Flawed analysis casts doubt on years of evolutionary research

October 25, 2016, University of Bristol
Flawed analysis casts doubt on years of evolutionary research
Credit: University of Bristol

Years of research on the evolution of ancient life including the dinosaurs have been questioned after a fatal flaw in the way fossil data is analysed was exposed.

Studies based on the apparently flawed method have suggested Earth's biodiversity remained relatively stable - close to maximum carrying capacity - and hinted many signs of species becoming rapidly extinct are merely reflections on the poor quality of the at that time.

However, new research by scientists at the University of Reading suggests the history of the planet's biodiversity may have been more dynamic than recently suggested, with bursts of new species appearing, along with crashes and more stable periods.

The new study, published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution by Dr Manabu Sakamoto and Dr Chris Venditti, from Reading, and Professor Michael Benton, from Bristol, says a technique used to 'correct' records of diversity in fossils is actually giving misleading results.

It means almost a decade's worth of work aimed at providing an insight into evolution may be misleading as it was based on this fundamental error.

The method assumes that variations in the number of different fossils at any given time are a reflection of how much rock was available. It has been used in more than 150 published research papers since it was first used in 2007.

Dr Sakamoto, evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading, said: "Our work calls into question nearly a decade's worth of scientific reports and interpretations on the way life on Earth has evolved.

The researchers ran thousands of simulations to test the data correction method, but found it failed to return correct results in as much as 100% of the simulated cases.

Professor Mike Benton, Earth Scientist at University of Bristol, said: "The core assumption is that any portion of fossil diversity that can be explained by variations in rock volume should be explained by variations in rock volume. This assumption is based on no evidence.

"At the extreme, if you have no rock you get no fossils. However, there are many cases where two time intervals are represented by the same amount of rock worldwide, and yet fossil diversity varies massively. Explain that."

Earlier this year, Dr Sakamoto led research that revealed the dinosaurs were facing extinction even before the astroid strike that is credited with bringing about their ultimate decline.

Explore further: How good is the fossil record?

More information: Manabu Sakamoto et al. 'Residual diversity estimates' do not correct for sampling bias in palaeodiversity data, Methods in Ecology and Evolution (2016). DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12666

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ForFreeMinds
1.2 / 5 (19) Oct 25, 2016
"The core assumption is that any portion of fossil diversity that can be explained by variations in rock volume should be explained by variations in rock volume. This assumption is based on no evidence."

But environmentalists needed an argument to claim biodiversity is declining because of humans. So they made a false assumption, and ignored any evidence to the contrary, until Sakamoto/Venditti/Benton disproved it. Wikipedia still says "The period since the emergence of humans has displayed an ongoing biodiversity reduction". https://en.wikipe...iversity

The reason they needed this argument? 1) to get the government to pay them to continue their research and 2) the politicians are looking for excuses to control us, supposedly for our own good, but mostly for fattening their pocketbooks.

bschott
5 / 5 (5) Oct 25, 2016
"The core assumption is that any portion of fossil diversity that can be explained by variations in rock volume should be explained by variations in rock volume. This assumption is based on no evidence."

But environmentalists needed an argument to claim biodiversity is declining because of humans. So they made a false assumption, and ignored any evidence to the contrary, until Sakamoto/Venditti/Benton disproved it. Wikipedia still says "The period since the emergence of humans has displayed an ongoing biodiversity reduction". https://en.wikipe...iversity

The reason they needed this argument? 1) to get the government to pay them to continue their research and 2) the politicians are looking for excuses to control us, supposedly for our own good, but mostly for fattening their pocketbooks.



Are you saying that humans are not the cause of the current plummet in biodiversity?
syndicate_51
5 / 5 (2) Oct 25, 2016
Are you saying that humans are not the cause of the current plummet in biodiversity?


I would presume so.
I Have Questions
5 / 5 (4) Oct 25, 2016
"The core assumption is that any portion of fossil diversity that can be explained by variations in rock volume should be explained by variations in rock volume. This assumption is based on no evidence."

But environmentalists needed an argument to claim biodiversity is declining because of humans. So they made a false assumption, and ignored any evidence to the contrary, until Sakamoto/Venditti/Benton disproved it. Wikipedia still says "The period since the emergence of humans has displayed an ongoing biodiversity reduction". https://en.wikipe...iversity

The reason they needed this argument? 1) to get the government to pay them to continue their research and 2) the politicians are looking for excuses to control us, supposedly for our own good, but mostly for fattening their pocketbooks.


There is a word for what you suffer from, it's called apophenia.
julianpenrod
1.5 / 5 (16) Oct 25, 2016
And "science" will claim it their great triumph that, when they can't push the lie any further, they change the lie. But note that, before the lie was discredited, "science" did not make any attempt to point out that it wasn't backed up. "Science" did not indicate that what it was promoting so wholeheartedly was not based on legitimacy. Only now, after all this time, is it admitted that a fundamental premise for biological diversity was not based on anything valid. Frankly, really, what other premises being trundled so carelessly about also have no foundation? And the "science" devotees will never act like this can possible be the case.
krundoloss
4.9 / 5 (10) Oct 25, 2016
How can humans not be a Major contributing factor of decreased Biodiversity? Don't you think that destroying forests, building dams, and carving out farmland on a Massive scale, would reduce Biodiversity? Its obvious! How many different animals can thrive in a forest? Now then how many animals can thrive in farmland? Much fewer, hence you have decreased biodiversity. Its only logical, and its not a conspiracy, just a fact of life when an organism such as ourselves are dominating the planet.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (7) Oct 25, 2016
But note that, before the lie was discredited, "science" did not make any attempt to point out that it wasn't backed up
Sometime science makes mistakes and they are the first to admit it.

Sometimes god makes mistakes like when he said there were 2M jews in goshen who traveled for 40 years in egypt-occupied sinai, received tablets on a mountain that doesnt exist, waged a genocidal joshuan rampage through egyptian-occupied palestine, established great davidic/solomonic kingdoms, and killed christ (and also rabbits have cuds, camels have hooves, and the world is flat).

But he never admits it does he? Nor does he ever change his book. He is as powerless to do that as he was to keep all those forgeries, adulterations, graffiti, mistranslations, bigotry, mysogeny, ignorance, and LIES, out of it.

So who holds the moral high ground here hmmmm?
retrosurf
4.6 / 5 (10) Oct 25, 2016
Awesome. It sounds like they Monte-Carlo-ed the faulty method, and found it wanting. There's a reason mathematics is called the Queen of Science.

People that mistake science for another competing religion are disappointed when they see changes in what they think should be "dogma", based on mere evidence.

So life in the past is more tenuous than was theorized in the previous biodiversity model, where the planet was assumed to be "close to maximum carrying capacity" at all times. Life and biodiversity are perhaps more valuable and precious than paleontological evidence suggested, making the current mass extinction even more serious.

I Have Questions
4 / 5 (8) Oct 25, 2016
I get the impression that the science skeptic people want us to respect their opinions as much as we respect what main stream science has to say.

The problem with doing that is their opinions don't have none of that fancy book learning behind them so giving them that respect is a really stupid thing to do.
malapropism
5 / 5 (6) Oct 25, 2016
...environmentalists needed an argument to claim biodiversity is declining because of humans. So they made a false assumption, and ignored any evidence to the contrary, until Sakamoto/Venditti/Benton disproved it. Wikipedia still says "The period since the emergence of humans has displayed an ongoing biodiversity reduction".

What you ignore in your rather petty and specious argument is that there are recent-historical measures of biodiversity (from Victorian science and later) that can be directly used for comparison with current measurements. It's quite difficult to go out on a field trip and count the number and variety of dinosaurs walking around and compare that to some previous census of their diversity.
The reason they needed this argument? 1) to get the government to pay them to continue their research and 2) the politicians are looking for excuses to control us, supposedly for our own good, but mostly for fattening their pocketbooks.

Conspiracy theory, much?
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (13) Oct 25, 2016
As always, praising "science" for adopting the conman's tactic of spreading a lie, then, when the lie doesn't wash, changing the lie. Note, I also pointed out that, when it is trundling the lie, "science" doesn't add any disclaimers or provisos that what it is relying on is questionable at best. The article admits that the relationship between biodiversity and rock strata had no foundation. But "science" never mentioned that! And shills for "science" never touch that fact, either! They dance around other things, but they never touch that! How many other "facts" have no real foundation? What is the proof, besides "scientists'" insistences, of any of the "facts" it claims?
DirtySquirties
1.3 / 5 (13) Oct 26, 2016
Just more proof that evolution, global warming, and the moon landing are bold faced lies perpetuated by the government to make people irreparably reliant on handouts and gimmies. They can't even keep their lies straight now! God is the one true creator and Jesus is our savior, no more, no less. Quit jumping on the latest fad generated by the government and get a clue! The Bible is a work of fiction and just as real as Harry Potter! Don't be a slave to the rape-apologist patriarchy!!
Whydening Gyre
4.6 / 5 (10) Oct 26, 2016
Seems like a couple of commentators are lacking an understanding of "Learning curve"...
At least science admits their knowledge is not absolute or infallible...
tblakely1357
1.8 / 5 (10) Oct 26, 2016
Seems like a couple of commentators are lacking an understanding of "Learning curve"...
At least science admits their knowledge is not absolute or infallible...


Yeah.... what about that whole 'consensus' thing with Global Warming?
antialias_physorg
4.6 / 5 (10) Oct 26, 2016
Why is it always the people with "free mind" "free thinking" or similar in their nick are the ones with a mind so closed that you couldn't fit in a new thought with a crowbar?

Hint: Denying everything / conspiracy theory thinking is NOT the same as having an open mind. It's mor ibn line with being stuck in late childhood where you're against any- and everything "just because".

An open mind needs knowledge to be able to delineate between sensible and not-so-sensible ideas. Intuition alone doesn't cut most of the time in everyday life - and it certainly is no help in science.
Eikka
4 / 5 (3) Oct 26, 2016
At least science admits their knowledge is not absolute or infallible


On a philosophical level, but on a practical level the criticism presented by julianperiod is accurate - just the conclusions are not.

When scientific theories become accepted by other researchers and the wider public, they are no longer checked rigorously - most people simply trust that the theory has gone through competent peer review, has been found falsifiable, and would have been falsified if it was wrong. Most of the time they are right.

But that means a bunch of bad science slips through because people just don't have the time and expertise to double check every axiom and premise.

For science itself this is not a problem because false theories eventually turn up with contradictions and the science gets corrected. For the society it is an issue, because so many people don't want to understand that the science can at times and places be completely off the mark and only time will tell.
Rockguy
4.5 / 5 (8) Oct 26, 2016
Just by the title, I could tell the troll comments would be bountiful
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 26, 2016
As always, praising "science" for adopting the conman's tactic of spreading a lie, then, when the lie doesn't wash, changing the lie
And this is how religionist pundits and apologists maintain the illusion of holy verisimilitude, by generating new divinely-inspired interpretations and translations in response to rational exegesis and the discovery of contrary evidence.

Here let me translate: the fact that your book is not evidence-based makes it both easier to defend and easier to debase. It sets a precedent for gobbledygook. You defenders use gobbledygook to defend it because that's what your god used to write it. And this might not be readily apparent to casual readers or those unfortunate souls who are distracted by fear and guilt and the irrational desire to live forever.

So using it seems entirely natural and proper to you. And it makes you blind to the reasoned arguments of detractors who know that substance is far more valuable than faith.
FredJose
1 / 5 (5) Oct 27, 2016
At least science admits their knowledge is not absolute or infallible...

An open mind needs knowledge to be able to delineate between sensible and not-so-sensible ideas. Intuition alone doesn't cut most of the time in everyday life - and it certainly is no help in science.

Except when it comes to the general theory of evolution. Then the "open-minded" "Scientists" suddenly develop head of concrete, entirely closed to the foundations of chemistry, physics, biology, probability theory and information science.
None of the "open-minded" want to hear that
1). Stars cannot form on their own out of clouds of gas. Nor can galaxies.
2). Planets cannot form on their own out of clouds of dust.
3). Life cannot arise all by itself out of the ground/pond scum etc. via purely random chemical means.
4). Darwinian evolution is impossible because information to design, construct and commission cannot arise from purely random processes.
FredJose
1 / 5 (6) Oct 27, 2016
For science itself this is not a problem because false theories eventually turn up with contradictions and the science gets corrected.

Except for the general theory of evolution. This does NOT get corrected because it's the humanist/materialist religion that determines the way forward.
For the society it is an issue, because so many people don't want to understand that the science can at times and places be completely off the mark and only time will tell

Very true - people accept the "science" of Darwinian and general evolution and base their lives on it - there is no God so do as you please with the commands given in the bible.
No one can afford to wait around till "science" eventually comes around to what is true - namely that there is a God and that we are accountable to Him. So they do what the "scientists" recommend - reject the God that made them and enjoy the "freedom" provided by so-called "science".
FredJose
1 / 5 (7) Oct 27, 2016
So using it seems entirely natural and proper to you. And it makes you blind to the reasoned arguments of detractors who know that substance is far more valuable than faith.

So using it - that is Darwinian and general evolution - seems entirely natural and proper to you.
And it makes you blind to the reasoned arguments of detractors who know that substance is far more valuable than faith.

Where is the substance in stars forming all by themselves from clouds of gas, planets from clouds of dust, spontaneous life from pond scum/clay/vents etc. and Darwinian evolution in the face of impossible odds against information science, probability theory and basic principles of chemistry? You have to accept this dogma by FAITH. There is no science involved.

TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (3) Oct 27, 2016
Fred's declarations;
1)
2)
3)
4)

-They're empty but the holy spirit is also invisible so it's OK.

Fred if you have no respect for evidence then OF COURSE you can declare anything you want.
the humanist/materialist religion
-And you can fill your declarations with provocative catch phrases and righteous indignation to increase the FEELING you get from your own personal epiphany.

Evidence says your god doesn't exist. You've seen this evidence time and again but evidence means nothing to you. It does tell the rest of us that any arguments based on this god are necessarily without substance.

IOW you can't refute evolution by declaring your faith in a god that doesn't exist.

I suspect your livelihood is religion-based yes? Nothing to do during the week but cause trouble-
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Oct 27, 2016
impossible odds against information science, probability theory and basic principles of chemistry? You have to accept this dogma by FAITH. There is no science involved.


On the contrary. Any theory of "information" or chemistry etc. that does not give you what exists in the world - such as the stars and planets and life - is incomplete.

Since a god or a creator is a wild card that cannot by definition be described as a law of nature, it cannot be included in any scientific description of reality. Such descriptions would be meaningless: any wrong theory can be "fixed" by adding God to bridge the gaps.

With God in your axioms, you can't tell what is true or false. Excluding God, reality must be by its own nature. That is science.

Therefore your claim that science proves evolution impossible is simply nonsense. A scientific theory that looks at life and says "this shouldn't be" is like picking up a rock and saying, "this is not a rock".
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Oct 27, 2016
Where is the substance in stars forming all by themselves from clouds of gas, planets from clouds of dust, spontaneous life from pond scum/clay/vents etc. and Darwinian evolution in the face of impossible odds against information science, probability theory and basic principles of chemistry?
Where is the substance in the notion that if the universe were only 6500 years old, your god would have had to create it with every photon from every star we see set in exactly the right location and trajectory to make it appear as if those stars were much much farther away?

Where is the substance of a morally impeccable god who could work such wonders and still find it necessary to deceive us with such artifice in order to find out how much we TRUST him?

It's all empty fred. No there there.
Eikka
not rated yet Oct 27, 2016
The best you can do with God and science is the position of the deist, which leads you to reject revealation, miracles, prayer, the bible or pretty much the whole lot except for some paper-thin vague notion of "God".

Or you can be a delusional deist who believes that God does not interfere with the world beyond creating it, except when it comes to scientific theories you disagree with. That is the usual choice.
Eikka
not rated yet Oct 27, 2016
Where is the substance of a morally impeccable god who could work such wonders and still find it necessary to deceive us with such artifice in order to find out how much we TRUST him?


That is the same question as "did Adam have a navel?"

It's an ancient debate, and the ancients solved it as thus: even the trees in the paradise had rings, because a tree without wouldn't be a tree. The world looks old because if it didn't then it would work very differently.
jeffensley
4.3 / 5 (3) Oct 27, 2016
How is this not common-sense? Why on Earth would we think our fossil data has enough resolution to accurately measure species diversity in eras millions of years ago? Only animals that died in very specific conditions in specific geological regions got preserved as fossils.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Oct 27, 2016
an ancient debate
There's no debate and it's not ancient. Archeologists, some of them very religious, have been combing the holy land for a century. And they've only recently concluded that

"the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, YHWH, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai." Ze'ev Herzog Tel Aviv U

-And so the god of Abraham was either incompetent or a liar, and definitely NOT the god of the books who is by his own description incapable of lying or making mistakes.

That god doesn't exist. Period.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Oct 27, 2016
The non-existence of the theist bookgods was obvious to the people who subsequently concocted deism. After all, out of the 1000s of variations at most only 1 can be the right one yes?

Deist gods cannot be refuted. Thats how they are designed. This is pretty much the case with everything that philos come up with.

Prime movers and blind watchmakers have nothing whatsoever to do with personal gods who care what you eat and how you pray and what you wear and who you sleep with. Hitchens made this point in his books and lectures.

But they CAN be very easily conflated with any of the theistic creatures whenever evidence threatens to disprove them.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Oct 27, 2016
So once we pry deism and theism apart we can begin to use the evidence we find in exegesis and archeology to dismantle the theistic gods one by one.

They dug their own graves. Once they claimed to be omniscient, omnipotent, infallible, and honest, it only took a little work to prove that they were none of those things.

And how can you trust false gods when they claim to be the only source of truth and goodness? How can you believe them when they promise to grant all your wishes including immortality? Why would you continue to plead with them and send them money?
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Oct 27, 2016
The best you can do with God and science is the position of the deist, which leads you to reject revealation, miracles, prayer, the bible or pretty much the whole lot except for some paper-thin vague notion of "God".

Or you can be a delusional deist who believes that God does not interfere with the world beyond creating it, except when it comes to scientific theories you disagree with. That is the usual choice.

Unless you choose to see "God" as -
(G)eodesically (O)rdinated (D)ata...
slash
5 / 5 (5) Oct 28, 2016
What religious people never appear to consider is that their source of belief, the holy bible (or whatever other holy books other religions have) is ultimately an error prone source written by humans that are by definition full of errors and misconceptions. Even if the first person to write down "The Holy Word of God" had the best of intentions, typos happen. Also, he may have been bad of hearing, or his handwriting might have been lacking, leaving room for different interpretations. Or his local dialect wasn't well understood by others who later transcribed the original work. After all, people back then were much less learned than the average hobo nowadays.

So even if something like an omnipotent god exists, the ancient texts describing his will and messages to us is guaranteed to be full of errors, and therefore cannot accurately describe him/her/it, much less the history of the world.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Oct 28, 2016
full of errors
Bart ehrman addresses bible mistakes at length in his books and lectures.
https://youtu.be/b-cZncVmtIU
VCRAGAIN
1 / 5 (1) Oct 30, 2016
I have said for years that the smug 'expert' opinions that get pushed as FACT in schools to the detriment of anyone with a differing opinion, make fools of all our kids - they should be taught that ALL science is always in the process of expanding the amount of truth known, and can never be considered finite fact as there is always more to learn, and opinions may have to change as knowledge increases. Evolution is the prime example of this which I happen to believe is largely correct, but I am still open to other ideas such a possible hybrid of pig & chimp which is the only way to explain a number of pig-like human traits which are most certainly NOTHING like those of chimp ! Just another theory, but why have a closed mind, do YOU know what is truth ? Our kids need to be taught to have an open, inquiring mind.
Sunnyjay
not rated yet Oct 30, 2016
Upon a recent excursion to the Massai Mara, in Kenya, with the Leakey Foundation, we often remarked at how efficient nature is at removing all traces or "evidence" of what dies or is killed today. It is a rarity when the corpse of anything finds itself in a situation to be preserved or fossilized. Therefore the inference of what once was can hardly be accurately surmised from the fossil record, being that it represents such a minute and unrepresentative sample of what existed.
sascoflame
not rated yet Oct 31, 2016
The claims that there is a government plot to lie about the decline of biodiversity are ludicrous.
1. If the government controlled what is reported in journals then the study under discussion would never have been published.
2. The US government cannot fund studies that look for certain results. Private donors can and do so research is biased to the right.
3. Fifty six Percent of Congressional Republicans Deny Climate Change and you claim they are going along with false data showing climate change to be true.
4. Since Thomas Jefferson privately funded a news paper to declare that the President George Washington planed to turn the US into a dictatorship conservatives have never stopped making similar claims. After 270 of being wrong the idea of a plot to destroy America is no different then the end of the world, fission power, and the collapse of the US.dollar. The only plot to enslave the American people is the one that uses the fear of a government take over
sascoflame
not rated yet Oct 31, 2016
The idea that anyone in the US lies about biodiversity is silly and stupid Since 1776 when Adam Smith wrote the Wealth of Nations we have known that tyranny leads to bankruptcy. Tyranny is hard dangerous work and most tyrants come to a bad end. Since the fall of the Soviet Union no westerner beleive in tyranny. The only reason people support tyranny is religion or cults like Islamism.
EnsignFlandry
5 / 5 (1) Oct 31, 2016
Before reading the comments I knew from the title that this article would bring out the bible-thumpers, who naturally drew the wrong conclusion from the article.

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