Gigantic dinosaur reportedly has fossilized feathers, but don’t look too closely.
China has become the ancestral home of “feathered dinosaurs.” An article in the April 5 issue of Nature adds the first really big one to the collection. Dubbed Yutyrannus huali, which means “beautiful feathered tyrant,” the 9-meter long adult and two juveniles were found in lower Cretaceous rock in northeast China’s Liaoning province. The specimens have some features in common with tyrannosaurids from various layers of the geologic column, prompting evolutionists to wonder where it fits in their evolutionary scheme. Of course, the most exciting finding to the paleontologists studying the specimen is filamentous structures they judge to be feathers.
“Finding a large dinosaur is not very easy, especially a complete skeleton,” said Beijing’s Xu Xing, lead author of the study. “To have a complete skeleton with all the beautiful feathers preserved is a big discovery.”
Identifying the filaments as feathers creates another question for evolutionary scientists—that of determining the purpose for feathers in a creature “too big to fly.” After all, in the evolutionary model, if feathers offered no survival advantage, they should not have evolved and persisted. Xu suggests insulation as the likely purpose with attraction of a mate being a secondary possibility. He says, “We have noticed that primitive feathers in dinosaurs are relatively spaced out, so it's not really the ideal structure for insulation. A limited distribution is more likely to indicate a display function.”
Compare to this actual fossilized feather.
In this case the “feathers” consist of filamentous structures “too densely packed”1 to determine their structural characteristics and filamentous structures whose “morphological details are not preserved.”1 Because these filaments are found in a patchy distribution at several locations, the researchers conclude they have “solid evidence for the existence of gigantic feathered dinosaurs and, more significantly, of a gigantic species with an extensive feathery covering.”1 They write that the discovery provides, “new insights into early feather evolution.”1
Despite the tendency of the media and many evolutionists to continually refer to the existence of feathered dinosaurs as an established fact, not all evolutionists agree with that claim. For instance, Alan Feduccia, considered an expert on bird evolution, has written, “The major and most worrying problem of the feathered dinosaur hypothesis is that the integumental structures have been homologized with avian feathers on the basis of anatomically and paleontologically unsound and misleading information.”2
Some fossilized creatures—unlike these—do have distinctive feathers. But calling a genuinely feathered fossil a dinosaur does not make that creature a dinosaur. (We discussed that situation with the Microraptor, which Feduccia maintains is a bird, in News to Note, March 17, 2012).
On the other hand, calling dinosaur-associated filamentous structures that lack ordinary feather anatomy feathers does not make them feathers. (Such is this situation.) This convenient identification also does not make those structures “primitive feathers” or “proto-feathers” or any kind of transitional structure. We could call this the “name-it-and-claim-it” tendency on the part of some evolutionists. Or we could just call it creative imagination. But what we should not call it is scientific proof of evolution.
Even the assertion that dinosaur feathers evolved for insulation and were later refined for flight purposes fails to explain how complex feathers with barbs, barbules, and hooks (structures not found on these filaments) evolved from scales. Many experts believe filamentous structures such as those described here are collagen fibrils, a sort of connective tissue commonly found, among other places, in skin. (Feathers are made of keratin, not collagen.).
God created “every winged bird according to its kind” (Genesis 1:21) on the fifth day of Creation week. He said, “Let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens” (Genesis 1:20). The next day, God made each “beast of the earth, each according to its kind” (Genesis 1:24), including dinosaurs. Birds fully equipped to fly were flying the day before dinosaurs were even created.
Dinosaurs did not evolve into birds. And if we find that some dinosaurs had filamentous structures as part of their integumentary covering, such structures would not require an evolutionary explanation and would still not demonstrate that dinosaurs evolved into birds. Many anatomical differences between them, not least of which is the distinctively different avian lung, make such a transition impossible. No genetic mechanism enabling an organism to acquire information to evolve into a completely new kind has ever been found. No evidence of feather evolution has been found in the fossil record or in this study.
Orphan eggs in Cretaceous Spain offer ambiguous clues to their missing parents.
Two stashes of fossilized eggs in Late Cretaceous sandstone of the Spanish Pyrenees have paleontologists puzzling about the identity of the parents. Unlike some fossilized eggs found with embryos, juveniles, tracks, or adults, these orphan eggs stand alone. “The size and shape of these eggs . . . are roughly similar to modern hen eggs, which is unusual in the Cretaceous fossil egg record,” write the authors of a study published March 13 in Paleontology. The discoverers have dubbed the missing parents Sankofa pyrenaica, which means “learning from the past.”
Analysis of the eggs reveals some characteristics typical of bird eggs and others characteristic of dinosaur eggs. The authors write, “No direct evidence as to the identity of the producers of these eggs has been found.”3 They note that the eggs are similar to a fossilized bird egg from Argentina and have a teardrop shape similar to modern birds. Other features—such as a two-layered shell on microscopic examination—are characteristic of dinosaur shells. Therefore, even though they admit the similarity to the Argentinean bird egg “may suggest an avian identity,” the authors consider the “mosaic distribution of features . . . a combination between that of birds and nonavian theropods.”4 They write, “This enhances the arguments supporting the close phylogenetic relationships between both groups.”4
These eggs make more exciting news if they are dinosaurian than if they belonged to a bird, and they make even bigger headlines if they can appear to be transitional between dinosaurs and birds. However, the authors make a pretty strong case for a bird-identity when they note the similarity to the egg of a known extinct Argentinean bird. Furthermore, after lining up typical bird and typical dinosaur egg shapes, they note the new egg shape is so strikingly bird-like that “the similar positions of the two late Cretaceous eggs [on the shape chart] could suggest an avian identity for Sankofa in spite of its primitive eggshell microstructure.”4 And while the majority of fossilized birds are above the Cretaceous, bird fossils do appear in the that layer.
The sandstone in which these eggs were found is “cemented by calcium carbonate”4 and rich in marine fossils. The eggs must therefore have been buried catastrophically in ocean water. While the researchers propose the eggs were located on an island beach, we would point out that the global Flood, when the ocean waters rose to cover all the continents over 4,300 years ago, would have supplied the surging water-borne sand to rapidly bury the eggs with marine fossils, sand, and mineralized water acting like cement.
There is certainly nothing in the study to demonstrate a transitional creature or even a transitional egg between dinosaurs and birds. Birds and dinosaurs were created on the 5th and 6th days of Creation week and did not evolve one into the other. Whether these eggs were bird eggs or dinosaur eggs, they were buried in the global Flood.
Tennessee’s new law guarantees teachers’ rights to teach the controversies in science.
Tennessee’s Teacher Protection Academic Freedom Act will go into effect April 20, though without the governor’s signature. The new law will encourage public school teachers to help students become “intelligent, productive, and scientifically informed citizens”5 by developing critical thinking skills as they explore areas of scientific controversy. Controversial scientific topics open to discussion include “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”5
The law directs that “teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.”5
The new law does not change the state’s science curriculum or, as some critics such as the HuffingtonPost writer claim, give “teachers carte blanche to discuss whatever crackpot ideas they want.”
The law also does not, contrary to sensationalistic and erroneous reports, introduce “creationism theory into science curriculum,”6 nor does it allow teachers to teach intelligent design or any religious belief.
Governor Bill Haslam has decided not to veto the bill but will allow it to become law without his signature. He said, “I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum that is used by our teachers. However, I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.”7
Although teachers technically do already have the right to teach students about controversial scientific positions, intimidating voices from organizations claiming to represent all legitimate scientists and educators have been proclaiming since this legislation was introduced that no scientific controversy exists. For example, ACLU director Hedy Weinberg accuses those who advocate “critical thinking” of “seeking to introduce non-scientific ideas,”6 and NCSE’s Eugenie Scott says that good science teachers know there is no controversy.7 Thus, the so-called freedom to teach students about controversial scientific subjects rings hollow when threatening voices declare no such controversy exists.
The controversy among legitimate scientists is real, however, and those controversies are not limited to the “religious” community. For example, in evolutionary circles, despite the continual mantra that some dinosaurs had feathers and evolved into birds, some evolutionists such as Dr. Alan Feduccia disagree. As mentioned in an earlier item today, Dr. Feduccia has written, “The major and most worrying problem of the feathered dinosaur hypothesis is that the integumental structures have been homologized with avian feathers on the basis of anatomically and paleontologically unsound and misleading information.”8
Furthermore, regarding the nature of climate change, Dr. Andrew Snelling, a geologist and director of research at Answers in Genesis, comments, “I am personally aware of several secular professional scientific societies, such as the Geological Society of Australia, whose memberships are very divided on the issue of the cause of climate change, and the continuing debate is heated. Therefore to assert there is no controversy over the cause of climate change is utterly deceitful. Students should be told the truth about this debate among professional scientists.”
The intent of Tennessee’s new law is to improve the way science is taught. Molecular geneticist and creationist Dr. Georgia Purdom explains, “I am glad that the new Tennessee law seems to afford protection to teachers who wish to critique evolution and global warming in the classroom. As a former college professor, I can attest to the importance of critical thinking skills in the science classroom. The ability to analyze the scientific weaknesses of evolution and global warming will ultimately benefit students.”
Answers in Genesis has never suggested public school teachers should be forced to teach creation. Such a policy, besides violating existing law, would be counter-productive. The interpretation of scientific evidence in the area of origins is strongly guided by an individual’s worldview and goes beyond the realm of testable observable science. Therefore, it would not be reasonable to expect an instructor who accepts evolution to accurately and fairly portray the creation science position. We are pleased to see the new law does not promote such an idea.
We encourage Christian parents and church leaders to help students apply their critical thinking skills to creation science also. Only then will they be able to see that the Bible’s account of history is consistent with the facts of science and move forward into the world of their future with the powerful combination of a strong faith and a firm foundation in science.
Sticklebacks said to recycle ancient genetic information in “an evolutionary blink of an eye.”
Stickleback fish exist in both freshwater and saltwater forms. The saltwater varieties also have armor plating and defensive spines, but many scientists believe that since the Ice Age they have repeatedly shed their armor and spines and adapted to the smoother freshwater varieties found in streams and lakes around the world. Evolutionary biologist David Kingsley’s Stanford-based team has identified the genetic changes underlying this so-called “rapid evolution.”
By completely sequencing the genomes of 21 stickleback varieties from three continents and comparing the results, they have determined the characteristics for which the genetic codes differ and the sorts of changes that make the phenotypic alterations possible. They report that about 150 DNA sequences distinguished the freshwater varieties from the saltwater ones. Those distinctive freshwater sequences were similar in other freshwater species from all over the world. The genes affecting armor plating and salt-processing by the kidney—an essential adaptation for switching environments—were among those that differed.
Because the freshwater genomes tended to have similar genetic characteristics, the researchers believe “the fish do not evolve new features from scratch each time” but instead “may retain ancient genetic adaptations to freshwater living that allow them to colonize new sites.”
“On a genome-wide scale, we’ve found a whole set of regions being used over and over to adjust to new environments,“ says Kingsley. “We’re able to study the molecular basis of vertebrate evolution.”
It appears, Kingsley’s team reports in its paper in Nature, that about 80% of the genetic differences arise from alterations in regulatory DNA and about 20% in actual coding DNA. They believe the evolution of this fish is accelerated by the use of pre-existing genetic information. They believe the freshwater divergences happened about 10,000 years ago in “an evolutionary blink of an eye.”
What the researchers have documented here is not the evolution of a new kind of creature but simply variation within a created kind. In fact, freshwater and saltwater sticklebacks are able to successfully interbreed in the laboratory,9 clearly demonstrating they are of the same created kind. The “ancient genes” the fish seems to switch on and off are the genetic information God provided in order to enable this fish to adapt to various environments, with the ultimate variety in each environment regulated by natural selection and other factors. We should not be surprised at the speed of this adaptation.
God has designed organisms to vary within their kinds. This variation is not accomplished by acquiring new information but by reshuffling, regulating, and sometimes losing old information. That the same information is offering survival advantages in certain ecosystems worldwide is evident from the similarity of the freshwater genomic distinctives from around the world and by similarities in regional varieties, whether saltwater or fresh. This research supports the biblical concept of biological creation and variation within kinds and provides no support applicable to molecules-to-man sort of evolution or evolution of any new kind of organisms.
Paluxy River tracks in the Texas spotlight
The postcard illustration of a Glen Rose, Texas, photo spot may be vaguely reminiscent of similar poses at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. However, there are a few twists folks should be aware of. Glen Rose in the Paluxy River valley near Fort Worth has been a dinosaur destination for tourists for decades. Explored by evolutionists and creationists, the dinosaur trackways have been excavated by professional paleontologists and Depression-era locals in need of some valuable fossils to sell. But what has really put Paluxy River’s Cretaceous footprints on the map is the purported prints of humans with the dinosaurs.
A number of investigators over the years have explored the site. Some are described in the Texas Observer feature, and more in a report at ICR’s Paluxy River Mystery. During the Depression, many of the footprints were apparently removed and sold by local people in need of money. What’s left now? Mainly some confusing and changing prints.
While dinosaur tracks are certainly present at Paluxy River, residents and some creation scientists have long claimed that human footprints were preserved in the same strata as dinosaur tracks. Today, the remaining prints are variously described and are even documented to be changing in character, probably in response to the changing environment (for example, due to erosion during periodic flooding of the river). Of course, evolutionists deem it impossible that dinosaurs co-existed with humans and discount the claims. Those who believe the biblical account in Genesis understand that dinosaurs and man were created on the 6th day of Creation week and certainly did co-exist. Many in Glen Rose believe they did, although some of the biblical interpretations quoted in the Texas Observer blend God’s clear words about His Creation with man’s assertions about millions of years. Others residents, like Carl Baugh who established the Creation Evidence Museum, avoid such a compromise.
But the question remains, even though we know from the Bible that mankind and dinosaurs coexisted, did they walk together at Paluxy River? And should anyone’s acceptance of creation science and the biblical record of Genesis depend on the coexistence of human and dinosaur tracks?
Creation scientists from various organizations have investigated the Paluxy River fossils. Given the ambiguity of the evidence and the fact that much of what may have once been present is no longer available for study, we do not believe those claims of coexisting human and dinosaur prints are wholly supportable. Dr. John Morris in 1986 reported similar conclusions, deciding “it would now be improper for creationists to continue to use the Paluxy data as evidence against evolution”10 unless further research brings new facts to light.
Our certainty that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time comes not from the fossil record—where we actually do not expect to find it (see next paragraph)—but from the biblical record. The Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose does agree with Answers in Genesis on the big picture—that the history in Genesis is absolutely trustworthy and that the earth’s geology does offer much in the way of evidence supporting those claims. And even though AiG and Baugh believe dinosaurs and humans have co-existed, Answers in Genesis director of research Dr. Andrew Snelling said, “What Baugh presents there [at his Glen Rose Museum] is sometimes speculative—provocative, for want of a better term. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have those things, but people should realize it’s not the mainstream of the creation movement.”
Many creationist geologists now believe that geological evidence supports the idea that the pre-Flood world had a variety of ecosystems. Therefore, although humans and dinosaurs did walk the earth at the same time, they likely did not spend a lot of time in the same places. Thus the dinosaur habitats would have likely been destroyed and buried while the Floodwaters were still rising before reaching the majority of the human population. Dinosaur fossils have not been definitively found with human fossils. We would not really expect to find pre-Flood human remains, because God told Noah He was going to destroy man along with the earth (Genesis 6:13). Post-Flood human fossils are found in the topmost layers of soil and rock that were laid down during the Ice Age. Those fossils belong to the descendants of Noah who dispersed from Babel (during the time of Genesis 11).
On the other hand, do creationists need evidence like co-existing dinosaur and human tracks? As Ken Ham discussed in Searching for the “Magic Bullet”, many Christians misunderstand the nature of evidence. Both “sides” have the same observable data, the same facts. But all evidence about the past must be interpreted data. The millions-of-years dates assigned to Paluxy River’s trackway by evolutionists are based on calculations rooted in a set of unverifiable, untestable assumptions about the past. Likewise, evolutionists cannot even entertain the possibility that dinosaurs and humans coexisted and would never interpret even a clear fossilized human footprint—if any still remained—as proof to the contrary. Many residents of Glen Rose believe, as do we, that the earth is only about 6,000 years old, as indicated in the Bible. They are therefore open to the possibility that the Paluxy tracks include human prints. Paluxy River may or may not have ever had the human tracks some say it did, but the site is an excellent place to ponder the importance of worldviews in the interpretation of observable facts.
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