Popular science magazines, television programmes and many educational resources convey the message that birds are descendants of the dinosaurs. Every year brings new evidence from the Jehol Biota of northeastern China that is claimed to strengthen the scientific case. Feathered dinosaurs have started to adorn the pages of National Geographic and elsewhere. A lavishly illustrated book with the title Feathered Dinosaurs has been published recently by Oxford University Press. For many the issue is settled: any dissent is regarded as inexcusable. So it is noteworthy that a leading dissenter, Alan Feduccia (from the Department of Biology, University of North Carolina), has reviewed the book in Trends in Ecology & Evolution.
A picture is worth a thousand words - but is it true? (source here)
As many are aware, the Jehol Biota includes avian fossils, but these have not gained the headlines. Proto-feathers and dino-birds have been centre stage. Feduccia notes:
"New tantalizing material has resulted in unprecedented understanding of the early avian radiation, but has also provided a bonanza for paleontological speculation and controversy."
After a few complimentary words, Feduccia switches on critical analysis mode. He points out that the selective reading of evidence, together with ignoring of counter evidence, has led to an imaginary world masquerading as science.
"Although Long and Schouten promote the orthodoxy of 'feathered dinosaurs', compelling evidence for any proto-feathers in these fossils has always been lacking, and new evidence shows that the filamentous fibers on the small 'feathered dinosaur' Sinosauropteryx represented a complex mesh work of supportive skin collagen fibers; and the body outline on the specimens encloses the fibers. Furthermore, new evidence suggests that feathered microraptors and other groups of plumed maniraptorans are derivatives of the early avian radiation that produced an aviary at all stages of flight and flightlessness."
"The small theropod Compsognathus, 'compys' of Jurassic Park, is depicted with a covering of down-like proto-feathers, and modeled after the roadrunner; it is given an expanded throat sac 'critical for temperature regulation' and a pattern of small spots and bars for camouflage. Yet, there is no evidence for any type of feathers in the 'compys' (and, in fact, evidence to the contrary) or for endothermy; unfortunately, no references are provided in the text to papers marshalling evidence contrary to the dogma of feathered dinosaurs, part of an alarming trend in paleontology towards censorship by lack of citation."
Feduccia considers that history is repeating itself. In the 1860s, "Thomas Huxley envisioned a dinosaurian origin of birds via the flightless ratites" but was effectively rebuffed by Richard Owen who pointed out that the ratites were derived forms, with pedomorphic traits. This was confirmed in 1956, in the work of Gavin de Beer.
"[Owen's] statement should also provide a cautionary note for advocates of today's bird origin orthodoxy, which, among myriad problems, calls for all the sophisticated avian aerodynamic flight architecture to have evolved as exaptations, in earth-bound theropod dinosaurs: '. . . science will accept the view of the Dodo as a degenerate Dove rather than as an advanced Dinothere.'"
The closing paragraph returns to an appreciation of the book, and ends with a sentiment that will be shared by many:
"Feathered Dinosaurs is, despite my reservations on interpretation, a beautiful book, and the life poses of the Mesozoic menagerie are dazzling. The 'Fantasia' of feathered theropods aside, depictions of the Early Cretaceous birds are truly exceptional, the best to date. I particularly recommend the images of the flightless oviraptorosaurs. Hopefully, this book will help lead a new generation of students to go beyond the current unchallengeable orthodoxy of feathered dinosaurs to unravel the long-kept secrets of the Mesozoic."
A colorful mesozoic menagerie
Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 24(8), August 2009, 415-416 | doi:10.1016/j.tree.2009.03.002
Feathered Dinosaurs: The Origin of Birds by John Long, illustrated by Peter Schouten. Oxford University, Press. 2009. hbk (280 pages) ISBN 978 0 19 537266 3
Tyler, D.J. Dino skin shows no trace of protofeathers, ARN literature Blog (11 January 2008)
|<< <||> >>|
Evolution has become a favorite topic of the news media recently, but for some reason, they never seem to get the story straight. The staff at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture started this Blog to set the record straight and make sure you knew "the rest of the story".
A blogger from New England offers his intelligent reasoning.
We are a group of individuals, coming from diverse backgrounds and not speaking for any organization, who have found common ground around teleological concepts, including intelligent design. We think these concepts have real potential to generate insights about our reality that are being drowned out by political advocacy from both sides. We hope this blog will provide a small voice that helps rectify this situation.
Website dedicated to comparing scenes from the "Inherit the Wind" movie with factual information from actual Scopes Trial. View 37 clips from the movie and decide for yourself if this movie is more fact or fiction.
Don Cicchetti blogs on: Culture, Music, Faith, Intelligent Design, Guitar, Audio
Australian biologist Stephen E. Jones maintains one of the best origins "quote" databases around. He is meticulous about accuracy and working from original sources.
Most guys going through midlife crisis buy a convertible. Austrialian Stephen E. Jones went back to college to get a biology degree and is now a proponent of ID and common ancestry.
Complete zipped downloadable pdf copy of David Stove's devastating, and yet hard-to-find, critique of neo-Darwinism entitled "Darwinian Fairytales"
Intelligent Design The Future is a multiple contributor weblog whose participants include the nation's leading design scientists and theorists: biochemist Michael Behe, mathematician William Dembski, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, philosophers of science Stephen Meyer, and Jay Richards, philosopher of biology Paul Nelson, molecular biologist Jonathan Wells, and science writer Jonathan Witt. Posts will focus primarily on the intellectual issues at stake in the debate over intelligent design, rather than its implications for education or public policy.
A Philosopher's Journey: Political and cultural reflections of John Mark N. Reynolds. Dr. Reynolds is Director of the Torrey Honors Institute at