Dinobirds hid their secrets so well, we only knew that the truths would turn out to be very, very strange. In this revolutionary 100k word book with 70 illustrations, John Jackson (artificial intelligence researcher, biological psychologist, and information scientist), brings long-overdue modern insights to a field he found stuck in the 1960’s. He clarifies at last the astonishing evolution of those feathered, fanged and strangely unfathomable stars of evolution, and on the way, provides a sorely-needed 14-point definition of science. Landmarks in bird evolution are detailed, including a friendly, cogent, but fairly thorough explanation of the bizarre intricacies and evolution of bird breathing; new analysis and elucidation of the four-winged flying style of microraptors; an overdue decent experimental scientific analysis of the use of Velociraptor’s predatory foot claw (it WAS deadly after all); untying of the Gordian knot of the family tree of troodonts, dromaeosaurs, primitive birds... and feathers; a survey of current knowledge of bird families along with thoughts on their extinction and survival patterns; details of how to write cladogram (family tree) generating programs, along with some important new guidelines for that discipline; a guide to major currents in dinobird palaeontology over the last twenty years... and finally the strange revelations resulting from using 21st century philosophy of science on human and dog evolution.
Discovering at last the genuine story of dinosaurs, birds and their flight requires competence in a variety of fields, yet most palaeontologists start work with only a geology degree. Wouldn’t a biological degree help when studying animals? (A bit, but it’s not enough.) And is the palaeontologists’ understanding of their computer program for discovering family relationships spoiled by their surprising lack of qualifications in statistical algorithms? Are they right to insist evolution always took the straightest possible line, or is that view due to incompetence in that field – not to mention others such as the philosophy of science? Is their failure to quote the jargon, essential concepts, and even key workers in the core disciplines underlying palaeontology, reason to doubt their judgement, or does a geology degree genuinely grant such superior insight into these other fields that specialists in them can be ignored?
For years, palaeontologists have shunned outside experts, claiming that they alone, through organising excavations, running museums and relying on a 50-year-old computerised algorithm, are the best interpreters of biological evolution. Journalists have pandered to the palaeontologists: the BBC has persistently ignored revolutions in three major branches of vertebrate palaeontology, never having mentioned Aaron Filler, Janice Koler-Matznick, or the theories or name of Greg Paul, the most exciting and insightful dinobird scientist for over 20 years, and peerless dinobird draughtsman. Jackson defends and builds on Paul’s work including art commissioned from him, and shows how part of Paul’s theory fits with part of an earlier one, long wrongly abused but here vindicated.
The author’s broad background in disciplines where getting your theories right matters, and his independence, allow the book to tidy old muddles, put palaeontology back on its feet, and point out genuine solutions to riddles of the evolution of humans, dogs, and of course dinobirds.