Birds came from dinosaurs? Pshaw!

Studies at the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm have yielded startling evidence of the connection between ancient meat-eating dinosaurs and modern-day birds, according to a study released this week.

A team of paleontologists, studying a unique set of 198 million year old fossilized handprints and footprints at the site, contend the prints provide the most compelling evidence yet that some dinosaurs had bird-like arms and hands, with inward-facing palms capable of pivoting up and down. The motion, impossible for humans, is the same motion modern-day birds use to fold their wings.

The prints, first discovered in 2004, were left when a two-legged, meat-eating dinosaur — called theropods — sat down along thee shores of what at the time was a large lake, now called “Lake Dixie.” It extended its arms into the sediment, leaving the prints. The imprints turned to stone over the years, preserving the unique marks.

Andrew Milner, city paleontologist and lead author of the study, said the dinosaur that made the tracks may have been in the lake, walked out and up a shallow slope and sat down.

Other theropod hand prints have been reported in the past, but they were all either shapeless blobs or made by animals with downward-facing palms, said Martin Lockley of the University of Colorado at Denver, an author on the paper and dinosaur track expert.

[Read more here.]

I don’t link to this article because it provides exceptional proof of anything.  I don’t call it to attention as an exciting bit of evidence that appeared out of the blue in favor of an old evolutionary conjecture.  I link to it in order to point out the fact that most folks who don’t follow paleontology would never hear of things like this.  The evidence for common descent usually comes in small, modest bursts of discovery, but it comes quite frequently nonetheless, and from many different scientific disciplines.

To anyone paying attention, scientists’ ever deepening understanding of common descent and evolutionary taxonomy is shown by ongoing research to be on the right track in key areas quite often.  In fact, I myself usually only find out about some of the more exciting discoveries on the occasions that news writers hear about them and reckon them newsworthy; the real action is in the literature or specialized online science sites.  I think most creationists would be surprised by how much work is always being done on this stuff, sometimes confirming, sometimes refuting previous studies (in contradiction to the allegation that scientists are a well-oiled conspiracy suppressing all dissent and discouraging self-criticism).  By contrast, look at the ID movement: from what I understand of their leaders’ books and have seen at sites like the Panda’s Thumb, ID folks are almost wholly obsessed with discussing a small group of biological data that they have compiled which they believe disembowels the whole scientific record that shows remarkable agreement between all relevant disciplines, including molecular biology, genetics, comparative anatomy, paleontology, etc.

I am baffled that so many intelligent people (as relatively small as their camp is) regularly attribute the astoundingly coherent body of scientific evidence to blind ideology; that they would so often make such basic rational mistakes as trying to discredit evolutionary theory upon the basis of its aspects that are currently poorly understood.  In this honest bewilderment, I am apparently quite unlike ID advocates and other creationists, who seem to have no problem believing that all mainstream scientists are off their respective rockers and/or conspiratorial in truth suppression with their acceptance of evolutionary theory.

I just don’t get it.  Probably never will.

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