Archeopteryx and Evolution

birds
Archeopteryx bavarica

Recent surveys indicate that only about 40% of American adults believe that evolution is a scientific fact. According to the latest survey of the PEW Research Center,“Roughly six-in-ten U.S. adults (62%) say humans have evolved over time, according to data from Pew Research Center’s ” only a little more than half of them (33% of all Americans) express the belief that humans and other living things evolved solely due to natural processes. A quarter of U.S. adults (25%) say evolution was guided by a supreme being. The same survey found that 34% of Americans reject evolution entirely, saying humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.Of 30+modern countries in the western world, only Turkey has fewer believers.” On the other hand, 99.9% of scientists support evolution.

No wonder our country ranks 17th in science education. In most western countries, evolution is not controversial. Not us; the creationists (who now prefer the term “intelligent design” rather than creationism) want us to believe that evolution is some kind of evil plot. Google “evil evolution” together and you get 130,000 hits! Evolution is a “demonic, malicious lie”, “a plot of satan”, and “evolutionists use scientific jargon to conceal anti-supernatural metaphysics.” Huh? What ARE these people talking about?

Much has been made of the eight fossils found over the last 150 years of the creature named Archeopteryx lithographica (ancient wing from the printing stone) found in limestone quarries of Germany. For many years Archeopteryx was considered to be an intermediate between reptiles and birds. More recent research indicates that Archeopteryx is more of a bird than a reptile and not as much of a transition organism as once thought. The creationists have jumped on this. “Aha,” they say, it’s not a true transition between the two groups and thus is a hoax. Somehow they think that the refining of scientific knowledge demonstrates that science is wrong . Again, I say “huh?” That’s how science works. It builds on past knowledge and tweaks and polishes ideas and theories based on new information. There have been a number of hoaxes over the years – the Piltdown Man, the Cardiff Giant, cold fusion, and various forms of perpetual motion machines, for example. All of these were perpetrated by one or a few individuals and uncovered by scientists very quickly. Recently, President Trump and his scientifically illiterate minions) said that “global warming is a hoax.” If it were a hoax, it would have been quickly uncovered by scientists, not perpetrated by 97% of all U.S. scientists , the Nobel Prize Committee and every major scientific organization in the world.

Archeopteryx may have lost its status as an intermediate form, but it is a bird with several reptilian characteristics such as rooted teeth, no beak, along bony tail, and unfused thoracic vertebrae, characters not found in modern birds. New information about Archeopteryx in no way weakens the theory of evolution. Evolution simply means “change over time” and there is no question that plants and animals have changed over time. We have known about evolution since way before Darwin’s time (at least since Aristotle) and enormous amounts of evidence have accumulated since, especially since the discovery of DNA structure and analyses. And we have found many other fossils, mostly in China, that are helping to clarify the evolutionary process that formed birds.

I received a comment on an earlier blog that feathers are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, a quote from the bible. This reflects the intelligent design proposition that something so complicated could not have been made by the evolutionary process. Same argument goes for the eyeball, wings, and a myriad of other animal and plant adaptations. Just because one cannot understand the complexity of an organ or other adaptation does not in the least refute evolution. I don’t understand quantum physics or how to construct a skyscraper, but I don’t ascribe their existence to a supernatural being.

The single most significant misunderstanding by creationists is their tired old statement “evolution is only a theory.” The scientific definition of theory is much different than everyday usage. You can read the scientific definition on Wikipedia. You can also read a good explanation of the level of support, worldwide, for evolution on Wikipedia.

 

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