Feb 05 2013

Transition Denial and Feathered Dinosaurs

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16 responses so far

16 Responses to “Transition Denial and Feathered Dinosaurs”

  1. slipknottinon 05 Feb 2013 at 8:09 am

    I’m curious as to the actual definition of transitional fossil is. Now if this dinosaur was just an evolutionary dead end, and perhaps was the last species in its family is this not a transitional fossil?

  2. Ori Vandewalleon 05 Feb 2013 at 8:30 am

    Calling creationism intellectually bankrupt gives it too much credit. If little Bobby makes lemonade but no one buys it, has he gone bankrupt?

  3. Steven Novellaon 05 Feb 2013 at 8:57 am

    slip – you are right to question the definition of transitional fossil. In reality, all fossils are transitional. What is meant, though, is a fossil species that fills the morphological space between two other species or taxonomic groups. This could be between two extant groups, or an ancestor and descendant. The transitional species does not have to be exactly on the line leading to a descendant group, but can be closely related.

  4. Christopher_NWon 05 Feb 2013 at 9:01 am

    What a beautiful example of a transitional fossil.

  5. slipknottinon 05 Feb 2013 at 9:02 am

    So could chimps be considered transitional fossils between monkeys and humans? Even though we know they are not in fact ancestors to humans?

  6. Steven Novellaon 05 Feb 2013 at 9:47 am

    Not really because chimps and humans are equidistant from monkeys (so they are not between us and monkeys). Chimps are transitional between humans and other apes (by a little). Homo erectus is transitional between humans and our common ancestor with other apes. Monkeys are transitional between humans and other mammals.

    If you graph it out the transitional species will have to be somehow between the two other species or groups between which they are transitional.

    And to be clear – don’t confuse “transitional species” with “transitional fossils.” A transitional species can be extinct or extant, a transitional fossil is known from fossil evidence.

  7. slipknottinon 05 Feb 2013 at 11:25 am

    Suppose I should have just asked what I was really thinking. Just trying to relate the little fossil knowledge we have of dinosaurs to what some new species would see with humans and chimps in a couple million years if they had gone extinct. I could see how they would see monkeys, humans, and then a chimp may fit as the transitional piece, even though we today know chimps are not. But are more of a cousin to humans.

  8. BillyJoe7on 05 Feb 2013 at 3:24 pm

    By Ken Ham’s reasoning, an infant could ever become an adult because there is no point at which you could say that the infant has become a child, the child has become an adolescent, or the adolescent has become an adult.

    Ironically, the only evidence that that ie true is Ken Ham himself (:

  9. Gotchayeon 05 Feb 2013 at 6:50 pm

    “Each discovery of a feathered dinosaur or bird ancestor is a lance straight through the heart of creationist denial of evolution.”

    Also a lance straight through the heart of my childhood.

  10. eiskrystalon 06 Feb 2013 at 5:17 am

    and it certainly does not show a molecules-to-man evolution

    This right here is the source of Ken’s frustration and the reason he rails against evolution. The terrifying idea that humans are not special, pure little snowflakes.

    It would be fun to teach him what the human body is actually made of (mostly oxygen apparently) with close ups of all the germs smothering his body and the air he breathes and an explanation of how much humans in fact rely on such bacteria to survive.

    I think we could have him sobbing in the fetal position in about 10 minutes.

  11. Davdoodleson 07 Feb 2013 at 1:11 am

    It must take incredible focus to be that bloody stupid.

    And for something so pointless. It’s one thing if it mattered, ie that there was some actual public policy imperative he was furthering (eg as his ilk typicaly do re their anti-safe abortion agenda), but here, the very best he can hope for is that his ridiculous gibberish is incorporated into some textbooks in one corner of the world (the USA or a subset thereof), while science ticks on regardless across the rest of the world and, indeed, in the wheeling wonder of the universe itself.

    Seriously, I ask myself, what does this fellow hope to achieve? To prove that God favours the foolish?

  12. Bill Openthalton 07 Feb 2013 at 6:37 am


    The need to believe in the special status of humans runs deep, apparently. If we’re not made in the image of god, then human consciousness must be something so unfathomably magnificent it must be the fabric of the universe.


    Our core beliefs are not subject to rational scrutiny. It seems the more unblievable they are (to a disinterested third party), the easier it is for the mind to reject rational arguments against them.

  13. Rikki-Tikki-Tavion 07 Feb 2013 at 7:37 am

    This all reminds me of the Monty Python sketch Parrot Sketch, although the point here is that ‘this is no dead parrot’. (come on, read it with John Cleese’ voice)

    I mean honestly, how daft are they? Any nine-year-old can tell you that is no beak. If I was a creationist I would argue, that what appears to be feathers is actually something else, like fossilized leaves or something and say that it’s just a regular dinosaur. But to ague that this is a bird…

    “This parrot is not yet. This is a pre-parrot!”

  14. RickKon 09 Feb 2013 at 1:06 pm

    @Davdoodles and @Bill,

    Yes, evolution make humans less special, but there’s more to Ken Ham’s motivation.

    Evolution-denial has a very special place in Christianity. To be Christian is to believe “Jesus died for our sins”. In many of the evolutionary branches of Christianity, those “sins” are the result of Adam and Eve defying God’s rules re the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

    No evolution, no Adam and Eve and Garden of Eden. No Adam and Eve, no Original Sin. No Original Sin, no explanation for why Jesus had to die for our sins. No reason for Jesus, no reason for the religion.

    For people who think the Bible is journalism (as opposed to poetry), who think it is a textbook (as opposed to metaphor), evolution destroys the tenuous logic of their faith.

    I’m sure you know all this. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but I couldn’t resist. Typing it all out is an entertaining reminder of the fragile absurdity of the whole Jesus/sin construct.

  15. RBHon 09 Feb 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Looks like AIG’s authority on bird evolution, Dr. Mitchell, is a retired ob/gyn. Maybe the stork theory is due for a comeback.

  16. pdmjohnson 21 Feb 2013 at 10:16 pm

    The creationist position on this highlights a problem generally with taxonomic nomenclature. The argument that “this is just a bird” (or, that “this is just a dinosaur”) is only available because we linguistically distinguish between the two with a bright line, whereas in reality the two shade into each other. In day to day English, “birds” and “dinosaurs” are seen as conceptually different things, even though in reality the former is merely a subset of the former.

    Unless we develop a word that becomes accepted generally as meaning “non-avian dinosaurs and birds together as a single clade” then creationists will always be able to hide behind this linguistic divide, no matter how ludicrously, to claim that there are birds and there are dinosaurs and the two are not related.

    However, there is a simple way to expose the flaw in the creationist position. First, compile a list of creationist “experts”. Secondly, arrange as complete a set as possible of fossils ranging from dinosaurs with the merest hint of feathering, through to birds with the last vestiges of terrestrialism (the extant, clawed Hoatzin chick for example) including all the dead end lineages. Thirdly, ask the experts to each independently assign the fossils as either “birds” or “dinosaurs”. I am willing to bet that no two “experts” would draw the line between the two in the same place. Even if they all agreed, and stated the reasons for classifying the fossils one way or another, eventually a fossil would be found that was unclassifiable using those same reasons.

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