The ‘Feathered Dinosaur’ Find–a brief preliminary report


Whenever a ‘sensational’ news report about some alleged evolutionary find hits the airwaves, we are invariably deluged with questions. This find of a dromaeosaur allegedly ‘covered in feathers’ will be no exception. This preliminary comment is hastily compiled based on the first reports available to us. Please note the following:

  1. These notes will be updated via a fuller report as more information comes in, unless nothing much changes or is required in addition.
  2. The ‘birds evolved from dinosaurs’ bandwagon has been rolling for some time, and in the past few years there have been quite a few finds allegedly supporting the notion of feathered dinosaurs. In each case to date the sensational announcements turned out to be misleading. In one famous recent case, it was an undisputed fraud. In other cases, the ‘feathers’ turned out to be no such thing on closer examination, or the alleged ‘dinosaurs’ were really much more likely to be flightless birds. So we advise that these current reports be treated cautiously, with more than a healthy ‘pinch of salt’. It will be of particular interest what certain evolutionary experts such as Alan Feduccia have to say, who have long poured cold water on claim after claim of this nature after all the facts were in.
  3. This creature is not some sort of part-bird, part-dinosaur. Dr Mark A. Norell, chairman of paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, says that it is a ‘nonavian dinosaur’. For instance, there is not a trace of a wing or anything like it. (Their forelimbs are acknowledged as too short to have supported wings.) So enthusiasts are claiming that it shows that ‘feathers evolved first’– e.g, for insulation.
  4. Even the deepest enthusiasts are forced to acknowledge that these are not actually feathers. At best, they label them as ‘proto-feathers’, but this of course begs the question, i.e. it assumes that they developed at a later stage into true feathers. Dr Norell says they represent ‘a body covering similar to feathers’. They do have a central filament and a herringbone pattern ‘similar to those found in bird feathers’.
  5. As we have often pointed out, similarity does not mean proof of common ancestry or evolutionary relatedness. The living world is full of creatures with similar structures; where evolutionists are unable to claim these similarities as due to common ancestry (because it would lead to other logical contradictions) they use the ‘parallel evolution’ or ‘convergent evolution’ explanation.
  6. We know very little about the outer covering of the various types of dinosaurs. Why would there be a problem with the idea that some types of dinos were designed with a variety of body covering which had some similarity to, but was still rather different from, that used by birds? Some flying reptiles found in the fossil record give evidence of having had a fur-like covering, rather than scales. Yet evolutionists do not thereby feel compelled to admit that they evolved into mammals–mainly because this does not fit other parts of their evolutionary story.

Let us assume that these reports are all fully confirmed (and remember that so far none of these stories has really matched the early enthusiasm). Assume that Dr Norell is right when he says that such dinosaurs ‘may have looked more like weird birds than giant lizards.’ If this is so, and it is a big ‘if’, then the appropriate comment would be ‘so what’? We can concede that this is consistent with the dino-bird evolution theory (whereas many things are inconsistent with it–see below), but it is also consistent with Biblical creation. We tend to react against such a thing as a ‘downy dinosaur’, because of our conditioning on what we think the dinosaurs that God created must have all looked like. There have been many instances where new discoveries have changed our notions of dinosaur behaviour and appearance. There is, however, still not the slightest reason to have to believe that dinosaurs evolved from non-dinosaurs. And even many prominent evolutionary bird experts insist that the idea that they evolved into birds is hokum. For instance, there are huge theoretical problems for the notion that feathers could evolve from scales, which are very different, both anatomically, biochemically and embryologically (see New dinosaur-bird link and Bird Evolution files out the window). There are also other embryological considerations which prevent many evolutionary experts from taking seriously this notion of dino-bird evolution. We await developments with interest, and as indicated earlier, particularly the comments of Feduccia and others once they have had a chance to study the facts, rather than the enthusiastic interpretations.

Published: 3 February 2006