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No. 42: Nov-Dec 1985

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Feathers fly over fossil 'fraud'

How many plays on words do you count in the following paragraph? "Britain's own scientific knight-errant, Sir Fred Hoyle, has fallen fowl of the palaeontologists. He has flocked together with those who think that the best-ever missing link, the reptile-bird Archaeopteryx, is a convenient fake. Creationists are understandably in high feather about it all. But now, it looks as though they may be left with egg on their faces. ' We first reported on the Archaeopteryx Affair in SF#39. In the present article by Ted Nield, the evolutionists seem to be responding to Hoyle's claim with ridicule and innuendo. Referring to the claim of fossil forgery, which Hoyle based on photos taken with a low-angle flash and EN100 film, Nield wonders why it was published in the British Journal of Photography instead of Nature or Science implying that Hoyle's group didn't dare submit their report to high-class journals! As for the "discovery" of double-struck feathers in the Archaeopteryx fossil, which Hoyle thinks were the result of inexpert forgers, Nield remarks that these were noted by naked as long ago as 1954, and are due to two rows of slightly overlapping feathers with faint "through-printing". And while it is true that the two halves of the fossil studied by the Hoyle group are not perfect positive-negative pairs, this is but an artifact due to the complexity of the break.

Evidently the charge of a forgery-to-save-Darwinism cut geologists to the quick, for Nield revives that old bone of contention between physicists and geologists, "... geologists are especially twitchy about physicists. who for years told them continental drift was impossible. but -- after stumbling on the proof -- have strutted around ever since as though it had been their idea au along. " (Nield, Ted; "Feathers Fly over Fossil 'Fraud', " New Scientist, p. 49, August I, 1985. ) (We must not forget that when geologists wanted hundreds of millions of years to account for the strata they saw in the field Lord Kelvin told them they had to settle for 100,000 years because that was as long as the sun could run on gravitational energy. Nuclear energy came along later. Mercifully we omit more bird/feather jokes. WRC)

From Science Frontiers #42, NOV-DEC 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss