Originally published Nov 1, 2013, see important update below.
We’re seeing a revival of a story we first noted in October 2011 from the GSA (Geological Society of America) conference. The same researchers have returned to try to further convince us that a giant unknown cephalopod existed AND that it was so intelligent that it had artistic abilities. Guess what? We’re still skeptical.
“I can say we have found the tip of the beak of the Triassic kraken,” says McMenamin. His proof? A fossilized squid’s “pen”—a chitinous paddle found inside squid mantles—that dates to about 218 million years ago.
Although the newfound fossilized pen, which McMenamin presented at his talk, is only a few inches long and incomplete, the paleontologist estimates that the ancient squid it belonged to was 50 to 100 feet (16 to 30 meters) long. At the meeting he called it “school bus-sized.”
And, he continues to suggest the beasts arranged the bones.
The suggestion had triggered a flood of critical comments from paleontologists, including Donald Prothero of Occidental College in Los Angeles, who called it absurd.
Prothero still feels that way two years later, saying by email that McMenamin “has mined this unreviewed [meeting] abstract for LOTS of free publicity, and gullible reporters think that his work has passed muster because it’s presented at these meetings.
“But NOT ONE scientist at these meetings takes him seriously.”
And, indeed, they are questioning if this is even science or extreme speculation. Another expert notes that bones can reassembled by currents as the dead animal degrades. To assign a “designer” to the process is pushing the logic. But, just as last time, he is getting a lot of press for his presentation via conference. The peers say nay.
Here is the abstract to the talk (which is all you have to present to give a talk).
UPDATE (6-Nov-2013) Don Prothero reveals in the latest SkepticBlog that Mark McMenamin is a devout Christian, a believer in Creationism.
The clincher, however, was revealed when Stephen Meyer published his lousy book misinterpreting paleontology and distorting and falsifying the record of the “Cambrian explosion” (reviewed here). The only paleontologist to give him a positive review (hyped endlessly by the creationists) was none other than Mark McMenamin. We paleontologists were all confused about this. How could any legitimate paleontologist (no matter how incompetent) endorse a book full of such falsehoods as that written by Meyer? Now the truth comes out. In his Amazon.com review of the book, McMenamin reveals that he too is an ID creationist! His review is full of all the usual creationist misunderstandings of evolution, including the randomness of mutation, the alleged insufficiency of natural selection, the argument from entropy, the argument from probability, etc. No wonder he was persuaded by Meyer’s mendacious distortions!
Now if the press would stop publicizing crackpots, and recognize McMenamin’s work for what it is: incompetent and colored by a creationist distortion field. But I don’t think the media will ever bother to check whether their sources are legitimate or not after falling for McMenamin’s garbage twice…
Now, that REALLY does explain all the crap that came out in his two GSA presentations. Professionals should call on the GSA to do some sort of refereeing of abstracts/presentations because the mad “scientists” have invaded. What a fiasco!