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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  • Creationists and IDers work from a philosophical point of view rather than a scientific one, even when they are discussing science. They are concerned with what belief in evolution means to the culture, human life, religion, etc. rather than simply what it means as a physical reality.

    In a sense, they are speaking another language, where one conflicting fact invalidates all the other facts. The Socratic Method rules the debate floor.

    Other human endeavors use all the facts, and synthesize a conclusion. Courts, medicine, biological sciences, etc. all weigh sometimes conflicting facts against each other in doing this.

    The ironic thing is that using their standard, science is always wrong. There is always an inconvenient fact or observation that has to be dealt with, and dissenting views are common. And then, views change. Facts become non-facts and crazy, hair-brained ideas become the new facts.

    That’s a crazy way to run a philosophy, but the right way to conduct scientific inquiry.

    Frank Hagan´s last blog post..Big Families Save the Planet

    • Creationists and IDers work from a philosophical point of view rather than a scientific one, even when they are discussing science. They are concerned with what belief in evolution means to the culture, human life, religion, etc. rather than simply what it means as a physical reality.

      Give the man a cigar — that’s it exactly.

      One of the biggest reasons I was able to question creationism and entertain the notion of evolution was my innate rejection of the appeal to consequence. You’ve got to follow the truth wherever it leads, no matter what unsavory implications it has or complications it causes.

      • AMW

        They are concerned with what belief in evolution means to the culture, human life, religion, etc. rather than simply what it means as a physical reality.

        Hence it is DI’s Center for [The Renewal of] Science and Culture that does all the ID promotion.

  • Creationists and IDers work from a philosophical point of view rather than a scientific one, even when they are discussing science. They are concerned with what belief in evolution means to the culture, human life, religion, etc. rather than simply what it means as a physical reality.

    In a sense, they are speaking another language, where one conflicting fact invalidates all the other facts. The Socratic Method rules the debate floor.

    Other human endeavors use all the facts, and synthesize a conclusion. Courts, medicine, biological sciences, etc. all weigh sometimes conflicting facts against each other in doing this.

    The ironic thing is that using their standard, science is always wrong. There is always an inconvenient fact or observation that has to be dealt with, and dissenting views are common. And then, views change. Facts become non-facts and crazy, hair-brained ideas become the new facts.

    That’s a crazy way to run a philosophy, but the right way to conduct scientific inquiry.

    Frank Hagan´s last blog post..Big Families Save the Planet

    • Creationists and IDers work from a philosophical point of view rather than a scientific one, even when they are discussing science. They are concerned with what belief in evolution means to the culture, human life, religion, etc. rather than simply what it means as a physical reality.

      Give the man a cigar — that’s it exactly.

      One of the biggest reasons I was able to question creationism and entertain the notion of evolution was my innate rejection of the appeal to consequence. You’ve got to follow the truth wherever it leads, no matter what unsavory implications it has or complications it causes.

      • AMW

        They are concerned with what belief in evolution means to the culture, human life, religion, etc. rather than simply what it means as a physical reality.

        Hence it is DI’s Center for [The Renewal of] Science and Culture that does all the ID promotion.

  • I’m surprised at how much is found daily on the subject yet many people still choose to ignore it. But I slightly understand them. If it wasn’t for the assignment I have this year I probably wouldn’t even look up news like this.

    Angel´s last blog post..God’s Beautiful Planet

    • I do understand how it would be hard to find this stuff for the non-scientist. But their lack of data makes the fact that they are so cocksure that common descent is horse hockey the less acceptable, it would seem.

  • I’m surprised at how much is found daily on the subject yet many people still choose to ignore it. But I slightly understand them. If it wasn’t for the assignment I have this year I probably wouldn’t even look up news like this.

    Angel´s last blog post..God’s Beautiful Planet

    • I do understand how it would be hard to find this stuff for the non-scientist. But their lack of data makes the fact that they are so cocksure that common descent is horse hockey the less acceptable, it would seem.

  • I am still trying to grasp the vast difference between my view of reality and the view of reality as perceived by the Creationist/ID advocate. That 45% of Americans believe that the Earth is 6000 years old is a concept that I really don’t want to accept. The hardcore creationist purports that NOTHING will change their mind about their beliefs. When we argue against their beliefs, we argue for the sake of the more reasonable people with somewhat open minds…not for the creationist, who is often too far gone to be helped.

    Alphonsus´s last blog post..Creationism vs Science – My Current Obsession

    • Welcome, Alphonsus!

      When we argue against their beliefs, we argue for the sake of the more reasonable people with somewhat open minds…not for the creationist, who is often too far gone to be helped.

      I can’t help but agree with you reluctantly here. Some people seem to be predisposed to accept evidence on its face even after a little initial resistance, and some seem to be predisposed to ignoring evidence that contradicts what they want to believe and to adopting any counter-evidence they come across, no matter how flimsy. Growing up a creationist, I had no hard time accepting evolution once I stopped and looked at the evidence, so I suppose I was the former type. I know plenty of the latter type, though. And then there are those Christians who prefer not to dabble in the question at all; I believe these are naive to think that debates like this don’t have a significant impact on Christianity in the world today.

      • AMW

        Ditto Steve’s sentiments. I was raised creationist, and I was hard-core. But it was because I thought we had the evidence and evolutionists didn’t. Problem was, I was never shown (and didn’t seek) the full range of evidence. Once I bothered to educate myself, I switched stances. Then my dad and brother re-evaluated their commitment to creationism as well.

        But I’ve got other family members for whom this isn’t a discussion about fossils and isotopic decay rates. It’s a discussion about whether or not there’s a God and objective morality.

  • I am still trying to grasp the vast difference between my view of reality and the view of reality as perceived by the Creationist/ID advocate. That 45% of Americans believe that the Earth is 6000 years old is a concept that I really don’t want to accept. The hardcore creationist purports that NOTHING will change their mind about their beliefs. When we argue against their beliefs, we argue for the sake of the more reasonable people with somewhat open minds…not for the creationist, who is often too far gone to be helped.

    Alphonsus´s last blog post..Creationism vs Science – My Current Obsession

    • Welcome, Alphonsus!

      When we argue against their beliefs, we argue for the sake of the more reasonable people with somewhat open minds…not for the creationist, who is often too far gone to be helped.

      I can’t help but agree with you reluctantly here. Some people seem to be predisposed to accept evidence on its face even after a little initial resistance, and some seem to be predisposed to ignoring evidence that contradicts what they want to believe and to adopting any counter-evidence they come across, no matter how flimsy. Growing up a creationist, I had no hard time accepting evolution once I stopped and looked at the evidence, so I suppose I was the former type. I know plenty of the latter type, though. And then there are those Christians who prefer not to dabble in the question at all; I believe these are naive to think that debates like this don’t have a significant impact on Christianity in the world today.

      • AMW

        Ditto Steve’s sentiments. I was raised creationist, and I was hard-core. But it was because I thought we had the evidence and evolutionists didn’t. Problem was, I was never shown (and didn’t seek) the full range of evidence. Once I bothered to educate myself, I switched stances. Then my dad and brother re-evaluated their commitment to creationism as well.

        But I’ve got other family members for whom this isn’t a discussion about fossils and isotopic decay rates. It’s a discussion about whether or not there’s a God and objective morality.

  • Full Disclosure: I am one who doesn’t dabble in the question much at all.

    I do understand the impact this question could have on Christianity in the world. I also understand the impact it could have on the faith of many. Theistic evolutionists need to go easier on YECs and the like. It’s easy to paint them as close-minded nincompoops when you’ve already made the leap to the evolution side of the debate. I learned this lesson whenever I changed my eschatology to partial preterism from pre-trib premillenialism. I didn’t understand why those dopey futurists didn’t see scripture the way I did and I realized that I began to be harsh on some of the futurists I knew.

    For many, an admission that the Creation story is not really what happened would lead them to question all their other doctrines. As you know from my previous comments on this site, I am all too familiar with that tendency. No matter how you slice it, to take on a mythological view of Genesis (or any part of the Bible for that matter) makes one wonder about the rest. It’s a fact of life.

    Furthermore when you are a theistic evolution it is like living in the apartment next to the enemy with only a thin wall between you. It seems that nearly everyone who subscribes to evolutionary theory also subscribes to a Godless worldview which DOES have implications for “the culture, human life, religion, etc.”

    So surely you must understand that for a YEC to become a TE is more than just looking at a text book and saying “Oh…oh, okay.”

    Josh H.´s last blog post..Considering the Rapture and Millennium Through Catholic Eyes

    • Josh H
      In some ways I agree with going easy on YEC’s but it’s hard when I’m arguing with one that’s extremely cocky and telling me I’m not really a Christian.

      Angel´s last blog post..Cardinal Says Atheist theories ‘absurd’

    • Theistic evolutionists need to go easier on YECs and the like. It’s easy to paint them as close-minded nincompoops when you’ve already made the leap to the evolution side of the debate.

      By no means would I paint all the people who assume a literal, historiographic reading of the creation account as “close-minded nincompoops”. “YEC’s” and “creationists” in my usage refer to people who actively propagate this teaching to people, not those who simply trust those who do. While certainly naive and usually annoyingly cocky about how stupid and ridiculous evolution is, I think your average church-goer is exempt from nincompooposity.

      Now, the real nincompoops are those who refuse to look at the data from any vantage but the one they’ve chosen while pretending to have done an exhaustive and objective analysis of the science, especially when they characterize the ones honestly approaching the data as deceivers or compromisers. It is not easy to recognize one’s own presuppositions for what they are, and so I cut the newcomers and non-committed to the debate some slack (but come on, if it’s important for the Church to be right, don’t just dabble!). But as Angel said, it’s hard to excuse those who continue to refuse to evaluate the data on its own merits apart from their interpretive prejudices.

      Harsh? I don’t think so. What do you think about the flat-earthers and geocentrist Christians who read the Bible in such a way that makes round-earthers (?!) and heliocentric Christians out as unfaithful to the text? Will you not get annoyed with futurist dispy’s who look at all of your evidence for preterism and dismiss it out of hand without a good explanation? Sure, maybe you’ll cut them slack for a while, but after persistent refusal to reevaluate their interpretive presuppositions, I think you’d begin to feel the frustration you see on this page.

      For many, an admission that the Creation story is not really what happened would lead them to question all their other doctrines. As you know from my previous comments on this site, I am all too familiar with that tendency. No matter how you slice it, to take on a mythological view of Genesis (or any part of the Bible for that matter) makes one wonder about the rest. It’s a fact of life.

      Josh, at least it makes you “wonder about the rest”. The people that cause us angst are those who refuse to consider something that’s as plain to most of us as heliocentrism only because it would challenge their precious classical theology and so they can’t be bothered to critically evaluate their own beliefs. This admixture of fear and pride makes a potent poison. Yet I wouldn’t say this makes them any more “nincompoops” than other close-minded people.

      Furthermore when you are a theistic evolution it is like living in the apartment next to the enemy with only a thin wall between you.

      Great explanation of the feeling. But at the same time, the wall is no thinner between atheistic materialists and theistic evolutionists than it is between atheistic materialists and those who believe that God doesn’t have to poke holes in the firmament to make it rain (i.e., the weather, while in God’s hands, is determined by natural processes). For that matter, I think there are even atheists who like the Braves! Hitler believed in God! We will agree with virtually everyone on something or other.

      It seems that nearly everyone who subscribes to evolutionary theory also subscribes to a Godless worldview which DOES have implications for “the culture, human life, religion, etc.”

      As above, why is this particular area different than virtually every other naturalistic (miracle-free) explanation for natural phenomena, including gravity, plate tectonics, precipitation, etc.? If the evangelical Christian default were to deny any one of those things as being governed by natural laws rather than divine manipulation — and moreover to accuse all who didn’t deny it as being in league with atheists — I daresay you would see where we are in our frustration.

  • Full Disclosure: I am one who doesn’t dabble in the question much at all.

    I do understand the impact this question could have on Christianity in the world. I also understand the impact it could have on the faith of many. Theistic evolutionists need to go easier on YECs and the like. It’s easy to paint them as close-minded nincompoops when you’ve already made the leap to the evolution side of the debate. I learned this lesson whenever I changed my eschatology to partial preterism from pre-trib premillenialism. I didn’t understand why those dopey futurists didn’t see scripture the way I did and I realized that I began to be harsh on some of the futurists I knew.

    For many, an admission that the Creation story is not really what happened would lead them to question all their other doctrines. As you know from my previous comments on this site, I am all too familiar with that tendency. No matter how you slice it, to take on a mythological view of Genesis (or any part of the Bible for that matter) makes one wonder about the rest. It’s a fact of life.

    Furthermore when you are a theistic evolution it is like living in the apartment next to the enemy with only a thin wall between you. It seems that nearly everyone who subscribes to evolutionary theory also subscribes to a Godless worldview which DOES have implications for “the culture, human life, religion, etc.”

    So surely you must understand that for a YEC to become a TE is more than just looking at a text book and saying “Oh…oh, okay.”

    Josh H.´s last blog post..Considering the Rapture and Millennium Through Catholic Eyes

    • Josh H
      In some ways I agree with going easy on YEC’s but it’s hard when I’m arguing with one that’s extremely cocky and telling me I’m not really a Christian.

      Angel´s last blog post..Cardinal Says Atheist theories ‘absurd’

    • Theistic evolutionists need to go easier on YECs and the like. It’s easy to paint them as close-minded nincompoops when you’ve already made the leap to the evolution side of the debate.

      By no means would I paint all the people who assume a literal, historiographic reading of the creation account as “close-minded nincompoops”. “YEC’s” and “creationists” in my usage refer to people who actively propagate this teaching to people, not those who simply trust those who do. While certainly naive and usually annoyingly cocky about how stupid and ridiculous evolution is, I think your average church-goer is exempt from nincompooposity.

      Now, the real nincompoops are those who refuse to look at the data from any vantage but the one they’ve chosen while pretending to have done an exhaustive and objective analysis of the science, especially when they characterize the ones honestly approaching the data as deceivers or compromisers. It is not easy to recognize one’s own presuppositions for what they are, and so I cut the newcomers and non-committed to the debate some slack (but come on, if it’s important for the Church to be right, don’t just dabble!). But as Angel said, it’s hard to excuse those who continue to refuse to evaluate the data on its own merits apart from their interpretive prejudices.

      Harsh? I don’t think so. What do you think about the flat-earthers and geocentrist Christians who read the Bible in such a way that makes round-earthers (?!) and heliocentric Christians out as unfaithful to the text? Will you not get annoyed with futurist dispy’s who look at all of your evidence for preterism and dismiss it out of hand without a good explanation? Sure, maybe you’ll cut them slack for a while, but after persistent refusal to reevaluate their interpretive presuppositions, I think you’d begin to feel the frustration you see on this page.

      For many, an admission that the Creation story is not really what happened would lead them to question all their other doctrines. As you know from my previous comments on this site, I am all too familiar with that tendency. No matter how you slice it, to take on a mythological view of Genesis (or any part of the Bible for that matter) makes one wonder about the rest. It’s a fact of life.

      Josh, at least it makes you “wonder about the rest”. The people that cause us angst are those who refuse to consider something that’s as plain to most of us as heliocentrism only because it would challenge their precious classical theology and so they can’t be bothered to critically evaluate their own beliefs. This admixture of fear and pride makes a potent poison. Yet I wouldn’t say this makes them any more “nincompoops” than other close-minded people.

      Furthermore when you are a theistic evolution it is like living in the apartment next to the enemy with only a thin wall between you.

      Great explanation of the feeling. But at the same time, the wall is no thinner between atheistic materialists and theistic evolutionists than it is between atheistic materialists and those who believe that God doesn’t have to poke holes in the firmament to make it rain (i.e., the weather, while in God’s hands, is determined by natural processes). For that matter, I think there are even atheists who like the Braves! Hitler believed in God! We will agree with virtually everyone on something or other.

      It seems that nearly everyone who subscribes to evolutionary theory also subscribes to a Godless worldview which DOES have implications for “the culture, human life, religion, etc.”

      As above, why is this particular area different than virtually every other naturalistic (miracle-free) explanation for natural phenomena, including gravity, plate tectonics, precipitation, etc.? If the evangelical Christian default were to deny any one of those things as being governed by natural laws rather than divine manipulation — and moreover to accuse all who didn’t deny it as being in league with atheists — I daresay you would see where we are in our frustration.

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