Did Dinosaurs Really Evolve into Birds? - A Scientific Analysis by Vance Nelson
“Feathered friends linked to Godzilla’s ancestors” was the headline of the Calgary Herald on June 24, 1998. The news of feathered dinosaurs had made world headlines. Fossils dating back to the dinosaurs. Possible missing links. Where were these fine “feathered” beasts from? A great fossil find in Liaoning, China was their home. According to authorities, they dated back about 125 million years. Paleontologist Philip Currie declared, “[w]e’ve got the missing link between birds and flesh eating dinosaurs” (Calgary Herald A2). National Geographic was a big supporter of the “feathered dinosaur” interpretation. Since those finds in 1998, there seems to have been a rise in excitement about these Chinese creatures. What are they? Are they Dinosaurs with feathers? Are they Flightless birds? Are they missing links between dinosaurs and birds? The main answer the public has heard is a clear, unquestionable, loud proclamation, “they are feathered dinosaurs.” In fact, featured in a 1999 National Geographic, were more fossils from the mysterious Chinese sedimentary beds. With these new finds, scientists seem more convinced than ever, that they have found undeniable missing links. These finds, apparently, are changing the whole paradigm with which other fossils are being reconstructed. Many dinosaurs may have been clothed in garments that belong to the focal point the modern bird watcher. Jurassic Park, according to recent proclamations, may have inaccurately depicted the baby T. rex. And according to National Geographic’s November 1999 issue, if Lost World: Jurassic Park were filmed today, the baby T. rex would have appeared warmer on the big screen with his newly found feathers (Sloan). Within the last couple of years, the media and science journals have had a lot to say about dinosaurs with feathers. But the one who has the most to say is not always right. And when it comes to feathered dinosaurs, the scientists with the least access to the media seem to have some insurmountable problems with the dinosaur-to-bird theory. When the scientific evidence from embryology, comparative morphology, and the fossil record, is closely examined, it becomes clear that the dinosaur-to-bird theory has been fundamentally refuted.
Many fossils have been claimed to be missing links leading up to modern birds. The earliest of these fossil finds dates back to 1860. This was the Archaeopteryx lithographica specimen (Padian and Chiappe 38). Since Archaeopteryx has been thoroughly refuted as being a transitional fossil elsewhere (see Evolution: The Fossils Still say No!), it will not be here discussed.
A newer fossil find dating back only a few years is the Sinosauropteryx prima fossil from Liaoning China. Sinosauropteryx was a turkey-size dinosaur dated to the late Jurassic or early Cretaceous (Padian and Chiappe 45). This specimen is supposed to be a theropod with “protofeathers” surrounding its skeleton. It is undeniable, to anyone who has seen the fossils, that there is something surrounding the skeleton of this creature. But are they protofeathers? Some scientists believe so, but “four leading paleontologists, including Yale University’s John Ostrom, later found that the ‘feathers’ were just a parallel array of fibres, probably collagen” (Sarfati 60). It is interesting to note that John Ostrom is a strong believer in the dinosaur-to-bird theory, yet he believes Sinosauropteryx’s protofeathers are merely the remains of decaying tissue. John A. Ruben is a professor of zoology at Oregon State University. He says that “‘[a]ll of these things are in all likelihood something like collagen connective fibers’” (Appenzeller 2053). So the idea of protofeathers is still just an idea. Storrs L. Olson is the curator of birds at the National Museum of Natural History. About protofeathers he has recently said: “…protofeathers exist only as a theoretical construct…” (Open Letter to Dr. Peter Raven of National Geographic Society). Since Olson believes they are only a “theoretical construct,” it is apparent that he has never seen any real protofeathers. Since Sinosauropteryx prima is one of the main fossils touted by evolutionary theorists to have protofeathers, it seemed pertinent to address this specific case of alleged protofeathers. It must be noted that many evolutionists still believe Sinosauropteryx’s fibers are protofeathers, even though strong evidence opposes their view. Sinosauropteryx was just a theropod and did not possess any birdlike characteristics.
Since there is no evidence of so-called protofeathers, what about something even more “primitive?” If reptiles, or more specifically dinosaurs, evolved into birds, then the scale of these giant reptiles must have evolved into the complex structure of the feather. This is not as easy a transition as one might imagine. P.F.A. Maderson, who had constructed a hypothetical story to explain how protofeathers may have arisen, still understood the vast difference between scales and feathers. He said, “We cannot as yet offer any plausible explanation for the origin of the unique shaft, barbs, and barbules without which modern feathers would have neither aerodynamic nor insulatory function” (Quoted in Gish 136). Scales are folds in the epidermis, while feathers grow out of a follicle like a hair does; they are completely different in their form and their development (Wieland 16-19). It must be remembered that no known fossil exists showing the gradual transition from scale to feather. So there is no real evidence it ever did happen in the past. Furthermore, for a reptile, or a dinosaur, to evolve feathers from scales, new genetic information would be required. In other words, new information that did not previously exist in the organism’s genome would be required. The only mechanism evolutionists speak of for producing new information is random genetic mutation. But as biophysicist Dr. Lee Spetner points out, “All point mutations that have been studied on the molecular level turn out to reduce the genetic information and not increase it….Not even one mutation has been observed that adds a little information to the genome.” (138; 160). This evidence not only applies to evolving feathers from scales, but also evolving specialized flight muscles, hollow bones, and specialized lungs. The scale to feather transition can only be a “theoretical construct.” Since there is no evidence it ever did occur (the fossil record), and there is no evidence it ever can occur (modern genetics), the transition can only exist in the minds of those who believe it to have occurred. But this has nothing to do with empirical science.
Another major problem with the dinosaur-to-bird transition has to do with the comparison of the digits in the wings of birds to the digits in the forelimbs of theropods. Many of the scientists promoting the dinosaur-to-bird theory are paleontologists who have a general expertise on the fossil record. Alan Feduccia, however, is an ornithologist, an expert on birds. Studies have been done by ornithologist Alan Feduccia and Ann Burke on the developmental patterns between the avian “hand” and the forelimb of reptiles. Their findings have thrown the whole dinosaur-to-bird theory into question. It had been previously accepted by many that the identity of the digits in modern birds was I-II-III (Burke and Feduccia 666). This is the same digits identified in theropods; digits I-II-III. This would be consistent with the dinosaur-to-bird theory since “[a] theropod origin of birds implies that the digits of the avian manus must also be I-II-III” (Burke and Feduccia 666). However, more recent findings by Burke and Feduccia demonstrate that the digits in the bird’s “hand” are really digits II-III-IV. This raises a huge problem for evolutionists who believe dinosaurs are directly ancestral to birds. If dinosaurs evolved into birds some miraculous morphological regeneration had to take place. The reason is theropods have digits I-II-III, while birds, in their wings, have digits II-III-IV. This would mean that the theropods, from which birds were supposed to have evolved, have lost digit IV and V. Birds, however, have lost digits I and V. This would mean dinosaurs would have to first loose digit I, and then miraculously evolve back digit IV. Richard Hinchliffe, writing for Science says, that “[i]n dinosaurs there is good evidence for the I-II-III formula….If the interpretation is that birds have digits II-III-IV, this presents a real problem for the theory of their theropod dinosaur origin” (Vol. 278:596). Storrs L. Olson, in writing to the National Geographic about the article “Feathers For T. Rex ” says, “[t]his melodramatic assertion [(that birds are theropods)] had already been disproven by recent studies of embryology and comparative morphology, which, of coarse are never mentioned [in the article]” (Open letter to Dr. Peter Raven). Olson is undoubtedly referring to the research by Burke and Feduccia published in Science. The Cincinnati Enquirer noted that “[n]ew research shows that birds lack the embryonic thumb that dinosaurs had, suggesting that it is ‘almost impossible’ for the species to be closely related” (Sarfati 62). To those who understand the dilemma posed by digit identification, it is most certain that dinosaurs are not the ancestors of birds.
Another major hurdle in the dinosaur-to-bird theory is the completely different structure of the avian lung to any other vertebrate. Michael Denton points out that the “avian lung cannot function as an organ of respiration until the parabronchi system which permeates it and the air sac system which guarantees the parabronchi their air supply are both highly developed and able to function together in a perfectly integrated manner” (212). Since evolution must work in a step-by-step process, there is no conceivable way any vertebrate lung, including dinosaurs or reptiles, could have evolved into an avian lung and survived the process. It is another one of these irreducibly complex systems that Michael Behe talks about in “Darwin’s Black Box.” It is an all or nothing system. “The suspicion inevitably arises that perhaps no functional intermediate exists between the dead-end and the continuous through-put types of lungs” (Denton 212). Ann Gibbons, in gauging the compatibility of a small theropod as an avian ancestor, says, “[its] [b]ellowslike lungs could not have evolved into the high-performance lungs of modern birds” (1129-1130). Charles Darwin gave some criteria with which to test his own theory. In the Origin of Species he writes: “[I]f it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down” (Denton, 213). It seems time to cease from holding Darwin’s theory together with Band-Aids, since its condition is life threatening.
Using the assigned evolutionary ages to fossils, a huge problem immediately becomes evident. Archaeopteryx dates to about 150 million years old (according to evolutionists) and was a true bird (Gish 135). Any transitional forms between theropods and birds would therefore have to be older than 150 million years old. However, all of the Chinese fossils date to about 121 million years old (Gibbons 720). This is 29 million years too late. A person who is fifty years old cannot successfully argue that a boy who is eight is his/her father. Yet evolutionists are doing exactly this. The two main articles on “feathered dinosaurs” in National Geographic (July 1998, November 1999) put some of these creatures in a series as if one evolved into the others. However, nearly all are from the same formation and are all therefore the same age. These creatures cannot be missing links between dinosaurs and birds since true birds already existed 29 million years before they did (according to their own dates). These creatures cannot be ancestral to birds either since they existed after true birds.
What is the conclusion of this matter? Did dinosaurs evolve into birds? Alan Feduccia is quoted in Audubon as saying this: “It’s just a fantasy of theirs. They so much want to see living dinosaurs that now they think they can study them vicariously at the backyard bird feeder” (Ham 76). Evolutionists like Alan Feduccia, Larry Martin and John Ruben believe that many of these so-called feathered dinosaurs, such as Caudipteryx zoui, are no more than flightless birds (Appenzeller 2052). “Larry Martin says: ‘You have to put this into perspective. To the people who wrote the paper [on the feathered dinosaurs in June of 1998], the chicken would be a feathered dinosaur” (Sarfati 61). Our discussion can be summed up in these summary statements: 1. As was discussed above, Sinosauropteryx prima was just a theropod. 2. The feathers of birds could not have evolved from scales that have a completely different structure. 3. The digits in the bird’s wing and the theropod’s forelimb demonstrate that dinosaurs could not be ancestral to birds. 4. It would be impossible for any vertebrate to evolve avian lungs without dying in the process. 5. The dates assigned to the Chinese creatures absolutely rules them out as being ancestral to birds, or transitional between dinosaurs and birds. The evidence refuting the idea of dinosaur-to-bird evolution is so overwhelming it seems faith not fact is the glue that adheres the idea to many evolutionists. Storrs Olson, an evolutionist, sums it up rather bluntly this way:
"The idea of feathered dinosaurs and the theropod origin of birds is being actively promulgated by a cadre of zealous scientists acting in concert with certain editors at Nature and National Geographic who themselves have become outspoken and highly biased proselytizers of the faith. Truth and careful scientific weighing of evidence have been among the first casualties in their program, which is now fast becoming one of the grander scientific hoaxes of our age---the paleontological equivalent of cold fusion” (Open letter to Dr. Peter Raven of National Geographic Society).
Appenzeller, Tim. “T. rex Was Fierce, Yes, But Feathered, Too.” Science. 285 (1999): 2052- 2053.
Burke, Ann C., and Alan Feduccia. “Developmental Patterns and the Identification of Homologies in the Avian Hand.” Science. 278 (1997): 666-668.
Denton, Michael. Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Bethesda: Adler & Adler, Publishers, Inc., 1985.
“Feathered friends linked to Godzilla’s ancestors.” Calgary Herald 24 June 1998: A2.
Gibbons, Ann. “New Feathered Fossil Brings Dinosaurs and Birds Closer.” Science. 274 1996): 720-721.
Gish, Duane T. Evolution: The fossils Still say No!. El Cajon: Institute for Creation Research, 1995.
Ham, Ken. The Great Dinosaur Mystery Solved. Green Forest: Master Books, 1998.
Hinchliffe, Richard. “The Forward March of the Bird-Dinosaurs Halted?” Science. 278 (1997): 596-597.
Olson, Storrs L. Letter to Dr. Peter Raven of National Geographic Society. 1 November 1999.
Padian, Kevin, and Luis M. Chiappe. “The Origin of Birds and Their Flight.” Scientific American. February (1998): 38-47.
Sarfati, Jonathan. Refuting Evolution. Green Forest: Master Books, 1999.
Sloan, Christopher P. “Feathers For T. Rex?” National Geographic. 196.5 (1999): 99-107
Spetner, Lee. Not By Chance. Brooklyn: The Judaica Press, Inc., 1997.
Wieland, Carl. “Bird evolution flies out the window.” Creation Ex Nihilo 16.4 (1994): 16-19.
Qiang, Ji., Philip J. Currie, Mark A. Norell, and Ji Shu-an. “Two Feathered Dinosaurs from Northeastern China.” Nature. 393 (1998): 753-761.