Scientific American "s Dino-Bird Errors

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Scientific American, one of the passionate proponents of the Darwinist theory, considered one of the theory"s popular claims in its March 2003 issue: the evolution of birds. An article by the ornithologists Richard O. Prum and Alan Brush titled "The Feather or the Bird, Which Came First?" reiterated the classical evolutionist thesis that birds evolved from dinosaurs with a new series of findings and hypotheses and dino-bird illustrations designed to visually influence the reader.

Scientific American, one of the passionate proponents of the Darwinist theory, considered one of the theory"s popular claims in its March 2003 issue: the evolution of birds. An article by the ornithologists Richard O. Prum and Alan Brush titled "The Feather or the Bird, Which Came First?" reiterated the classical evolutionist thesis that birds evolved from dinosaurs with a new series of findings and hypotheses and dino-bird illustrations designed to visually influence the reader.

So determined were Prum and Brush that they imagined they had put an end to the continuing debate among evolutionists regarding the origin of birds, and suggested that their findings had revealed a "remarkable conclusion" that " the feather evolved in dinosaurs before the appearance of birds". Prum and Brush maintained that bird feathers evolved for the purposes of "insulation, water repellency, courtship, camouflage and defense", and only lastly being used for flight.

However, this assertive thesis actually consists of nothing more than speculation devoid of any scientific evidence. This new thesis developed by Prum and Brush and adopted by Scientific American is nothing but a new, but hollow version of the "birds were dinosaurs" theory, which has been defended with a furious, blind fanaticism over the last few decades. We shall be demonstrating this in this paper.

Looking at Prum and Brush"s article, their bird evolution thesis appears to rest on two bases:

1) Fossils found in China in recent years and claimed to be those of "feathered dinosaurs."

2) Prum and Brush"s efforts to come up with an evolutionary pathway by examining the development of modern bird feathers (in line with the concept called as "evolutionary developmental biology" or shortly "evo-devo", which assumes that the developmental pathways of living things can shed light on their alleged evolutionary histories).

Let us now set out exactly why both these foundations are invalid.

Feathered Dinosaurs: Fiction and Fact

Feathered dinosaurs, or "dino-birds," have been one of the Darwinist media"s propaganda tools in the last decade. A string of headline-hitting "dino-bird" reports, artists" reconstructions and announcements by self-confident "experts" have convinced a great many people that half-bird half-dinosaur creatures once walked the earth. Prum and Brush maintain this self-confident approach and portray "dino-birds" as a concrete fact in their Scientific American article. The truth, however, is very different.

We shall be relying on the views of a very important name, Dr. Alan Feduccia of North Carolina University"s Department of Biology. Dr. Feduccia is one of the world"s most prominent authorities on the subject of the origin of birds. Dr. Feduccia actually supports the theory of evolution, and believes that birds emerged through evolution. However, what distinguishes him from "dino-bird" supporters such as Prum and Brush, is that he admits the uncertainty in which the theory of evolution finds itself on this matter, and attaches no credence whatsoever to the "dino-bird" hype passionately put forward but lacking any foundation at all.

An article titled "Birds Are Dinosaurs: Simple Answer to a Complex Problem," by Dr. Feduccia in the latest edition of The Auk magazine, published by the American Ornithologists" Union and serving as a ground for the most technical debates in the field, contains some highly important information. In considerable detail, Dr. Feduccia describes how the theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs, first proposed by John Ostrom in the 1970s and fiercely defended ever since, lacks any scientific proof, and how such an evolution is actually impossible.

Dr. Feduccia reveals one very important fact about the alleged "dino-birds" found in China: It is not at all clear that the "feathers" found in fossils purportedly belonging to feathered dinosaurs are bird feathers at all, albeit primitive ones. On the contrary, there is a considerable body of evidence that these fossil traces, known as "dino-fuzz", have nothing to do with bird feathers. Feduccia writes:

Having studied most of the specimens said to sport protofeathers, I, and many others, do not find any credible evidence that those structures represent protofeathers. Many Chinese fossils have that strange halo of what has become known as dino-fuzz, but although that material has been ""homologized"" with avian feathers, the arguments are far less than convincing. 1

Following this analysis, Dr. Feduccia then states that Prum, the author of the Scientific American article, has behaved in a prejudiced manner:

Prum"s (2002) view is shared by many paleontologists: birds are dinosaurs; therefore, any filamentous material preserved in dromaeosaurs must represent protofeathers. 2

According to Dr. Feduccia, one of the reasons why this prejudice fails to stand up to scrutiny is that this "dino-fuzz" also appears in fossils that can absolutely nothing to do with birds:

Most important, ""dino-fuzz"" is now being discovered in a number of taxa, some unpublished, but particularly in a Chinese pterosaur [flying reptile](Wang et al. 2002) and a therizinosaur [a carnivorous dinosaur class]... Most surprisingly, skin fibers very closely resembling dino-fuzz have been discovered in a Jurassic ichthyosaur [marine reptile] and described in detail (Lingham-Soliar 1999, 2001). Some of those branched fibers are exceptionally close in morphology to the so called branched protofeathers (""Prum Protofeathers"") described by Xu et al. (2001). That these so-called protofeathers have a widespread distribution in archosaurs [a Mesozoic reptile class] is evidence alone that they have nothing to do with feathers. 3

Dr. Feduccia recalls that similar structures had been found in the area of fossils in the past, but that these structures, believed to belong to the fossils, were later identified as inorganic matter:

One is reminded of the famous fernlike markings on the Solnhofen fossils known as dendrites. Despite their plantlike outlines, these features are now known to be inorganic structures caused by a solution of manganese from within the beds that reprecipitated as oxides along cracks or along bones of fossils. 4

Another striking point on this matter is the fact that all the fossils brought up as "feathered dinosaurs" have been found in China. Why is it that these fossils should have emerged in China and not anywhere else in the world? And how is it that the fossil beds in China are of such a nature as to be able to preserve not just such a vague substance as "dino-fuzz" but also feathers? Dr. Feduccia also notes this odd phenomenon:

One must explain also why all theropods and other dinosaurs discovered in other deposits where integument is preserved exhibit no dino-fuzz, but true reptilian skin, devoid of any featherlike material (Feduccia 1999), and why typically Chinese dromaeosaurs preserving dino-fuzz do not normally preserve feathers, when a hardened rachis, if present, would be more easily preserved. 5

So what are all these so-called "feathered dinosaurs" found in China? What is the true nature of these creatures portrayed as intermediate forms between reptiles and birds?

Dr. Feduccia explains that some of these creatures put forward as "feathered dinosaurs" are extinct reptiles with "dino-fuzz,"and others are real birds:

There are clearly two different taphonomic phenomena in the early Cretaceous lacustrine deposits of the Yixian and Jiufotang formations of China, one preserving dino-fuzz filaments, as in the first discovered, so-called ""feathered dinosaur"" Sinosauropteryx (a commpsognathid), and one preserving actual avian feathers, as in the feathered dinosaurs that were featured on the cover of Nature, but which turned out to be secondarily flightless birds. 6

In other words, these fossils, portrayed to the world as "feathered dinosaurs" or "dino-birds," either belong to flightless birds, or else to reptiles which possessed the organic structure known as "dino-fuzz," which had nothing at all to do with birds and their feathers. Not one single fossil exists that might represent a "transitional form" between birds and reptiles. (As well as these two basic groups cited above by Dr. Feduccia, he also mentions the "abundant beaked bird Confusiusornis", a number of enantiornithineses, and the newly described seed-eating bird Jeholornis prima, none of which are "dino-birds.")

For these reasons, arguing that the existence of "feathered dinosaurs" has been proven, a claim put forward by Richard O. Prum and Alan Brush in their article in Scientific American, is a complete violation of the truth.

The Temporal Paradox and the Fallacy Called Cladistics

There is one very important fact, both in Richard O. Prum and Alan Brush"s article in Scientific American and in all evolutionist sources which encourage the "dino-bird" hype, a truth which is ignored, and even concealed.

The ages of the fossils so deceptively referred to as "dino-birds" or "feathered dinosaurs" go no further back than 130 million years. Yet there is a real bird at least 20 million years older than these creatures which they seek to portray as "half-birds:" Archaeopteryx! Known as the oldest bird, Archaeopteryx was a true bird with flawless flight muscles, flight feathers and a real bird skeleton. She flew very successfully in the Earth"s skies of 150 million years ago. That being the case, it is utterly nonsensical to portray creatures which lived long after Archaeopteryx as the ancestors of birds.

So how is it that evolutionists are able to maintain this nonsense?

They have discovered a "means" to allow them to do so.

This goes by the name of "Cladistics." This term refers to a new fossil interpretation frequently used in the world of paleontology in the last 20-30 years. The defenders of the cladistics method defend the complete ignoring of the ages of fossils, and support only the comparison of the characteristic features of those fossils, and the construction of evolutionary family trees in the light of similarities emerging as a result of these comparisons.

One evolutionist web site which supports this view explains why it is "logical" (!) for Velociraptor, whose fossil age is much younger than Archaeopteryx, to have been Archaeopteryx"s ancestor:

Now we may ask "How can Velociraptor be ancestral to Archaeopteryx if it came after it?" Well, because of the many gaps in the fossil record, fossils don"t always show up "on time". For example a recently discovered partial fossil from the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar, Rahonavis, seems to be a cross between birds and something like Velociraptor, but appears 60mys too late. No-one however says its late appearance is evidence against its being a missing link, it may just have lasted a long time. Such examples are called "Ghost Lineages"; WE ASSUME THESE ANIMALS EXISTED EARLIER when we have probable ancient ancestors for them a long way back, and perhaps possible descendants back then too. 7

This account is a fine summary of cladistics, and also shows what a great distortion the method actually is. Evolutionists clearly distort the fossil record results according to the needs of their theory. Assuming that a 70-million-year-old fossil species actually lived 170 million years before and constructing an evolutionary family relationship on the basis of that is nothing more than a distortion of the facts.

Basically, cladistics is a new dimension and hidden admission of the defeat of the theory of evolution in the face of the fossil record. To summarize:

1) Darwin suggested that when the fossil record was studied in detail "transitional species" would be found to fill the gaps between the species known to us. That is what the theory expects.

2) However, all the paleontological efforts of the last 150 years have revealed no such transitional forms, and no trace of such creatures has been found. This represents an enormous defeat for the theory.

3) Moreover, the ages of creatures that might be suggested as each others" ancestors on the sole basis of morphological similarities, also conflict with each other. One creature appearing to be more "primitive" than a more "advanced" looking creature actually turns out to have lived later.

It was this last point which obliged evolutionists to develop the tautological method known as cladistics.

With cladistics, Darwinism loses its feature of being a theory based on scientific discoveries and takes these as its starting point. On the contrary, it has become a dogma which distorts scientific discoveries and alters these discoveries according to its own assumptions. Just like Lysenkoism once did in the Soviet Union.8 And like that of Lysenkoism, Darwinism"s life will not be a long one.

Evo-Devo Fact and Fiction

 

Another story far removed from any scientific objectivity in Richard O. Prum and Alan Brush"s Scientific American article is the "five-stage development" scenario they put forward to explain how bird feathers might have evolved.

Prum and Brush"s scenario rests on the evolutionary developmental biology approach, also known as "evo-devo." The logic here is the assumption that the development experienced by living things during the embryo stage is a repetition of the so-called "evolutionary" development they assume to have taken place. This hypothesis is actually nothing more than a new version of the "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" claim put forward a century ago by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel, a fierce supporter of Darwin. It later emerged that Haeckel"s thesis was a fraud, and that the embryo drawings he produced to show how they resembled each other had to a large extent been distorted. Yet evolutionists have still not lost faith in the idea that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny," and are trying to resuscitate this hoary old chestnut under the name "evo-devo."

These efforts are dogmatic rather than scientific, because there is no scientific evidence for the tale of "ontology recapitulating phylogeny." No answer is forthcoming to the question of why the developmental pathway an animal undergoes in its mother"s womb or in the egg should reflect is so-called "evolutionary history." Even if the theory of evolution is assumed to be correct, why should development repeat evolution? (It remains to say that they theory is not in fact correct, and that there is in any case no "evolutionary history" to be repeated.)

Prum and Brush"s scenario, like other evo-devo tales, consists of examining the development of living things and extrapolating evolutionary fairy tales from them. They describe in some detail the sort of embryological development undergone by bird feathers, explain that this development takes place in five stages, and then say, "This is how evolution happened," and believe that they have thus given a scientific account. The fact is however:

1) As we have stated above, the claim that embryological development is a reflection of evolutionary development is a totally dogmatic preconception. There is no evidence for it.

2) Furthermore, no answer is given to the question of how Prum and Brush"s "five-stage evolution" might have happened. They fail to explain how any of the five stages they propose could have represented an advantage for a featherless reptile. For instance, the first stage they suggest is the formation of a cylindrical empty space in the reptile"s skin. So, with which mutation did that come about, why should it come about, and if it did come about, why should it represent an advantage and take on a permanent character? All these realistic questions make evolutionists uneasy, and are left unanswered.

3) None of the five proposed stages is at all convincing. That is because there are great gaps between the stages they describe, for which reason enormous leaps are required. In the first stage for instance, a "hollow cylinder" with a flawless cylindrical structure suddenly emerges. In the second stage, suddenly tuft of unbranched barbs are attached to a calamus. The third stage sees the appearance of a feather closely resembling modern feathers, a planar feather with unbranched barbs fused to a central rachis ridge. None of these are "evolutionary" changes. Rather they are "revolutionary" ones. If, as Darwin suggested, one looks for "small scale changes," the evolution which Prum and Brush suggest happened in five stages should have happened in 30 or 40. (And just about none of these stages represent any advantage to a creature assumed to have evolved.)

Thus there is no evidence to support the thesis that the extraordinarily complex design in the bird feather came about by completely chance mutations. Prum and Brush have set out their five consecutive stages with eye-catching illustrations. Yet in real life it is not possible for such an evolution to have been experienced in a blind process based on mutation and natural selection. In fact the fossil record, considered as it is without distorting it as happens with cladistics, shows that the first bird feather in history, that possessed by Archaeopteryx, possessed a marvelous, flawless, asymmetrical and aerodynamic design.

The Irreconcilable Differences Between Birds and Dinosaurs

The entire "birds were dinosaurs" theory, not just Prum and Brush"s version, is invalid. That is because there are "design gaps" between birds and dinosaurs that can never be reconciled by an evolutionary process. Let us briefly set out some of these, which we have previously examined in the paper "The Myth of Bird Evolution."

1) The structure of the bird lung is totally different to that of reptiles and other land vertebrates. Unlike land vertebrates, the air travels in one direction only in the bird lung, allowing the bird to constantly take in oxygen and give off carbon-dioxide. It is impossible for this structure, which is peculiar to birds, to have evolved from the standard land vertebrate lung, because any intermediate structure would not allow the creature to breathe at all. 9

2) The comparisons of bird and reptile embryos carried out by Alan Feduccia and Julie Nowicki in 2002 revealed great differences between the hand structures of both taxa and proved that it was impossible for there to be any evolutionary link between the two. 10

3) The latest comparisons of the skulls of the two classes produced the same result. Andre Elzanowski concluded as a result of a study he carried out in 1999 that there were "no specific avian similarities found in the jaws and palates of dromaeosaurids [a group of theropod dinosaurs.]." 11

4) Teeth are another of the differences between birds and reptiles. We know that some birds which lived in the past had teeth in their beaks. This was suggested as evidence of evolution for a long time, although this is not really the case, since it was gradually realized that bird teeth are a feature peculiar to them. Alan Feduccia writes:

Perhaps the most impressive difference between theropods and birds concerns the structure of teeth and the nature of their implantation. It is astounding that more attention has not been given to the dramatic differences between bird and theropod teeth, especially when one considers that the basis of mammal paleontology involves largely tooth morphology. To be brief, bird teeth (as seen in Archaeopteryx, Hesperornis, Parahesperornis, Ichthyornis, Cathayornis, and all toothed Mesozoic birds) are remarkably similar and are unlike those of theropods... There is essentially no shared, derived relationship of any aspect of tooth morphology between birds and theropods, including tooth form, implantation, or replacement. 12

5) Birds are warm-blooded, and reptiles cold. This means they have completely different metabolisms, and transition between them cannot be explained in terms of chance mutations. (The thesis that dinosaurs were warm-blooded was put forward to overcome this difficulty. Yet there is no evidence in support of it, and a great deal against.13 )

Conclusion

Once again, Scientific American has signed its name to superficial Darwinist propaganda. In 2002, the magazine"s editor, John Rennie, attempted to make a sortie in his article "15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense," although the superficiality and bigotry he displayed made his position untenable. (See Harun Yahya"s "Scientific American"s 15 Errors") The new and assertive article about the origin of birds has once again cast a shadow over Scientific American"s scientific credentials.

The origin of birds is not the kind of simple issue that can be resolved, from the point of view of the theory of evolution, by bringing together two ornithologists with a blind faith in the "birds were dinosaurs" fantasy and an illustrator with considerable talent and even more imagination. Evolutionists with common sense, such as Alan Feduccia, who are aware of this, accept that the subject is shrouded in darkness. We would like to see Scientific American display the same consistency.

In fact, anyone who looks at the origin of birds and all the living things in nature, free from the materialist dogma, will see one clear truth: Living things possess exceedingly complex structures which cannot be accounted for by natural law and chance events. The only explanation for this design is conscious creation.

 

 

(1) Alan Feduccia, "Birds are Dinosaurs: Simple Answer to a Complex Problem", The Auk, October 2002, vol. 119 (4), pp. 1187-1201
(
2) Alan Feduccia, "Birds are Dinosaurs: Simple Answer to a Complex Problem", The Auk, October 2002, vol. 119 (4), pp. 1187-1201.
(
3) Alan Feduccia, "Birds are Dinosaurs: Simple Answer to a Complex Problem", The Auk, October 2002, vol. 119 (4), pp. 1187-1201
(
4) Alan Feduccia, "Birds are Dinosaurs: Simple Answer to a Complex Problem", The Auk, October 2002, vol. 119 (4), pp. 1187-1201
(
5) Alan Feduccia, "Birds are Dinosaurs: Simple Answer to a Complex Problem", The Auk, October 2002, vol. 119 (4), pp. 1187-1201
(
6) Alan Feduccia, "Birds are Dinosaurs: Simple Answer to a Complex Problem", The Auk, October 2002, vol. 119 (4), pp. 1187-1201
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7) http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Hall/2099/DinoKabin.html
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8) A fallacy developed by Trofim Lysenko, who denied the laws of genetics and defended that heredity works according to Lamarck"s theory. It was the official scientific doctrine in Russia during Stalin"s period.
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9) Michael J. Denton, Nature"s Destiny, Free Press, New York, 1998, p. 361.
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10) David Williamson, "Scientist Says Ostrich Study Confirms Bird "Hands" Unlike Those Of Dinosaurs", EurekAlert, 14-Aug-2002, http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-08/uonc-sso081402.php
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11) A Elzanowski 1999. "A comparison of the jaw skeleton in theropods and birds, with a description of the palate in the Oviraptoridae". Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 89:311-323
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12) Alan Feduccia, "Birds are Dinosaurs: Simple Answer to a Complex Problem", The Auk, October 2002, vol. 119 (4), pp. 1187-1201
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13) MORELL, V. "A Cold, Hard Look at Dinosaurs", Discover, 1996, 17(12):98-108.

2003-03-01 00:00:00

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