New Anti-PterosaurHeresies YouTube Video

As you all know,
I’m fine with criticism. It helps to fix errors and clear up concerns. I’m not fine with this 36-minute video on YouTube by someone disguised in sunglasses pseudo-named AronRa (Fig. 1). Details follow.

Figure 1. Pterosaurs are Terrible Lizards YouTube video. Click to play it.

Figure 1. Pterosaurs are Terrible Lizards YouTube video. Click to play it. It’s a history of paleontology until you get 32 minutes in. Then it turns libelous.

The caption for the video reads:
“Explaining how human preconceptions, agendas, and biases have negatively impacted the study of evolution and the classification of life forms. This is to illustrate why we have the peer review process.”

I was writing this while watching, so I’m speaking to AronRa directly in the text below, which now appears in his YouTube comments log.


Not much on pterosaurs here until 32 minutes in, but a good history of paleontology.

Contra your comment, Sharovipteryx is a complete fossil  with soft impressions.

At 32 minutes in
I was surprised to see my name mentioned. And then the libel begins.

Contra your comment, I never said everyone who has ever studied pterosaurs is wrong. When something is wrong, I provide evidence for the fact. And I’m quite specific in my criticism and my praise.

Contra your statement, pterosaurs do not have all the characters of the clade Archosauria. That’s why no archosaurs have ever been put forth as pterosaur sisters. And no archosaur has anything approaching pterosaur traits like a long manual digit 4, a long pedal digit 5 and clavicles wrapped around their sternal complex. Just the opposite in fact.

Contra your comment, I never said pterosaurs were lizards from the order Squamata. They nest as lepidosaurs outside of the Squamata. Mark Witton also made the same mistake in his book.

Contra your comment, I never said pterosaurs descended from “lizards with fully avian, double-veined flight feathers.” If you google that phrase, it doesn’t come up. Even fragments of that phrase don’t come up.

I provide photographic evidence, as in your Sharovipteryx example, so the evidence and interpretation can be tested by others. That’s good Science. The fact that no one else has repeated the experiment with an alternate interpretation does not give you the right to say “no one else has seen what Peters sees.” Everyone traces complex fossils and publishes their observations and interpretations! That’s standard practice. Moreover, I support my tracings with reconstructions taken directly from the digital tracings and all the bones fit into standard patterns of construction. So the fault is your believing what one person says, versus what another person can show. 

Contra your comment, I never said that Longisquama had feathers.

I did say Longisquama was a glider, but with pterosaur-like membranes (which you show after making the comment), not with feathers.

You say none of my observations of Longisquama’s hind quarters are evidently true. That’s because no one else has put in the effort. It’s as simple as that. Note that even without the parts I have added, Longisquama still nests between long-legged sister taxa with attenuated tails, uropatagia, a sternal complex, an antorbital fenestra and other traits shown in my drawing. So using phylogenetic bracketing would get you pretty much the same reconstruction. That’s called “multiple lines of evidence.”

Contra your assertions and the stories you have heard, I have traveled to museums around the world to see fossils with my own eyes, just like the other paleontologists. I have also been published in peer-review journals including Science, Nature, the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Historical Biology and others, just like other paleontologists.

You put in a lot of effort to create your video, but to what end? If you have any specific questions or need any clarification on any issue, please bring them to me and either I will set you straight, or you will set me straight.

For you to say my work is “wrong, and remarkably wrong” after planting so many lies, doesn’t make you look good. And supporting the work of Darren Naish (at Tetrapod Zoology) who used discarded ideas and the work of other artists to mock my work shows you’re not very careful about how you weigh truth versus fiction.

You picked on two traditionally controversial taxa of the 500 or so I have covered. If you have better interpretations, let’s talk about them. 

Blackwashing always backfires.


Here’s a short addition.

AronRa is a creationist debunker. His website is here. So why would he be trying to debunk a site  >devoted< to evolution?

I don’t know.


5 thoughts on “New Anti-PterosaurHeresies YouTube Video

  1. Thank you for showing me / your readership this, of course!
    I see what you mean about why it is particularly paradoxical that an (extremely-avid) “crerationist-debunker,” like Aron Ra would attack a blog that was trying to “advance-and-improve” “evolution” research. Based on the magnitude and intensity of both your sites, this really looks like a classic, “clash-of the-titans,” other than the obvious fact that you are meticulously conscientious in respecting other people’s work and he is clotheslining you with libel.
    I remember reading the day after my last post how you were explaining how shockingly tawdry and inappropriate “politics,” were involved in even something that should be as especially unencumbered-by-this as were science–; and on that note, this new (and even-weirder) attack–; seems to be one more chilling proof,- that whatever may be increasing divisivity-in politics, above even, what should be the most obvious sorts of, solidarity-within-ranks–; was even-worse, than what you explained was driving the earlier “Darren Naish,” slam.

    I don’t know whether Aron Ra is simply so “self-convinced” by his own theory “tunnel-vision,” to see that “somebody-else,” might know “even” more than “he–;” or whether he were “colluding with” one of “the other” people who just didn’t want to be embarrassed by simply someone who managed to point-out their mistakes.
    One of Ra’s own, “historical-precedents,” “Alan Feduccia,” illustrates this, succinctly–: Feduccia (as I knew long before Ra’s video,) being more-“dedicated,” than I suspect many of even his otherwise detractors grasped, “thought-himself into a-corner–;” against any alternate theories–; and this also created the same “desperation,” that drove him then, to Ra’s-own mentioned, “collusion.” So Ra could be “both,” self-blinded “and,” collusive.
    I feel like I should write something back “to Ra,” but how can you talk to somebody who already thinks he knows-everything, without just making-it, all worse?
    I’m really-tempted to “add my two-cents’-worth,” that I’ve held from-the-beginning–here–; namely that, Intellectual Juggernauts “at-each others’-throats,” (although “here,” it’s clearly one-sided) instead of “closing-ranks against the collective-opposition,” seem to be part of an enveloping giant landslide I find I’ve seen everywhere. While your struggle obviously inspires me to pursue that more, my own really makes me wish I could more relevantly help “you,” (other than by otherwise just shutting-up or getting-out of the-way).
    If I do go away, it’ll be to avoid being that kind of nuisance, but I’ll try to take what I did learn here to help me where I suspect I’m needed “next,” and I deeply thank you for the enlightenment and role-inspiration you have provided.

  2. Thank you, Melvin. I appreciate your efforts and open-mindedness. Maybe Mark Twain said it best, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

  3. Alright, I’ll try to be polite as possible here, so sorry if I come off as harsh. You seem to believe that the paleontological community is conspiring against you, but this is simply not the case. “The Pterosaur Heresies” is clearly a play on Dr. Robert Bakker’s influential “The Dinosaur Heresies”, which revolutionized the way we think of dinosaurs, so I’ll go ahead and use that for comparison. However, while Bakker’s radical new ideas about dinosaurs revolutionized the science of paleontology, your ideas about pterosaurs and other animals have not. The reason is simple: Bakker was right. You, on the other hand, are wrong. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being wrong; it’s an important part of science. But it is also important to recognize that you are wrong and to try to figure out what isn’t wrong. You haven’t done that. Instead you assume that you must be right, and that the opposition from the paleontological community is some kind of conspiracy against you and your ideas. But there was no conspiracy against Bakker. His ideas became accepted by the paleontological community. Yours have not. You can still admit that you’re wrong, and put this all behind you. There’s no shame in that. But clinging to ideas that just don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny is a rather poor decision. People aren’t going to laugh at and mock you for giving up on your ideas, they’ll probably be happy that you’ve changed. Not because they’ve “won” anything, but because you have a lot of other things going for you which shouldn’t be dragged down by your refusal to recognize that you were wrong. I’ve seen some of your old illustrations, and you’re an amazing artist. I, and many other people, I’m sure, would love to see depictions in your style of prehistoric life based on the modern scientific concensus. The first step is just admitting you’re wrong, which, i must repeat, there is no shame in.

    • Please be specific, Sharkman. When I find errors I correct them and have done so for the last several years. Those corrections generally confirm and strengthen the tree topology. Note that the cladogram remains the same even as it has grown to more than double its original size while remaining fully resolved. All sister taxa look alike and anyone can trace the gradual accumulation of traits in all derived taxa. None of this should happen if there is a major error here — but it does happen all too often in traditional cladograms. Critical thinking is good, but blackwashing is not. I look forward to seeing your data.

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