New Testament Bible Class

The Second (and final) “Death” of Archaeopteryx?

One of the “holy grails” of paleontology is the discovery of missing links that prove all kinds of animals evolved into other kinds of animals.  Missing links or “transitions” are fossilized animals that are between two kinds of animals.  If the evolution of animals from one species to another is true then there must have been many, many transitional animals (missing links).  Alas, the fossil record has revealed very few possibilities but again and again provides evidence of fully developed species. 

Possibly the most popular supposed transition is Archaeopteryx / [ahr-kee-op-tuh-riks] long proclaimed as the “first bird” and considered a transition because of its similarities to both dinosaurs and birds. 

Many photos of fossils and imaginative paintings and models can be found at: http://images.google.com/images?q=archaeopteryx&rlz=1I7DNUS_en&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=D5bvSraxD47aNrPOrI0H&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CBIQsAQwAA

Evolutionists place great weight on the fragile shoulders of Archaeopteryx.

The highlighted words below demonstrate the great emphasis placed on this fossil because it “shows that such a transition is possible” and so “provides strong evidence of the validity of the Theory of Evolution”.  Put another way, if transition is NOT possible then species CANNOT evolve.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/archaeopteryx/info.html

Archaeopteryx is a bird because it had feathers. However, it retained many dinosaurian characters which are not found in modern birds, whilst having certain characters found in birds but not in dinosaurs. By virtue of this fact Archaeopteryx represents an example of a group in transition – a representative which, although on the sidelines in the dinosaur to bird transition, an echo of the actual event, still allows a brief glimpse into the possible mechanism which brought about the evolution of the birds and by its very existence shows that such a transition is possible. 

http://www.fossilmuseum.net/

Archaeopteryx lithographica, is the earliest bird in the fossil record, coming from the Late Jurassic lithographic limestone near Solnhofen, Germany. The first specimen was found in 1891, almost coincident with Darwin’s publication of Origin of Species two years later, and ten more have since been found.

Archaeopteryx’s many features of dinosaurs such as the jaws with teeth, tiny forelimbs with three claws, a long tail and a head covered with scales while body, wings and tail were covered with feathers as in a bird provides strong evidence of the dinosaur ancestry of birds, and, more generally, of the validity of the Theory of Evolution.

It seems that this supposed “missing links” is being nudged off the “transitions” list. 

An article in the Los Angeles Times and reprinted in the Arizona Republic on October 10, 2009 reports:

Archaeopteryx, the 150-million-year-old fossil that for a century and a half has been considered to be the first bird, was probably only a feathered dinosaur that had great difficulty getting off the ground, researchers reported this week in the journal PLoS One.(1)

Discovered in 1860, only a year after Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species,” the magpie-size Archaeopteryx generally was assumed to show evolution in action. It had some traits of modern birds, such as feathers and a wishbone, but it also retained the teeth, tail and three-fingered hands of dinosaurs.

But new studies of its bones and those of other fossils by paleontologist Gregory Erickson of Florida State University and the American Museum of Natural History and his colleagues show that it was much less bird and far more dinosaur than had been believed.

Examining microscopic chips of bone, the team concluded that the bones were very dense and slow-growing, while those of birds are porous, light and fast-growing.

While a bird matures to full size in a few weeks, Archaeopteryx would be nearly as slow-growing as any other dinosaur, requiring at least 2 1/2 years to reach full size, about that of a modern raven. Also, the creatures’ bones would be so heavy that they could perform only very limited aerial maneuvers.

Examining other early fossils, they concluded that modern bird physiology did not begin to appear until 20 million years after Archaeopteryx.

(1) PLoS ONE is an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication that welcomes reports on primary research from any scientific discipline and is published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS), a nonprofit organization.  (http://www.plosone.org/static/information.action)

Removing fossils from the species transitions list or from the list of human “ancestors” (paleontology’s other “holy grail”) is much, much slower and much, much more difficult that their addition.  So, don’t expect quick retractions from science books, science classes, museums, National Geographic, or the Discovery Channel.  Sadly ANY fossil that vaguely resembles a possible “missing link” gets nearly front-page coverage while the “death” of a transition is covered in a short article at the bottom of page 6 like the article above.

God’s word teaches us that different kinds (or species) of animals come from the same kind of animal (Genesis 1).  We observe that minor changes happen within different kinds of animals (the average height of people today is taller than in the past) which some call “micro-evolution”.  But, as we see with Archaeopteryx, macro-evolution (the evolution of one kind of animal into another kind of animal) continues to stumble on its “missing links”.

So don’t forget to be skeptical when the next transitional fossil is thought to be discovered and gets front-page press!

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