Monday, March 18, 2013

My 1st Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I'm gonna post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

My favorite serious dino book ( ): 5/5

Of all my serious dino books ( ), Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs" (I.e. History) is definitely my favorite. The quote at the end of this review sums up why. There are 2 analogies that best describe History: 1) A more family-friendly version of Sampson's "Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life" ( ); 2) The "Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries" exhibition ( ) in book form. If I could, I'd give History an extra half star for being extra authoritative. My only gripes are the maniraptoran reconstructions in Chapters 1-9 (all of which have scaly skin &/or pronated hands) & the writing in the middle of Chapter 10 (which isn't as good as that in the beginning or end of Chapter 10). 2 more things of note: 1) Chapter 10 is basically an updated version of Milner's "Dino-birds: From Dinosaurs to Birds"; 2) The NHM keeps updates on "The Dino Directory" ( ) when parts of History become outdated.
"Taking fossil records as its evidence, "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs" treats dinosaurs as a group of living animals, making frequent reference to today's animals as a basis for comparison. This popular approach not only accurately mirrors the methods used by palaeontologists in studying dinosaurs, but also satisfies the overwhelming curiosity of people to know what dinosaurs were like when alive. Unlike an encyclopedia, a data book or even a learned exposition, this book is designed to be read from start to finish as the developing story of a remarkable group of animals. The book's direct, clear written style, with all unfamiliar names and technical terms clearly explained, and extensive illustrations make it an ideal introduction to dinosaurs for the older child or adult" ( ).

More of the same old nonsense ( ): 1/5

I originally wasn't planning on reviewing Feduccia's "Riddle of the Feathered Dragons: Hidden Birds of China" (I.e. Riddle), mostly because, to quote Mallison, "the web is full of dissections of BANDit papers" (BAND = Birds Are Not Dinosaurs). Also, anyone who actually looks into the reviewers praising Riddle can see that they're either Feduccia's fellow BANDits (E.g. Storrs L. Olson) or non-experts who naively bought Feduccia's rhetoric (E.g. At least 1 of the 5-star Amazon Reviewers) &/or took Feduccia's side for non-scientific reasons (E.g. D. G. Martin). However, while reading the 5-star Amazon Reviews, I realized that 1) non-experts may not bother looking for reviews of Riddle when there are so many in 1 place, & 2) so many seemingly-good reviews in 1 place may mislead non-experts into thinking that it's a definitely-good book about bird origins & early evolution, an actual example of which is Chiappe's "Glorified Dinosaurs: The Origin and Early Evolution of Birds".

Going into Riddle, I was expecting more of the same old nonsense given Feduccia's more recent papers.* Surprise, surprise, that's exactly what I got. Thanks to Mallison's "BANDitry, creationism, and global warming denial", I was better able to keep track of the underhanded BANDit tactics used. In Appendix 1 alone, Feduccia concentrates on individual data points/refuses to look at "big pictures" (See what he says about Erickson et al. 2009 & Pontzer et al. 2009), uses strawman arguments ("One might also consider the alternative to one of their primary questions based on a traditional theropod ancestry of birds...that is, "how birds became miniaturized""), decries perceived methodological weaknesses by others while himself failing to live up to these standards ("Hypotheses of dinosaurian endothermy go way back and have traditionally relied on correlations of metabolic rate with weakly supported criteria"), repeats debunked BANDit claims ("Comparative physiologist John Ruben has long argued, based on data from the muscle physiology of extant reptiles, that the urvogel Archaeopteryx was a flying ectotherm"), fails to understand the methods he criticizes (Cladistics) & advances conspiracy theories about mainstream science (See what he says in the last paragraph).

To sum up, Naish put it best when he said, "It must be understood that Feduccia's opinion is not a valuable, informed alternative or anything like that; rather, it relies on deliberate obfuscation and misinformation and ignorance with respect to what we actually know. I cannot see that he and his colleagues have done anything but add confusion, contradiction and erroneous interpretations to our understanding of bird origins and early evolution" ( ).

*For those who don't know what the same old nonsense is, Google the following BANDit dissections (I limited my list to those mentioning Riddle either directly or indirectly):
-"BANDitry, creationism, and global warming denial" by Mallison.
-"(Almost) Famous: I'm (mis)quoted in Feduccia's new book!" by Mortimer.
-"Dinosaurs of a Feather" by Switek.
-"Canadian Amber, Fin-Tailed Dinosaurs, and a Despairing Blogger" by Headden.
-"Getting a major chapter on birds - ALL birds - into a major book on dinosaurs" by Naish.
-"On the Structure of Fossil Feathers" by Headden.