The Self-Refuting Dino to Bird Theory

Sinosauropteryx fossil

Sinosauropteryx fossil Note dark region on along the back – claimed by evolutionists to be feathers.

Don’t laugh, but dyed-in-the-wool evolutionists believe that therapod dinosaurs like T-Rex evolved into birds. In fact they don’t stop there. They also believe that dinosaurs didn’t really go extinct. They’ll tell you when you’re looking at birds, you’re looking at dinosaurs. “We don’t have to talk about how dinosaurs went extinct anymore because they’re all around us. Once you realize that, you can never look at a bird the same way again”[1] says ornithologist and evolutionary biologist  Rick Prum. A recent article on the topic of dino to bird evolution states in the subtitle “Birds aren’t descended from dinosaurs, They are dinosaurs.”[2] So yes, they really believe dinosaurs evolved into birds.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. Evolutionists believe strange things. They also believe that whales evolved from land dwelling, hoofed mammals who for some reason decided to start living in the oceans. The interesting thing, however, is how adamant they are on the point. They really want people to believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Some are so desperate for you to believe it that, like the Piltdown man hoax, they likewise made a dino-bird composite (and thus hoax) called archaeoraptor.

Feathers on Dinosaurs?

One of the reasons they believe such foolishness (aside from a denial of God which compels it) is because they’ve found fossils which some evolutionists claim are of therapod dinosaurs with feathers. Some with a (claimed) covering of soft downy-like feathers, others allegedly with more developed feathers. Creationists question if that’s what they’re really seeing – if it’s both therapods and feathers. In some cases, creationists claim the creature is not a dinosaur at all but a flightless bird. Such is the case with the fossils evidence of caudipteryx. In other cases, like sinosauropteryx (above), a therapod dinosaur, with regard to what is claimed to be feathers,  a well regarded evolutionary ornithologist states, “There is good reason to believe that the feathers were just frayed structural collagen fibres.”[3] So in short, the evidence for feathers on dinosaurs is still highly questioned by both creationists and knowledgeable (evolution believing) paleo-ornithologists alike.

But even if there were indisputable evidence of feathers on dinosaurs, that is not a problem for a Biblical worldview as held by creationists. There is nothing in the creation account that says that God didn’t make dinosaurs with feathers. It seems unlikely, but if it turns out that he did, that would not contradict either the Bible or a creationist worldview.

Desperation in the Evolutionary Ranks

Evolutionists on the other hand are desperate for people to believe that birds evolved from therapod dinosaurs. Why? Likely because they need the evidence to prop up the increasingly obvious failures of Darwinian evolution. It appears they think that with the dino-to-bird theory they can finally get a win. Unfortunately for them, once again they’re wrong. The easiest way to prove them wrong is to demonstrate that bird features are intelligently designed. Darwinian evolution does not allow design, so if anything is designed, it cannot have evolved. Ironically enough we can use the evolutionists’ own theories and rhetoric to prove key avian features are designed. This is the self-refuting aspect of the argument.

The whole point of Darwinian (and Neo-Darwinian) evolution is to remove the need for a designer and thus for a creator. But if it is clear that elements are designed, it is also clear there is a creator. Demonstrating design in birds can be easily done. Particularly since evolutionists have a habit of acknowledging design when they see it. They want you to assume such design came about magically by some unknown process, but we will make no such assumption because we know better: Items that are clearly designed require a designer. With regards to birds we’ll examine two things that are clearly designed: feathers and the avian respiratory system. And we’ll take a quick look at the avian wing. The final item we’ll examine is the evolutionists own timeline – another fatality for their theory since what they acknowledge as the first full-fledged, oldest bird is older than the supposed transitionary forms that supposedly created it. And as the respected evolutionist who questions the feathers on sinosauropteryx put it, “you can’t be older than your grandfather.”

Intelligent Design in Birds

Feathers are a wonder of design that even evolutionists acknowledge. They feature a hook and latch type system using barbs, barbules and and barbicels or hooks which function similar to velcro that allows the feather vane to be “zipped” back together if a portion becomes separated. The following comments were made by evolution-promoting works: “The Dinosaur Feather Mystery”[4] (documentary, hereafter “Feather Mystery”) and the book “Bird Flight.”[5]

Design Apparent in Feathers

 Evolutionists have called feathers:

“a marvel of microscopic engineering”
(Feather Mystery)

“a marvel of construction”
(Bird Flight, p.30)

Evolutionists acknowledge the complexity of the ability for the feather to be repaired simply by preening that effectively just zips the feather back together, and in fact admit the design is so complex they can’t figure out how it could have evolved:

“This hidden complexity makes it hard to explain how feathers evolved.”
(Feather Mystery)

Irreducible Complexity in Feathers

Irreducible complexity is the concept that some systems are composed of components that are themselves complex. But more importantly, the entire system cannot and will not work until all these complex components exist together at the same time and are assembled in the correct order and structural place before the system will operate properly. The commonly given example is that of a mousetrap. I’ve also used the example of a suspension bridge. Irreducibly complex systems cannot be created by any type of evolutionary processes.

Evolutionists have tried to figure out how feathers could have evolved. In much that same way that Ernst Haeckel promoted the idea of embryonic recapitulation – the idea that embryos repeat the same supposed evolutionary stages they went through as they develop (and created fake diagrams to support his idea), Rick Prum (who sees dinosaurs when looking at birds) proposed that feathers develop from simple to complex by following the same evolutionary path they supposedly took when developing from simple shafts to complex feathers with vanes, barbs, barbules and hooks.

Teaming up with researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology they researched the development of feathers. They determined that modern feathers start as buds and develop through to tubes, then tubes with barbs on through until the vane is developed and there’s a fully formed feather. This complex growth and development is controlled by two genes named Sonichedgehog and BMP2. During the research they tracked how the two genes worked together to  control the growth of the feather.

Interestingly enough, they attribute this whole process to a mindless, purposeless chance process. You’re not supposed to realize that genes are sequences of DNA, and DNA sequences are essentially coded information. Information always comes from an intelligent mind. So what they’re watching in the development of feathers is the execution of a well designed, planned program, coded in the DNA of two separate genes. Of course no mention is given to where the information in the DNA came from, or how two separate genes, without design or purpose, could work together to form a single unified, purposeful object. As is typical with evolutionary storytelling, things just magically happen.

For those who care to look critically, clearly what is happening is not a random evolutionary sequence of steps, but rather the execution of an irreducibly complex program, pre-coded in the genes that creates what evolutionists have already admitted is a  magnificently complex object – a feather.

Wing Design

Before leaving the topic of intelligent design in birds, let me mention one more item, though doubtless there are dozens more. Speaking about a bird’s wing design, the evolutionist author of Bird Flight also acknowledged:

“Compared with the simple aerofoil of an aeroplane, the wing of a bird is a complicated piece of design. The essential difference is that it functions both as a lifting surface and a propeller so it must be rigid enough to withstand considerable forces of lift and drag, yet remain flexible enough for the complexities of flapping flight. And when not in use, it folds out of the way.
(Bird Flight, p. 28)

“Complicated piece of design” are the words he chose to describe the avian wing. Even though they refuse to acknowledge the designer and Creator, even evolutionists refuse to be so foolish as to state that clearly apparent design, as what is evident in a bird’s wing, are the results of millions of years of evolutionary accidents. They typically call it designed (as in this case), or engineered or a similar word. As well they should – since clearly they are.

Design Apparent in Avian Respiration

Birds have a very efficient system for breathing. Unlike the bellows type system in mammals where the lungs expand and contract, birds have a system that in addition to stationary lungs include air sacs. These air sacs collect air, and allow the lungs, though stationary, to be constantly filled with air. The system utilizes a one way flow for the movement of air through the system – unlike the back and forth movement of air through bellows-type lung systems.

Leon Claessens, professor of vertebrate paleontology and evolution, admits bird air-sacs are designed in the following clip from Evolve – Flight

“You see right here with anatomy in action in a living animal one of the most elegant and efficient designs that is present in any living vertebrate and any back-boned air-breathing animal.”[6]

This expert wholeheartedly supports evolution, but as a serious researcher, can’t help but marvel at the clear design apparent in the avian respiration system. Once again, since this system is clearly designed, it cannot have evolved. So statements about therapods evolving into birds are misguided and useless.

Further, evolutionists have yet to explain how reptiles could have evolved an avian air sac system from a bellows lung type system and survive. How does the creature survive once the lungs stop moving (as in the bird system) but before the necessary air sacs have evolved and are sufficiently moving air? The avian respiration system is clearly an irreducibly complex system. How are the needed changes (skeletal, physiological) made to allow a different flow of air through the system without (again) killing the creature before the whole system is in place and operational?

The Self-Refuting Evolutionary Sequence Error
You can’t be older than your grand father

Supposed dinosaur to bird species sequence

Supposed therapod to bird transitional forms – from The Dinosaur Feather Mystery

Finally, let’s look at the sequence errors in the evolutionary scheme to go from simple feathers in a creature to complex modern feathers, such as what you’d find in archaeopteryx – an acknowledged bird. Evolutionists claim support from the fossil record, but the fossil record, as interpreted by evolutionists, does not fit the story they’re trying to tell.

In passing, remember that for evolutionists the fossil record is a record of evolution over millions of years. For creationists, the fossil record is a record of creatures buried as they were overcome by the global flood of Noah’s day. The creation account denies the evolutionary storytelling on a number of levels. First, because God created kinds (Gen 1.21, 25) which reproduce after their own kind. Kinds do not evolve into other kinds, like from dinosaurs to birds. Second, the flood of Noah’s day was recent, only about 4,500 years ago, so the creation record denies evolutionists the millions of years they need for evolution to supposedly work. Third, the creation account records that birds were created on day five, land animals on day six. So birds actually existed before dinosaurs. Thus birds are, and always have been, clearly distinct creatures from dinosaurs that reproduce after their kind. They did not and cannot evolve from dinosaurs.

Returning to the above chart (from Feather Mystery)[7], it  shows a supposed progression of therapod dinosaurs from non-flying, regular ground-dwelling creatures, to today’s modern birds, masters of the air. In between are the supposed evolutionary steps that got them there.

For the development of feathers, they suppose it started with simple tubular feathers in Sinosauropteryx, which magically developed into complex feathers with a central shaft and interlocking barbules for Sinornithosaurus By the time you reach Archaeopteryx, you have a fully modern feather.

This looks great on a chart, right? Sure – as long as you don’t put in dates, or concern yourself with the mechanism of change.  But let’s add some key dates when these creatures lived according to evolutionist reckoning. (mya = million years ago).

Sinosauropteryx: 124.6–122 mya
Sinornithosaurus: 124.5 mya
Archaeopteryx: 150 mya

See the problem? Sinornithosaurus is supposed to be a descendant of  Sinosauropteryx, but they’re contemporaries – they lived in the same time period according to evolutionist’s own reckoning. How can one be the descendant of a contemporary creature? And worse, archaeopteryx, which is supposed to be their distant descendant, and a transition from reptiles to birds is older than both of them! As noted above, you can’t be older than your grandparents. Clearly this entire scheme is wrong, as is the idea that  feathers, avian respiration, or the ability to fly could evolve through undirected mutation and natural selection.

Conclusion

All these avian systems–feathers, wings, respiration and the ability to fly–are clearly designed. So evolutionists can make all the theories and suppositions they want about dinosaur evolution. We know it’s all hogwash, particularly when it comes to any supposed dinosaur to bird evolution, it is clearly and easily shown that birds are designed, not evolved, so the whole theory falls apart.

With regard to feathered dinosaurs: feathers on dinosaurs are irrelevant to either Biblical creation, or the fact that birds are clearly intelligently designed with a number of irreducibly complex systems. God may have chosen to create feathered dinosaurs, but that would not change the fact that they’re created.  But as it stands now, all the examples of supposed feathered dinosaurs are dubious: they’re either outright frauds, flightless birds, real flying birds (like archaeopteryx) , or a therapod dinosaur with a questionable substance (decaying cartilage?) around them. The evidence for a real feathered dinosaur remains to be seen. And the more they prove that avian features are built under the guidance of multiple particular genes which direct the development, the more they’re proving such systems are irreducibly complex and thus designed by God, not evolved. If God ever opens the mouth of birds to speak, I’m sure they will proclaim along with humans:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Psalm 139.14

 


Duane Caldwell | July 19, 2021


Notes

1. Richard Prum, ref from “The Dinosaur Feather Mystery“, Science Channel documentary, 2004
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2.George Dvorsky, “How Do We Know Birds Are Dinosaurs”, Gizmodo, 7/20/2021, https://gizmodo.com/how-do-we-know-birds-are-dinosaurs-1847254312
See also article: “How Dinosaurs Shrank and Became Birds”, Scientific American, 6/12/2015, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-dinosaurs-shrank-and-became-birds/
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3.  Feduccia, A., Lingham-Soliar, T., and Hinchliffe, J.R., Do Feathered Dinosaurs Exist?: Testing the Hypothesis on Neontological and Paleontological Evidence, J. Morphology 266:125–166, 2005 | DOI: 10.1002/jmor.10382; Published Online: 10 October 2005
ref from Jonathan Sarfati, “‘Feathered’ dinos: no feathers after all!”, creation.com 24 July 2012, https://creation.com/feathered-dinosaurs-not-feathers
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4. The Dinosaur Feather Mystery“, Science Channel documentary, 2004
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5. Robert Burton, Bird Flight, An Illustrated Study of Birds’ Aerial Mastery,  New York: Facts on File, 1990
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6.Leon Claessen, ref. from Evolve Flight, History Documentary 2008
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7. The Dinosaur Feather Mystery“, Science Channel documentary, 2004
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Image:
Sam / Olai Ose / Skjaervoy from Zhangjiagang, China, CC BY-SA 2.0

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