In 2016 fossilized remains of feathers attached to a bony tail preserved in a 99 million year old amber fossil captured international attention. This wasn’t the first time that feathers have been found in amber but earlier feather discoveries were of feathers by themselves. This time unmistakable feathers were found attached to a structure which was identified as the tail of a small dinosaur. These were clearly feathers, however, they are morphologically distinct from the feathers of birds alive today and lack many specific characteristics of flight feathers.
It was a wonderful discovery and probably just the first of many future discoveries. Feathers are very scarce in the fossil record. They decay easily and even when preserved they are difficult to interpret. For many years is was assumed that all dinosaurs had skin much like reptiles alive today. But it seems this view is partially due to the incomplete nature of the fossil record, a lack of attention paid to possible feathers, and technological constraints.
Today, some fossils which were described decades ago have recently been re-examined and found to contain evidence of preservation of feather remains in part because we have far better tools for examining fossils and because scientists now realized it might be worth looking for them. But it is the discovery of exceptionally preserved fossils in one region of China since 2000 that has done the most to change our view of dinosaurs.
The Young-earth creationist’ (YEC) response to feathered dinosaurs
Over the past decade a flood of new fossils and continued studies of old fossils has built a stronger and stronger case that many dinosaurs – particularly the theropods – had at least some form of feathery plumage not related to the ability to fly. The first—and in some cases continued—response of YECs was denial. Fossils were either fakes or the feathers weren’t really feathers. But the onslaught of feathery fossils has forced YECs to continually respond to each new discovery and they have evolved some new arguments.
As I will demonstrate below, some YECs have softened their once absolute statements or have altered their definition of what constitutes a bird to accommodate the new feathered fossils.
But let’s allow the YECs to respond with their own words. What I have done is copied the last summary paragraph of many articles over the past 10 years. Yes, the context is missing in some cases but the general flavor of their conclusions should be apparent and I have provided links to the original articles if you wish to consider the full context.
Below all of these quotes I have summarized the YEC responses and provided my speculation about what I had expected the YEC response to this feathered dinosaur tail to be. Lastly, I include a string of updates made over the following month to document the YEC responses up to the present.
A collection of YEC responses to reports of feathered dinosaurs
Fossil Fibers Befuddle Dinosaur Evolution. Brian Thomas 2009 M.S. (Institute for Creation Research)
There is no such thing in the real world as a feathered dinosaur. The news that this non-theropod dinosaur had fibers just adds more scientific evidence to corroborate the historical evidence that dinosaurs were created, not evolved.
What if dinosaurs really had feathers? Elizabeth Mitchell (M.D.) 2015. (Answers in Genesis)
Zhenyuanlong was a big bird, now extinct but preserved in the geologic record of the global Flood, a catastrophe that buried it and countless other animals under tons of sediment. Zhenyuanlong is not a blow to biblical belief but a testimony to the avian diversity of the pre-Flood world.
Feathered Raptors: Not the Birds (AiG, no author) 2007
It would be reading far too much into this story to say that evidence for feathered dinosaurs has been discovered; all we have here are six questionable indentations in a fossil bone allegedly from a velociraptor (not that we’re casting doubt on the researchers’ integrity; we simply recognize the role presuppositions and evolutionary dogma play in classifying and extrapolating on fossils, as well as the desire for many media outlets to trumpet evolutionary “proofs” long before they’re given a chance to be thoroughly studied). We eagerly await further research into the find.
Another feathered dinosaur? News to Note (no author), 2007
The problem is, with the bones unlikely to be examined by a creationist paleontologist anytime soon, Gigantoraptor will no doubt be added to the list of “missing links” between dinosaurs and birds. Scant fossils are increasingly being shoehorned into evolutionary roles, with fanciful extrapolations trumping careful analysis of actual unearthed bones; this treatment yields what are often little more than modern-day “Nebraska men.”
Is Jurassic World Wrong for Portraying Dinosaurs without Feathers? Avery Foley 2015 (M.S. biblical studies) AiG. I have written about this article before: The Dangers of Poor Scholarship: A Creationist’s take on Feathered Dinosaurs.
Did dinosaurs have feathers? In a biblical worldview, we do not expect to find feathered dinosaurs. Currently the evidence does not support the idea that dinosaurs were covered in feathers. Now while we may not know for sure what dinosaurs looked like, what we do know is that birds did not evolve from dinosaurs. They—like dinosaurs—were specially created by God in the beginning to reproduce according to their kind.
Was Tiny Feathered Creature Dinosaur or Bird? Elizabeth Mitchell, 2013
The fossil record does not reveal an evolutionary progression in feather development, nor does it reveal transitional animals that are part bird and part dinosaur. The order of fossils in the fossil record is largely a record of the order various creatures were buried when their habitats were overcome by the rising waters of the biblical global Flood. This happened in the space of a few weeks, not millions of years. The presumed millions of years are based on unverifiable assumptions. Thus the fossil record does not demonstrate that birds evolved from dinosaurs, just as in the history of biology, no scientific observations have ever shown a way that dinosaurs could acquire the genetic information to make the dramatic changes that would have been necessary to evolve into birds.
Feathered Dinosaurs Found in Canada? Elizabeth Mitchell, 2012
Given the lack of visible feathers, the data about these ornithomimids remains inconclusive. Without definitive feathers, they may just be dinosaurs. Or they may be extinct birds, descendants of the birds God made in the beginning. God made all kinds of birds on the 5th day of Creation week and land animals such as dinosaurs on the 6th. And nothing about this study demonstrates the evolution of feathers or the evolution of birds.
A Feathered Dinosaur? “Kids Answers” Page (AiG), 2008
Although no actual feathers were found with the velociraptor fossil (or any other dinosaur fossil, for that matter), it may be that some dinosaurs had feathers. But this group of animals would merely be a kind of feathered reptile—descendants of the animals that God created in the beginning. Feathers on reptiles have nothing to do with proving that one kind of animal changed into another kind. They just show the creativity and diversity of our wonderful Creator God!
One-Ton ‘Feathered’ Dinosaur? 2012 Brian Thomas M.S. (Institute for Creation Research)
The famous Chinese dinosaurs probably began rotting as they were transported in Noah’s Floodwaters only 4,500 or so years ago, even as modern carcasses rot. The soluble flesh rotted first, leaving behind more resistant fibers that were then fossilized.
As is the case with other famous claims of Chinese fossil dinosaur “feathers,” these are more straightforwardly interpreted as being the fossilized fragments of partly decayed skin. Researchers compared the fossil fibers to skin filaments from decaying carcasses, and found an excellent match.
Why would so many headlines report that fossil feathers are present? Scientists themselves are not certain that the filaments are actually feathers. And a better explanation fits.
Dinosaurs Designed without Feathers Tim Clarey Ph.D (Geology) ICR 2016
While a “feathered” dinosaur would fit the evolutionary worldview, this theory is not supported by data-driven science. Like Scansoriopteryx, the true feathers and unusual body dimensions of Z. suni do not add up to a dinosaur but rather a bird. Again and again, fossils support that birds were birds and dinosaurs were dinosaurs from the moment of creation, just as Genesis says.
Did Some Dinosaurs Really Have Feathers? Frank Sherwin M.A. and Brian Thomas M.S.
A feathered dinosaur may someday be discovered. But even then, feathers on a dinosaur would not solve evolution’s biophysical impasse of converting a reptile skeleton into that of a bird. And so far, the evidence for feathered dinosaurs is much better interpreted as decayed skin fibers. Overall, fossils show that dinosaurs and birds have always been separate creatures.12 And this is exactly what one would expect if dinosaurs and birds were created separately, each to reproduce “after their kind.”
Four-winged Dinosaur Definition Doesn’t Fly Brian Thomas M.S. 2014
Perhaps like the recent author who reverted back to calling a long-time bird a dinosaur after a second look at the evidence,2 these evolutionary researchers may one day regret having referred to Changyuraptor as a “four-winged dinosaur.” Changyuraptor had none of the transitional features required to morph a real dinosaur into a bird. True, it was unlike any of today’s familiar birds, but as the saying goes, if it quacks like a duck, has feathers like a duck, then it’s probably a duck. In this case, bird wings and feathers don’t make a dinosaur, but rather an exquisitely well-fashioned four-winged flying bird.
A summary of responses:
There are three themes in YEC responses: 1) The dinosaurs are really birds, 2) The feathers are just filaments of decaying skin/scales, and 3) fossils are possibly fakes or hybrids of birds and dinosaurs. Some of these articles include all three responses.
But the weight of evidence that many dinosaurs had some downy plumage has become overwhelming in recent years. As a result I am seeing is a fourth caveat thrown into many articles which states that the Bible doesn’t say that dinosaurs couldn’t have feathers and so if they are found this would just show dinosaurs were more diverse than we thought. I can’t help but wonder though, if they really believe that fuzzy or feathered dinosaurs aren’t a problem then why have they put up such strong resistance to every new fossil find that seems to display feathers?
With regards to the 2016 feathered tail fossil, I predicted that it will be pronounced as nothing more than the remains of a bird and therefore the feathers should not be news at all. I also believed a caveat would be added that dinosaurs could have had feathers thus covering themselves against any future discovery that is even more clear than this one.
My advice to Elizabeth Mitchell—who will probably be tasked with crafting the Answers in Genesis response (update: I was wrong about Mitchell, it was AiG’s Dr. Menton who ended up responding)—was that she should decide it is time to make a break from YECs in the past and pronounce that God did create some dinosaurs with feathers. The longer AiG holds out the harder it becomes to make the transition to a new YEC paradigm of understanding dinosaurs. Of course to come to such a conclusion she would have to—ironically—infer this from historical evidence. But they have been inferring from historical evidence all along that dinosaurs didn’t have feathers. Since the Bible is silent on this topic shouldn’t we and AiG be free to draw conclusions based on where the evidence takes us?
The first YEC response to this feathered tail did not come from AiG or ICR but rather came within days from Dr. Todd Wood (Core Academy of Science). Dr. Wood responded in his typical manner of wonder and amazement and interestingly—though not suprising given his pension for not agreeing with the YEC consensus—he recognized what this fossil probably represents: a dinosaur with feathers. Here is part of what he had to say (God made dinosaurs with beautiful feathers):
My first impression was that it was a beautiful fossil, but how do we know it’s a dinosaur? First of all, it’s not a bird, at least not a modern bird. Modern birds don’t have long tails like this. Could it be one of those weird fossil birds with long tails like Archaeopteryx? The tail bones (visible in scans of the fossil) aren’t the right shape, and there seems to be more flexibility to this tail (because it’s bent) than to tails of fossil birds with tails. That means that it’s probably a dinosaur of some kind, since they’re the only other critters we know of that had feathers like this. Am I 100% sure it’s a dinosaur? No, nobody is, but it sure does look like one based on what we know about dinosaurs and birds.
Unfortunately, Todd Wood open approach to the data is not shared by most YECs and he has little influence with the large YEC organizations that dominate the creationist’ world and I didn’t think they would follow in his footsteps – at least not yet. (2018 update: see footnote for evidence some YECs are coming around to feathered dinosaurs)
The slippery slope of bird-dinosaur determination for YECs
The bird question has been a long slippery slope for YECs for some time. With each new discovery they have had to redefine what a bird is to maintain their insistence that birds and reptiles are distinct kinds with no common ancestry with reptiles. For example, in the past, the presence of a bony flexible tail, true teeth, and claws on the “hands” of birds would not have been traits of birds but exclusively of dinosaurs. But, while YECs might say that it is possible dinosaurs could have had feathers they don’t seem to believe this. They seem to associate feathers as a unique trait of birds. They are the feature that anyone can use to distinguish these two groups and so it is hard to give that character up. So the presence of feathers has caused them to reinterpret all other characters. When feathers are found on fossils with a bony tail, that animal with a bony tail suddenly must be a bird. When that fossil has claws at the end of an arm that has feather then it must have been a bird even if it clearly could not have flown. If the fossil had teeth instead of a beak it is a dinosaur but then if feathers are found on that same fossil it suddenly becomes a bird. This is why I expected the main YEC leaders woudl be so tempted to call this newest find a bird.
Below are responses from YEC organizations and individuals as they arrived over the weeks following the feathered tail news.
Update #1: Brian Thomas (ICR science writer) has responded on Facebook. To no ones surprise, he says it is just a bird.
Four details about the feathered “dinosaur” tail in amber suggest it was actually a bird. Did you know…
1. The tail tip with feathers in amber does not include the rest of the body.
2. The study authors admitted it could be a bird.
3. Not one single fossil has ever yet shown bird feathers like these on a classic dinosaur. They only occur on “dinosaur” fossils where evolutionists bend the word “dinosaur” to include extinct birds.
4. So far, all flight feathers like these in amber have been attached to actual birds, whether extant or extinct.
I’m not sure he knows or can define what a “classic” dinosaur is? And to point #4, no one thinks these are flight feathers. His argument is basically one of absence of evidence dictates this must be a bird but he doesn’t address the bony tail which would not fit his previous understanding of what a bird kinds is.
Here are a few FB responses to Thomas’ thoughts about the fossil. These illustrate the deep skepticism in science that ICR has cultivated in its followers.
Update #2 (about 3 hours later). Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis has weighed in. This fossil is nothing but another bird. I expect a more detailed response in a few days to be a repetition of all the same arguments they have made about other fossils.
From AiG “Dinosaur” in Amber: Evolutionists Spin Another Tail:
Check back Monday for a more comprehensive analysis from our anatomist, Dr. David Menton (who is calling fowl). At this time, we see no reason to consider this anything but a bird.
Update #3. The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) has now published a longer response. The article “Another Feathered Dinosaur Tale” is by Frank Sherwin (M.S. Parisitology). He uses every argument used in my quotes above to cast doubt on the description of this fossil and then concludes:
In short, all the available evidence about this “feathered dinosaur” tail in amber suggests it was actually a bird.
Update #4. Marcus Ross(Ph.D Geosciences) did his doctoral work on mosasaurs and is a Assistant Professor at Liberty University. He holds to YEC as does Liberty University. He has written articles for some of the larger YEC apologetics organizations but is not affiliated with any of them much like Todd Wood. However, he has much stronger credentials to speak on the topic of dinosaur fossils since he has legitimate training in this area. On his FB page over the weekend, he talked about teaching paleontology at Liberty University what he is going to be telling his students about this fossil find.
Taken as a whole, I think that there is ample evidence that many dinosaurs had some kind of fluff/fuzz that covered their body, and that several of these dinosaurs also had honest-to-goodness feathers. That puts me in a pretty tiny minority among young-Earth creationists. Not alone, but a minority.
He also talked about previous YEC responses to reports of dinosaurs with feathers noting the same things I have above and then making a very helpful observation:
You can see this in many of the online articles. This is what is said in their DVDs and videos. It’s the case with many of the books and technical papers written by creationists. A bit troubling, though, is that NONE of these videos, books, or papers about dinosaurs and feathers were written by a creationist trained in paleontology.
This is a huge problem for the main YEC organizations. ICR has had a M.S. in parisitology and ICR will have a M.D. interpreting the paleotonological literature for the young-earth community. Ross and Wood have far more research experience and both seem to have concluded that there is plenty of evidence that many dinosaurs probably had feathers but ICR and AiG just keep pushing forward in their denial.
Update #5. Dec. 12, 2016. AiG published their full response by Dr. David Menton (medical biologist) to the fossil. As expected he said that this is just a bird with a bony tail. His conclusion: “I reject the age assigned to these fossils, but it shows that small birds, perhaps juveniles, left evidence of their unquestionably bird-like anatomy in Burmese amber.”
Update #6. Summer of 2018. This summer the International Conference of Creation will be held in Pittsburgh. The abstracts for the talks to be given at that meeting have been published. One of those abstract by McLain, Petrone and Speights is titled: Feathered dinosaurs reconsidered. Here is the abstract in its entirety.
Abstract: Birds could not have evolved from land animal ancestors because Genesis clearly states that birds and land animals were created on separate days. As a result, young-earth creationists have consistently opposed the theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Nevertheless, numerous fossils of dinosaurs with feathers, including some very bird-like dinosaurs, have been found in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. We determined to understand what these fossils mean in a creationist context through a survey of their fossil record and statistical baraminological analyses. While the survey demonstrates that feathered dinosaur fossils do, in fact, exist, the baraminological analyses suggest that there are probably at least seven different created kinds of non-avialan dinosaurs. The existence of multiple created kinds of non-avialan dinosaurs, non-avian avialans, and avians without an enormous morphological gulf between these groups, although historically unexpected in creationism, is argued through this study to be an accurate picture for their designed organization. Because of these results, creationists need to rethink the way they understand the organization of life, especially as it relates to tetrapods in order to better represent the full spectrum of God’s created variety.
I have highlighted the most important sentence. These authors are directly contradicting the message of Ken Ham and other YEC organizations that have been telling their followers that there is a clear distinction between dinosaurs and birds as categories. Here the authors recognize the distinctions are far less obvious as I have discussed (see also: Ken Ham on Dinosaur extinction, de-extinction, DNA and dino-bird distinctions)
Update #7. September 2018. Answers in Genesis publishes and “in depth” article on birds and dinosaurs by Dr. Menton, “Did Dinosaurs Evolve into Birds?.” Dr. Menton ignores the International Creation Conference abstract and presentation and simply regurgitates all of the same arguments that he has used in the past about dinosaur and birds including suggesting most fossil dinosaurs with evidence of feathers are fakes. He concludes that there is not compelling reason to believe dinosaurs had feathers without responding to any of the evidence that his YEC colleagues have produced otherwise.
Finally, feathers appear to be as unique to birds as hairs are to mammals. Fossilized impressions of dinosaur skin resemble the skin of an alligator, not feathers on birds. Based on current evidence, there is no compelling reason to believe that true dinosaurs had feathers, or that they were related to birds.
This article has been revised and updated since it first appeared on Naturalis Historia in December of 2016.
My favorite: “In a biblical worldview, we do not expect to find feathered dinosaurs.”
Ah yes. How well I remember “The Feathered Dinosaur Discourse” in Luke.
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You beat me to it. I read “Did dinosaurs have feathers? In a biblical worldview, we do not expect to find feathered dinosaurs” and I thought, oh great, now there is a “biblical” view about dinosaur feathers. I also thought, wow, if a question about whether dinosaurs had feathers is a threat to their faith and worldview, what a depressing and insecure way to live that must be.
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Well, I wonder how they came to the conclusion that this is a dinosaur.
Since it can be something else, or if it is (dinosaur), nothing prevents from being one of the characteristic of these beings (dinosaurs), does not mean ancestry with Birds.
The bones in the tail that the feathers are attached to are the feature that aligns this fossil with dinosaurs. Regarding it being a characteristic of dinosaurs, I would agree. Why couldn’t some dinosaurs have had feathery coverings. There is no rule that says they could not.
However, under evolutionary theory, since birds are said to have shared a common ancestor with other theropod dinosaurs, it demands that some theropods must have also had feathers.
This is interesting. Looking at the responses of the YECs, it seems like this whole issue is avoided by invoking semantics. They appear to be arguing mostly about what constitutes a bird and what constitutes a dinosaur rather than tackling directly what the fossils are implying.
That and there are the typical YEC replies saying that scientists are just guessing or they are conspiring to make things up. People have really been indoctrinated.
‘People have really been indoctrinated.’
Oh, how true you are. But that includes both sides of the argument which, incidentally, are religions not science.
The performance of science is nothing more than observing the repeatable. Which means, if it can’t be observed by repetition it is not science. Any conclusions arrived at by observing evidence (and evidence is not in itself scientific, it is simply evidence) can only be interpreted by the interpreters underlying philosophical view.
Philosophy is the study of the nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. It is highly theoretical at best and heavily biased toward an underlying system of belief. Therefore, if your underlying belief is evolutionist, then all evidence is interpreted with a heavy bias toward evolution; if your underlying system of belief is creationist, then all evidence is interpreted with a heavily biased toward creationism.
So, which is the most heavily indoctrinated?
Both are guilty of ‘making things up’. Both rely on a exceedingly heavy dose of faith; ie believing that which can’t be proven. and no, neither evolution nor creation have been proven.
So I’d be a bit careful of casting stones when you live in a glass house :-)
PS – what highly amuses me about evolutionists, well some of them, is they are happy to accept the insane doctrine of an immortal soul. IF live evolved as is suggested, 1) where did an immortal soul come from? and 2) how come it is an attribute of humans only, especially as we are pretty late on the scene?
Here is an interesting Catholic take on the issue of evolution and human souls. Even though this is from a Catholic standpoint, I think a lot of other Christians have similar questions. There are some churches that accept evolution as long as the agency of God is assumed. Even conservative popes like John Paul II and Benedict XVI acccepted evolution without being dogmatic except about assuming God’s agency and a few other things.
Charles, you stated that “The performance of science is nothing more than observing the repeatable.”
That is not true. Scientific observations are those which are repeatably observable, but scientific hypotheses and theories make claims about that which cannot be directly observed and test predictions based on those claims on that which can. In this particular case, while we cannot observe members of each generation of animals from the first dinosaur to the first animal we’d deem a “bird,” we can observe that birds share more unique features in common with coelurosaur theropods than any other group of extant or extinct animals. We can observe that the collagen protein fragments recovered from a T. Rex are more similar in structure to those of extant birds (Ostriches, specifically) than to any other living group. We can observe that only birds today have feathers.
Using these observations, we can hypothesize that all modern birds are descended from coelurosaur theropods (unobservable) and predict that at least some coelurosaur theropods must have had feathers. This prediction is confirmed with finds such as this amber fossil and many permineralized fossils which show feather imprints.
In fact, in 1859, Darwin predicted that, based on their features, birds must have shared a common ancestor with reptiles, and that if he were right, fossils should exist which showed a mix of bird and reptilian traits. Two years later, in 1861, a complete specimen of Archaeopteryx was found, displaying traits of birds (pennaceous feathers, fused furculum) and dinosaurs (teeth, fingers, long bony tail), matching such predictions beautifully.
Thus, hypotheses about the unobserved lead to predictions about what must be observed. That is science, and that is why evolutionary theory is scientific while non-evolutionary creationism is not.
Ah, datadroid, you have said it perfectly for me. In fact I couldn’t have said it better.
Note your reply …
[quote] – ‘… Scientific observations are those which are repeatably observable ..’ [end quote] ‘Repeatably observable’ is not and never will be the same as observable by repetition. To attempt to equate the two phrases is a major error. And to attempt to extrapolate the
[quote] – ‘ … we can observe that birds share more unique features … ‘ [end quote] So they share features. So what? To conclude anything other than they share features is simply observing the observable.
[quote] – ‘… Using these observations, we can hypothesize …’ [end quote] The real clincher. ‘We hypothesize’ – yep, come to a conclusion based on a pre-existing philosophy. To the creationist, they too can hypothesize and come to a conclusion it is intelligent design. But there is no proof! Just conclusions based on observations and a belief system.
But [quote] – ‘… and predict that at least some coelurosaur theropods must have had feathers …’ [end quote] Yep, I can predict I will win lotto next week, but the chances of that happening are very slim irrespective of how much I want to believe it.
[quote] – ‘… Archaeopteryx was found, displaying traits of birds (pennaceous feathers, fused furculum) and dinosaurs …’ [end quote] Hmm, again an interesting faith leap. One cannot, and in fact does not attempt, to deny the existence of Archaeopteryx or any other fossil record. But the assumption it is a ‘cross-over’ species is a huge leap of faith. Given nobody was there, and nobody observed it in its total life cycle, why must it be a cross-overt? Only the underlying, non scientific, religionists of evolution could reach that conclusion, not because it is scientific, but because it fits their philosophy. Give the same fossil to an equally biased creationist and, based on their equally unscientific philosophy, they will conclude (here is a prediction for you) God created it that way.
As for me, as far as I am concerned, the jury is still to decide.
I have become a student of the argument between evolution and creation theorists (not the theories themselves) and I have reached a substantial conclusion – both sides of the argument are guilty of ignoring the facts they can’t explain.
If that is so, please provide an example of an ignored fact that biologists cannot explain using evolutionary theory.
I have been quite indisposed for the last couple of years so have not been able to respond to your last posting. But, fortunately I am still vertical and ventilating so here it is – lengthy it may be so I may have to post it in several parts. Here is part 1 :-).
The four laws of thermodynamics are:
1. Zeroth law of thermodynamics: If two systems are in thermal equilibrium with a third, they are also in thermal equilibrium with each other.
2. First law of thermodynamics: The internal energy of an isolated system is constant.
3. Second law of thermodynamics: Heat can flow spontaneously from a higher temperature body to a lower temperature body, but never from a lower temperature body to a higher temperature body.
4. Third law of thermodynamics: As a system approaches absolute zero, all processes cease and the entropy of the system approaches a minimum value.
1. Zeroth law systems are said to be in equilibrium if the small, random exchanges (due to Brownian motion, for example) between them do not lead to a net change in the total energy summed over all systems. Or, in short, if the temperature of material A is equal to the temperature of material B, and B is equal to the temperature of material C, then A and C must also be equal. This implies that thermal equilibrium is an equivalence relation on the set of thermodynamic systems.
2. The first law of thermodynamics, an expression of the principle of conservation of energy, states energy can be transformed (changed from one form to another), but cannot be created or destroyed. It is usually formulated by saying the change in the internal energy of a closed thermodynamic system is equal to the amount of heat supplied to the system, minus the amount of work done by the system on its surroundings.
3. The second law of thermodynamics is an expression of the universal principle of decay observable in nature. The second law is an observation of the fact that over time, differences in temperature, pressure, and chemical potential tend to even out in a physical system that is isolated from the outside world. Entropy is a measure of how much this ‘evening-out’ process has progressed. Entropy may be considered the quality of heat. The entropy of an isolated system which is not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium. Or put another way, everything naturally reduces in complexity. To suggest the second law is only applicable within a closed system is nonsense. Take for example the simple oxidation of steel otherwise known as ‘rusting’. That quite simply is the second law in action in an open system.
4. The third law of thermodynamics is a statistical law of nature regarding entropy and the impossibility of reaching absolute zero of temperature. This law provides an absolute reference point for the determination of entropy. The entropy determined relative to this point is the absolute entropy.
The second law of thermodynamics is an enigma to the evolutionist, but a bonus to the creationist. In its simplest form, the second law states nothing by itself increases in complexity, hence the difficulty for evolution theorists because evolution theory would have me believe organisms evolved into more complex organisms – in other words it is contrary to the second law.
The second law of thermodynamics is in fact one of the underlying laws on which all other laws are based. Every scientific experiment irrespective of the field of science, every scientific law irrespective of field of science, acknowledges and is subject to the second law. So intrinsic and basic is the second law that, unlike possible variable influence, science does not need to take it into account when performing experiments – irrespective of field of study – because it is not a variable. In fact the laws of thermodynamics are the only things know to man that are not variable. When designing scientific experiments and the controls that must accompany them, the scientist must take into account all possible variables and circumstances but he (or she) does not have to take into account the second law because it is so constant.
But there any number of other interesting enigmas neither side of the argument is capable of explaining so they ignore them. Here are several of the many.
1. It is quite apparent plate tectonics has, and has had, a major impact on the shape of the earth’s surface. Given (with few minor exceptions) no mountain ranges of any consequence have appeared over night due to plate movements, how does one explain the height of current mountain ranges, except by accepting the ‘long period’ (or evolutionary) theory. Ask a creationist to explain that and you’ll get some interesting ideas. Ask the evolutionist and his eyes open with glee as it is (almost) irrefutable evidence of a long age theory. But on the same token, how does the evolutionist explain why, given the current rates of erosion and the old age of the earth (current estimates at 15 billion years), the surface of the earth is not as flat as the top of billiard table. The evolutionist can’t have it both ways yet wants to.
The second is very interesting in that it is a single circumstance presenting a quandary for both the creationist and evolutionist. Take time to study the simple zircon crystal found in granite. In it you will find quantities of U238 (uranium 238), the most common form of natural uranium in nature – about 99.284%. Uranium 238 has a half life of 4.468 billion years. The U238 isotope tends to concentrate in volcanic zircon crystals as it solidifies. U238 decays into lead over a series of half lives and in that process helium atoms are released – 8 of them for every initial U238 atom. The helium atom is known as a ‘noble’ atom meaning it doesn’t readily react with other chemicals. The helium atom is very small which means it readily passes out of the zircon crystal.
Precambrian granite, which includes the zircon crystal, contains (relatively) huge amounts of helium along with U238 and lead. Because the half life of U238 and the rate at which lead is produced are constant, measurement of the remaining U238 and the amount of lead will accurately determine the age of the zircon crystal with ages in excess of 1 billion years old. However, given the known rates at which helium is produced in the breakdown of U238 and given the known rates at which the helium passes out through the crystal, the measurement of helium in the very same Precambrian granite based zircon crystal proves conclusively the crystal is only a few thousand years old – usually around and rarely more than about 10,000 years. So which is the truth? Logically it is not possible for a crystal to be more than 1 billion years old but at the same time not possible to be more than 10,000 years old; but the accuracy of both measures cannot challenged. Remember, both measures can be confirmed with extreme accuracy in the laboratory.
The evolutionist uses the crystal and the levels of U238 and lead to ‘prove conclusively’ the earth is billions of years old, but ignores the gas because it does not fit within his philosophy – his belief system. The creationist uses the very same crystal and the levels of helium to ‘prove conclusively’ the earth cannot possibly be older than a few thousand years, but ignores the existence of the U238 and lead because it does not fit within his philosophical belief system. A very interesting situation with both sides of the argument claiming the same evidence – or part thereof – to prove their argument but neither side being able to explain the full set of data.
The conversion of DNA information into proteins requires the existence of 75 different protein molecules each of which must itself be synthesised by the very process in which they themselves are involved (see point 5 below). How could the DNA molecule complete with the information to produce these proteins have come into existence without the proteins being in existence in the first place? Conversely, how could the proteins have come into existence without the pre-existence of DNA? Let us consider the probability of just one of the 75 proteins coming about by chance. Consider a smaller than average protein containing 100 amino acids.
a. all the necessary left handed amino acids were available (and yes, all life chemicals are either left and right handed); AND
b. all the interfering compounds, including right handed amino acids, were eliminated; AND
c. the amino acids were able to somehow join themselves together to form protein chains faster than protein chains normally fall apart (which is currently not known to be possible); THEN
the probability of one protein forming by chance would be 1 in 20100 combinations; 20 available amino acids raised to the power of the number of residues in the protein ie 1 in 1.268 x 10 to the power of 130 .
Now, let’s put that into some perspective. The earth has a mass of approximately 5.97×10 to the power of 27 grams. If the entire mass was converted to amino acids, there would be 3.27×10 to the power of 47 amino acids available (assuming the average mass of an amino acid is 110g/mole). If these amino acids were converted to 100-residue proteins (that is proteins containing 100 amino acids each) there would be 3.27 x 10 to the power of 47 proteins. Since there are 1.268 x 10 to the power of 130 possible combinations of amino acids in a single 100-residue protein, then the chances of getting a correct sequence for just one of our 75 proteins in our entire globe of proteins is 1 in 3.88 x 10 to the power of 82 (1.268×10 to the power of 130 divided by 3.27×10 to the power of 47 = 3.88×10 to the power of 82).
Now let’s go one step further into absurdity. If each of these 3.27×10 to the power of 47 100-residue proteins could be rearranged many times over, there isn’t enough time in the estimated age of the earth to fit the total possible number of combinations into the estimated age of the earth. If the earth is 4.6 billion years old (as opposed to the 15 billion years for the universe), then there are only 1.45×10 to the power of 17 seconds available. That means that there would have to be 2.67×10 to the power of 65 possible combinations per second for the entire 4.6 billion years to try all possible combinations to get just one of the 75 proteins required. Even if you extend the age of the earth to the full estimated 15 billion years of the universe, there are still only 4.63×10 to the power of 17 seconds. To try all possible combinations for all 75 proteins at a phenomenal rate of one per second would require 3.7779×10 to the power of 9700 seconds (or 20 to the power of 7500) and remember 10 to the power of 18 seconds is approximately 30 billion years.
Or one step further. It’s tantamount to suggesting one protein forming in the Indian Ocean would find and react with another that formed at precisely the same moment in time in the Atlantic Ocean. Even had two proteins formed in the same location in the same ocean within minutes of each other they wouldn’t have interacted as the first would have ‘died’ before the second formed. To suggest that 75 formed at precisely the same moment in time in exactly the same location and all 75 interacted immediately with all the other 74 is fanciful stupidity.
And so argues the creationist (and I have to admit they have a damn good argument in this case). However, they have ignored one vital piece of information at least as far as the first protein forming is concerned and that is, in true random probability, the likelihood of the very first possible combination being the correct one is equal to the likelihood of it being the last one. The likelihood of that occurring 75 times in close time succession in the same location though is seriously laughable. And it must be remembered the evolutionists argument requires each possible amino acid combination be attempted only once AND ignores the fact the true nature of random probability means any one given combination could be ‘tried’ many times over. What that does to the math is anybody’s guess.
Let’s look at this from another angle. Without going into the science of the calculation, it is estimated that a generous upper limit of all atoms ever to have existed in the universe over the estimated 15 billion year life span is about 10 to the power of 80; 10 to the power of 12 is a generous upper limit for the average number of interatomic interactions per second; and 10 to the power of 18 is the number of seconds in a 30 billion year time span. That gives us an upper number of 10 to the power of 110 interatomic interactions that could have occurred in the 30 billion years. Given each interatomic interaction results in a single unique molecule we can conclude in the history of the cosmos (30 billion years of it and that is double the current estimated age of the universe), there has been a total of 10 to the power of 110 unique molecules in existence.
Now, if we take into account there are approximately 1000 protein molecules needed for primitive life, and assume that of those 999 already exist, AND we restrict ourselves to the 20 amino acids that exist in living systems ignoring the other 100 or so that exist but aren’t required for life, AND we ignore the fact both right and left hand proteins exist in life (as indicated above) AND we ignore the incredibly adverse chemical kinetic reactions that exist in relation to the formation of long peptide chains, then the number of random trials to form a relatively short protein chain consisting of just 200 amino acids is 20 to the power of 100 – that is 100 amino acid sites and 20 possible amino acids per site. That is also 20 to the power of 100 possible unique molecules, because each combination must be a new unique molecule. BUT that is 100 billion billion times more atoms than we calculated earlier have ever existed in the universe (10 to the power of 110) in the last 30 billion years. Something doesn’t compute.
And speaking of amino acids, here is another interesting quandary the evolutionist can’t explain. It is not physically possible to replicate or even produce DNA without amino acids. BUT, it is not physically possible to produce amino acids without the existence of DNA. So how did either one or the other come into existence? Which came first? It simply isn’t possible for one to exist without the other yet the evolutionist wants me to believe that out of a combination of existing amino acids life began. Or even more improbable, amino acids and DNA evolved together, in the one place, already ‘knowing’ how to interact to produce the other. Not likely.
And now Part 2 :-)
I understand your desire to believe in the ‘fact’ of evolution, even though it cannot be observed, even though it cannot be repeated, even though it has not been proven, even though it cannot be proven, just as I am prepared to understand the creationists desire to believe in the ‘fact’ of creation, even though it cannot be observed, even though it cannot be repeated, even though it has not been proven. Notice I said I understand the desire to believe, not the actual belief. As I have said, the performance of science is very simply ‘observing the repeatable’. We have already contended over my definition of the performance of science but I must stress simply repeating the observable is quite different to observing the repeatable. In the first instance it simply means being repeat something you have seen, whereas the later means you can only observe it if you can repeat it.
As for me, there are many ‘unanswerables’ in both positions. The mathematical probability of evolution is far too statistically small with far too many critical, improbable inter-dependencies to be believable. For example, which came first, the male or the female of any species, and irrespective of which, how did they manage to evolve at the same time in the same place and know instinctively how they should interact to procreate rather than kill and eat each other? And if they didn’t evolve in the same place at the time, how did the first to evolve manage to live long enough for the other to arrive on the scene? It could have been hundreds, thousands or even millions of years between the two. Or how did an eye come into being? Given the huge diversity of cellular function within the eye, and given the long periods of time it would have taken to evolve, how did any one group of cells know that in thousands or millions of years time it would someday become useful so it should stick around? I thought the basis of evolution was natural selection – if it isn’t useful, get rid of it. Or are we to accept the eye evolved as a functioning unit all at once? That is a stretch of the imagination. And what about the hand or foot or any number of other complex things found in the body – kidneys, liver, lungs etc? Did they all just come into existence as a whole unit? If they didn’t, then, according to the theory of evolution, any one of their constituent components would have been useless and should have been discarded. And what of the multiple inter-dependencies found – ie the liver creates bile; the pancreas stores it; the digestive system uses it. They are all interconnected. The assumption must then be they all arrived on the scene intact, interconnected and functioning as a unit at the same time ALONG with the other functions of each. If that is not the case, any one of the units should have been discarded. Incidentally, bile is in fact so toxic it is capable of killing living organisms so by rights shouldn’t exist at all! Just as the mathematical probability of evolution is statistically minuscule, so is mathematical probability of a pre-existent intelligent creator.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to dissuade you from your religion of Evolution or to persuade you accept the religion of Creation. I am quite unconcerned about your beliefs. I am simply pointing out my healthy skepticism for both theories and the total lack of certainty concerning either.
As for the question where did I come from? I don’t know and, quite frankly, don’t care. At the end of my life I will die and disappear to be remembered by a few for a generation, if I’m lucky, then to be forgotten until what? Who knows; who cares provided I enjoy my years?
Incidentally, have you read anything about epigenetics? If not do so, it is a relatively new science which is challenging the theory of evolution. It is the study of changes in the organism through changes in the gene pool rather than in DNA. They haven’t come up with what I think is a viable alternative to evolution yet but it is a really interesting study. The challenge to evolution is epigenetisists are now suggesting it is not DNA that changes, a basic tenet of evolution (in fact they are suggesting DNA never changes and has never changed) but rather the change occurs in the genome. Yes, it is a study of how inheritance works through gene switches which are turned on or off but the really interesting bit is they are discovering inherited traits to the 4th generation. In other words, what your great grandfather did possibly has a stronger influence on what you are than does your DNA.
“In a biblical worldview, we do not expect to find feathered dinosaurs.”- Answers in Genesis
“there’s no particular biblical reason for thinking dinosaurs didn’t have feathers”- Answers in Genesis
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Let me then respond as the representative of all creationists, Christians who believe God made the universe for&with a purpose, including life.
First, there is nothing in Darwins book in support of its grandiose title. For creationists there is nothing in Darwin, which they should support in defense of evolution, since evolution is not a Darwinian phenomenon. So, let-s now discuss the feathered dinosaurs. It is fairly easy to grasp. The genetic programs of making feathers and wings were present in many created kinds, including some of the dinosaurs. They were frontloaded and cryptic in the sense that the Bauplan is not upfront identifiable, since it only becomes identifiable when the configuration of the DNA sequences form it. And even than it is very hard to identify it, since we do not really know how it should look like. Keratin is just the tool required to build the feather, but it is independent from this Bauplan. All animals have keratin, so the building material is present. It is like building a house. The pile of bricks requires the Bauplan to make a house. The bringing-together of the appropriate instructions is determined by 3D configurations of the chromosomes. They form a spatial interaction. This is done by Transposable and Transposed Elements (TEs) and long non coding RNAs, which interact together to form the Bauplan as a 3D scaffold. It is likely, that a burst of TEs made the Bauplan accessible. The Sim1 genetic switch had to be derepressed and put in the right place. Alll this is only possible through non-random genetic event and we can track the involved TEs in all modern birds. Nowadays, in modern birds the feather Bauplan is derepressed and accessible, unfolded and developed. It is kept like this because the program/configuration is set by thousand-fold redundancy present in these TEs. It should be noted that the feather-generating program is independent of the keratin genes (which are merely the bricks), but rather exists as a Bauplan in the non-protein-coding part of the genome. Delete all this non-coding DNA and you end up with a blob of undifferentiated cells. Most of the time the Bauplan for feathers was non-existing, also in most dinosaurs, but in some, it became derepressed (due to transposon activity and chromosomal reconfiguration). Those developed feathers at peculiar spots (Selected for insulation, the Darwinian would say). Are these the ancestors of birds? Not necessarily so. The frontloaded Bauplan could have been independently activated. Most likely the feather program was activated through a TE-regulated restructuring of the chromosomes in a proces reminiscent of chromothripsis, which we still observe in cancer cells (in which it is reactivated and shows that such mechanisms still cryptically exist in the genome). Reproduction in those days may have been predominantly asexual, meaning that organisms were de facto immortal. Programmed organismal death came after the evolution of sexual reproduction, which was probably first derepressed after the fall in a catastrophic TE-driven event.
Unlikely story? Maybe, but in mz opinion better than Darwinian-s accumulated genetic noise story. Try to explain with Darwin why we observe cellulose in sea squirts, placentas in sharks and velvet worms, and mammalian pheromones in plants. Lemon grass and lemon trees. Frontloading not only explains convergent evolution, it would also predict it. It explains and predicts genetic redundancy and it explains why sex systems developed independently. It explains the (gaps of) fossil record.
For this YEC recent , better, work on dinosaurs like theropods suggests a new paradigm. THERE ARE NO DINOSAURS. they are all misclassifications. In this case theropod so called dinos are just flightless ground birds. All theropods were just regular dumb birds. not reptiles. Not dinosaurs. God never created a dinosaur group. its great to find them with feathers. its just a bird spectrum of diversity.
Imagination on top of biblical boundaries is a better way to figure these things out.
Wait, so then…is the (likely)semiaquatic Spinosaurus a bird? What do you do with sauropods, marginocephalians, thyreophorans, ornithopods…? What are your sources? Genuinely curious…
I’m a creationist, but I honestly see no good reason to believe coelurosaurian theropods(and possibly others) didn’t have feathers or fuzz. I’d tend to agree with Ross and Wood. As a paleoartist I now draw my dromaeosaurs with feathers. I also put at least some fuzz on other coelurosaurs.
I hate to see so many just deny that some dinosaurs could’ve been feathered. In my mind, why couldn’t God have just made some theropods have feathers? Dinosauria is already an extremely diverse order….
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