Review by Greg Neyman
First Published 2009
In an article on the Creation, Dinosaurs and the Flood website, young earth creation science advocate Charlie Liebert argues paleontologists have an active imagination in order to secure funding for their projects.1
Liebert claims that many new dinosaurs appear because of the funding issue. Announce a new species, get a grant, and continue with more research. He even mentions the movie Jurassic Park as proof that funding for paleontologists is based on new discoveries. While I agree that some of this is going on, in the long run, the process of peer review, where other scientists review the claims, will take care of erroneous claims. In addition, scientists are not stupid. If one finds a tyrannosaur bone, which is clearly from a tyrannosaur, he is not going to proclaim it as a new species. Once peer review hits, his embarrassment in the paleontological community would mean the end to any future funding. To be a new species, there must be something unique in the fossil that has not been seen in other species.
Interestingly, he mentions that in 1998, scientists announced the discovery of a new species, called Gigantosaurus, which Liebert claims was "very similar to a T-rex only somewhat larger." He suggests it should have beeh called "T-rex max." He claims a new name brings money. Finally, he states "There is more variety among the skulls of the different domestic dogs than there is between T-Rex and Gigantosaurus."
After getting over my initial reaction (laughter), I realized he had mis-spelled the new dinosaur's name. Gigantosaurus is a sauropod, a herbivorous dinosaur, whereas T-Rex is a carnivorous theropod. Actually, the dinosaur Liebert is referring to is "Giganotosaurus" (with an extra 'o' in the middle).
Giganotosaurus was a theropod, with major differences from T-rex. The brain was only half as big as T-rex, even though the mass of the dinosaur was greater. The teeth were shorter and narrower, and the skull was more slender. The tibia/femur ratio was also significantly different. The forearms of Giganotosaurus were longer, and contained six formidable claws, whereas the arms/claws of T-rex were practically useless in a fight. The antorbital fenestra are greatly larger in the Giganotosaurus verses the T-rex.
Fossils from Giganotosaurus date between 98 to 96 million years ago, whereas T-Rex did not come along until 28 million years later.
Finally, he lists 10 species that have very limited fossil evidence. I agree that many species have been named based on very little evidence, and in some cases, the announcement of new species should not have been made. However, as previously mentioned, scientists are careful to avoid embarrassment. There must have been something morphologically different in these scant fossil specimens to warrant calling it a new species. We will have to wait until further evidence is found to eliminate all doubt.
So, what does all this have to do with the age of the earth debate? Liebert, as a young earth creationist, is trying to cast doubt upon the findings of paleontologists. While I agree that skepticism should be used in the case of claims based on scant fossil evidence, such claims do not negate the findings of paleontology as a whole. There are still hundreds of fossil species of dinosaurs, many with complete skeletons, and they all date to more than 65 million years ago. Casting doubt upon a few findings does not negate the rest of the findings. We can rest assured that hundreds of dinosaur species lived millions of years ago.
1 Paleontology's Imagination, published on the web at http://www.sixdaycreation.com/facts/dinosaurs/sept98.html
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