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Only a bird

Another feathered dinosaur has been found in China, prompting Ken Ham to dig in his heels and issue denials.

Yet another supposed “feathered dinosaur” fossil has come to light, again in China. (Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell, AiG–U.S., reported on another Chinese fossil of a supposed feathered dinosaur in April 2012) Now, one headline described the fossil as “almost birdlike,” and the authors of the report in Nature Communications note many features the fossil shares with living birds, particularly those that live on the ground. In fact, Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell and Dr. David Menton (AiG–U.S.) both examined the photos of the fossil and the criteria the authors used in classifying the fossil as a dinosaur. They agreed that it is a bird, not a feathered dinosaur.

Oh, really? It’s just a bird? Take a look at this image of Eosinopteryx, and you tell me.

eosinopteryx2

Notice a few things about this animal: it’s got teeth. The forelimbs have clawed digits. It has a long bony tail. It lacks the bony keel that anchors breast muscles in modern birds.

The only thing that might cause you to question its dinosaur nature (and it’s a criterion that’s proving more and more inappropriate) is that lovely gray fringe of feather impressions that surround the whole fossil. And look at those forelimbs! It looks like it has stubby wings. It does not, however, have the skeletal and muscular structure to allow for extended flapping flight, and the wings are way too short for it to have been an adequate flyer.

But Mitchell and Menton and Ham looked at that and said ‘ALL BIRD’. They’re idiots.

Ham goes on: there are no transitional forms, he squeaks, there can be no transitional forms, transitional forms don’t exist…all while looking at a winged, feathered reptile with teeth and claws and a bony tail.

The fossil record doesn’t reveal any kind of dinosaur-to-bird evolution—and it certainly does not show a molecules-to-man evolution. We have no proof of transitional forms, and we won’t. God’s Word says clearly that He created animals and plants according to their kinds (Genesis 1). Through genetic loss and other factors, new species have emerged over time—but birds are still birds and apes are still apes. Nothing in the history of biology has legitimately shown that dinosaurs could develop the genetic information to evolve into birds.

Pitiful. Pathetic. I’d like to see a creationist sit down in front of me with that illustration and try to defend the claim that it’s only a bird.


Godefroit P, Demuynck H, Dyke G, Hu D, Escuillie F, Claeys P (2013) Reduced plumage and flight ability of a new Jurassic paravian theropod from China. Nature Communications 4, 1394. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2389

Comments

  1. w00dview says

    The “no transitional fossil” line is such easily refuted nonsense that I am astonished how anyone could look at creatures like Eosinopteryx, Titaalik or Pakicetus and say “nope, nothing to see here. God did it”. It truly is depressing how some people choose ignorance over understanding. You are just depriving yourself out of a lot of wonder; wonder made all the more incredible because it is true. Myth and superstition look downright pathetic in comparison.

  2. Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just a radfem with a shotgun) says

    I don’t know what the jokers are playing about.

    Take your average bluetit. Just look past the cute fuzzy bright feathers and cheerful chirps. Look at the legs, the sharp beak and the evil in it’s eyes. It’s a bloody dinosaur for sure. The only thing saving us is that we’re larger than bats

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    In fact, Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell and Dr. David Menton (AiG–U.S.) both examined the photos of the fossil…

    Because if there’s two experts you would turn to for fossil identification, it would be an obstetrician/gynecologist and an electron microscopist (roll-eyes). Oh – and apparently Mitchell is a unicorn expert!

    Mitchell’s page at AIG
    Dr. Mitchell’s articles have covered topics ranging from Egyptian and biblical history to embryonic development and childbirth, from unicorns and aliens to science education and the Resurrection of Christ.

  4. Anthony K says

    From Chas’ and Sheaf’s link:

    Peters has numerous unique, heretical views on both the life appearance of the animals he’s interested in, and on how those animals might be related. I strongly disagree with just about all of his claims and arguments (and so do other researchers who have expressed an opinion); the reasons for this are discussed in the rest of this article.
    But I’m not saying that he should be censored, and I think that he has every right to share his observations and ideas. These days, the internet is the tool for that. But, despite success at publishing technical papers in mainstream and even top-tier venues, Dave has, increasingly, failed to get his heretical ideas into the technical published literature or discussed at palaeontological meetings. Is Dave’s peripheralisation a result of the fact that those of us who review technical papers and talk abstracts belong to some sort of secret club, that we’re fighting to defend a status quo, or to maintain the ‘traditional’, ‘establishment’ views that are otherwise prevalent in the community, or is it that Dave is ‘blackballed’, as he contends? No. It’s because reviewers, as experienced, sceptical scientists, can see unreliable and inaccurate work, and they act to prevent its appearance in the technical scientific arena.

    Witchhunt!

    Nazis!

    Professional Victims!

    Paging Dr. Shermer.

  5. René says

    As an Australian, doesn’t Kenny recognize this kind* of kangaroo? Additionally, it might (must?) be a very recent fossil, since it clearly wears a burqa.
    _____________
    *baramin, q.v.

  6. alexmcdonald says

    @4, 6 and 7

    This isn’t the first time Peter’s truly excellent drawings but highly inventive techniques from getting from fossil to paper have been used by the unsuspecting. It would be a shame to use this picture to puncture Ham’s argument; it has much in common with his pictures of dinosaurs and their riders. There are significant elements of fantasy in both.

  7. says

    But, but! The chicks of some obscure South American bird possess external claws on their wings!! So you can’t say that claws make it dino-like!!! Because wesayso!!!!

    (Yes, I’ve heard that argument from creationists. Fecking idjits will deny the existence of anything they want to, even if an entire chorus line of said entity were dancing a Can-Can in front of their noses).

  8. Owlglass says

    I thought that the idea of “transitions” don’t make sense in a continuum. Only in retrospect, when digging up “snapshots”, they fall into places “between” already known species, or so the whole idea of speciation plays out in my funny head.

  9. says

    But Mitchell and Menton and Ham looked at that and said ‘ALL BIRD’. They’re idiots.

    Well, what were they supposed to do? They’re ideologically required to come to a conclusion of either “all bird” or “all dinosaur”, and the feathers make it pretty difficult to sell the dinosaur line. Even their miseducated followers would see through that. So, all bird it is.

  10. d.f.manno says

    @ PZ Myers:

    I’d like to see a creationist sit down in front of me with that illustration and try to defend the claim that it’s only a bird.

    No, you wouldn’t. Your brain would melt and dribble out your ears from the concentrated stupidity.

  11. Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just a radfem with a shotgun) says

    Anthony K:

    Nazis!

    Paging Ora…

    Oh, sorry. I forgot Anthony K identifies as male. Sorry! Nevermind.

  12. imthegenieicandoanything says

    Sit down in FRONT of you and “explain”????

    You’d need a sneeze guard at the least! And, still, yuck!

    I’d recommend interning this hypothetical “creationist” inside the glassed cell used to contain Dr. Lecter in the film.

  13. says

    I’ll add my voice to those warning against using Peters’ illustrations. His “Digital Graphic Segregation” technique consists of tracing photos, which would be fine except that he is overzealous in doing so and doesn’t know anatomy well enough to do it well. I’ve been responding to his Eosinopteryx posts on his blog, pointing out numerous ways he got the anatomy wrong. Honestly, much of what he traced is not even observable in the photos he used, and the reconstruction you show accordingly looks rather off to those of us familiar with theropods. As Darren Naish says in the post linked to by Chas and Sheaf, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Peters’ problems.

  14. w00dview says

    But, but! The chicks of some obscure South American bird possess external claws on their wings!! So you can’t say that claws make it dino-like!!! Because wesayso!!!!

    Seriously? They use the fact that hoatzin chicks have claws on their wings as evidence against the claim that birds share a common ancestor with dinosaurs? Christ on a bike.

  15. Becca Stareyes says

    So do they define birds solely by ‘does it have feathers’? Because that’s what I’m getting. Which works fine when you are in grade school and first grasping classification systems, but not so much when trying to do biology when you realize that birds have all these other things that no other living animal has.

  16. says

    But if we had never found Archaeopteryx and the other “bird-dinosaurs” like Eosinopteryx, Ham would be crowing over the fact that what we’d expect from evolution has never been observed to have existed.

    It’s always one-way for these morons. If any prediction of evolution hasn’t yet been observed (or they’re just lying that it hasn’t been observed–see Ken Ham), well that shows that it never happened, but if a prediction is discovered it’s just another miracle of God–and who can tell God what to make?

    Oh, they recognize the evidence of evolution all right, which is why they have all of their excuses for why none of it actually matters.

    Glen Davidson

  17. cm's changeable moniker says

    Take your average bluetit. [...] It’s a bloody dinosaur for sure. The only thing saving us is that we’re larger than bats

    If it’s any help, I’ve found that what I think of as the Parus tax: peanuts, suet, and mealworms, has kept me safe from the little bastards’ depredations.

    (The starlings are a different matter. They’ll fly into windows in their attempts to exact vengeance.)

  18. cm's changeable moniker says

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, it seems to work for Aegithalos caudatus, too.

  19. johnharshman says

    Peters also unfortunately made it into the last Carnival of Evolution but one. The antidote would be for everyone to read Darren Naish.

  20. RFW says

    Now, now, cut poor ol’ Ken a little slack. If he recants his obvious folly, what’s he going to do for a living? Beg on the streets or something?

    As for “no transitional fossils”, that’s a losing game. So we have taxa A and B, B clearly descended from A (or a near relative of A). Creationists crow “no transitional fossils!”

    Paleontologist finds fossil of C, clearly transitional from A-oids to B-oids. Oopsie! Now we have two missing transitional fossils.

    This game has been going on since paleontology hit the big time, To recite it may be belaboring the obvious, but it never hurts to remind everyone of the devious ways of the liars.

    Here are some real beggars.

  21. kantalope says

    Peter’s pictures might be bad but the real pictures behind the Nature paywall:
    $2.99 rent
    $4.99 buy

    Purchase article full text and PDF:
    $32

    I need to start my own scholarly journal and I need to have done it yesterday.

  22. tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach says

    Christ on a bike.

    No, no, no. Unpossible. Bikes hadn’t evolved by then. I think you’ll find that two-wheeled carts had to be Touched By The Lord to make them go through a process like Flounders’ eyes do as they move from normal fishy to weird flat thing with evil face.

  23. says

    From Ken’s Facebook page – even some of his commenters have doubts:

    But this hand-waving about this being a bird is something I have to speak up on. If you look at the actual fossils, no one could honestly say that this is “just a bird.” It doesn’t have the skeletal structure that would allow for extended flapping flight. It’s wings are far too short. The forelimbs have claws digits and most of all IT HAS TEETH. What bird has teeth? As someone who has studied avian biology, this blog post is very misleading and very poorly put together. I do hope you reconsider this and look at the data again.

  24. Usernames are smart says

    So, was Eosinopteryx on the Ark, or not? I’m taking a survey, you see.

    If it was, were there seven of them or two? Clean or unclean?
    Where did Noah collect them from? Which of the eight people on the Ark was responsible for feeding Eosinopteryx and cleaning its “stall” (cage? perch?)?

    Finally, if it wasn’t on the Ark, why the hell not?

  25. says

    Yeah, Peters is a bit dodgy — I did look at many other reconstructions, though, and the main feature I wanted to show were those stubby wings, and Peters hadn’t exploded those into his usual flowery eruption.

    Just in case, though, so no one will argue with it, I’ve replaced it with the image suggested in #28.

  26. says

    According to Ken Ham, every “kind” of animal was on the ark. But not every species; many species went belly-up in the flood.

    Since he has declared Eosinopteryx to be a bird, he’d probably suggest it wasn’t. Noah only had to bring a pair of pigeons on board, and after the waters receded, they radiated into vultures and canaries and ostriches and flamingos.

  27. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Noah only had to bring a pair of pigeons on board, and after the waters receded, they radiated into vultures and canaries and ostriches and flamingos.

    And where are the transitional forms??? ;)

  28. says

    If it was, were there seven of them or two? Clean or unclean?

    It’s not on the list, so I guess it’s clean, but I’m not sure if it was on the ark or not. Does Ham go by the standard that anything fossilized was formed in the flood? That would imply that it wasn’t, but maybe only some of them died in the flood and others were on the ark.
    Gosh, it’s so hard to keep track of which of these idiots believe what nonsense.

  29. jnorris says

    In fact, Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell and Dr. David Menton (AiG–U.S.) both examined the photos of the fossil and the criteria the authors used in classifying the fossil as a dinosaur. They agreed that it is a bird, not a feathered dinosaur.

    I’ll wait to read Drs. Mitchell and Menton’s rebuttal in a peer reviewed science journal, like Nature.

  30. Guy says

    Personally, I find this to be one of the saddest of Ken’s rants. This one is just complete and pure desperation. I’m sure that even he knows that the fossil can not possibly be “all bird”. Those gaps are filling fast.

  31. Snoof says

    So do they define birds solely by ‘does it have feathers’? Because that’s what I’m getting.

    By that definition, my pillow is a bird.

  32. says

    I keep wondering, what does Ken think a transitional fossil should look like, if not this? But then I realize I’m begging the question by asking “what does Ken think?” He doesn’t think. He had his brain surgically replaced with a Bible years ago.

  33. robro says

    I guess the bird is in the eye of the beholder.

    I don’t get Ham and company. Given the Hamlets’ otherwise wacky notions, why not just dismiss it as a dragon. There’s no reason dragons couldn’t have feathers. Or even allow that dinosaurs could have feathers. From a creationist point of view, there’s no reason god couldn’t have created several types of animals with feathers. It’s their friggin’ omnipotent god, it can do whatever it damn well pleases. The point being that not only are they more ignorant of paleontology than the typical 5 year old, but they’re strategically and tactically stupid.

  34. Owlmirror says

    Noah only had to bring a pair of pigeons on board, and after the waters receded, they radiated into vultures and canaries and ostriches and flamingos.

    Hah! PZ is WRONG on the internet!

    Genesis 8:6-7 Then it came about at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made; and he sent out a raven,

    See?!!?! Corvids as well as doves.

    At least.

  35. Amphiox says

    6 After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark 7 and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. 9 But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark.

    So how is it that the waters were dried up while the raven was out, but then afterwards suddenly the waters were all back again for the dove?

    Also, the raven never came back. So shouldn’t that make the raven extinct today?

  36. throwaway says

    If he may declare a bird by the presence of feathers, then I shall declare a bird-brain by the absence of reason*.

    *In all fairness to birds Ham just barely makes the cut.

  37. Owlmirror says

    then I shall declare a bird-brain by the absence of reason

    On behalf of parrots and corvids and similar intelligent avians, I protest this calumny.

  38. Owlmirror says

    So how is it that the waters were dried up while the raven was out, but then afterwards suddenly the waters were all back again for the dove?

    No, no. The raven was flying around until the waters dried. But the raven just didn’t go back to Noah, which is why the dove was needed.

    </sophistimacated theolology>

    Also, the raven never came back.

    Neither did the dove — eventually (Gen. 8:12).

    So shouldn’t that make the raven extinct today?

    No, no. The raven and the dove shacked up and got to work speciating their “kinds”.

  39. says

    So how is it that the waters were dried up while the raven was out, but then afterwards suddenly the waters were all back again for the dove?

    2 different flood stories amalgamated into one in the bible IIRC. Don’t remember who had the analysis in one of his books, Friedman or Ehrman.

  40. Crudely Wrott says

    It’s only a dolt.
    Ham is afraid of evidence. It makes his sails go limp and his ship fall off the wind.
    Good.

  41. theignored says

    The fossil record doesn’t reveal any kind of dinosaur-to-bird evolution—and it certainly does not show a molecules-to-man evolution. We have no proof of transitional forms, and we won’t. God’s Word says clearly that He created animals and plants according to their kinds (Genesis 1). Through genetic loss and other factors, new species have emerged over time—but birds are still birds and apes are still apes. Nothing in the history of biology has legitimately shown that dinosaurs could develop the genetic information to evolve into birds.

    Ham is full of it.

    Here are some examples of “information” increase for genetics:
    example 1

    Jason Rosenhouse confronting Ken Ham about “information” and Ham buggering off, and as time has shown: Not changing his arguments a bit.

    He can’t allow anything to come along and potentially go against the statement of faith. They have no choice but to deny, deny, deny.

    By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.

    That is why, no matter how many “PhDs” they may have in their “museum”, they are indeed against science.

    Scientists are supposed to be open to new ideas, altering or getting rid of old ideas based on the evidence. The instant they take any oath like the AIG people have, they have already made up their minds. Any evidence that goes against what they have already sworn to believe is chucked.

    I defy anyone to say how that attitude is not “against science”.

  42. drummer25 says

    @ #46
    The amalgamation of the bible stories is analysed in Richard Elliot Friedman’s book ‘Who wrote the bible?’
    An excellent read.

  43. bradleybetts says

    Through genetic loss and other factors, new species have emerged over time…

    …but none of those have any transitional forms whatsoever and anyway that’s microevolution not macroevolution and they were all on the ark so ner-ner-ner-ner-ner.

  44. Kevin Dugan says

    Oh! A link to a real science paper! Lets go look. Wait! What’s this? F’ing paywalls….

  45. David Marjanović says

    *flail* Why do I miss all the fun!

    I keep wondering, what does Ken think a transitional fossil should look like, if not this? But then I realize I’m begging the question by asking “what does Ken think?” He doesn’t think. He had his brain surgically replaced with a Bible years ago.

    QFT.

  46. geniusloci says

    Ham goes on: there are no transitional forms, he squeaks, there can be no transitional forms, transitional forms don’t exist…all while looking at a winged, feathered reptile with teeth and claws and a bony tail.

    OK, this is just a really dumb, tangential question, but are dinosaurs officially reptiles, or not? For some reason I thought Dinosauria was now a separate class from Reptilia. (IANAS; I’m married to one, but he’s on the other side of the country at the moment.)

    As for Ham and his minions, every time I see a new verbal excretion of theirs I am reminded of a comedy sketch I saw on television as a child in the 1970s in which a pompous “scientific expert” (who seems, in retrospect, to have been channeling Fred Hoyle) theorizes that Stonehenge was built by dinosaurs.

  47. David Marjanović says

    are dinosaurs officially reptiles, or not?

    There is no “official”.

    There’s an International Code of Zoological Nomenclature*, which contains rules on such things as what happens when there are two names for the same species; but there is no official classification. That’s called “taxonomic freedom” and… here’s the second paragraph of the Preamble: “The object[ive?]s of the Code are to promote stability and universality in the scientific names of animals and to ensure that the name of each taxon is unique and distinct. All its provisions and recommendations are subservient to those ends and none restricts the freedom of taxonomic thought or actions.”

    Literally everyone can classify and reclassify as they damn well please.

    …Now, to get closer to an actual answer for you: the name Reptilia is currently used in three ways by different people:
    1) the traditional way: for all amniotes that aren’t mammals or birds – where some people have expanded “birds” into “dinosaurs” or similar;
    2) not at all, because 1) describes a paraphyletic group (which contains an ancestor and some but, arbitrarily, not all of its descendants);
    3) as a useless synonym for Sauropsida, meaning everything that’s closer to birds than to mammals; this clade ( = monophyletic group = an ancestor and all its descendants) happens to contain all extant “reptiles” in sense 1) (turtles, tuataras, lizards incl. snakes, crocodiles).

    * Just because the citation is so… unusual:
    International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (1999): International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. 4th edition. International Trust for Zoological Nomenclature, London.
    Commission on, Code of, Trust for. And yes, the Code insists several times that the Commission is its author; it would be wrong to cite the individual members instead. Few people in the world have any idea who even is in the Commission.

  48. geniusloci says

    Thank you so much, David! I understand now, I…think. Dinosaurs are part of Reptilia (or, more correctly, Sauropsida, assuming it includes extinct as well as extant species) but evolved along lines separate from the clade (I hope I am using that term correctly) that includes extant reptiles.

  49. Amphiox says

    No, no. The raven and the dove shacked up and got to work speciating their “kinds”.

    So, that means the bible officially endorses avian bestiality?

  50. David Marjanović says

    assuming it includes extinct as well as extant species

    All the way down to one side of the direct offspring of Bob the Basal Amniote.

    clade (I hope I am using that term correctly)

    An ancestor + all of its descendants.

    Tree of Sauropsida, simplified by omission of many branches:

    --+----turtles (or not)
      `--+--+--tuatara
         |  `--lizards including snakes
         `--+--crocodiles
            `--dinosaurs including birds

    The top–bottom axis is meaningless. Time proceeds from left to right, but not necessarily at the same speed along every branch.

    Note to future tree-writers: spaces at the beginnings of lines are removed in spite of the <code> tag, spaces elsewhere are collapsed to one; &nbsp; works.

  51. geniusloci says

    No, no. The raven and the dove shacked up and got to work speciating their “kinds”.

    So, that means the bible officially endorses avian bestiality?

    If species were interbreeding, then…

    And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls. — Isaiah 34:13, KJV

    I’VE GOT IT! THE MISSING LINK BETWEEN BIRDS AND DINOSAURS!1?!!1! THEY WERE SHACKING UP DURING THE BABYLONIAN OCCUPATION, OBVI! Eat your heart out, Hammy baby!

  52. geniusloci says

    OK, David, NOW I get it. Thank you for the visual representation.

    So dinosaurs are more closely related to crocodilians and birds than they are to lizards, snakes, and tuataras, to all of whom they are more closely related than they are to turtles, but they’re more closely related to turtles than to mammals.

    And I have a new term to play with: Sauropsida! Wow! I could spend hours down this rabbit hole, instead of doing actual work. My husband is a physicist, but we have a lot of books floating around on evolutionary biology. I think I will assemble some of them into a little library of my own for evening reading…I need a way to stay out of trouble in my spare time.

  53. Owlmirror says

    So, that means the bible officially endorses avian bestiality?

    Since “bestiality” means when humans do it with animals, no. It’s extreme crossbreeding, or “horizontal gene transfer”, or perhaps better yet, <snark> hybridogenesis</snark>

  54. Owlmirror says

    So dinosaurs are more closely related to crocodilians and birds than they are to lizards

    Er, as noted both above and in the OP, birds are dinosaurs.

    Just to be perfectly clear and all.

  55. Genius Loci says

    Sorry. I was thinking, “Birds evolved from dinosaurs,” rather than “Birds are dinosaurs.”

    Birds are dinosaurs! I will never cease to marvel.