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B.A.R.B: Birds Are Really…..Birds!

The summer of 2000 promised to be very exciting for ornithologists and paleontologists alike as they flew into Beijing for the fifth quadrennial meeting of the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution (Ref 1). The setting was most appropriate given the richness of fossils that have been unearthed in Chinese soil. The central theme of the meeting lay in trying to resolve the question of whether birds had really evolved from dinosaurs (Ref 1). However, rather than a harmonious discussion with the constructive disagreement that one might expect from any scientific ‘get-together’ aimed at resolving discrepancies in data, the meeting did nothing but expose an underlying discord (Ref 1).

While some scientists such as Berkeley’s John Hutchinson and Yale ornithologist Richard Prum were frustrated over issues that they considered long resolved, others were much more skeptical about the certainty of the facts. Storrs Olson, head of ornithology at the National Museum of Natural History, weighed in by accusing Prum of engaging in “ideological mumbo-jumbo” when Prum claimed that feathers had the same evolutionary origin as “hair like integuments found on dinosaur fossils” (Ref 1). So strong was Olson’s feeling against the evolutionary link drawn between birds and dinosaurs that throughout the meeting he and others wore badges stating their case: “BIRDS ARE NOT DINOSAURS” (or B.A.N.D for short; Ref 1). University Of North Carolina paleontologist Alan Feduccia, well known for his discussions on temporal discrepancies between bird and dinosaur fossils, was similarly uncertain about the dinosaur-bird link. Feduccia made his uncertainty public to the sound of accusations claiming a creationist undertone (Ref 1).

With the latest evidence Olson and his ‘BAND of merry men’ appear to have been vindicated. New data on how birds breathe makes the dinosaur-bird link untenable. According to a recent study, the unique thigh bone and muscle structure in birds’ legs play a key role in preventing lung collapse (Ref 2). For birds, that need about twenty times more oxygen than say reptiles, such structural support is crucial to survival (Ref 2). Theropod dinosaurs from which birds are thought to have descended, did not sport such a fixed thigh bone structure and are therefore not viable candidates for a hypothetical bird ancestor (Ref 2).

Of course the impasse over how birds evolved extends well beyond thigh bones and muscles. In fact, the origin of feathers continues to be a formidable stumbling block for ‘evo-philes’. To further understand the difficulty that the feather poses to the assumed evolutionary transition from dinosaurs to birds, consider the feather’s structural foundations. What we know is that the central rachis (or shaft) of the feather branches off into smaller barbs and barbules. The barbules are equipped with tiny hooklets at their ends that interlock with ridges in the posterior barbules to form an impervious, tightly-held vane (Ref 3).

From an aerodynamic standpoint, the arrangement of the feathers in the overall shape of the wing makes for an aerofoil that displays minimal levels of turbulence (Ref 3). The ability to change the geometry and shape of such an aerofoil makes it ideally suited for the various tasks that the bird has to perform such as landing, soaring and flapping. From a molecular and cellular perspective, the story is no less fascinating. The feather follicle, from which the central rachis projects, contains specific zones of epithelial cells specialized in the formation of each of the components of the feather (Ref 4). The molecular mechanisms by which such cell specialization is achieved have also been elucidated in recent years (Ref 4). Through concentration gradients and a highly-regulated activation of specific genes, the morphogenesis and development of a feather is a very tightly-controlled affair (Ref 4).

With such a realization, we begin to get a sense of why it was that twenty three years ago biologist Michael Denton so emphatically decried the step-by-step, unguided evolutionary origin of wings (Ref 3). As Oregon State University Professor John Ruben humorously quipped, “a velociraptor did not just sprout feathers and fly off into the sunset” (Ref 2). The wing- the perfect aerofoil- must meet rigorous criteria before it can provide the necessary lift (Ref 4). No slight fraying of dinosaur scales would have done the job.

Seemingly oblivious of these intractable challenges, some scientists have gone all out to prop up their evolutionary meanderings by focusing on the three-fingered limbs of theropod dinosaurs and modern day birds (Refs 5,6). Paleontologists Xing Xu and James Clark for example recently published on two specimens of a 156 million-old, toothless-beaked, herbivorous theropod called Limusaurus inextricabilis that, they maintain, is a Darwinian-style ‘missing link’ (Refs 5,6).

One factor that has long been a source of consternation is that the finger digits of theropods and birds do not appear to match. While theropods seemingly carried digits 1,2 and 3 of the pentadactyl arrangement, birds display what scientists believe to be digits 2,3 and 4 (Refs 5,6). Xu and Clark have ruffled feathers by claiming that theropod digits have historically been misidentified. Based on their study of L. inextricabilis, they contend that just like in birds early theropods would have had digits 2,3 and 4 (Refs 5,6).

Such a conclusion is not without its critics. In fact prominent Yale evolutionary geneticist Gunter Wagner has questioned the numbering assignments of bird digits adding that bird wings might be based on digits 1,2 and 3 after all (Ref 5). Wagner cites fundamental aspects of embryonic development in support of his case. University of California paleontologist Kevin Padian has similarly suggested that the digit morphology of L. inextricabilis might represent nothing more than an “oddly reduced hand”, commensurate with its herbivorous lifestyle (Ref 5).

Today, nine years after the Beijing meeting, Olson would seemingly be justified in wearing his famous badge. For him and others, the ‘B.A.N.D’ does indeed play on. To be sure, contemporary evidence shows birds to be a distinct phyletic group not easily integrated into a man made evolutionary scheme. While evolutionists point proudly to the apparent anatomical similarities between birds and dinosaurs, they themselves admit to the pressing need to resolve crucial questions about the origin of flight, the evolution of feathers and the conversion to endothermy (Ref 7).

These are not side questions designed to obfuscate discussions, but rather questions that are central to the matter at hand. In light of such facts, perhaps a more radical message needs to be conveyed that echoes the beat of a different mantra: BIRDS ARE REALLY BIRDS (or B.A.R.B for short). It is perhaps time to re-examine our most treasured notions of bird evolution.

Literature Cited
1. Rex Dalton (2000), Feathers fly in Beijing, Nature, Volume 405, p.992

2. See ‘Discovery raises new doubts about dinosaur-bird-links’, http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-06/osu-drn060809.php

3. Michael Denton (1986), Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Adler and Adler Publishers, Bethesda Maryland, 1st Edition, pp. 202-208

4. Mingke Yu, Ping Wu, Randall B. Widelitz, Cheng-Ming Chuong (2002), The morphogenesis of feathers, Nature, Volume 420, pp.308-312

5. Matt Kaplan (2009), Dinosaur’s digits show how birds got wings, 17 June 2009, Nature, doi:10.1038/news.2009.577

6. Xing Xu, James M. Clark, Jinyou Mo , Jonah Choiniere, Catherine A. Forster, Gregory M. Erickson, David W. E. Hone, Corwin Sullivan, David A. Eberth, Sterling Nesbitt, Qi Zhao, Rene Hernandez, Cheng-kai Jia, Feng-lu Han, Yu Guo (2009), A Jurassic ceratosaur from China helps clarify avian digital homologies, Nature 459, pp.940-944

7. See ‘Are Birds Really Dinosaurs?’, http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/avians.html

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43 Responses to B.A.R.B: Birds Are Really…..Birds!

  1. Something I dont understand: why Ruben and Quick, in their article about bird evolution, say that the Archaeopteryx is a bird but then say this “bird” doesnt have “a fixed thigh bone structure”? If such a structure is important for an animal to classify as a possible ancestor of the Bird, why do they call the Archaeopteryx a Bird?
    Please see page 11 of this study:
    The study name is:”Cardio-Pulmonary Anatomy in Theropod Dinosaurs:
    Implications From Extant Archosaurs”
    http://www3.interscience.wiley.....8;SRETRY=0

  2. Nice history and summary Mr. Deyes.

    Gradualism is Dead. Darwin’s theory has failed. This reality has yet to perculate through the closed minds of the Darwinian Church elders with an exception of a few.

    It must be a shock to lose ones god.

  3. Hmm, I’d say that the most treasured notion of bird evolution is that birds did, in fact, evolve from something else. Ruben and Quick prefer thecodonts. Many other scientists prefer theropods. What is the ID hypothesis? Not special creation as a separate kind, of course. Everyone knows ID is not creationism.

    Quick’s comparison of warm-blooded birds and cold-blooded reptiles (20x the oxygen requirement) is transparently not apt. Modern birds require so much oxygen because they fly. She should have been asking how much oxygen does a non-flying theropod need, and can a moving thigh system deliver it.

    Similarly, Mr Deyes’ praise of the wing is a little too high. The wing is not ‘perfect’. It is good enough. Concentration gradients and specific genes, morphogenesis and tight regulation – wow, feathers are so special! As special as every other part of the body, of every body.

    BARF – Birds Are Really Fish

  4. “Everyone knows ID is not creationism”

    Why don’t you weigh in on what is a creationist? Or what is creationism?

    If Edison created the light bulb, is Edison a creationist? When/if MIT succeeds and creates a basic genome, are the scientists and technicians at MIT, creationists?

    Or is creationism like life? We cannot define it but we know it when we see it.

  5. “The wing is not ‘perfect’”

    What would be a perfect wing? How does one define perfect? Will we know it when we see it?

  6. Mr Jerry,

    I’ll leave it to someone who is a creationist to define their own belief system. It would be presumptuous of me to try.

  7. Mr Jerry,

    “The wing is not ‘perfect’”

    What would be a perfect wing? How does one define perfect? Will we know it when we see it?

    Excellent questions! I wonder how Mr Deyes will answer them. It was he who made the claim for perfection.

  8. I just saw the Dinosaur 3D movie about Argentinian Rex or Argentinosaurus. This guy didn’t seem like he/she had any hollow bones to support the 100 tons of lumbering meat eating ferocity.

    http://www.dinosaurs3dmovie.com/news.php

    The movie makers have bought into the birds are dinosaurs meme. They show some birds at the end and call them modern day dinosaurs.

  9. “It would be presumptuous of me to try.”

    Then I will assume you will not use the term in the future in any way to refer to ID or those who espouse it unless someone self identifies themselves as such.

  10. This is an aside or off topic if one is insistent. There is a fascinating topic in biology developed by a fundamental particle physicist about mass size, life expectancy, energy usage etc. that apparently is robust over all phyla including birds and dinosaurs (joking about dinosaurs). The topic is Scaling Laws In Biology And Other Complex Systems by Geoff West from the Santa Fe Institute.

    http://video.google.com/videop.....6776765294

    He appears disorganized and confused at first but by the end the presentation is absolutely fascinating.

    There is a theory of metabolism that entails a hierarchical system of distribution of oxygen and other nutrients that causes certain effects such as heart rate, breathing frequency and life expectancy. Apparently we all have a billion and half heart beats give or take a few million.

    Now back to birds and dinosaurs and whether they are on each others twitter list.

  11. Mr Jerry,

    Not hollow legs, but hollow vertebra! From the Wiki page on Sauropods:

    Air sacs
    Like other saurischian dinosaurs (such as birds and other theropods), sauropods had a system of air sacs evidenced by indentations and hollow cavities in most of their vertebrae. Such openings in the back, neck, and tail bones are referred to as pneumaticity, and pneumatic, hollow bones are a characteristic feature of all sauropods.[9]

    The bird-like hollowing of sauropod bones was recognized early in the study of these animals, and in fact at least one sauropod specimen found in the 19th Century (Ornithopsis) was originally misidentified as a flying pterosaur because of this.[10]

    I like the Twitter joke! :)

  12. BARF – Birds Are Really Fish

    LOL. Appropriate, I would say.

  13. Glad you like it! Birds have an “inner fish” also…

  14. 14

    BARK — Birds Are Really Canines!

  15. Nakashima,

    If you don’t know what perfect means how can you claim that bird’s wings are not perfect? Furthermore, in what ways could the design of the birds wing be improved? From a design perspective, the function of a bird wing is far better than “good enough.” A bat wing is maybe “good enough” but a bird wing is design feature unmatched by anything in human engineering.

  16. 16

    Jehu (#15) wrote: From a design perspective, the function of a bird wing is far better than “good enough.”

    So did bird wings evolve, or were they created? How about the wings of kiwis? (They seem to prove unintelligent design, if anything.)

    Were penguin’s wings designed to be wings and later evolved to flippers, or were they flippers from the get-go? Were they designed as flippers modified from wings, or were they created as flippers?

  17. Furthermore, in what ways could the design of the birds wing be improved?

    I am sure engineers working in the field of flight could suggest improvements, but for developments to actually happen in birds, first there needs to be genetic variation, mutations need to happen, then natural selection will cause those mutations which improve flying ability to proliferate, assuming that improved flying ability is advantageous in the particular niche the particular bird occupies, bearing in mind that the environment is not static but dynamic and bearing in mind that benefits from improvement in flying ability may be costly in other ways, such as having to grow extra tissue or find more food to provide extra energy.

  18. So still no answer to my question:

    why Ruben and Quick, in their article about bird evolution, say that the Archaeopteryx is a bird but then say this “bird” doesnt have “a fixed thigh bone structure”?

    ??

  19. Kyrilluk:

    My specialty is philosophy, not science, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to read the article you cited (the link no longer works), but I’ll try to answer your question from an ID perspective.

    I’d like to begin with this comment in the Science Daily press release:

    “This is fundamental to bird physiology,” said Devon Quick, an OSU instructor of zoology who completed this work as part of her doctoral studies. “It’s really strange that no one realized this before. The position of the thigh bone and muscles in birds is critical to their lung function, which in turn is what gives them enough lung capacity for flight.”

    The key issue here is flight, and what makes it possible.

    Assuming that Archaeopteryx didn’t have a fixed thigh bone structure, the first question I’d be asking is: did it fly?

    According to the Wikipedia article Archaeopteryx , it seems the answer is that it couldn’t fly in the way that most birds do.

    As in the wings of modern birds, the flight feathers of Archaeopteryx were highly asymmetrical and the tail feathers were rather broad. This implies that the wings and tail were used for lift generation. However, it is unclear whether Archaeopteryx was simply a glider or capable of flapping flight. The lack of a bony breastbone suggests that Archaeopteryx was not a very strong flier, but flight muscles might have attached to the thick, boomerang-shaped wishbone, the platelike coracoids, or perhaps to a cartilaginous sternum. The sideways orientation of the glenoid (shoulder) joint between scapula, coracoid and humerus—instead of the dorsally angled arrangement found in modern birds—suggests that Archaeopteryx was unable to lift its wings above its back, a requirement for the upstroke found in modern flapping flight. Thus, it seems likely that Archaeopteryx was indeed unable to use flapping flight as modern birds do, but it may well have utilized a downstroke-only flap-assisted gliding technique.

    The next question I’d ask is: are there any birds which can fly that have a moving thigh bone? It seems the answer is no. Various pro-Darwin Web sites have pointed out that ostriches have a moving thigh bone, but of course they don’t fly.

    The third question I’d ask is: which birds came first – flying or non-flying birds? Putting it another way, are non-flying birds more primitive? According to the Wikipedia article, Flightless Bird , the answer is no:

    Flightless birds are birds which lack the ability to fly, relying instead on their ability to run or swim, and are thought to have evolved from their flying ancestors. There are about forty species in existence today, the best known being the ostrich, emu, cassowary, rhea, kiwi, and penguins. [Emphasis mine - VJT.]

    ID would predict that modern flightless birds should still have pseudogenes which code for a fixed thigh bone.

    That still leaves us with Archaeopteryx. Why did it lack a fixed thigh bone?

    One answer is that it was a very primitive bird, which hadn’t yet evolved the characteristics of true (powered) flight and endothermy. This is what Ruben et al. seem to suggest in an earlier (1997) paper, Lung Structure and Ventilation in Theropod Dinosaurs and Early Birds :

    Some fossil evidence indicates that a variety of dinosaurs maintained ectothermal or near-ectothermal lung ventilation and metabolic rates during periods of low-level or routine activity (1). Additionally, correlational evidence suggests that the earliest birds (Archaeopteryx and enantiornithine “opposite birds”) were also likely to have been ectotherms or near-ectotherms and that avian endothermy probably developed after the evolution of powered flight (2).

    For the curious, however, I have another item of news, which suggests an alternative answer: here is a link to a recent article suggesting that birds could fly in the late Triassic. If correct, this would fit in with claims by Gregory S. Paul and a few other scientists, that some theropod dinosaurs are actually degenerate birds:

    A theory, defended notably by Gregory Paul in his books Predatory Dinosaurs of the World (1988) and Dinosaurs of the Air (2002), suggests that some groups of carnivorous dinosaurs, especially deinonychosaurs but perhaps others such as oviraptorosaurs, therizinosaurs, alvarezsaurids and ornithomimosaurs, are actually descended from forms that could fly. This theory states that Archaeopteryx-like creatures are less closely related to extant birds than these dinosaurs are. [Emphasis mine - VJT.]

    Obviously, Paul’s theory of avian ancestry is quite different from Ruben’s, and the claim for the appearance of birds in the Triassic has yet to be confirmed. But in any case, it would be very interesting indeed if it turned out that the first (Triassic) birds were true (powered) flyers, and that they were also feathered and warm-blooded. And it would be even more interesting if it turned out that powered flight, endothermy, avian lungs and feathers all originated at the same time. Now that would turn the traditional paradigm of bird evolution on its head, and put a feather in the cap of the ID movement (I know, dreadful pun). We shall see.

  20. Many of you have noticed that to get an airplane to land, the pilot has to cut back the engines way back when the wings are close to the ground. This is because aerodynamic drag reduces considerably when the height of the wing above the ground is about one-half the wingspan, and the thrust required to fly is greatly decreased. There are in fact ground-effect vehicles designed to fly only at very low altitudes. An engineering drawback is that it takes more power to get off the ground than to maintain level flight.

    The upshot is that there is an intermediate form of flight that is not nearly as demanding as the free flight we see in modern birds. A theropod-to-avian transitional form might have run into the wind when taking off, and flown at very low altitude by generating relatively little thrust with its wings. Googling theropod birds “ground effect” reveals that people more knowledgeable than I are considering this.

  21. Thank you vjtorley! You know, before reading Intelligent design 101, I used to think that philosophers were as useful in science as alchimist or astrologers. I did philosophy at school but it was more a time to learn mastering my skills at Pac Man on my Graphic calculator than learning to think.
    Since then, I’ve changed my point of you radically about philosophy and your comment is showing a really good insight and reasonning. Thank you.
    It solved the paradox for me.
    I’m going to read also TM English link about theropod birds “ground effect”: this seems interesting as well.

  22. Alan Fox,

    You wrote,

    I am sure engineers working in the field of flight could suggest improvements, but for developments to actually happen in birds, first there needs to be genetic variation, mutations need to happen, then natural selection will cause those mutations which improve flying ability to proliferate, assuming that improved flying ability is advantageous in the particular niche the particular bird occupies, bearing in mind that the environment is not static but dynamic and bearing in mind that benefits from improvement in flying ability may be costly in other ways, such as having to grow extra tissue or find more food to provide extra energy.

    Think for a minute about how utterly vacuous your comment was. You said nothing more than, “I have no idea what improvements could be made to a birds wing but I bet improvements could evolve.” Thank you for edifying me as to your lack of knowledge and unfounded opinion.

    Or were you being ironic? It is hard to tell.

  23. Paul Barnett,

    So did bird wings evolve, or were they created?

    Setting aside the fact that this question totally avoids the challenge I posed to Nakashima, the answer from an ID perspective I would say is probably both. Before you think about it too hard, let me point out that it is far easier to take a wing designed for flight and reduce it to a vestigial flipper than it is take a leg and turn it into a humming bird wing.

  24. Mr Jehu,

    If a bird’s wing is far better than good enough, then it is wasting energy building a wing that has unecessary features. A variant bird that builds a wing just good enough will come along and out compete it.

    What is perfect was Mr Jerry’s question, not mine. My point was that ‘perfect’ whatever it is, is too much.

  25. 25

    Jehu (#23) wrote: “…let me point out that it is far easier to take a wing designed for flight and reduce it to a vestigial flipper than it is take a leg and turn it into a humming bird wing.

    But you’re willing to accept that level of evolution? Would that be microevolution or macroevolution? Or are birds with flippers and birds with wings both members of the same “kind” (or baramin)?

    According to http://www.timetree.org/ penguins’ and hummingbirds’ common ancestor (from which they both evolved) lived about 70 million years ago. That’s a lot of evolution. Are you comfortable with that?

  26. Nakashima:

    My point was that ‘perfect’ whatever it is, is too much.

    So, you are not sure what perfect is, but you are certain that the wing isn’t?

    A variant bird that builds a wing just good enough will come along and out compete it.

    Sounds like the perfect wing might be the one that is just good enough. Is that the kind of wing that you would have designed?

  27. 27

    Jehu

    Setting aside the fact that this question totally avoids the challenge I posed to Nakashima, the answer from an ID perspective I would say is probably both.

    Is it now? And how did you determine that answer? Did you do any research? Did you examine any birds? Did you sequence any DNA? Did you search the literature? Did you visit a museum? Did you observe birds in the wild? Did you make a model? Did you model a wing?

    What, exactly, did you do to come to that conclusion?

    And if I ask the same about a given birds foot? Was that also “designed and evolved”?

    Can you name a part of a bird that unambigiously was

    A) Designed?
    B) Evolved?

    If you concede that every single part of a bird evolved then how was ID involved at all?

  28. Nakashima

    You wrote:

    If a bird’s wing is far better than good enough, then it is wasting energy building a wing that has unecessary features. A variant bird that builds a wing just good enough will come along and out compete it.

    Rubbish. A perfect wing has optimal energy efficiency given the other design constraints of the wing. The idea that “good enough” is somehow more energy efficient than “perfect” makes no logical sense. Furthermore, you are contradicting yourself. First, you say you don’t know what perfect is, now you say it is less energy efficient than “good enough.” Make up your mind.

  29. Echidna-Levy,

    You wrote,

    Is it now? And how did you determine that answer? Did you do any research? Did you examine any birds? Did you sequence any DNA? Did you search the literature? Did you visit a museum? Did you observe birds in the wild? Did you make a model? Did you model a wing?

    I am talking from an ID perspective here. ID is concerned with the origins of information. ID holds that complex, highly specified designs are not the result of random mutation and natural selection. On the other hand, ID has no problem with reductive evolution, i.e. features becoming less complex and less specified through the loss of information.

    For example, it was for a long time believed that ratites were a single clade of bird that had never evolved the to ability fly. However, last September a phylogenetic study confirmed that ratites are in fact multiple clades of birds that have descended from flying birds, through reductive evolution. An article in PNAS reporting the study states:

    Flight has been lost in members of 18 extant bird families, many more times in extinct groups, and hundreds of times in the family Rallidae alone (21, 54, 56). Thus, the loss of flight is much more probable than gain. Given the position of tinamous in either optimal tree based on the complete dataset (Fig. 1, Fig. S1A), flight must have been lost independently at least three times, in ostriches, rheas, and Australasian ratites.

    This is what I am talking about. So to restate my last answer, some wings are designed, some wings are derived through reductive evolution.

  30. 30

    Jehu

    some wings are designed, some wings are derived through reductive evolution.

    Which? Can you name just a single example of each type? And tell me your chain of reasoning for each?

  31. Echidna-Levy,

    Can you name just a single example of each type? And tell me your chain of reasoning for each?

    Yes. In fact I have already given you numerous examples of wings that are derived from evolution. But your failure to demonstrate any intellectual grasp of this topic makes me wonder why you are asking the question. If you can’t understand the conceptual framework of how the data is interpreted why are you so curious to have a specific example? How will it help you? Do you have some stunning rebuttal up your sleave? Or are you hoping that if I keep answering your questions one will eventually dawn on you?

  32. 32

    Jehu

    In fact I have already given you numerous examples of wings that are derived from evolution.

    From my point of view, that’s the easy part. I’m asking you to not only give an example of an evolved wing but an example of a designed wing and explain how you know one is designed and one evolved.

    But your failure to demonstrate any intellectual grasp of this topic makes me wonder why you are asking the question.

    ?
    I would have thought it was obvious. I don’t believe you can

    A) Give me an example of a designed wing
    B) Explain why it’s designed in any detail other then saying “it’s designed”.

    If you can’t understand the conceptual framework of how the data is interpreted why are you so curious to have a specific example?

    It’s you who is making the claim that some wings are designed. I’m just asking for an example! And I’m wondering how you came to that determination!

    How will it help you? Do you have some stunning rebuttal up your sleave?

    My planned rebuttal is to simply ask “and how do you know that” when you give your example of a designed wing. But I was quite clear in my original request that I wanted a designed and a evolved wing example. You have simply ignored the latter part of my request, choosing to focus (for some reason) only on the “evolved wing examples”.

    Or are you hoping that if I keep answering your questions one will eventually dawn on you?

    No, I’m hoping that when you realise you cannot give me the example I’m looking for it might dawn on you that you’ve no evidence to base your opinion on.

    Prove me wrong.

    1 example of a “designed, not evolved” wing is all it will take. Then I might reassess my position if your argument is strong enougth.

  33. 33

    This term “creationist” seems to get broader and broader.

  34. Lord Timothy:

    That’s because “creationist” has more and more become just a barbed — and otherwise largely meaningless — smear word used by darwinist advocates to tag those one wishes to dismiss without actually addressing what they have to say on the merits.

    The ongoing Answers to judge Jones thread gives sad but ample cases in point. For, instead of dealing with a serious — and ID-foundational — 1984 technical monograph on the merits, Darwinist advocates have taken to tagging the author of the foreword and the authors of the monograph then dismissing them.

    Poisoning the atmosphere.

    GEM of TKI

  35. Echidna-Levy

    Personally, I’m a front-loader. I believe DNA was designed; I’m less sure about bird wings. To be truthful, I don’t know much about bird wings, but if I wanted to find out whether one was designed or not, this is what I’d do.

    METHOD A

    1. Identify the genes that code for that wing, in terms of its embryological development and its structural components.

    2. Identify a plausible antecedent for the wing – i.e. the structure it supposedly evolved from. (How? Look around the animal kingdom – and especially at reptile anatomy, as birds are descended from primitive reptiles.)

    3. Identify the genes coding for that structure.

    4. Recalling that evolution takes place at the level of the gene, and that “nature does not make leaps,” I’d try to find a stepwise incremental pathway from the genes identified in step 3 to the genes identified in step 1, such that no step along the pathway reduced the organism’s fitness.

    5. If I found such a pathway, and if there were sufficient time available in geological history for the pathway to have been traversed, I’d conclude that the wing wasn’t designed.

    6. In the absence of such a pathway, I’d conclude that it probably was designed.

    METHOD B
    (A “second-best” method, much inferior to Method A. Could be used as a “stopgap” until detailed genetic data became available, but any conclusions reached via this method would be necessarily provisional.)

    1. Identify the feature of the wing which appeared least likely to have evolved – roughly, the feature possessing the greatest (specific or irreducible) complexity. If I could then explain the evolution of that feature, it would be fair to conclude that the rest of the wing had evolved too.

    2. In the absence of detailed information regarding the genes that give rise to that wing, I’d then look at the structural components of the feature identified in 1.

    3. If I found that the components identified in 2 could be re-arranged so that the wing functioned in a more efficient manner, without interfering with the other bodily functions of the bird in question, and if I had no reason to suppose that the bird’s ancestors had ever possessed this more efficient functioning (i.e. if there were no evidence that devolution had occurred), then I’d conclude that the wing in question probably wasn’t designed.

    N.B. The minimal “behavioral” assumption I’m making in step 3 is that an intelligent designer would arrange whatever components it selected to design with, in such a way that the structure it built functioned as well as it possibly could, given those components, without impeding any other bodily functions of the organism in question. In other words, any designer worth his or her salt should at least do the best he or she can with the materials he or she has selected.

    4. Try to find a plausible antecedent for the feature identified in step 1 – i.e. the structure it supposedly evolved from.

    5. If I found (by performing computer simulations) that the feature couldn’t plausibly have been built up step by step from its suuposed antecedent, or from any other plausible antecedent, without compromising the organism’s fitness, then I’d conclude that it was probably designed.

    6. If I found that the feature in question was irreducibly complex, and that there was no plausible pathway by which the feature could have “devolved” from something which had more parts but was reducibly (instead of irreducibly) complex, then I’d say it was probably designed.

    7. What would really perplex me is finding a feature where different considerations pulled me in opposite directions – i.e. where applying step 3 led me to believe that it hadn’t been designed, but steps 5 or 6 led me to believe that it had.

    NOW HERE’S THE “METHOD” USED IN MOST EVOLUTION TEXTBOOKS TO ARGUE AGAINST INTELLIGENT DESIGN

    1. Find an aspect of a complex structure that looks sub-optimal.

    2. Don’t bother to rigorously test whether it actually performs sub-optimally; if it looks clumsy, that’s enough. It’s a kludge.

    OR:

    1. Find a complex structure, and then try to think of a way in which the function it performs could be improved, using different parts and/or materials. (After all, God can use any parts He likes, can’t He?)

    2. Don’t bother to check if the “new and improved” design you imagined (using different parts and/or materials) would interfere with the other functions of the organism. If there’s a more efficient way to perform the function, then the structure performing it wasn’t designed.

    Now that’s what I call lazy thinking.

  36. 36

    vjtorley

    If I found such a pathway, and if there were sufficient time available in geological history for the pathway to have been traversed, I’d conclude that the wing wasn’t designed.

    But on what basis have you assumed it was designed in the first place?

  37. Echidna-Levy

    You wrote:

    But on what basis have you assumed it was designed in the first place?

    I haven’t. As I said, I’m a front-loader. While I believe that the first cell was designed for reasons discussed here, I’m fairly agnostic about subsequent features of organisms. When it comes to investigating a feature of organisms whose evolution we haven’t witnessed, I believe that agnosticism is an appropriate attitude until we get the big picture. That way, we avoid falling victim to our own philosophical preconceptions.

    The ascription of design to a structure found in organisms is not an assumption but a conclusion. This conclusion is reached only when it appears reasonably certain that no plausible natural mechanism for generating that structure exists.

  38. 38

    vj,

    A well-documented rebuttal of the evidence provided to front-loaders by information coming from the ENCODE Project is doubtlessly going to follow.

    …or perhaps some more charactor assasignation.

  39. KF:

    That’s because “creationist” has more and more become just a barbed — and otherwise largely meaningless — smear word used by darwinist advocates to tag those one wishes to dismiss without actually addressing what they have to say on the merits.

    Oh, you mean like

    “closed minded objectionist selective hyperskepticism”

    or

    “Darwinist Evo Mat”

    You constantly complain about ‘oil of Ad Hominem soaked straw men’ and yet many of your posts seem to contain slurs against the people who are trying to debate with you as, instead of just addressing their points, you try and cast them as some evil curse on society, the root of all the modern worlds ills and appeal to ‘onlookers’ to adopt your blind disdain for anyone who questions your opinion or your twisted interpretation of facts.

    You rarely address peoples arguments on their merits alone, your arguments are always cached in terms of your own presumed moral superiority and your opponents apparent immorality, and then fluffed up with clouds of cut’n'paste obfuscation – another thing which you preach against yet practice to excess.

    And YES I am making personal criticisms of you because your impersonal behavior is so below the bar of enlightened scholarly discourse that it needs to be addressed. Now the real question is, do you have the honor and humility to apologize or is that aspect of Christianity something you prefer to opt out of?

    That said you do such an excellent job of discrediting ID I could almost believe you were actually an Agent provocateur’.

  40. Excession:

    You have forgotten just one thing: I have shown, in responsible details [and have often linked], just what selective hyperskepticism is, and how/why it fails to be a sound approach to epistemology; with particular reference to the failure of Cliffordian-Saganian — “extraordinary claims require extraordinary [ADEQUATE] evidence” — evidentialism. (And in fact, in so doing, I am self-confessedly giving a descriptive label to a pattern of fallacious thought ling since identified by Mr Simon Greenleaf of Harvard; who just happens to be a founding father of the theory of evidence. [So, it is not just a mere humble blog commenter you are trying to rebut . .. )

    Summarising from my proffered "definition" (description, really):

    Selective Hyperskepticism: that fallacy which seeks to reject otherwise credible evidence by demanding an inappropriately high type or degree of warrant not applicable to matters of fact, i.e. the general type of question being discussed. Especially, where the same standard is not exerted in assessing substantially parallel cases that make claims that one is inclined to accept.

    In short, your turnabout accusation-based argument manifestly fails.

    You may also link references to me to make me out to be a hypocrite all you want; all you are achieving thereby in light of the actual balance on the merits, is to further exemplify just how routinely and habitually Darwinists seek to distract by using red herrings, led out to distorted strawmannish misrepresentations of arguments they oppose -- duly soaked in ad hominems -- and then proceed to ignite them to cloud the atmosphere, confusing, poisoning and choking it with polarisation. [Which is of course a classic extreme form of selectively hyperskeptical patterns of rhetoric.]

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Onlookers, you may wish to see my remarks on the underlying dynamics and circumstances at work here.

    PPS: And, Sparc et al, I did not seek to “escape” from the just linked thread to here, but was about real world life after signing off from UD yesterday.

    PPS: For those who want to see what ID methodology looks like, I suggest a glance here.

  41. “do you have the honor and humility to apologize”

    clearly not.

    The definition of Selective Hyperskepticism you proffer describes your own position very well, thank you for making that clear.

    …is to further exemplify just how routinely and habitually Darwinists seek to distract by using red herrings, led out to distorted strawmannish misrepresentations of arguments they oppose…

    In what way is calling you up on your behavior a distraction from the issue of your behavior?

    In short, your turnabout accusation-based argument manifestly fails.

    I rest my case.

  42. Excession.

    Sadly, you are simply — and demonstrably — “wrong but strong.”

    GEM of TKI

  43. Echidna-Levy,

    From my point of view, that’s the easy part. I’m asking you to not only give an example of an evolved wing but an example of a designed wing and explain how you know one is designed and one evolved.

    Yes but remember this discussion began with PaulBurnett commenting that Kiwi’s wings were an example of unintelligent design.

    As for the second part, because apparently the answer is not obvious to you, the birds wing, along with feathers and the specialized avian lung, were designed. Extant birds may have lost some genetic information form the original design(s) to greater or lesser degrees depending on the selective pressure that they are under. Kiwis, for example, have lost a lot.

    How do I know? Natural selection is barely able to conserve information, much less create it. Where a supposed evolutionary pathway requires more than two mutations to achieve the next selective benefit there is not enough reproductive power in a low reproducing organism like an avian to search the necessary mutational space to make such a genetic leap probable. For the bird’s wing, including feather and lung, it is improbable that any such mutational path exists, therefore, the wing, feather, and lung complex was designed.

    Now this all a bit tedious because you continue to posture as if you have some ace bit of knowledge that will carry the day but all you do is ask questions that should be transparently obvious.

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