Designed to Fly

I received a comment from a subscriber the other day who asked me to publish a short article in my blog. The piece (if you want to read it) said, in a few short paragraphs, that birds are well adapted for flight with feathers, a light skeleton, and high metabolism, so birds must have been made by a creator, not evolved from reptiles with whom they share little. I always find it amusing, albeit sad, that if some living being has some marvelous adaptation like bird wings, octopus eyes, or a snake’s fangs, they must have been created by a supernatural being. How could such a complex thing have come about otherwise? The answer, which escapes or is ignored by the minds of creationists, is natural selection.

Bird-like creatures began to arise from dinosaur lines about 250 million years ago. Dinosaurs were becoming warm-blooded and began to show the beginnings of feathers – not modified scales as the article states, but new structures. How do these things happen? Well, all the offspring of parents, the next generation, whether dinosaurs, lizards, clams, bumblebees, or redwood trees, show variation. You don’t look like your mother or father or sister or brother (unless you are an identical twin) and dinosaur offspring aren’t alike.

Sexual reproduction makes variation possible. Chromosomes are changed in the process and occasionally genes are changed through mutation. So all offspring are slightly different than their siblings. If one dinosaur young, through a slight variation or mutation, has a slightly higher body temperature than its siblings, that individual will most likely be more fit to survive and reproduce. Small accumulations of changes over many years and generations produces different individuals. This is evolution, change over time. “Can sticking a peacock feather on a lizard produce a bird”, the article asks. Of course not, and scientists have never said or implied that.

Pteryodactyl

Birds have a lot in common with reptiles: scales made of keratin, a columella (single ear bone), amniotic eggs with shells, a single occipital condyle on which the head swivels, large orbits (spaces for eyes), and nucleated red blood cells, for example. Since the discovery of DNA and genetic tests for relationships, there are thousands of studies that show the lineage of various dinosaur-like animals to bird-like ones. Many of these studies are sophisticated ones, taking a science-oriented and experienced mind to fully understand.

Given enough space, I can explain the evolution of birds from reptiles in scientific terms, but I can’t explain String Theory, quantum mechanics, or the formation of quartz. Does mean that a creator must have come up with this stuff because I don’t understand it? Paraphrasing another commenter, creationism was invented to provide simplistic answers to complex questions.

Quetzalcoatlus

The author of this naïve and biased article saying that reptiles do not have what it takes to fly, forgets, doesn’t know about, or just ignores Pterodactyls, flying reptiles. And what about Quetzalcoatlus, a flying reptile with a 40 foot wingspan, the largest animal ever to fly?

If you are going to disagree with scientific explanations, use good science.

6 thoughts on “Designed to Fly

  1. I believe in natural selection, but guided by an intelligent being, God. But natural selection does not give a complete, unbroken chain of development. Evolution has too many holes and is the most incomplete, unproven theory in science.

    1. The evolution of all creatures is substantiated by DNA, fossils, geology, biochemistry, etc. Just because it is not absolutely complete is irrelevant. And whatever gaps there are are being filled all the time. The patterns are clear. And conversely to a creationist’s idea of theory as a guess, evolution is the most complete and substantiated idea in science. A theory in science is a body of information presenting a concise and systematic view of a subject; it’s not a guess. Think about the Pythagorean Theory (theorem in math): the square of two sides of a triangle equal the square of the hypotenuse. Absolutely perfect, no exceptions, yet it’s a theory. Why is it that a good number of Americans debunk evolution when it it totally accepted by the rest of the world (with the exception of Turkey)?

    2. Your theistic evolution concept is widely accepted, but I don’t understand why God would want to “conceal” his creativity in such a long term plan of development.
      In the first place, the complexity of even the “simplest” of life forms is convincing many biochemists that only a designer could have created life from nonlife – most likely in a short period of time. What then would be the point in taking millions of years to complete the job?

  2. Thanks for this honest article addressing the flaws in creationism. It may change any of those minds, perhaps, but the facts can never be harmful to those who reason from them instead of from an authority not based on evidence.

  3. The pterodactyl illustrations you provided are very dinosaur-like in appearance. Most significantly, they had no feathers, yet achieved flight. So it’s difficult to imagine why (or how) dinosaurs developed the complex feather structure when pterosaurs flew well enough without them.
    This excerpt points out an even more basic structural problem:
    It [is] biophysically impossible to evolve flight from such large bipeds with foreshortened forelimbs and heavy, balancing tails,’ exactly the wrong anatomy for flight.”
    A.C. Burke and A. Feduccia, Developmental patterns and the identification of homologies in the avian hand, Science 278(5338):666–8, 24 October 1997

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