Bird Flight Story Falsified
A simplistic story about bird flight influenced a generation of evolution students, but it was wrong.
Ken Dial’s “partridge family” story on the evolution of bird flight became one of our icons of just-so storytelling when it first appeared in December 2003 (12/22/03, 6/25/14). His theory he called “WAIR” (wing assisted incline running) began when he watched partridge chicks hold out their arms when running upill. Director of the Flight Laboratory at the University of Montana, Dial had visions of dinosaurs taking to the skies by holding out their wingless arms. Even though WAIR was little more than a quasi-Lamarckian heuristic conjecture, it got respectable coverage over the years in the science media (e.g. 5/01/06, 12/03/12, 9/25/14, 5/04/16) mainly because there wasn’t a better theory around. Both the arboreal (tree down) and cursorial (ground up) theories had fallen out of favor by 2003. Here was a new idea to fill the void, they thought; it was better than nothing.
Flight, however, requires much more than running uphill with arms outstretched. Otherwise, humans might learn the trick without a wingsuit. A new study by Alexander Dececchi (Queen’s University) puts evolutionists back at square one by eliminating WAIR and all other contenders for good just-so stories to explain how dinosaurs learned to fly. Science Daily says that Dececchi has determined that “none of the previously predicted methods would have allowed pre-avian dinosaurs to take flight.” That includes WAIR.
“By disproving the idea that the predicted models led to the development of flight, our research is a step towards determining how flight developed and whether it can evolve once or developed multiple times in different evolutionary lines,” he says.
Dr. Dececchi and his colleagues examined 45 specimens, representing 24 different non-avian theropod species, as well as five bird species. After determining some critical variables from the fossils — such as body mass and wing size — they used measurements from living birds to estimate wing beat, flap angle and muscular output.
These values were used to build a model for different behaviours linked to the origins of flight such as vertical leaping and wing-assisted incline running (WAIR) — a method of evasion for many ground-based modern birds that has become a favoured pathway towards the origin of flapping flight in the paleontological literature. They also tested if any species met the requirements to take-off from the ground and fly under their own power.
If WAIR was involved in the evolution of flight at all, Dececchi concluded, it was unnecessary and insufficient:
We know the dimensions and we know how modern birds muscles and anatomy work,” Dr. Dececchi says. “Using our model, if a particular species doesn’t reach the minimum thresholds for function seen in the much more derived birds — such as the ability to take off or to generate a certain amount of power — it’s safe to say they would not have been able to perform these behaviours or fly.“
The researchers found that none of the behaviours met the criteria expected in the pathway models. In fact, they found that almost all the behaviours had little or no benefit, outside of those species which evolved right before the origin of birds. When looking at WAIR specifically — the method that has been touted as an explanation for some early wing adaptations — the researchers found that it only was possible in a handful of large winged, small bodied species such as Microraptor, but found no evidence to suggest its use was widespread.
Microraptor, however, was no theropod. It has been interpreted as a secondarily flightless bird by some (2/09/10), causing other evolutionists to speculate that some dinosaurs like Velociraptor evolved from birds! However Microraptor functioned, it was not on the way to inventing powered flight; Dececchi’s reference to Microraptor, therefore, is irrelevant to WAIR.
In the Illustra film Flight: The Genius of Birds, philosopher of biology Paul Nelson explains why natural causes alone cannot explain this transition.
You look at the anatomy of a bird, its behavior, its metabolism, the structure of its feathers, the structure of its muscles and so forth — these are multiple independent points in a complex space, out of which flight emerges. And I think from a biological standpoint, to fly at all requires a cause that’s able to visualize a distant functional endpoint, and bring together everything necessary to achieve that endpoint. Uniquely, and universally in our experience, only intelligence is capable of that kind of causal process.
As our commentary stated, evolution provides job security for storytellers. Ken Dial perpetuated his story for over a decade, and is now professor emeritus of UM’s Flight Lab. As a pilot and author of “What Use Is Half a Wing,” he knew full well the requirements for powered flight. Nothing about WAIR addresses the fundamental questions about how multiple integrated systems became incorporated into a bird by mutation and natural selection; if anything, his story is purely Lamarckian. As David Berlinski would remark, it doesn’t even rise to the level of anecdote.
Having passed along his just-so story to unknown numbers of graduate students like Ashley Heers (5/04/16), Dial can enjoy his retirement and reputation. Among evolutionists, he had earned enough distinction to become editor of Neil Shubin’s latest book, Great Transformations in Vertebrate Evolution, even though the theory that made him famous has been falsified.
Do you see now why we need to shame the storytellers out of academia? This guy is a veritable crook. He took money from his institution and from the federal government (YOUR money — see proof) to weave a stupid story that now, after 12 years, has been shown to be untenable. As a pilot, he knows better. He knows you can’t hold out the doors on a sedan to explain how it turned into an airliner by chance and natural processes. But does he care? No; that’s why he’s grinning in the picture at the gullible dupes in the NSF who sent YOUR tax money to him. It was untenable from the start. We explained why. Who else pointed this out? Where was Science Daily, the BBC, and New Scientist? You can’t explain powered flight by watching living partridge chicks holding their arms out. Good grief; it gets more ridiculous the more you think about it. Partridges are birds; they already are programmed to fly. But because evolutionists have ensconced themselves into academia as the gurus of our culture, and have shut out everybody with common sense, they get away with it, while the secular science news reporters, like rubber ducks, quack happily behind this quack. How many of you think Ken Dial will suffer anything for his misappropriation of taxpayer money? Unlikely. His co-conspirators will continue to celebrate him as the eminent editor of “Great Transformations in Vertebrate Evolution.” You can barf now.