Archaeopterygid bird from China

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Thu Mar 31 15:01:08 CST 2005

If I understand all of this, then we have fossils of a wide-ranging taxon
(family Archaeopterygidae) and it appears that the oldest fossils are from
eastern Asia.  I see nothing unscientific about hypothesizing that the area
of origin is near the older rather than the younger fossils.  It is, after
all, only a hypothesis.  We have to start somewhere and this provides a
starting point.

Is it an empirical observation?  No; it's a hypothesis based on the
information at hand.  There are two possibilities: the taxon had its origin
in eastern Asia or it did not.  I am free to choose either as my working
hypothesis - I can invoke parsimony to justify my hypothesis that the oldest
fossils are near the area of origin; that is, I do not have to construct the
additional hypotheses that would be necessary to argue that the area of
origin was somewhere else and that the fossils just found are those of
individuals that happened to migrated to modern day China from some
geographically remote area.  The latter may be what happened, but that will
never be known with any degree of certainty.


Dick J.
Richard J. Jensen              | tel: 574-284-4674
Department of Biology      | fax: 574-284-4716
Saint Mary's College         | e-mail: rjensen at
Notre Dame, IN 46556    |

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