Science Corner: Behold the Brontosaurus

apatosaurus photo

Maybe this will get some use after all Photo by yuan2003

So many of us have had a dinosaur phase at some point, and chances are if you did you learned that the Brontosaurus is a creature that never existed. That factoid is often used to separate the proto-paleontologists from the Flintstones fans. Only now, it turns out that maybe Brontosaurus did warrant a separate classification after all. I wonder how that news will play at my local natural history museum, which already has a history with the Brontosaurus controversy.

Deciding what separates one species from another is a tricky proposition, as I discussed recently as part of a BioLogos conversation on evolution. The challenge is only magnified when you are dealing with a handful of incomplete skeleton fossils instead of a living population. Drawing lines around species may seem like an esoteric enterprise for a select few scientists, but I think it’s important to remember that we are all involved in defining categories all the time, and the boundaries of those categories may be more fluid or more dependent on our own choices than we realize. For example, just 15 minutes of playing Rock Band together is all it takes to make a stranger a friend. And of course, one of the many miracles of Easter is how God reconfigured the boundaries that separated humankind from himself.

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Andy Walsh

Andy has worn many hats in his life. He knows this is a dreadfully clichéd notion, but since it is also literally true he uses it anyway. Among his current metaphorical hats: husband of one wife, father of two elementary school students, reader of science fiction and science fact, enthusiast of contemporary symphonic music, and chief science officer. Previous metaphorical hats include: comp bio postdoc, molecular biology grad student, InterVarsity chapter president (that one came with a literal hat), music store clerk, house painter, and mosquito trapper. Among his more unique literal hats: British bobby, captain's hats (of varying levels of authenticity) of several specific vessels, a deerstalker from 221B Baker St, and a railroad engineer's cap. His monthly Science in Review is drawn from his weekly Science Corner posts -- Wednesdays, 8am (Eastern) on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog. His book Faith across the Multiverse is available from Hendrickson.

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