October 3, 2014 | David F. Coppedge

Twist of the Wrist: Dino-Bird Magic

The hand of the evolutionist is quicker than the eye of the reporter.

Some Chilean evolutionists morphed a dinosaur into a bird with a flick of the wrist, and the news media instantly applauded the magic trick:

  • Resolving the flap over bird wrists (Robin Meadows in PLoS Biology)
  • Rare Evolutionary Twist Morphed Dino Arms into Bird Wings (Stephanie Pappas in Live Science)
  • How dinosaur arms turned into bird wings (Science Daily and PhysOrg)

Bird wrists look nothing like dinosaur wrists.  This is apparent from the evolutionists’ paper in PLoS Biology.  Robin Meadows (a freelance writer in California) knows it, too, in her first paragraph from her summary article in PLoS Biology, but she is convinced the Chilean evolutionists have solved it:

Somewhere along the way from early dinosaurs to birds, wrists changed so much that we could be excused for thinking birds don’t even have them. Wrists went from straight to bent and hyperflexible, allowing birds to fold their wings neatly against their bodies when not flying. Underlying this change is a drop in the number of wrist bones from nine to just four. Paleontology and embryology tell different stories about how this happened, however. Now, in this issue of PLOS Biology, Alexander Vargas and colleagues resolve this flap, drawing on both fields to clarify the identity and evolution of bird wrist bones.

Does she give any reason to trust the new story over the other “different stories” we heard before?  She recounts, bone by bone, how the evolutionists relabeled, rotated and merged each element of the wrist to give wings to dinosaurs, in spite of the fact that embryologists and paleontologists often disagree on identification.  For instance:

Next up is a bone of even greater contention. Some paleontologists call the third bird wrist bone—which is on top and away from the body—“distal carpal 3.” But embryologists believe the third bone is entirely new. They call it “element x” and view it as taking the place of a bone called the ulnare that is lost in bird development.

It is true that the ulnare is fleeting in embryonic birds and is gone completely in adults. But the researchers found that the ulnare and “element x” coexist briefly in embryos of seven bird species, and that the embryonic position of the latter corresponds with that of “distal carpal 3.” These findings refute the notion that “element x” is a new bone that replaces the ulnare. Rather, the researchers suggest that embryologists join paleontologists once again and use the term “distal carpal 3” for the third bird wrist bone.

However, paleontologists didn’t win this round completely; they believe bird-like dinosaurs still had the bone that disappears in birds. But the researchers’ re-examination of the fossil evidence showed that the ulnare had actually already been lost in the most bird-like dinosaurs, further strengthening the dinosaur–bird link.

The embryologists win a few and lose a few; same for the paleontologists.  Meadows seems mostly impressed by the team’s integration of evidence from embryology and paleontology to “tell the whole story of evolution.”  That whole story, though, requires going against the evidence in some cases, and inventing sequences that are not evident:

Paleontologists can be somewhat forgiven for their mistake, however, because the pisiform is not evident in fossils of the most bird-like dinosaurs. The researchers square the paleontological and developmental evidence by proposing that the pisiform was either tiny or failed to ossify in bird-like dinosaurs, but was then re-acquired in birds. Such evolutionary reversals are rare but not unprecedented.

It appears that the Chilean team has merely replaced previous stories with stories of their own.  Science Daily spoke of this “exciting new study” that clarifies a “striking evolutionary transformation change” between T. rex and parakeet.  “Combined, the fossil and developmental data provide a compelling scenario for a rare case of evolutionary reversal,” the article says, leaving for someone else to figure out the origin of powered flight.

Vargas and team will now turn their storytelling skill on bird ankles, Live Science says:

They, too, have controversial issues regarding the identity of the wrist and ankle bones,” Vargas said. “They seem to be like little puzzles, like a mosaic of bone in there, and they’re actually not that easy to identify.”

The evolutionists admit that the “correspondence between bird and dinosaur wrist bones is controversial.”  To resolve it, they took liberties to re-classify bones and move them around in space and time: “This integrative approach resolves previous disparities that have challenged the support for the dinosaur–bird link and reveals previously undetected processes, including loss, fusion, and in one case, re-evolution of a transiently lost bone.

So now we have a new sub-plot to add to the grand tale: “During the millions of years that elapsed, wrists went from straight to bent and hyperflexible, allowing birds to fold their wings neatly against their bodies when not flying” (Science Daily).

In other dinosaur-to-bird news, the new tale is that the transition was gradual, then took off suddenly.  National Geographic, PhysOrg and Live Science dished out the view of Stephen Brusatte, who said, “Once the whole body plan finally came together, then something was unlocked and they started evolving really fast.”  The way Live Science put it, evolution was “piecemeal,” leaving no single missing link between the two groups.  “It’s basically impossible to draw a line on the tree between dinosaurs and birds,” he said, repeating his story plot in different words: “something was unlocked, and [birds] began to evolve at a supercharged rate.”  Evolution is apparently gradual except when it’s not (see Stuff Happens Law).

None of the articles dealt with the physical problems of evolving powered flight, except that in the Live Science article, Brusatte said, “What probably distinguishes birds is the ability to have powered flight.”  The articles mention wishbones, feathers, and wings apparent in various fossils, but the parts alone do not explain how the physical requirements of flight could be met by an unguided process.  Creation speaker Jonathan Sarfati likes to point out that a 747 consists of 5 million non-flying parts.

There’s a hint of Haeckel in the wrist story.  They looked into the crystal ball of bird embryos for hints of the story of bird evolution.  The recapitulation theory refuses to die.

Evolutionists have a bad habit of hiding their theory in hand-waving verbs that assume evolution: “wrists went” from straight to bent.   Dinosaur arms “turned” into bird wings.  Their verbs are very permissive: the changes “allowed” birds to fold their wings.  Tell us, Dr. Vargas, all the beneficial mutations that occurred to “allow” the stubby arm of a T. rex to become the wrist of a dove, with its smooth, sleek, feather-covered wings neatly folded by its sides.  We will “allow” you to use rational arguments with empirical evidence, but will “disallow” storytelling and imagination.  Without these primary tools of Darwinism, could you do it?  We will also “allow” you to evolve wings out of your wrists.  Are we to expect flying humans in a few million years?  Now watch Flight: The Genius of Birds.



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  • lux113 says:

    So they don’t actually have any fossil evidence for this change, correct? They have simply spent time IMAGINING how the change COULD have occurred…

    And this is what passes for science. Now if you sit in class all day day dreaming about imaginary worlds, you too have what it takes to became a scientist.

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