Well, sort of…
A new ten-year study by US paleontologists suggests that up to a third of dinosaur fossils may have been incorrectly identified as new species, when they are actually juveniles of species in which there was a dramatic change as they developed.
33% — that’s a pretty high percentage! If you’re the type to find news like that interesting (like I am), click on over to read the article. They do note there (and, I do here) that “the conclusions of the study are controversial” and that they are hard to verify or disprove “because there are not enough available fossils.”
News like this used to bother me a bit when I was much younger, when much of my faith was given over to the mythical institution of capital-S “Science” (as opposed to the idea of science as a wonderfully human endeavor, with all that entails) and to science-related documentaries on PBS which tend to speak of many things we don’t really know with certainty as if we do know them with certainty.
(A post — or, perhaps, rant — related to the latter point can be found here: “Dinodocudramas: Let’s Learn Some Non-Facts!”; and a discussion related to the former point is here: “Putting ‘Peer Review’ and ‘Scientific Consensus’ in Perspective”. If you poke around long enough on this blog, you might find similarly themed posts…)
Now, though, I tend to enjoy stories like this. For one thing, they illustrate the generally self-correcting nature of scientific endeavor, which is one of its strengths. (Not a “bulletproof” strength, mind you, but a marvelous strength, still.) Also, it helps to remind us of the power that the Tyranny of Assumptions continues to wield in human thought. Science should have no “sacred cows,” no matter how many beckoning beatific bovines abound…
From now on, when I talk to my kids about what wiped out the dinosaurs, joining the discussion of possibilities alongside ambling asteroids, climate change, and divine destruction will be “a time bomb created by U.S. paleontologists in 2009.” 🙂