Re: Polar Bear Challenge for AAH opponents

Phillip Bigelow (
Sat, 10 Dec 1994 04:59:28 GMT

>Sir CPU ( wrote:
>: I would challenge the opponents of AAH could look at the skelaton of a
>: polar bear and compare it to the skelaton of a black bear and identify
>: which one is the "aquatic" animal.

> (Dr. C.J. Underwood) writes:
>For a skeleton out of context it would indeed be difficult to see which
>of these two is semi-aquatic, but with fossil remains there is far more
>can be done. Fossils of Polar bears would have a very different distribution
>to those of blacks.

Granted, the depositional environment of the polar bear would catch the eye
of the scientist, but, personally, I think we would still screw it up.
You are on one _slippery slope_, here! Aren't you involved in a little
"perfect 20/20 hindsight"? Placing too much weight on the depositional
environment is what led early paleontologists astray with sauropods;... because sauropod skeletons were found around ancient lake shores and fluvial
overbank deposits, early paleontologists thought sauropods lived in lakes
and rivers!

If we _were_ able to conclude that fossil polar bears were aquatic, then, by
extrapolation, we would include grizzlies as semi-aquatic, because these two
species' skeletons are virtually identical. We couldn't tell
that we were dealing with two separate species. Further, grizzlies are found
inland; which would give the paleontologist the false impression that the
polar bear/grizzly spent half the time in the mountains and the other half
in the sea. These hypotheses would get _very_ messy as more fossils were
found. Face it: the best conclusion would be to say that all three bears
were, structurally, land carnivores. At least it would make logical sense.

All-in-all, as good as the scientific method is, it is not fool-proof in
getting to the truth. It is better to exercise humility in the comparison
of a black bear fossil with a polar bear fossil; personally, I am not
as confident as you that we could pull it off! :)