Home » Intelligent Design » The Missing Link in Bird Evolution Has Been Found!

The Missing Link in Bird Evolution Has Been Found!

I’m suffering from a severe case of cognitive dissonance.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,199695,00.html

Those of us with room-temperature IQs are perpetually assured that there is overwhelming evidence for Darwinian gradualism in the fossil record. So, after reading the news release linked above, I asked myself, “Self, why is this big news?”

I guess I just don’t get it. Why has the missing link in bird evolution just been found, when I have been assured for years that there is overwhelming evidence in the fossil record that the enigma of bird evolution was already solved?

Sigh. I’m apparently too stupid to understand Darwinian logic.

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39 Responses to The Missing Link in Bird Evolution Has Been Found!

  1. we found dozens, including some almost complete skeletons with soft tissues.

    That interested me more than anything else they mentioned.

  2. I notice that the news story uses the phrase “the missing link” and the scientist quoted uses “a missing link.”

    If you consider the use of a rather than the, I suspect your point of confusion will disappear.

    I can make YOUR confusion disappear, pal. :razz: -dt

  3. You may have jumped to a conclusion, Patrick. As I read the article, I assume that they found fossils of soft tissue, not actual soft tissue. Such would not be that interesting.

    Alas, from this article I see very little of interest here. The only thing I see of interest is the discovery that yet again gaps are only perceived when “missing links” are found. Alas, a “missing link” is a great way to be noticed by the press.

  4. You’re mis-construing the inportance. It’s not “we’ve found a missing link, therefore evolution is proved”, but rather “we’ve found a fossil ancestor that tells us something interesting about how birds evolved”.

    There’s a good write-up on Living the Scientific Life.

    Bob

    Wanna see me turn YOU into a missing link? -dt

  5. 5
    sagebrush gardener

    I wasn’t sure exactly what they meant by “soft tissue” either. I was imagining something like meat but couldn’t believe it could be in that condition after 100 million years [sic]. So I went Googling and found this article from 3/28/05 about soft tissue being discovered in a T-Rex fossil by Dr. Mary H. Schweitzer of NCSU, and it was indeed squishy, flexible, red meat:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7285683/

    Does anyone know the current status of the T-Rex discovery and any followup work that has been done?

  6. According to them, this find should be like another way of proving the Earth is round. Hmmm….I wonder if they found another way of proving the roundness of the Earth if it would be just as big of a story. My guess is NO! Even if this is a genuine transitional form, the mechanisms are the focus of our attention, and the Darwinoids haven’t even described (let alone shown) how their mechanisms can do sh**!!!

  7. Sagebrush: If that’s the link to the article about soft tissue inside a dinosaur bone, that was discussed here a while back. Some skeptics object that the soft tissue may be the result of sloppy lab work resulting in contaminated samples. In other words, they’re doubting that the soft tissue came out of a dinosaur as its discoverer claims. There doesn’t seem to be evidence for this charge, it’s just a charge.

    The other tack they’re taking is that the discovery of soft tissue shows that soft tissue lasts a lot longer then we thought without refrigeration!

  8. “Why has the missing link in bird evolution just been found, when I have been assured for years that there is overwhelming evidence in the fossil record that the enigma of bird evolution was already solved?”

    Any time a “missing link” is discovered, two new “missing links” are automatically created. I really don’t see the reason for your puzzlement. I very much doubt we will ever run out of “missing links” entirely.

  9. Some skeptics object that the soft tissue may be the result of sloppy lab work resulting in contaminated samples.

    I have never seen these claims. Reference? The claims I have seen are that the tissue appears “soft” because it was treated with solutions to disolve mineralizations (as stated in the original article).

    In other words, they’re doubting that the soft tissue came out of a dinosaur as its discoverer claims.
    The discoverer did not claim that the tissue came out of the dinosaur “soft” – she claimed that soft tissue was present in the fossilization.

    http://www.google.com/search?h.....Schweitzer -ds

  10. GilDodgen wrote:
    “I guess I just don’t get it. Why has the missing link in bird evolution just been found, when I have been assured for years that there is overwhelming evidence in the fossil record that the enigma of bird evolution was already solved?”

    I think the problem with your understanding is that you read into the article with a slight prejudice… Notice you have said “Why has THE missing link in bird evolution just been found..”. Because evolution predicts gradual transitions, this is not THE missing link, but A missing link, which of course there will be an almost a limitless amount of, due to the gradual nature of change predicted by the ToE.

    And just because these scientists got very excited about this find does not mean that they have finally found the one piece that was missing, therefore “Solving” the enigma of bird evolution, as you have mentioned. They say no such thing in this article.

    This find simply appears to fit in the expected chain of forms predicted by the ToE, and simply adds one more piece of evidence supporting that theory.

    Or, you could still look at it as one more spcifically ‘designed’ form of bird, and one that just happens to fit into the framework of that ‘other’ theory.
    I guess the designer’s mechanism was to slightly modify forms through time, very gradually changing his design from something primitive into what we see today. This is just more proof of that. But that would require asserting something about the mechanism of design, which of course ID does not do…it’s not a mechanistic theory, right?

    Or, more likely, this is just another Piltdown hoax. Darn attention-seeking media hound scientists!

    RobC

  11. I’d still like to know if all they’ve found is fossilized impressions of soft tissues or if it’s another example like that T-Rex sample.

    Unfortunately, the below links don’t make it completely clear:

    http://news.nationalgeographic.....saurs.html

    Soft tissues were also preserved, including flight feathers and webbing—like a duck’s—between the bird’s toes.

    http://www.livescience.com/ani.....ducks.html

    Also preserved were the remains of foot webbing and feathers. The webbed feet and features of the leg bones indicate the bird paddled like a modern duck and dove for its prey much like today’s loons, although probably not as adeptly.

    Although I imagine that if this were indeed actual soft tissues then they’d be making a big deal about it.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/...../5780/1640

    Unfortunately I don’t have a subscription so I cannot read the source paper.

    While googling I did find this viewpoint:

    http://creationsafaris.com/cre.....#20060616b

  12. I am not sure how a bird can be considered a ‘missing link’ for birds. This is like my grandfather being considered a missing link between myself and my great-grandfather.

  13. It was said to be a missing link not the missing link. That is a crucial difference. This post seems like more of a semantic game than an argument. Certainly there are many “missing links” in the fossil record, as is so often pointed out here. When evolutionists say there is clear evidence of evolution in the fossil record they are referring to the chains of development that we can see fairly clearly. Horses and whales are probably the two most often touted examples. But this is really evidence for common descent and the general process of evolution and says nothing concrete about its mechanisms.

  14. Apparently almost everyone missed the point of my sarcasm.

    The evidence for Darwinian gradualism in the fossil record is LOUSY — essentially nonexistent. That’s why a big deal has to be made about every new “transition” or “missing link.” When the evidence on your side stinks, make a lot of noise.

    It was this phenomenon that first clued Phillip Johnson that Darwinism was really materialistic philosophy masquerading as science.

    Barry doesn’t miss the point and neither do I. If there are a plethora of missing links, which is what the chance worshippers always claim, it wouldn’t be big news when an ostensibly unique transition fossil is found. Addendum for GCT at ATBC: lack of transition fossils doesn’t argue against common descent. It argues for saltation and against gradualism. If you were able to construct a coherent thought you could have figured that out for yourself. -ds

  15. RE:#10 I’m sorry, but how again does this find confirm any prediction of Darwinism? From my understanding, they found an ancient water fowl. I guess I’m just missing how this is “a missing link” other than the fact that it is: 1) a bird and 2) very old. Is it a “transitional” form of some sort? Or just an ancient bird?

    Just being a bird in the “right place at the right time” doesn’t qualify you as a transitional form, IMO. It only does if you assume an evolutionary history in the first place. If you don’t make that assumption, you are not left with any real evidence for Darwinism or even common descent. Maybe there’s something I’m missing?

  16. Agreed. It’s just a bird with “modern” features discovered in ancient rocks. I imagine that if the dating results had been different no one would claim it as a missing link…but since it was dated at 110 million years it HAS to be a missing link in order to fit into the NDE narrative’s timeline. Which brings us to:

    Because evolution predicts gradual transitions, this is not THE missing link, but A missing link, which of course there will be an almost a limitless amount of, due to the gradual nature of change predicted by the ToE.

    You do realize this find would require that “modern” avian features evolve very quickly, don’t you?

  17. #13 > Apparently almost everyone missed the point of my sarcasm.

    I don’t understand why. It was quite apparent and based on mere facts.

    K.

  18. Crandaddy, “I wonder if they found another way of proving the roundness of the Earth if it would be just as big of a story.” In light of recent statements by the biological community that NDE has been more thoroughly established than the big bang, I would have to agree with you. By now some ancient bird should not be headline news. If an old bird proves that birds liked water earlier than expected, it may merit a writeup in a dusty old journal somewhere, but not top billing on major news outlets.

    jHudson, “I am not sure how a bird can be considered a ‘missing link’ for birds. This is like my grandfather being considered a missing link between myself and my great-grandfather.” I agree.

  19. I just read the story a couple of more times, and I don’t see anything in it that says WHY it’s a transitional form. Is it just the date? Is there something else about it that these scientists think MAKES it a transitional form?

  20. All creatures are transitions between earlier and later creatures. At the time this creature lived, as is true for every craeture that has ever lived, it just was a complete living thing.

    Things stand out as transitional only because they fill in gaps in our present knowledge, not because they have some quality that in and of itself makes them more transitional than anything else. As I said in a post on this written elsewhere this morning, all “links” are missing until they are found – “missing” is an adjective describing the state of our knowledge, not an inherent characteristic of the creature itself.

  21. Well, according to Creation Safaris the Science paper doesn’t include any claims of this being a missing link (but I haven’t read it myself). The other articles I’ve read don’t provide much clarification on this either…but it seems safe to say it’s “just the date” until further information is known.

  22. People have to realize that this is a big deal not because of the scientific merit of the finding. It is a big deal because of the socio/political conflict over evolution. Scientists always hear about the lack of “transitional forms” in the fossil record so when they find one they feal obligated to say “see, here is another example of a transitional form.” The discovery itself adds little to science.

    If there really isn’t a lack of transitional forms they could say “see, here are all these transitionals we’ve already found”. Why isn’t there a thick book filled with pictures of fossil transitionals they can point to? Surely someone would put one together if they could because, as you say, scientists always hear about the lack of transitionals. Your argument is specious. You’re right about one thing though, the discovery itself adds little to science. Close to nothing, really. -ds

  23. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it’s a dinosaur lol.

    think someone was just a bit too eager with their prediction on this one.

    Charlie

  24. Its a “transitional form” because it is the earliest bird with something very close to modern avian bone structure. The first “birds” were around at least ten million years earlier.

  25. 2 other things of interest in this article. The first is, based on the age of the fossil, Gansus seems to be contemporaneous with Hesperornithiformes, which were previously considered ‘primitive’ and transitional.

    Also I noted in the Science Daily article on the same subject, a quote by Peter Dodson, professor of anatomy at Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine and professor in Penn’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences saying, “Gansus is very close to a modern bird and helps fill in the big gap between clearly non-modern birds and the explosion of early birds that marked the Cretaceous period, the final era of the Dinosaur Age”. I wonder how many ‘explosions’ there were in prehistory marking the appearance of various new forms of life, and how evolutionary mechanisms account for them?

  26. “Previously there was a gap between ancient and modern species of birds, and “Gansus fits perfectly into this gap,” added Jerald D. Harris of Dixie State College in Utah.”

    This is the sort of misleading statement that ends up making people open-minded to alternatives to evolution like ID. I’ve heard many, many variations of it over the last 25 years. It makes it sound like the most recent fossil find is the last piece in an elaborate jigsaw puzzle, a piece so “perfectly” matched to the hole it fills that it completes the whole story of bird evolution. There was only “a gap” between ancient and modern birds, and now that gap is perfectly filled and the story complete.

    But of course it isn’t. The fossil fills the gap perfectly only in the sense that the gap is so huge that just about anything could fit in it. It’s like saying a stone thrown into the Grand Canyon perfectly fills the gap between its sides. It’s this overblown rhetoric that has always made me suspicious of TOE… what other scientific enterprise propagandizes like this?

    Cheers,
    Dave T.

  27. –taciturnus: … what other scientific enterprise propagandizes like this?–

    NASA, perhaps? “Water water everwhere, must be life, ya think?”; The Global Warming Research Funding Industry seems the most pernicious. SETI seems in the worst predicament, what do you publish when you can’t hear anything but crickets chirping (or maybe old Osmond Show reruns).

  28. Now if we could only find a rabbit in the Cambrian.

  29. Ticiturnus: “But of course it isn’t. The fossil fills the gap perfectly only in the sense that the gap is so huge that just about anything could fit in it. It’s like saying a stone thrown into the Grand Canyon perfectly fills the gap between its sides.” Well said.

  30. ftrp11 said:

    “People have to realize that this is a big deal not because of the scientific merit of the finding. It is a big deal because of the socio/political conflict over evolution. Scientists always hear about the lack of “transitional forms” in the fossil record so when they find one they feal obligated to say “see, here is another example of a transitional form.” The discovery itself adds little to science.”

    and many others have said this adds nothing to science outside to the evolution debate.

    This is total nonsense. This adds very important information about the evolution of birds. If you are not interested in the evolution of birds, then you might say that this contribute little. However, many people are curious about bird evolution, scientists and laymen alike, and to them, this is very interesting.

    In fact, you folks are putting it in a political context more than any one else. This finding stands alone on it’s scientific merit as something important. Many of you have shown a fundamental lack of curiousity here by dismissing it.

    Fossil collecting is at best a harmless hobby. To call it important science is trivializing science. Important science to do with birds is finding a cure for bird flu or getting chickens to lay bigger eggs with less feed. -ds

  31. DS,

    Your definition of important science seems to include only science that has a currently knowable and specific practical benefit to humanity rather than simply the satisfaction of answering a question. However, time and time again, important science according to your definition has been pursued without a direct connection to practical application.

    Do you think Albert Einstein pursued relativity because he thought that one day we could harness this work for nuclear power ?

    This comment shows that you do not have a serious view of how science works. Applied science, maybe, but not basic science.

    Fair enough. I’ll give you an opportunity to present examples of practical value in any fossils from many millions of years ago. Have at it. -ds

  32. Two comments:

    For kvwells, if you are suggesting that SETI is rooted in propaganda, why then do proponents of ID turn to it for support?

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/541

    For DS, if paleontology (fossil collecting) is a “harmless hobby,” then why devote such effort to marginalize this news report? And why so many comments from both sides of the argument? It seems to me that if paleontology were as trivial as you assert, no one would bother to report on it at all (have you recently seen any news stories about new discoveries in phrenology?)

    In addition, by claiming as “good science” research into a cure for avian flu and improved egg laying (I agree with you on both counts), doesn’t it stand to reason that the genetic makeup and history of birds would be essential to that research? While this discovery isn’t “proof” of anything on its own, it is a critical piece of learning the evolution of birds and thereby will enable us to make more accurate predictions about the behavior of a bird disease.

    I would like you or any other proponent of ID to describe, in detail, how ID would address the problem of Avian Flu, based on the assumption that birds were “designed” at some point in the past much as they are today, do enlighten me.

    Leo S

    For DS, if paleontology (fossil collecting) is a “harmless hobby,” then why devote such effort to marginalize this news report?

    Such effort? I spent 60 seconds on it. You must mean such little effort.

    It seems to me that if paleontology were as trivial as you assert, no one would bother to report on it at all

    Filler

    doesn’t it stand to reason that the genetic makeup and history of birds would be essential to that research?

    Not one tiny bit.

    it is a critical piece of learning the evolution of birds and thereby will enable us to make more accurate predictions about the behavior of a bird disease.

    You can’t be serious.

    I would like you or any other proponent of ID to describe, in detail, how ID would address the problem of Avian Flu, based on the assumption that birds were “designed” at some point in the past much as they are today, do enlighten me.

    Straw man. How on earth did you ever get out of moderation? No matter, you’re back now. Addendum for GCT at ATBC: It’s a straw man because ID does not speak to virology. Duh. -ds

  33. “This is total nonsense. This adds very important information about the evolution of birds. If you are not interested in the evolution of birds, then you might say that this contribute little. However, many people are curious about bird evolution, scientists and laymen alike, and to them, this is very interesting.” – ftrp11

    Perhaps it is interesting to experts and fossil hobbyists that birds have basically been birds for 100 million years. But the tone of the article implies the opposite about bird evolution. That’s why someone said this article belongs in a dusty science journal, not a popular publication or media outlet.

  34. Avian evolution is a powerfully disconfirming challenge to Darwinian speculation on many levels. Michael Denton, in his first book, “Evolution, A Theory in Crisis,” devotes a great deal of prose and evidence to the problem of evolving the avian lung, which is a continuous-flow, circulatory respiratory system, as opposed to the bellows-type respiratory system of its presumed reptilian evolutionary ancestors.

    There is no conceivable gradualistic pathway between these two types of respiratory systems that would not guarantee the immediate death of a transitional form. Denton identified (IDed) irreducible complexity at a high level before Behe identified it at a low level. Life is irreducibly complex from top to bottom, and in every detail.

    An then there are the complexities of flight. Everything (muscles, feathers, reprogramming of the central nervous system for flight control) must be modified simultaneously if transitional forms are not going to crash and burn in the process, and therefor leave no offspring.

    Was all of this engineered by cosmic rays zapping nucleotides in the DNA molecule, or by genetic copying errors?

    The Darwinian proposition as an explanation for all of this is absurdity, raised to a very large power.

  35. RE:#32 “it is a critical piece of learning the evolution of birds and thereby will enable us to make more accurate predictions about the behavior of a bird disease”

    Trying to analyze biological systems on the basis of the TOE has sidetracked medical research more than a few times. Consider the many so-called vestigial organs that have been found to have important functions. Supposedly evolution would leave in its wake tissues and organs that once served a purpose but no longer are useful and may be removed safely. That prediction of evolution didn’t work out too well. I don’t hear scientists talking about vestigial organs any longer so hopefully such an interpretation of evolution is out of vogue. On the other hand, had researchers understood that the organ was designed that way, they might have been more inclined to discover its purpose.

  36. Quoting from “Coming to Peace with Biology.” Darryl Falk 2004

    “Biologists believe that there were hundreds (perhaps thousands) of similar species that existed between 100 and 200 million years ago, and most would have been members of little side branches. Perhaps even one day somebody will discover a fossil of a species that REALLY WAS in the direct lineage to birds”

  37. “…On the other hand, had researchers understood that the organ was designed that way, they might have been more inclined to discover its purpose.”

    Comment by garyj — June 16, 2006 @ 8:58 pm

    Gary, are you arguing that NDE is a “science stopper”?

  38. Gil, you summed it up perfectly in comment #34.

    Well put.

  39. DS,

    1) http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/fosrec/ONeill.html

    2) Even if there was no presently known application, this has little to do with whether it is science or not.

    I seem to have touched a nerve. Fossil collecting is at best a harmless hobby. What you found above is commonly called “the exception that proves the rule”. Thanks for playing. It was brave of you to try for surely you knew I was right all along. Addendum for GCT at ATBC: The given example is a practical application for oil drilling in being able to easily date some strata with quick microscopic examination of the drill tailings. The subject of this article is a bird fossil and the practical application was in modern biology. Please explain how bird fossils millions of years old have any practical application that would vault their collection from harmless hobby into worthwhile science. Good luck. -ds

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