Dinos of a feather-pt 3

Sorry for the delay in the 3rd installment, but a lot has happened. I messed up my knees and took a week off, and then my daughter visited for several days and then I was just bumming around and did a lot more political stuff on www.larrythecontrarian.wordpress.com. Nevertheless, a lot of the research I had been counting on for the evillutionists point of view seems to have dried up.

They seem to be retreating from their point of view that birds ‘evolved’ from the dinosaurs into two separate camps: 1) that the dinosaurs scales developed into feathers through a 5 stage process over millions of years; or 2) all of the dinosaurs had feathers.

Remember the spitting dinosaur (Dilophosaurus) in Jurassic Park – it blinded Wayne Knight (better known as Newman in the Seinfeld show) as he was trying to escape at night in a 4-wheel drive vehicle.


So maybe that wasn’t leathery skin around its neck but instead a peacock like plume?


The big one Tyrannosaurus Rex; you decide which is more fearsome: the leathery one above or the feathery one below


Ok, so now what do we do to continue to bust this myth?

Because the common belief is that birds evolved from reptiles and the integument of present-day reptiles (and most extinct reptiles including most dinosaurs) is characterized by scales, early hypotheses concerning the evolution of feathers began with the assumption that feathers developed from scales, with scales elongating, then growing fringed edges and, ultimately, producing hooked and grooved barbules (Figure below).


Hypothetical intermediate stage in the evolution of feathers from scales, with ‘cracks’ separating sections of a large scales into smaller, lateral plates, or protobarbs[i].

The problem with that scenario is that scales are basically flat folds of the integument whereas feathers are tubular structures. A pennaceous[ii] feather becomes ‘flat’ only after emerging from a cylindrical sheath (Prum and Brush 2002)[iii]. In addition, the type and distribution of protein (keratin) in feathers and scales differ (Sawyer et al. 2000)[iv]. The only feature shared by feathers and scales is that they both begin development as a morphologically distinct placode – an epidermal thickening above a condensation, or congregation, of dermal cells. Feathers, then, are not derived from scales, but, rather, are evolutionary novelties with numerous unique features, including the feather follicle, tubular feather germ (an elevated area of epidermal cells), and a complex branching structure.


This is a sample of a diagram on feather evolution made for the creation/evolution book he is working on. The “stages” represented here are highly simplified from reality (the “interlocking” and “non-interlocking” barbule stages are basically combined into one, since it’s not really possible to tell them apart in fossils). [v]Five stages in the evolution of feathers, based on an analysis of feather evolution in a 1999 paper by Richard Prum[vi]. Each of these stages in feather evolution has been found on dinosaur fossils except for stage 3, which is known from cretaceous amber.

Stage 1 – Simple fibers: Hollow unbranched fibers, with no barbs or barbules. Found on Sciurumimus albersdoerferi.

Stage 2 – Bundles of fibers: Groups of unbranched fibers, each attaching to a central point. Found on Sinosauropteryx prima.

Stage 3 – Unbranched barbs: Rows of unbranched barbs attached to a central shaft. Found preserved in amber alongside troodontid teeth. (Could it be a dinosaur ate a bird and lost a tooth on rocks in the gizzard?)

Stage 4 – Barbs and barbules: Rows of barbs attached to a central shaft, which branch further into barbules. Found on Protarchaeopteryx robusta.

Stage 5 – Fully-developed flight feathers: Barbs and interlocking barbules; asymmetrical shape. Found on Microraptor gui.

This proposed model for understanding the evolution of feathers is rife with ungrounded assumptions and unsupported conclusions. Archaeopteryx, which is shown as a fully formed bird, has been dated as evolving before many of the dinosaurs with allegedly primitive feathers. Since the Archaeoraptor hoax of 1999, the cloud of ‘faked fossil’ hangs over everything coming out of China . Similarity of design is not an indicator of similar history. We would expect creatures with a similar lifestyle to have been designed by the Creator with similar structures, but that does not mean one of these creatures descended from the other (or was even related to the other). In fact, it’s likely that the similarities are a ‘biotic message‘ from the Creator that points to a single designer rather than many, while the differences thwart evolutionary alternatives. ‘Developmental evolutionary novelty’ is more consistent with created new information. The authors say: ‘Our developmental theory proposes that feathers evolved through a series of transitional stages, each marked by a developmental novelty, a new mechanism of growth.’

However, they also point out that the developmental sequence is precisely controlled by a sequence of expression of two other genes, one which encourages cell proliferation and the other which regulates this proliferation and promotes cell differentiation (i.e. into specialized types). So this is yet another layer of genetic information required to form feathers, and which is lacking in reptiles.

From time to time, evolutionists produce a transitional-series-du-jour. One of the most prominent recent claims is that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs, a supposedly carnivorous group that included T. Rex and Velociraptor. However, even a number of evolutionary paleo-ornithologists (fossil bird experts), such as Alan Feduccia, Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina, have been harshly critical of the dogmatic way in which the theory has been promoted. They partly blame this dogma for the notorious Archaeoraptor hoax of 1999–2000.

Another big problem is the hugely different avian lung design. The alleged first bird Archaeopteryx had the classic avianthrough-flow lungs, while the alleged feathered dino Sinosauropteryx had a clearly reptilian bellows lung. And it was younger than Archaeopteryx, according to the evolutionists’ own dating methods and contrary to evolutionary expectations. As Feduccia likes to quip, “You can’t be older than your grandfather.” While evolutionists claim that a trait might persist in a lineage well after a descendant lineage has evolved, the evidence they are claiming dates the version with a fully-formed avian lung prior to the other. When did the avian lung, then, evolve? And the main point was that evolution was alleged to be supported by the order of fossil succession, but clearly this is not so.

Another skeptic is Dr Alan Feduccia, a world authority on birds at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who criticized the dogma on anatomical grounds: “It’s biophysically impossible to evolve flight from such large bipeds with foreshortened forelimbs and heavy, balancing tails,’ exactly the wrong anatomy for flight.”[vii]

It has long been known that birds have a fixed femur (thigh bone), so they are “knee runners”. Mammals and reptiles—including dinosaurs—have movable femurs that are highly involved in their walking and running. But why do birds have this unusual arrangement?

Quick and Ruben found that this fixed femur and the accompanying muscles and hip bones were essential for the bird to keep its air-sac lung from collapsing inwards when the bird inhales.[viii] Quick said: “This is fundamental to bird physiology. It’s really strange that no one realized this before. The position of the thigh bone and muscles in birds is critical to their lung function, which in turn is what gives them enough lung capacity for flight.” [ix] But since the theropods had moving femurs, they could not have supported the air sacs needed for the avian lung system. According to a report: “‘For one thing, birds are found earlier in the fossil record than the dinosaurs they are supposed to have descended from,’ Ruben said. ‘That’s a pretty serious problem, and there are other inconsistencies with the bird-from-dinosaur theories. ‘But one of the primary reasons many scientists kept pointing to birds as having descended from dinosaurs was similarities in their lungs,’ Ruben said. ‘However, theropod dinosaurs had a moving femur and therefore could not have had a lung that worked like that in birds. Their abdominal air sac, if they had one, would have collapsed. That undercuts a critical piece of supporting evidence for the dinosaur-bird link. Ruben has long been sceptical of the dino-to-bird dogma, even from the 1990s. Yet he notes: “Frankly, there’s a lot of museum politics involved in this, a lot of careers committed to a particular point of view even if new scientific evidence raises questions.” Xviii

But an evolutionary criticism of Feduccia and his supporters applies equally well to Ruben and Quick: “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.”[x]

But goo-to-you evolution in general, not just the dino-to-bird theory, has become a dogma. Most scientists believe in evolution not because of the evidence, but because most scientists believe it. I.e. the oft-touted consensus on evolution was reached by counting heads that themselves came to this consensus by counting heads. And when asked to provide evidence, many cannot make a good case—e.g. Feduccia’s best “proof” of evolution was not in his field of ornithology, but corn turning into corn!

It’s vital to note that only one of the supposed feathers was found on the specimen actually collected by the authors (IVPP V13476). And this ‘feather’ was sufficiently indistinct that the authors could not discern its asymmetry (question mark in Table 1). Furthermore, this fossil that the authors actually collected was so unexciting that it did not even warrant having its photograph displayed for the reader to verify the feather claim. There are 18 illustrations of fossils in this paper, but all are of the purchased fossils. All the illustrated feathers (16 photos) are on the bought fossils, but especially IVPP V13352 (see Table 1). We have to rely solely on the authors’ claim that the fossil they collected had a feather on it and that it was clearly part of the Microraptor gui fossil.

…We observed that there are some pieces of blocks mistakenly glued to the specimens; …

So they admit that there were some dubious aspects to these specimens!

…however, we excluded all the dubious parts from the study (Fig. 1b). We carefully examined the specimens under the microscope and with high-resolution X-ray computerized tomography (CT) to test the authenticity of one of the studied specimens [ref.] (IVPP V13352) …

But this involves X-rays, so can test only for the authenticity of the bones, not the feathers.

…and can guarantee the accuracy of the information that we provide in this study.

Wow, that guarantee should reassure us all, despite the history of frauds from that region, and the fact that China has had major industries of faking ‘ancient’ artefacts for many years, e.g. ‘Ming’ vases, etc.!

Once more, a theory about the origin of bird flight is in the news. The latest theory is that a bird’s flight apparatus first evolved to aid traction as their ancestors ran up slopes. Dr Kenneth P. Dial of the Flight Laboratory, University of Montana, Missoula, published his paper in Science.[xi] Dial observed the behaviour of chukar partridge chicks as they ran, and worked out why they flapped their wings. He found that the birds employed ‘wing-assisted incline running’ (WAIR).

Here, the flapping did not lift the birds, but rather, the opposite—they pressed them into the ground for better traction, working like spoilers on race cars. Dial performed experiments on a number of chicks. He trimmed the flight feathers (remiges) to various lengths, and made them run up slopes of different slopes and textures.

He found that even hatchlings can get up inclines of up to 45°, without flapping. But if they flapped, they could scale greater slopes: hatchlings could climb a 50° incline, four-day old chicks could climb a 60-degree slope, 20-day-old chicks could climb a 95° almost vertical surface, and adults can run up a 105° overhang.

Dial also compared birds at the same day of development, seven days after hatching, but with different lengths of flight feather removed. The hatchlings with remiges removed could not scale an incline above 60°, even on a surface covered in sandpaper to aid traction. Those withhalf-trimmed remiges could climb greater slopes, but still 10° to 20° below that of the control birds with full remiges.

All three groups were tested on smooth surfaces. None could climb slopes greater than 50°, because of slippage, and the presence or absence of remiges made no difference. This is consistent with traction being an important factor.

For more rigorous demonstration of the forces involved, Dial also used two accelerometers to measure the acceleration in the forward and vertical directions. He found that during a large part of the flapping cycle, the bird was forced against the surface regardless of its angle, which would increase traction.

So far, this is careful scientific work, testing a hypothesis and ruling out alternatives, and it provides new insight into running chicks. But that’s where the science ends. When this is applied to evolution, speculation takes over, and leads to conclusions that are not warranted by the evidence.

Once again, for these people, the presumptuous question is not of ‘DID dinosaurs evolve into birds?’, but ‘HOW did this “proven” transition occur?’ We have already noted major problems with this, and Dr Dial’s experimental findings cannot overcome these in the least. For example, two huge problems are the different development of digits in the embryo and the major differences in the lung structure.

Here, Dial uses undoubted birds to postulate a theory about their origin. It makes sense that birds, which already have the musculature and great control over flying wings, should also have programmed instincts to use them to aid traction. But it makes no sense that natural selection for traction should lead to flight. Rather, on the face of it, traction would require the opposite force to lift, so the selective direction would be away from flight. So Dial proposes that somehow the motions that lead to traction must be redirected to produce the movement required for flight[xii].

However, if running up slopes were a major selective factor, then one would expect increased musculature in the hindquarters to drive the legs. Then greater slopes could be scaled simply by momentum. Also, the extra weight of the muscles would increase traction automatically. These effects are probably the main reason the older birds are better slope climbers. However, increasing the weight on the hindquarters of a dinosaur is precisely the wrong way to turn it into a bird. In fact, the heaviness of dinosaur hindquarters is a major argument, even by evolutionists, against the theropod ancestry of birds.[xiii]

In nature we see the same basic elements as we see in Information Theory. There is hardware in the flesh-and-blood bodies of animals, and in the leaves and branches of trees. Software is the information which arranges the basic building blocks of life that form a living creature.

This is where the information problem for biological evolution comes in. Certain structures, we are asked to believe, ‘evolved’ into other structures. For example, scales allegedly evolved into feathers, gills into lungs, fins into legs, and so on. So let’s look at scales and feathers (any two structures could be substituted). There are three elements here:

  1. The information built into the genetic code for scales.
  2. The information built into the genetic code for feathers.
  3. The information which processes genetic information through reproduction, growth and repair.

Here is the problem: The information in 1 and 2 is different. The information in 1 is not a subset of 2, or vice versa—1 and 2 are different. However, the information in 3, the processing, does not include the information required to make the transformation from 1 to 2. Process 3 is a proven, faithful reproducer of the data from 1 or the data from 2.

In the computer industry we know all about random mutations, except we call them ‘bugs’, because they are never good. A good software program has checks and balances built into the program to trap the ‘bugs.’ If, for the sake of argument, we let these corruptions happen, a programmed computer order for ‘Mickey Mouse watches’ may become something like ‘Mjckfz Movsl W’tdx!‘. However, the order would never become something like ‘cordless electric drills’. The programs will never change the data. Computers can automatically generate data, but only meaningless garbage. Meaningful information comes only by addition of information from an intelligent source.

In the same way, the genetic program in living things does not change the genetic data. Experience has taught us that it is very faithful to reproduce the original pattern exactly. Random mutations only confuse and corrupt the genetic data. They never create new forms. The information for feathers and scales is different, just as Mickey Mouse watches and cordless electric drills are different. Mickey Mouse watches haven’t evolved into ‘higher’ forms.

Natural selection also does not change the genetic data. It merely causes different emphases, or rearrangements, of the same data. I have already completed a series on Information and DNA coding and it can be found at: http://intelligentdesign.blog.com/2013/04/28/natural-vs-materialistic-information/

search for “Information ” Due to some new and exciting discoveries in mtRNA (mitochondrial RNA) some fascinating changes in the existing theories put forth by both evolutional and Biblical biologists will be part of a forthcoming article. I’ll admit that the Biblical biologists are having some difficulty explaining a portion of the information, but not as much trouble as the evolutionary biologists are.

A great resource discussing the mention of dinosaurs and dragons through both Biblical history and mythology can be found here and is worth the read:




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