Saturday 6 June 2015

Dinosaur Teeth Another 'Intelligent' Design Blunder?

Wear biomechanics in the slicing dentition of the giant horned dinosaur Triceratops ! Science Advances

One of the more popular fallacies taught to their dupes by the creation industry and Intelligent Design hoaxers is that humans are what it's all for; the entire universe was created as somewhere for humans to live.

Even those few who know and understand enough about evolution, so accept that it happens, manage to rationalise it as 'Intelligent Evolution' with a magic man ensuring that evolution produced humans complete with all the animals and birds we need to have food, clothes and somewhere nice to live.

So, papers like this must come as a shock to these unfortunate loons because they show that evolution had resulted in some highly sophisticated and complex structures and species which went extinct millions of years before humans showed up and so could have had no relevance whatsoever to us and our needs. Indeed, if it hadn't been for scientists we wouldn't know about them even today.

A team of palaeontologists and engineers have now shown that one of the better-known dinosaurs, the herbivorous triceratops, had highly advanced teeth suited to eating course, bulky vegetation, far more advanced than the teeth of reptiles around today and, even more disturbingly for creationists, more advanced even that those of any known mammal:

Herbivorous reptiles rarely evolve occluding dentitions that allow for the mastication (chewing) of plant matter. Conversely, most herbivorous mammals have occluding teeth with complex tissue architectures that self-wear to complex morphologies for orally processing plants. Dinosaurs stand out among reptiles in that several lineages acquired the capacity to masticate. In particular, the horned ceratopsian dinosaurs, among the most successful Late Cretaceous dinosaurian lineages, evolved slicing dentitions for the exploitation of tough, bulky plant matter. We show how Triceratops, a 9-m-long ceratopsian, and its relatives evolved teeth that wore during feeding to create fullers (recessed central regions on cutting blades) on the chewing surfaces. This unique morphology served to reduce friction during feeding. It was achieved through the evolution of a complex suite of osseous dental tissues rivaling the complexity of mammalian dentitions. Tribological (wear) properties of the tissues are preserved in ~66-million-year-old teeth, allowing the creation of a sophisticated three-dimensional biomechanical wear model that reveals how the complexes synergistically wore to create these implements. These findings, along with similar discoveries in hadrosaurids (duck-billed dinosaurs), suggest that tissue-mediated changes in dental morphology may have played a major role in the remarkable ecological diversification of these clades and perhaps other dinosaurian clades capable of mastication.

The major discovery is that Triceratops teeth are composed of five layers, unlike those of herbivores like horses and bison, previously considered the most complex and advanced teeth, which have just four layers. Crocodiles and other reptiles have just two.

More work is now needed to determine just how widespread this complex dental structure was in other dinosaurs - which would give a clue as to how far back in the evolution of this major taxon that this complexity evolved.

What Intelligent Design advocates need to explain is why an intelligent designer designed such complex teeth in a species which it was planning to make extinct many millions of years before in designed mammals, and why it then appears to have forgotten all about them and had to reinvent the wheel yet again for the mammalian herbivores to do exactly the same job - but then made a worse job of it.

However, if you forget the notion that the point of evolution was to make humans, and forget the notion that there was any intelligence, or indeed any plan, involved in the evolution of both Triceratops and modern herbivorous mammals, and recognise that there is no mechanism for exchanging information between different clades, let alone between different major taxons such as dinosaurs and mammals, even had they coexisted, all this suddenly makes sense. If you want to retain the notion of design, you have to accept that the designer appears to be very stupid and promptly forgets all about what it has just designed and begins again. In fact, you have to accept that your assumed designer isn't a very good designer.

This is the great thing about a theory which is based on evidence and why it has so much greater explanatory power than one based on superstition, wishful thinking and a desire to con scientifically illiterate simpletons out of money in return for giving them an unrealistic idea of their own self-importance and so reinforcing their over-inflated sense of entitlement.

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