Paleontology

Philosophical discussions about or concerning scientific matters
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Averroes
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Paleontology

#1

Post by Averroes » Thu Jun 28, 2018 7:46 pm

Welcome to my forum. :) Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, it is really appreciated.
Arising_uk wrote:I see you're posting that hoax about giant humans. The picture you show purporting to show a 'Swiss 'museum' displaying the skeleton of a giant human is in fact a fake giant skeleton made for Erich von Däniken’s Mystery Park ancient astronaut theme park in Interlaken, Switzerland.
That is an interesting point of view and I think that it has very important philosophical and scientific consequences beyond the case of the giant human reconstruction itself. However, I do not agree that it is a hoax, but I propose to address this issue in this post if God wills.

Many people misunderstand the science of paleontology and I think your comment exemplifies that stance among some people who have a lack of understanding of paleontology. Your comment is not just about the reconstruction of the Ecuador giant in Switzerland but it is more a particular stance on the science of paleontology altogether. Of course, if you do not consider paleontology to be science it is your right but I do not share your point of view if that be your stance. For if you are judging the reconstruction at the Switzerland museum to be a fake then all museums exposing dinosaurs are likewise fake! I do not share this point of view as for me all prehistoric museums have an educational value with respect to creatures which once existed in the past but are now extinct. So even though I am opposed to Darwinism, I think paleontology striped from Darwinian concepts is a true science. Allow me to talk a bit about that subject because I think it deserves that we take some time to clarify this important issue.

Let me start from the beginning.

Paleontology is the scientific study of fossils. Fossils are physical remains of organisms or traces of their behavior preserved in the rock record. Fossils can be roughly divided into:

Body Fossils: physical remains of organisms preserved in the rock record (shells, bones, plant parts, etc.)
Trace Fossils: traces of behavior of organisms preserved in the rock record (locomotion, feeding, burrowing, resting, coprolites, etc.)

When correctly interpreted fossils show how life forms and organisms differed from how they are today. In this respect, it has a true scientific and philosophical value. There are a lot of things that we as human beings endowed with intelligence can glean from the study of fossils.

Fossilization is a very rare event, and fossils, when found, are also very rarely found complete. It is very exceptional when a complete specimen is found. So most fossils that are unearthed by paleontologist are incomplete. So, before these can be displayed to the public in a museum they have to be reconstructed. Reconstruction is basically a process in which the paleontologist, through his/her expert knowledge of the anatomy of the various species and through special reconstruction techniques, can make an informed judgment about how to fill the missing parts in the incomplete specimens before these can be mounted for display in a museum. One useful principle among the many techniques used in reconstruction is that of symmetry of organisms, i.e. by mirroring, the missing parts of the incomplete specimen can be implied and then sculpted or replicated from its mirror counterpart.

When the unearthed specimen has been reconstructed in this manner, it is often replicated by molding and then casting. Replication is a widespread practice in paleontology for two main reasons:

1. To preserve the rare original fossil from potential future damage and deterioration.
2. To make a specimen available for display in many museums who do not possess or have the means to buy the rare specimens.

At this point everyone understands that a replica is not the real fossil that was unearthed and restored, so calling it a “fake” in this context is merely a trivial and uninformative statement. But calling the replica a “hoax” is unavailing and unwise.

Now in my next post, I propose to give some widely accepted examples of reconstructions and replicas that are exhibited in history museums all around the world.

Averroes
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Re: Paleontology

#2

Post by Averroes » Fri Jun 29, 2018 7:28 am

1. Reconstruction of Lucy Australopithecus

According to Wikipedia: Lucy is the common name of AL 288-1, several hundred pieces of bone fossils representing 40 percent of the skeleton of a female of the hominin species Australopithecus afarensis.

The picture below shows the incomplete fossilized remains of Lucy that were found in 1974 in Ethiopia.



Below is a YouTube video showing how Lucy was reconstructed from the incomplete fossil which is exhibited in a museum in Ethiopia.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdYw6Rlrd8k




2. The Diplodocus

According to Wikipedia: Diplodocus is an extinct genus of diplodocid sauropod dinosaurs whose fossils were first discovered in 1877.

The Diplodocus specimen considered here is CM 84, recovered in 1899 in Albany County, Wyoming. The skeleton was unearthed about 60% complete. The incomplete specimen was the reconstructed by complementing with other fossils to produce a complete skeletal frame. The skull was casted using another specimen. A number of missing bones, including most elements of the forelimbs, were sculpted using a smaller Diplodocus specimen for reference.
And the real restored specimen has been displayed in Pittsburg in the USA since 1907.


Image
The real specimen.

There have been many replicas from this specimen in the early 20th century CE which then were dispatched throughout Europe and Latin America. Some examples are illustrated below with photos taken from Wikipedia.


Diplodocus replica in Paris.



Diplodocus replica in Berlin.


There are also in Madrid, Bologna, and Vienna. Beautiful photos are available on Wikipedia. All these are replicas or "fakes" as you would probably call them. They consist of about 292 plaster-cast bones that make up the gigantic frame of the mount. And the real fossil from which these were cast is in Pittsburg, USA.

There was one "fake" Diplodocus in London too which was named "Dippy" but it has been removed last year (i.e. in 2017) after about 37 years of exposition. And now since the beginning of this year, Dippy is on a UK tour which is to end in 2020 in Norwich. Of course, one could complain that this plaster frame for which the British have taken affection is just a fake thing. But it does not seem that the British care whether it's fake or not for I think they understand that it was taken from the real thing and from then it has taken a real life of its own in their minds! Below is a photo taken from the website of the Natural History Museum, of Dippy being installed in Dorset County Museum at the beginning of this year.

Image
"Fake" Diplodocus in Dorset!




3. The Argentinosaurus.
  • From Wikipedia: The Argentinosaurus (meaning "Argentine lizard") is a genus of titanosaur sauropod dinosaur first discovered by Guillermo Heredia in Argentina. The generic name refers to the country in which it was discovered.

    Not much of Argentinosaurus has been recovered. The holotype included only a series of vertebrae (six from the back, five partial vertebrae from the hip region), ribs of the right side of the hip region, a part of a rib from the flank, and the right fibula (lower leg bone). One of these vertebrae was 1.59 meters tall, and the fibula was about 1.55 meters (61 inches). In addition to these bones, an incomplete femur (upper leg bone, specimen number MLP-DP 46-VIII-21-3) is assigned to Argentinosaurus; this incomplete femur shaft has a minimum circumference of about 1.18 meters. The proportions of these bones and comparisons with other sauropod relatives allow paleontologists to estimate the size of the animal.
About only around 10% of the reconstructed Argentinosaurus skeletal frame was unearthed; all the remaining bones of its skeletal frame were reconstructed by the paleontologist community from their experience of the anatomy of various vertebrate species. Below is a drawing showing in white the parts which were unearthed and in gray those which were reconstructed.


The Argentinosaurus

Image
A replica of the reconstructed Argentinosaurus in Frankfurt, Germany.



4. Collections in the Natural History Museum of Utah, USA.

Now, in the NHM of Utah, a significant portion of the exhibited collections in the museum are fakes! Paleontogy Collections Manager of the National History Museum of Utah, Carrie Levitt-Bussian said:
Carrie Levitt-Bussian wrote:"Only 1% of the stuffs museums ever have ever goes on display. Everything else is back in the collection space. This [the collection space] is actually where we store the real bones. A lot of times we actually put replicas on exhibit [in the museum] because we don’t want them to get damaged because they are really important." Reference YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=527fasB2QwE
And this practice is not specific to the USA alone but is generalized to the whole natural history museum world! And everyone who knows a bit about the subject understands this and have no problem enjoying a mounted piece even with knowing that it is a replica (or "fake")!

Averroes
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Re: Paleontology

#3

Post by Averroes » Fri Jun 29, 2018 7:49 am

We have seen examples of how paleontologists apply their knowledge to reconstruct incomplete unearthed fossils. I would like to express some thoughts on the reconstruction process in general in the context of science.

Reconstruction is a concept which is much used in the physical sciences and engineering. For example, it is made use in computer science In signal processing; for instance, signal reconstruction is applied when an original continuous signal is sought to be recovered/reconstructed from a sequence of equally spaced samples. This is used in telecommunications.
Reconstruction is also used in Civil Engineering, particularly Surveying where the topography of a terrain is reconstructed from a collection of topographic coordinates collected by a topographic survey of the terrain.
In Artificial Intelligence as well there is a kind of reconstruction in supervised machine learning where the program is provided with a training data set and from this dataset it infers a function that maps an input to an output.

In the above examples, complex mathematics and algorithms are used as the basis for the reconstruction process. I find an interesting simile In that in paleontology, it is their expertise in paleontology which provides the paleontologist with the algorithm necessary for the reconstruction process. However, recently computer-aided reconstruction software has been used extensively with a great degree of success in paleontology and also much in the closely related field of forensic science. But paleontology is still heavily dependent on the subjectivity and expertize of the individual paleontologist. The major problem I have with paleontology nowadays is that it has now been infected with the disease of Darwinism. This disease is fatal for the intellect!

I find it quite interesting to consider that paleontology is a discipline which was established on a scientific basis by Frenchman Goerge Cuvier near the end of the 18th century CE. It was at a time when theories of cross-species evolution were being advanced in the West. At that time, in the field of biology, geology and hence paleontology, Cuvier was an authoritative towering figure. And still today in paleontology this is the case. But it is interesting to note that Cuvier was a strong proponent of creationism and strongly opposed the theory of evolution of his time namely Lamarckian evolution. This was at a time before Darwin. Goerge Cuvier died in 1832 much before the unscientific 1859 Origin of the Species of Darwin. I am of the opinion that Cuvier would definitely have opposed the unscientific theory of Darwin as well. Any intelligent person who takes thinking as a serious matter is bound to oppose Darwinism. Moreover, even Darwin was not convinced by the truth of his theories and he clearly and unambiguously stated that his theories were not true science.

Averroes
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Re: Paleontology

#4

Post by Averroes » Fri Jun 29, 2018 9:46 am

So far we have surveyed the field of paleontology and now that we have a functional concept of how it works, we can purposefully discuss the case of the giant human remains found in Ecuador by Christian priest and archeologist Carlos Vaca in 1959.

Now, the 7.50-meter reconstruction of the Ecuadorian human giant in the Switzerland museum was obtained through the same scientific process used in paleontology for obtaining the dinosaurs skeleton replicas which are displayed in museums all over the world. So, if the former is to be judged as fake then the overwhelming majority of the dinosaur museum pieces must all be judged to be fake! There can be no double standards here. But fortunately, paleontologists and the general public understand the process by which these pieces come to be exhibited in museums, and many people are even prepared to pay a small fee to watch these “fake” dinosaur skeletons nevertheless!

It is important to recall that there are 206 bones in an adult human body. Concerning the present case under investigation, I think it would be enlightening if readers of these posts knew about the anatomy of the human body. If one does not know, then there is no need to worry as I am here! :-) This is because I am a follower of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the blessed Prophet as reported by Ibn Abbas:
  • "The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, 'Teach and make it easy.
    Teach and make it easy', three times. He went on, 'When you are angry, be silent', twice." [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 1320]
So I recommend that the readers here get familiar with the bones in the human body through the link provided here after having read the remaining of this post: https://www.visiblebody.com/learn/skele ... f-skeleton

Now, the experts in anatomy have recognized that the fossils in the possession of Carlos Vaca were from the set of the bones in the human body with the particularity that they were five times as big! In the video, for example, I could myself recognize some of the bones. Indeed, I could clearly recognize part of the occipital bones and two vertebrae that Carlos Vaca had articulated one on top of the another. And indeed these were many times bigger than their normal current corresponding counterparts. Now, me not being an expert in paleontology and yet being able to recognize these human bones, it is then clear to me that an expert would definitely easily recognize these as giant human bones. And, moreover, the experts are being shown testifying in the documentary confirming these fossils are human.

Now, the Europeans who reconstructed the skeletal frame in Switzerland made the trip to Ecuador to make cast molds of the fossils in the possession of Carlos Vaca, which they then took back to Switzerland to be used in the reconstruction of the skeletal frame of the corresponding giant. For me, this is a clear-cut matter of a very basic paleontology scientific reconstruction process, which was already explained previously. And as I have no problem whatsoever with accepting the existence of dinosaurs after seeing the replicas of their skeletal remains in museums, so too I have no problem of similarly accepting a skeletal reconstruction which was obtained by the exact same process as for the dinosaur replicas! Consistency is a second nature to me!

All praises and thanks are due to Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful. And may Allah, All-Knowing send peace and blessings to Prophet Muhammad.

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