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← What-If and What-Is: The Role of Speculation in Science

What-If and What-Is: The Role of Speculation in Science - Comments

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 1 by aquilacane

Is one right and the other wrong?

I don't think there is a right or wrong when dealing with might and may. Dogs may have driven the Mammoth to extinction or not.

Fri, 25 May 2012 19:58:19 UTC | #943557

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 2 by mordacious1

In the other, Pat Shipman, an independent scientist and writer suggests that dogs may have helped modern humans push the Neanderthals out of existence and might even have helped shape human evolution.

I know my dog hates Neanderthals, last Sunday I was walking past the catholic church and she went berserk, so I can see this.

Fri, 25 May 2012 22:04:31 UTC | #943571

Katy Cordeth's Avatar Comment 3 by Katy Cordeth

I think it's a good rule of thumb never to trust someone called Dr Shipman.

I miss my Gammy.

Fri, 25 May 2012 23:44:54 UTC | #943582

Anaximander's Avatar Comment 4 by Anaximander

(Dogs) might even have helped shape human evolution.

How could that sentence not be true?

Sat, 26 May 2012 15:59:09 UTC | #943664

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 5 by Alan4discussion

But how is one to judge the value of speculation? There are a few obvious ways. The questions readers ought to ask when confronting a “what-if “as opposed to “what-is” article are: Does the writer make it clear what is known, what is probable, and what is merely possible?

Speculation is the precursor of investigation.

what is known, what is probable, and what is merely possible?

What is known (to a high degree of certainty)

What is probable (on the basis of available evidence)

and what is merely possible. (in the view of those speculating)

THEN THERE IS THE NEXT STEP OF: looking for new or confirming evidence and testing, which moves the subject on to firmer science, clarification, confirmation, or refutation.

Sun, 27 May 2012 11:12:16 UTC | #943805

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 6 by Alan4discussion

Both dogs and humans were very widely distributed across the planet in the last few 10s of thousands of years so why the presumption that domestication followed a single pattern?

The skulls are clearly of members of the canid family, but that includes wolves, jackals and foxes. Dr. Germonpré and her colleagues concluded that the skulls belonged to dogs. That’s where things get sticky.

Indeed! Wolf-dog hybrids are are well documented. Some are used for pulling Siberian sledges.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfdog - A wolfdog (also called a wolf/dog hybrid or wolf hybrid) is a canid hybrid resulting from the mating of a wolf (various Canis lupus subspecies) and a dog (Canis lupus familiaris). The term "wolfdog" is preferred by most of the animals' proponents and breeders because the domestic dog recently was taxonomically recategorized as a subspecies of the gray wolf. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the United States Department of Agriculture refer to the animals as wolf–dog hybrids.1 Rescue organizations consider any dog with wolf heritage within the last five generations to be a wolfdog, including some established wolfdog breeds.[2]

In 1998, the USDA estimated an approximate population of 300,000 wolfdogs in the United States (the highest of any country world-wide), with some other sources giving a population possibly as high as 500,000.1 In first generation hybrids, gray wolves are most often crossed with wolf-like dogs (such as German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, and Alaskan Malamutes) for an appearance most appealing to owners desiring to own an exotic pet.

So some natural hybrids could be expected.

Sun, 27 May 2012 11:28:22 UTC | #943808