Lying to students about Archaeopteryx
An article in Panda's Thumb discusses the controversy over the “Critical Analysis of Evolution” lesson plan's "creationist" claim that a growing number of scientists doubt or question the idea that Archaeopteryx is a transitional form between reptiles and modern birds (this lesson plan was dropped by the Ohio Board of Education in February):
a. An early version of the Critical Analysis lesson read: “Additionally, a growing number of scientists now doubt that Archaeopteryx and other alleged transitional fossils really are transitional forms.”
b. Of this sentence, ODE’s [Ohio Dept. of Education's] own staff science consultant said: “The underlined sentence is a lie.”
c. The accepted version of the above sentence became: “A growing number of scientists now question that Archaeopteryx and other transitional fossils really are transitional forms.” It’s still a lie.
d. Dr. Bobby Bowers, Deputy Superintendent, described this process that permitted numerous examples like the above by answering a question from Board member Robin Hovis (regarding the concerns of sixteen scientific and educational professional organizations that urged rejection of the lesson) by telling the Board: “I think you…would have to say that we have been as responsive as we possibly can be to the legitimate kinds of criticisms.” (8 March 2004.)
An especially noteworthy editorial in Geoscience Reports said,
Most of the public media and scientific community actively promote the theory that birds descended from dinosaurs. Though many scientists do not hold this view, some insist that birds are living dinosaurs. These ideas are primarily promoted among children — who lack the expertise, information or conceptual ability to analyze the arguments presented by individuals in positions of authority. They also lack the experience that is needed to challenge the popular paradigms.
This situation places an enormous burden on parents and teachers to keep themselves informed and to present a balanced view so that young people can learn to think and make choices regarding personal beliefs despite media and societal pressures to conform to the current views held by some scientists. Our students need to understand that change does occur among animals in our world but interpretations of those changes may hinge on selective data, preconceived ideas (our own, as well as those of others), popular theories, and numerous other biases.
An article about Archaeopteryx in the same issue said,
Recent research challenges the idea of linkage between dinosaurs or reptiles and birds . . . Despite all the conflicting data with respect to the linkage between dinosaurs/reptiles and birds, it seems clear that although Archaeopteryx is the best candidate, it is not the link.
.An article titled "Archaeopteryx -- is this bird a fraud?" discusses pro-and-con arguments as to whether or not the fossil was faked and whether or not it is a transitional form between reptiles and modern birds. For example, the article says,
In an article published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society in 1984 (Vol. 82, pp. 119-158) and called "The avian relationship of Archaeopteryx and the origin of birds", R. A. Thulborn argues that Archaeopteryx is not, in fact, a bird at all! From careful morphological analysis of birds, dinosaurs, reptiles and Archaeopteryx he concludes that Archaeopteryx is no more closely related to birds than several types of theropod dinosaurs including tyrannosaurids and ornithomimids.
A creationist website, Answers In Genesis, of course agrees that Archaeopteryx is not a transitional form between dinosaurs and modern birds but claims that the Archaeopteryx is a true bird rather than a dinosaur.
Labels: Evolution controversy (3 of 4)