Coincidence? Or Discovery?

A recent reply (see below) to an earlier post bears noting:

Diandongosuchus nests as a basal phytosaur when choristoderes and basal younginoids are included, far from Qianosuchus, which also does not nest with poposaurs, which are all bipedal (or formerly bipedal) herbivores, a far cry from Diandongosuchus.

Figure 1. Diandongosuchus nests as a basal phytosaur when choristoderes and basal younginoids are included, far from Qianosuchus, which also does not nest with poposaurs, which are all bipedal (or formerly bipedal) herbivores, a far cry from Diandongosuchus.

David Marjanović on April 12, 2017 at 3:16 am said: 
“The redescription of Diandongosuchus (Fig. 1) has now been published in open access. I’m afraid I can’t congratulate you. The new paper, and the SVP abstract before it, uses data you didn’t (and couldn’t) use – you were right for the wrong reasons. No congratulations for coincidences. :-|  “

Reply ↓
davidpeters1954 on May 22, 2017 at 8:31 pm said:
“So, phylogenetic analysis and expanding the inclusion set are the wrong reasons? Tsk, tsk, David. Your bias is showing.”

Back story:
Diandongosuchus (Li et al. 2012) was originally nested with poposaurs. Within a few days of its publication, Diandongosuchus was added as a taxon to the large reptile tree (LRT) and it nested not with poposaurs, but at the base of the phytosaurs. Several other blog posts here, here and here further illustrated the link.

Recently 
Stocker et al. 2016 also nested Diandongosuchus with phytosaurs and shortly thereafter news of that publication was posted here,

Botton line:
Stocker et al. did not recognize the earlier discovery. It was easy to Google. It would have been appropriate to add the original discoverer to the list of authors. This is common practice, even when that person is deceased. More recently Dr. Marjanović withheld congratulations and demeaned the scientific method by which the discovery was attained (an expanded taxon list employed in phylogenetic analysis) as “the wrong reasons.”

 

Carl Sagan once wrote:
“In a lot of scientists, the ratio of wonder to skepticism declines in time. That may be connected with the fact that in some fields—mathematics, physics, some others—the great discoveries are almost entirely made by youngsters.”

“The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge; it has no in the endeavor of science. We do not know in advance who will discover fundamental insights.”

“There are many hypotheses in science which are wrong. That’s perfectly all right; they’re the aperture to finding out what’s right. Science is a self-correcting process. To be accepted, new ideas must survive the most rigorous standards of evidence and scrutiny.”

The hypothesis
that Diandongosuchus is more closely related to phytosaurs than to poposaurs originally appeared here in 2012 and was confirmed four years later by Stocker et al. That Dr. Marjanović does not approve of the earlier discovery tell us more about professional biases against ‘outsiders’, which we’ve seen before, than it does about the ‘coincidence’ he conjures.

 

References
Li C, Wu X-C, Zhao L-J, Sato T and Wang LT 2012. A new archosaur (Diapsida, Archosauriformes) from the marine Triassic of China, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 32:5, 1064-1081.
Stocker MR, Nesbitt SJ, Zhao L-J, Wu X-C and Li C 2016. Mosaic evolution in phytosauria: the origin of longsnouted morphologies based on a complete skeleton of a phytosaur from the Middle Triassic of China. Abstracts of the Society of Vertebtate Paleontology meeting 2016.

 

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17 thoughts on “Coincidence? Or Discovery?

  1. Pretty sure the one to come up with a hypothesis first (whether accepted by the general scientific community or not) is the discoverer, regardless of when someone else proves them right (be it through direct action or inadvertently).
    I do believe congratulations are in order, unless I’m wrong (in which case can someone pleace correct me).

  2. I too say congratulations are in order! You seem to me to have reached the correct conclusion by DIFFERENT means, not incorrect ones.

    And OF COURSE they have to demean your discovery, because to NOT do so would be an admission of a mistake on their part. Unlike them, you welcome the correction of mistakes, especially if they”re yours. To me, it means YOU respect SCIENCE and the minds of other people.

    • Jeez, David P., when you are correct, it’s only by accident, and unless you do everything the way others would have done it, you are not to be taken seriously in any way. Let’s see now…is this science? I don’t see that it is. Many people have a hard time taking paleontology seriously as a science; how does one test a repeatable hypothesis when all your subjects are dead? When complete skeletal remains can only be had for a very few species? When what remains of the world they lived in leaves sparse elements behind? I can see reasons to take paleo work seriously, but it IS a struggle.

      I’ll tell you what I see in paleontology vis-a-vis you and the “serious” workers in the field. If David Peters claims it, it’s wrong automatically, or, IF it is seen as correct, DP only got it by accident, because his methods are not approved of. However, if the “serious” workers make mistakes, that is ignored or simply shrugged off, because THEY went to the right institution to get educated. Whether that is true or not is not my point here. It is what I SEE and have seen for years, time and time again.

      I will respect David Marjanovic’s opinions on the creatures at hand, because he is an expert in the field. I will respect DP’s opinions because of his hard work, ability to observe, and the fact that he respects the creatures he studies. Do NOT expect me EVER to choose sides because one is educated differently than the other or because one is more respected by the community at large than the other. On EITHER side.

      • Please, please don’t put words in my mouth. I never said anything like “when you are correct, it’s only by accident, and unless you do everything the way others would have done it, you are not to be taken seriously in any way”; I said in this particular case the fact that he got the right answer is a coincident caused by outdated and otherwise suboptimal data, while the same answer can be trusted when Stocker et al. got it because they were, in the same paper where they got that answer, redescribing Diandongosuchus in detail – it’s not because they were educated in any particular way!

        Really, I mean what I say, and I don’t mean what I don’t say. I don’t write between my lines.

        Many people have a hard time taking paleontology seriously as a science

        Interesting. Which people are those?

        how does one test a repeatable hypothesis when all your subjects are dead?

        The same way one does astrophysics: the experiments have already been done, you just discover the results. A prediction of what the results will be is a testable hypothesis.

        Even so, of course, many hypotheses (like… all of phylogeny) can only be tested against parsimony, not against ideal Popperian falsification. But so what, there’s actually a lot of parsimony hidden in falsification anyway. :-)

        However, if the “serious” workers make mistakes, that is ignored or simply shrugged off, because THEY went to the right institution to get educated.

        …I’m sorry, that doesn’t compute.

        Most of my publications so far, and at least two to come, are about the mistakes that quite serious colleagues have made. Rest assured they all went to prestigious institutions (as far as I’ve even noticed).

        I will respect DP’s opinions because of his hard work

        He puts plenty of hard work in the process of illustration. Unfortunately, though, that seems to be all. What he illustrates he often misunderstands; in all of the posts on skulls from February and March, he shows us sutures in his tracings that plainly aren’t there in the real thing, and sometimes vice versa. A look at his data matrix, which I took at the end of January, shows he doesn’t put any hard work into scoring or coding – it’s really superficial, I’m sad to say.

        What do you mean by “respect” for “the creatures he studies”? What would that be that anyone in the field wouldn’t have?

      • Pictures, David M., pictures. I hear your assertions. Now, I MYSELF want to see pictures of actual fossils to compare David P.’s drawings to. Ball in your hands now. Slam dunk it. I will wait.

        As for parsimony…that is one area where I disagree with David P. So? We still talk, we still communicate. I HAVE seen him make observations, from real life, which strike me as valid. I also see that, even here, he is ignored. The “David Peters said it, so it is wrong!!!!” kerfuffle continues to this very minute…YOU are proof of it…and it is sickening. Good DAY to you, David Marjanovic. I cannot take you seriously any more.

      • No hard work in interpreting the tree either. The first thing to do when PAUP* puts out a tree is to go: “Hm. That’s interesting. I like that. Which characters support this? Did I make a typo in the matrix?” Instead, our host simply accepts the output as a given, says “the software has spoken”, enthusiastically proclaims the results and can’t understand why anyone would be skeptical.

      • The point of producing evidence is for others to validate the findings – or invalidate them. “Belief”, “Respect” and “Opinions” should not be a part of this conversation. Consensus is something that sometimes takes a long time. And sometimes needs to be overturned. Unfortunately, human nature doesn’t like it when paradigms are overturned (see below).

        David M.’s comments about results occurring by accident is either inappropriate or sour grapes. Under similar circumstances and the work was done by Padian, Hopson or Paul, would David’s response have been the same? Where was his response when Diandongosuchus was labeled a poposaur by its discoverers? Or when I relabeled it close to phytosaurs four years ago? Sadly, when you go down the mental path that he and Mickey have chosen, you can’t give credit where credit is due — EVER — even if is due by accident, even in very tiny parcels.

        Furthermore, David M has not produced the evidence of ‘the accident’ yet.

        Here in the LRT, the nesting of any taxon with any other taxon and apart from still other taxa in the LRT is the result of a mathematical process that requires 230 questions to arrive at an answer. So far, every one of the 1012 included taxa arrive at a slightly different answer. And all interweave with one another, as shown in the LRT.

        When I entered David’s area of expertise, basal tetrapods, and arrived at different solutions, well, if I were him that would really piss me off, especially after all that work, travel, blood, sweat and funds. On a similar note, when Diandongosuchus was confirmed as a phytosaur relative, that both pleased me and puzzled me that no credit was given for the earlier discovery. Hah! Such is life! Enjoy the moment.

  3. The trick is that your Diandongosuchus OTU is misscored for all the features that were unknown before the redescription.

    It logically follows that wherever it goes in your tree, it does so (partly or entirely) because it’s miscoded. If that position happens to be right right, as it turned out to be, it is so for the wrong reasons.

    Coincidences like that really do happen. Ruta & Coates (2007) found the adelogyrinids and Acherontiscus next to the colosteids. The characters that held them there were misscored; when I corrected them, the adelogyrinids and Acherontiscus jumped back to their traditional position (more or less) inside the “lepospondyls” (as, incidentally, in Ruta, Coates & Quicke, 2003 – from which the matrix of Ruta & Coates, 2007, is derived). The fun part is that I think they are, in fact, colosteid-grade animals and not “lepospondyls” – and I think so because of characters that aren’t included in the matrix of Ruta & Coates (2007) or in mine (derived from theirs without addition of characters). In short, I think Ruta & Coates (2007) were right (or about right) for the wrong reasons. That’s all in my preprint, you can read it.

    And OF COURSE they have to demean your discovery, because to NOT do so would be an admission of a mistake on their part.

    Uh, hello? I’m not one of Stocker et al.; I’ve never worked on phytosaurs or any of their potential close relatives at all. I have no stake in where Diandongosuchus goes.

    Unlike them, you welcome the correction of mistakes, especially if they”re yours.

    Most of the time he ignores all corrections, even the most obvious ones. Have you noticed he has practically stopped reading comments at all? There are two months’ worth that he has never answered.

  4. Dave –
    re: “your Diandongosuchus OTU is misscored for all the features that were unknown before the redescription” – please provide details that you apparently know but are withholding. Otherwise you look like Senator McCarthy in the 1950s. if the features were unknown, how could I score them?
    re: “most of the time” – you know you may be guessing here. If you are, please say so.
    re: “ignores all corrections” – sometimes the corrections are not correct. And again if you really mean “all” then there goes your credibility. Readers are free to consider you another blackwasher, ignoring every instance when I do make corrections. And there goes your credibility.
    re: “stopped reading comments” – I do have a backlog of comments to answer. At this point I can get back to some of them. As soon as I do read them, I reply.
    re: “two months worth” – as of today when I write this I’m up to April 18. So there goes your credibility.

    • if the features were unknown, how could I score them?

      What? I’m not blaming you for not scoring them, of course not. I’m blaming you for acting as if you had in fact scored them, as opposed to hitting on the right result by accident.

      re: “most of the time” – you know you may be guessing here. If you are, please say so.

      LOL, I’m not guessing. Haven’t you noticed the pattern? You write a post, I write a comment, you write the next post. Often you don’t reply to any comments for months at a time. Not only don’t you reply, you also act as if you hadn’t read the comments: for example, you still haven’t added the long list of characters Jason and I suggested to your matrix, and yet you still act as if your “Paratetrapoda” were supported by the evidence.

      sometimes the corrections are not correct.

      Then reply to them and explain why, instead of just ignoring them.

      And again if you really mean “all” then there goes your credibility.

      Eh, putting “all” and “most of the time” in the same sentence wasn’t the pinnacle of writing. The fact is that you’ve ignored a lot of corrections that are in fact corrections. On rare occasions you do correct your work – but most of the time you don’t.

      re: “two months worth” – as of today when I write this I’m up to April 18. So there goes your credibility.

      This blog doesn’t have a “recent comments” widget, so I can only find out such things by scrolling through your whole archive. I don’t have time for that often. Last time I checked, there were important issues from February you still hadn’t answered… see you in a few minutes…

  5. Ah yeah. Here’s a recent comment by you where you simply assert your tree is correct and continue to ignore the long list of problems I pointed out at the beginning of the same thread on February 3rd.

    I’ve written a response now and will work my way through the timeline to see which other threads you’ve commented recently.

  6. And here’s Jason’s list of characters that contradict your “Paratetrapoda” topology, followed by my additions to that list, then a long digression about the middle and inner ear, and then two more additions.

    As long as those characters aren’t in your matrix, you can’t claim to have tested “Paratetrapoda”.

    • Oh, you have replied to that list, I just didn’t notice because the reply is on a different thread.

      Your reply is very brief and doesn’t address most of the points. I’ve now written a reply to it.

  7. re: you still haven’t added the long list of characters Jason and I suggested to your matrix — I am under no obligation to add suggested characters. You’re not paying me to do so and the present set is sufficient to lump and separate 1000 taxa.

    re: On rare occasions you do correct your work – but most of the time you don’t. — And there goes your credibility. Whenever I see a correction needs to be made, I make it. Your opinion on the matter notwithstanding. Even small corrections count because every score affects every other score. If I missed something that you suggested, suggest it again, but in small doses, not buried inside a treatise.

  8. Re: ” Instead, our host simply accepts the output as a given,” — David, I haven’t seen you in my apartment lately, or ever. You have no idea the process that plays out here. And I’m embarrassed for you that others will see that you say such things.

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