Refuting the dinosaur-to-bird myth
Bird Evolution, Chapter 4 of the book titled
Refuting Evolution by
Jonathan D. Sarfati, Ph.D, F.M.

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The problem with the hypothesis that birds evolved from dinosaurs is so pervasive that we asked permission of Answers in Genesis, and the publisher, Master Books, Inc., to publish an entire chapter from this book on our web site to refute it. This chapter contains the most up-to-date arguments against this hypothesis. Please take the time to read it in its entirety. Better yet, purchase a copy of the book and see all the additional compelling evidence it provides against evolution. We are profoundly grateful to Answers in Genesis and Master Books, Inc., for allowing us to publish this on our web site.

See also these links:
Smithsonian Institution refutes the dino-to-bird hypothesis   Archaeoraptor: Phony 'feathered' fossil
Yet another new 'feathered' dinosaur?   Dino-Bird Evolution falls flat
Did dinosaurs evolve into birds?   Feathered dinosaurs found in China
Kentucky Fried Dinosaur  

CHAPTER 4

BIRD EVOLUTION?

Birds are animals with unique features like feathers and special lungs, and most are well designed for flight. Evolutionists believe they evolved from reptiles, maybe even a type of dinosaur. Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science even presents an alleged dinosaur-bird intermediate as evidence for evolution. This intermediate and other arguments for bird evolution we critically examined in this chapter. This chapter also provides detailed information on some of the unique features of birds.

ARCHAEOPTERYX

Teaching about Evolution has several imaginary "dialogues" between teachers. In one of them (p.8), there is the following exchange:

Karen: A student in one of my classes at the university told me that there are big gaps in the fossil record. Do you know anything about that?
Doug: Well, there's Archaeopteryx. It's a fossil that has feathers like a bird but the skeleton of a small dinosaur. It's one of those missing links that’s not missing any more.

0n the same page, there is a picture of a fossil of Archaeopteryx, stating:

A bird that lived 150 million years ago and had many reptilian characteristics, was discovered in 1861 and helped support the hypothesis of evolution proposed by Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species, two years earlier.

However, Alan Feduccia, a world authority on birds at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an evolutionist himself, disagrees with assertions like those of "Doug:"

Paleontologists have tried to turn Archaeopteryx into an earth-bound, feathered dinosaur. But it's not. It is a bird, a perching bird. And no amount of "paleobabble" is going to change that. (1)

A legitimate artist's reconstruction
of Archaeopteryx, consistent with its
known bird features (2).

Archaeopteryx had fully formed flying feathers (including asymmetric vanes and ventral, reinforcing furrows as in modern flying birds), the classical elliptical wings of modem woodland birds, and a large wishbone for attachment of muscles responsible for the downstroke of the wings.(3) Its brain was essentially that of a flying bird, with a large cerebellum and visual cortex. The fact that it had teeth is irrelevant to its alleged transitional status - a number of extinct birds had teeth, while many reptiles do not. Furthermore, like other birds, both its maxilla (upper jaw) and mandible (lower jaw) moved. In most vertebrates, including reptiles, only the mandible moves.(4)

FEATHERED DINOSAURS?

In the last few years, the media have run headlines about alleged "feathered dinosaurs" proving that dinosaurs evolved into birds. These alleged ancestors are types of theropods, the group of carnivorous dinosaurs that includes Tyrannosaurus rex.

We should remember that the media often sensationalize "proofs" of evolution, but the later disproofs, even by other evolutionists, hardly rate a mention. For example, in 1996 there were headlines like "Feathered Fossil proves Some Dinosaurs Evolved into Birds."'(5) This was about a fossil called Sinosauropteryx prima. (6) Creationist publications advised readers to be skeptical and keep an open mind. (7) They were vindicated when four leading paleontologists, including Yale University’s John Ostrom, later found that the "feathers" were just a parallel array of fibers, (8) probably collagen.

Another famous alleged dino-bird link was Mononykus. claimed to be a "flightless bird." (9) The cover of Time magazine even illustrated it with feathers, although not the slightest trace of feathers had been found. (10) Later evidence indicated that "Mononykus was clearly not a bird ... it clearly was a fleet-footed fossorial [digging] theropod." (11)

Many news agencies have reported (June 1998) on two fossils found in Northern China that are claimed to be feathered theropods (meat-eating dinosaurs). The fossils, Protarchaeopteryx robusta and Caudipteryxzoui, are claimed to be "the immediate ancestors of the first birds." (12)

The two latest discoveries are "dated" at 120 to 136 million years while Archaeopteryx, a true bird, is "dated" at 140 to 150 million years, making these "bird ancestors" far younger than their descendants!

Feduccia is not convinced, and neither is his colleague, University of Kansas paleontologist Larry Martin. Martin says: "You have to put this into perspective. To the People who wrote the paper, the chicken world be a fathered dinosaur." (13) Feduccia and Martin believe that Protarchaeopteryx and Caudipteryx are more likely to be flightless birds similar to ostriches. They have, birdlike teeth and lack the long tail seen in theropods. Caudipteryx even used gizzard stones like modern plant-eating birds, but unlike theropods. (14)

There are many problems with the dinosaur-to-bird dogma. Feduccia points out:

"It's biophysically impossible to evolve flight from such large bipeds with foreshortened forelimbs and heavy, balancing tails," exactly the wrong anatomy for flight. (15)

There is also very strong evidence from the forelimb structures that dinosaurs could not have been the ancestors of birds. A team led by Feduccia studied bird embryos under a microscope, and published their study in the journal Science." (16) Their findings were reported as follows:

New research shows that birds lack the embryonic thumb that dinosaurs had, suggesting that it is "almost impossible" for the species to be closely related." (17)

 

DID GLIDERS TURN INTO FLIERS?

Feduccia and Martin reject the idea that birds evolved from dinosaurs, with good reason. But they are unwilling to abandon evolution, so instead they believe that birds evolved from reptiles called crocodilomorphs. They propose these small, crocodile-like reptiles lived in trees, and "initially leapt, then glided from perch to perch." (18)

But a gliding stage is not intermediate between a land animal and a flier. Gliders either have even longer wings than fliers (compare a glider's wingspan with an airplane's, or the wingspan of birds like the albatross which spend much time gliding), or have a wide membrane which is quite different from a wing (note the shape of a hang-glider or a flying squirrel). Flapping flight also requires highly controlled muscle movements to achieve flight, which in turn requires that the brain has the program for these movements. Ultimately, this requires new, generic information that a non-flying creature lacks. Another problem is:

Neither their hypothetical ancestor nor transitional forms linking it to known fossil birds have been found. And although they rightly argue that cladistic analyses [comparisons of shared characteristics] are only as good as the data upon which they are based, no cladistic study has yet suggested a non-theropod ancestor. (19)

In short, Feduccia and Martin provide devastating criticism against the idea that birds evolved "ground up" from running dinosaurs (the cursorial theory). But the dino-to-bird advocates counter with equally powerful arguments against Feduccia and Martin's "trees-down" (arboreal) theory. The evidence indicates that the critics are both right - birds did not evolve either from running dinos or from tree-living mini-crocodiles. In fact, birds did not evolve from non-birds at all! This is consistent with the biblical account that distinct kinds of birds were created on Day 5 (Gen. 1:20-23).

 

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN REPTILES AND BIRDS

All evolutionists believe that birds evolved from some sort of reptile, even if they can't agree on the kind. However, reptiles and birds are very different in many ways. Flying birds have streamlined bodies, with the weight centralized for balance in flight; hollow bones for lightness which are also part of their breathing system; powerful muscles for flight, with specially designed long tendons that run over pulley-like openings in the shoulder bones; and very sharp vision. And birds have two of the most brilliantly designed structures in ,nature - their feathers and special lungs.

 

FEATHERS

 

Feduccia says "Feathers are a near-prefect
adaptation for flight" because they are
lightweight, strong, aerodynamically shaped,
and have an in intricate structure of barbs and
hooks. This structure makes them waterproof.
and a quick preen with the bill will cause
flattened feather to snap into fully aerodynamic
shape again.
(20)

Examine the amazing close-up (left) of the
barbules of a feather showing the tiny booklets
and grooves (magnified 20,000 times).
(21)

The atheistic evolutionist Richard Dawkins, in book highly recommended by Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science, glibly states: "Feathers are modified reptilian scales,"' (22) a widely held view among evolutionists. But scales are folds in skin; feathers are complex structures with barb, barbules, and hooks. They also originate in a totally different way, from follicles inside the skin in a manner akin to hair.

In chapter 2 we showed that every structure or organ must be represented by information at the genetic level, written in a chemical alphabet on the long molecule DNA. Clearly, the information required to code for the construction of a feather is of a substantially different order from that required for a scale. For scales to have evolved into feathers means that a significant amount of genetic information had to arise in the bird's DNA which was not present in that of its alleged reptile ancestor.

As usual, natural selection would not favor the hypothetical intermediate forms. Many evolutionists claim that dinosaurs developed feathers for insulation and later evolved and refiner them for flight purposes. But like all such "just-so" stories this fails to explain how the new generic information arose so it cold be selected for.

Anther problem is that selection for heat insulation is quite different from selection for flight. On birds that have lost the ability to fly, the feathers have also lost much of their structure and become hair-like. On flightless birds, mutations degenerating the aerodynamic feather structure would not be as much a handicap as they would be on a flying bird. Therefore, natural selection would not eliminate them, and might even select for such degeneration. As usual, loss of flight and feather structure are losses of information, so are irrelevant to evolution, which requires an increase of information. All that matters it that the feathers provide insulation, and hair-like structures are fine - they work for mammals. (23) That is, natural selection would work against the development of a flight feather if the feathers were needed for insulation. And hairy feathers are adequate.

Downy feathers are also good insulators and are common on flightless birds. Their fluffiness is because they lack the hooks of flight feathers. Again, natural selection would work to prevent evolution of aerodynamic feathers from heat insulators.

Finally, feather proteins (F-keratins) are biochemically different from skin and scale proteins (a-keratins), as well. One researcher concluded:

At the morphological level feathers are traditionally considered homologous with reptilian scales. However, in development, morphogenesis [shape/form generation], gene structure, protein shape and sequence, and filament formation and structure, feathers are different. (24)

 

THE AVIAN LUNG

Drastic changes are needed to turn a reptile lung into a bird lung. In reptile lungs, the air is drawn into tiny sacs (alveoli, singular alveolus) where blood extracts the oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. the stale air is then breathed out the same way it came in. But birds have a complicated system of air sacs, even involving the hollow bones. this system keeps air flowing in one direction through special tubes (parabronchi, singular parabronchus) in the lung, and blood moves through the lung's blood vessels in the opposite direction for efficient oxygen uptake, (25) an excellent engineering design. (26)

How would the "bellows"-style lungs of reptiles evolve gradually into avian lungs? The hypothetical intermediate stages could not conceivably function properly, meaning the poor animal would be unable to breathe. So natural selection would work to preserve the existing arrangement, by eliminating any misfit intermediates.

Also, even assuming that we could construct a theoretical series of functional intermediate stages, would natural selection "drive" the changes? Probably not - bats manage perfectly well, with bellows-style lungs - some cm even hunt at an altitude of over two miles (three km). The avian lung, with its super-efficiency, becomes especially advantageous only at very high altitudes with low oxygen levels. There would thus have been no selective advantage in replacing the reptilian lung. (27)

We should probably not be surprised that Alan Feduccia's major work on bird evolution doesn't even touch this problem. (28)

Some recent researchers of Sinosauropteryx's lung structure showed that "its bellows-like lungs could not have evolved into high performance lungs of modern birds." (29)

Interestingly, some defenders of dinosaur-to-bird evolution discount this evidence against their theory by saying, "The proponents of this argument offer no animal whose lungs could have given rise to those in birds, which are extremely complex and are unlike the lungs of any living animal. (30) Of course, only evolutionary faith requires that bird lungs arose form lungs of another animal.

Footnotes:

1. Cited in V. Morell, "Archaeopteryx: Early Bird Catches a Can of Worms,"
Science, 259(5096):764-65, February 5, 1993
2. Courtesy of Steve Cardno, 1994.
3. A. Feduccia, "Evidence from Claw Geometry Indicating Arboreal Habits of Archaeopteryx, "Science, 259(5096):790-793, February 5, 1993.
4. D. Mentonand C. Wieland, "Bird Evolution Flies out the window,"
Creation ex nihilo, 16(4):16-19, September-November 1994.
5. The Examiner, Launceston, Tasmania, October 19, 1996
6. Ann Gibbons, "New Feathered Fossil Brings Dinosaurs and Birds Closer,"
Science, 274:720-721, 1996
7. J.D. Sarfati, "Kentucky Fried Dinosaur" Creation ex nihilo, 19(2):6,
March-May 1997
8. New Scientist, 154(2077):13, April12, 1997; "No dino feathers after all"
Creation ex nihilo, 19(3):6, June-August 1997
9. A. Perle et al., "Flightless Bird from the Cretaceous of Mongolia," Nature,
362:623-626, 1993; note correction of the name to Mononykus, as
Perle et al.'s choice, Mononychus, was already taken, Nature, 363:188, 1993.
10. Time (Australia), April 26, 1993
11. D.P. Prothero and R.M. Schoch, editors, Major Features of Vertebrate
Evolution
, "on the Origin of Birds and of Avian Flight," by J.H. Ostrom
(Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1994), p. 160-177
12. Ji Qiang, P.J. Currie, M.A. Norell, and Ji Shu-An, "Two Feathered Dinosaurs
from Northeastern China," Nature, 393(6687):753-761, June 25, 1998.
Perspective by K. Padian, same issue, p. 729-730
13. Cited June 24, 1998, CNN website www.cnn.com
14. Washington Post, June 25, 1998
15. A. Gibbons, "New Feathered Fossil Brings Dinosaurs and Birds Closer,",
Science, 274:720-721, 1996
16. A.C. Burke and A. Feduccia, "Developmental Patters and the Identification
of Homologies in the Avian Hand, "Science, 278(5338):666-8, October 24,
1997, with a perspective by R. Hinchliffe, "The Forward March of the
Bird-Dinosaurs Halted?" p. 596-597; J.D. Sarfati, "Dino-Bird Evolution falls flat,"
Creation ex nihilo, 20(2):41, March 1998.
17. The Cincinnati Enquirer, October 25, 1997
18. P. Shipman, "Birds Do It...Did Dinosaurs?" New Scientist, 153(2067):26-31,
February 1, 1997, p. 28
19. Ibid.
20. A. Feduccia, The Origin and Evolution of Birds (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 1996), p. 130
21. Photo courtesy of Dr. David Menton
22. R. Dawkins, Climbing Mount Improbable (Harmondsworth, Middlesex,
England: Penguin Books, 1996), p.113
23. A. Feduccia, The Origin and Evolution of Birds (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 1996), p. 130.
24. A. H. Brush, "On the Origin of Feathers," Journal of Evolutionary Biology,
9:131-142, 1996
25. M. Denton, Evolution, a Theory in Crisis (Bethesda, MD: Adler & Adler, 1985),
p. 199-213; K. Schmidt-Nielsen, "How Birds Breath," Scientific American,
December 1971, p. 72-79.
26. Engineers make much use of this principle of counter-current exchange which is
common in living organisms as well - see P.F. Scholander, "The Wonderful Net,"
Scientific American, April 1957, p. 96-107
27. Michael Denton, "Blown Away By Design," Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal,
21(4):14-15
28. A. Feduccia, The Origin and Evolution of Birds (New Haven, CT: Yale University
Press, 1996). However, this book shows that the unusual dinosaur-to-bird dogma
has many holes.
29. Ann Gibbons, 'New Feathered Fossil Brings Dinosaurs and Birds Closer," Science,
274:720-721, 1996
30. K. Padian and L.M. Chiappe, "The Origin of Birds and Their Flight,"
Scientific American
, 278(2), 38-47, February 1998, p. 43