lack of an evolutionary tree in mammal genes,12/03/2003 on the convoluted story of African mammal evolution. For more on the “If you build it, they will come” theory of evolution, see 10/31/2010 and 07/14/2009 on Cambrian animals, 03/29/2007 on salt tolerance, 01/28/2005 on bats, and 08/25/2005 on fossil diversity. It’s an old custom in Darwin fantasyland. (Visited 11 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0
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Captain Michael Clarke smashed 82 runs off 70 balls as Australia chased down England’s highest score against them to win a thrilling sixth one-day international by two wickets on Wednesday.Australia’s Michael Clarke raises his bat after scoring 50 against England in Sydney on Wednesday. APClarke was run out in the second-to-last over to leave Australia requiring 8 runs from 8 balls. Entering the final over needing 6 from 6, a wide and single were followed by John Hastings guiding a Chris Woakes delivery to the boundary to bring up the winning score of 334-8 with four balls to spare.The total was Australia’s best in a chase, eclipsing the 327 against South Africa at Port Elizabeth in 2002.”We’re winning, first and foremost, and it’s nice to be contributing with the bat,” Clarke said.”A few things didn’t go to plan with the ball for us, but we’re stoked to have chased those runs down.”Australia leads the seven-match series 5-1 heading into the final game at Perth on Sunday.Earlier, England made an imposing 333-6 at Sydney Cricket Ground after Jonathan Trott ignored leg cramps to make 137 off 126 deliveries, his second century in three games.”Nice to get a hundred,” Trott said. “It’s more memorable when you win the game.”Trott finished his innings with a runner after pulling up with cramps in the 42nd over. He was caught-and-bowled by Shaun Tait (2-60) off the penultimate ball of England’s highest ODI innings against Australia, surpassing the 320-8 in 1980 at Birmingham. It’s England third record total against the hosts on this tour.advertisement”It was great to see Trott play so well, all the same,” England captain Andrew Strauss said. “And 333 is a good score on any ground.”Strauss and Trott shared an 80-run partnership until the captain was caught by David Hussey at short midwicket off a Steve Smith ball for 63. Trott then partnered Ian Bell in a 104-run stand before Bell was dismissed for 45.The Australians started their chase confidently, with opener Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson making half centuries, and Callum Ferguson adding 46 off 44 balls.A belligerent Watson, after eight boundaries in 33 balls, skied a Michael Yardy delivery to Strauss at short midwicket on 51 with Australia at 87-2 in the 13th over.Ferguson, brought into the side to replace the injured Shaun Marsh, shared a 79-run, third-wicket stand with Johnson until he needlessly ran himself out.Johnson batted fourth in place of Clarke and made his 57 from 59 balls before being stumped off a Kevin Pietersen delivery.”We had to take a few risks, I punted a bit on sending Mitch up the order and he played really well,” Clarke said. “He strikes the ball as clean as anyone.”Cameron White survived a video appeal for caught behind while on 15 but soon after was caught by Eoin Morgan off a rising Steven Finn delivery for 20.Despite that, Clarke brought up his second consecutive half century off 51 balls – including a six and a boundary in a 17-run, 44th over off James Anderson – as he and Hussey shared a 90-run partnership for the sixth wicket.The pair played shots at will until Hussey was caught behind off Finn (2-51) for 38, with Australia needing 17 off the final 16 balls.Pietersen, who made 29 in England’s innings, limped off the ground in the 19th over of the Australia innings after he appeared to twist his ankle while fielding a Ferguson shot. He returned four overs later and rejoined the bowling attack.