Did dinosaurs evolve from birds?

September, 2003
Joe Spears MS
You may have heard that dinosaurs evolved from birds. What evidence is there to support this?
 
According to http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/november/new1115d.htm a bird-like creature lived 75 million years before the dinosaurs.
 
Now, that makes it hard for dinosaurs to be the ancestors of birds; the descendants would have lived 75 million years before their ancestors.

Some evolutionists claim that birds evolved from running dinosaurs, while others claim that birds evolved from crocodilomorphs, reptiles that glided from trees.1

Each side of this issue has supported its claim by attempts to show why the other must be false. Before going into some of the details, one should note this salient point: if both sides show why the other could not possibly be true, then perhaps BOTH are untrue! Possibly, birds did not evolve from dinosaurs or reptiles at all.

In fact, there is now a position that holds that the opposite occurred—rather than birds evolving from dinosaurs, dinosaurs supposedly evolved from birds.2

Well, opinions may vary, and honest opinions at that. But note that these are opinions. The fossils are facts. Interpretations of them, especially varying interpretations among experts, may be considered as opinions.

Now, back to the first case: birds evolved from running dinosaurs. There have been reports of finds of "feathered dinosaurs". In 1996 there was a discovery of a so-called feathered dinosaur in China. It was named Sinosauropteryx prima.3

John Ostrom of Yale is the father of the theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs.4 Yet he himself found that so-called "feathers" of Sinosauropteryx prima were actually not feathers, but something else (possibly collagen fibers). Yet, this "discovery" is still described at http://www.peabody.yale.edu/exhibits/cfd/CFDsino.html as a feathered dinosaur. It was discovered in 1996, and Ostrom (and three other paleontologists) decided in 1997 that the "feathers" were not really feathers.

It is very interesting that the judgment that there were not any feathers on Sinosauropteryxcomes from the father of the dino-to-bird theory. We do not expect bias from someone like this. And we would expect any bias to be in the opposite direction.

In reading the book Refuting Evolution5 recently, I was struck by one point—how often evolutionists themselves will argue against one specific species' evolution from another, though still believing in evolution. I have heard it described like this: experts in one area know that one certain species didn't evolve from some other specific species; however, they think that some other species did—another species which they are not expert on. But experts on that other species can be found to deny its evolution, although they believe in evolution of other species, and so on.

There are some other so-called feathered dinosaurs mentioned at the web site referred to above. Two of these are dated at 120 million years old. Yet these ancestors of birds lived after, not before, true birds (140-150 million years ago). How can they be ancestors of birds and live after birds? One researcher claims it is impossible for these animals to evolve into birds. 6

I note that, when you look at the evidence closely, you see little problems like this—details that throw a monkey-wrench into the theory. There seem to be many of these.

One study indicates that the bones that make up the wings and feet of birds and the theropod dinosaurs are not derived from the same digits. This argues against birds having evolved from dinosaurs.7

Well, if dinosaurs didn't evolve into birds, maybe some other reptile did. This is known as the arboreal theory. James Carey from UC-Davis asserts,

"If the arboreal theory were accurate, birds' early ancestors would more likely have been four-legged creatures that developed membranes between their front and back legs, much like flying squirrels or bats".1 He holds that such is not the case.

Bird lungs are interesting. They don't expand and contract as do other animals' lungs. Air is taken in and flows out in one direction, while blood flows another direction. This increases the oxygen transfer from air to blood. The problem with this is that it is useful only to birds flying high, where there is little oxygen. Bats fly and do quite well without this mechanism. 8, 9

So, what is the problem? Evolution says that the useful, survival-enhancing characteristics are selected for. However, for a gliding tree-dwelling reptile, such a lung would not be advantageous or necessary. It would be even less so for a land-dwelling dinosaur. Again, this is another little detail and problem for evolution.

In the reptile, air flows in and out of the lungs in opposite directions, but in the bird, as stated previously, air flows in one direction. Evolution from reptiles to birds would require some intermediate stage. An intermediate or transitional animal having transitional lungs would find its lungs useless. This would not be a survival-enhancing condition.

Bird feathers supposedly evolved from reptilian scales; yet it can be argued that feathers are closer to mammalian hair than to reptilian scales.10 What stands out to me is that the "feathered dinosaur" has been described as "proof" of evolution—that birds evolved from dinosaurs—and yet we see experts (who are not creationists) claiming that birds could not have evolved from dinosaurs.

Archaeoraptor, though described as a feathered dinosaur, appears to be either a fraud or a mistake—in either case, not what it was claimed to have been.11

Of course, there is also the theory that dinosaurs evolved from birds rather than birds evolving from dinosaurs.12 So we see that in spite of the attention devoted to "feathered fossils", there really is little evidence, and it has not been absolutely proven that birds evolved from dinosaurs, even according to some evolutionists themselves.