April 10, 2019 | David F. Coppedge

The Non-Evolution of Birds

Note: While the editor is out of town, we are bringing you readings of interest from creation books associated with CEH.

The Evolution of Birds: Possible or Impossible?

by Dr. James F. Coppedge, Jr (1920-2004)

Excerpt from Evolution: Possible or Impossible? by Dr. James F. Coppedge (1973, rev. 1990, ch. 13, “Examples of Phenomena Unexplainable by Evolution,” pp 214-217).

A Bird That Found Its Way Home 3,200 Miles in Twelve and One-Half Days

A small ocean-going bird called the Manx shearwater nests in the sand on islands off the coast of Wales. Some shearwaters were banded, put in a crate inside an airplane, and flown to the United States. These birds have not been known to frequent the U.S. east coast.

Let’s read the outcome:

Manx shearwaters which were removed from their nesting burrows in ‘Vales returned successfully from release points outside their normal range . .. . One of these birds, released at Boston, Massachusetts, returned to its nest 3,200 miles away in 12 days and 12.5 hours!5

The account went on to say that the bird probably had to fly at right angles to its normal direction of migration, and that the 250 miles per day average speed suggested it took the shortest possible route!

Dr. G. V. T. Matthews of Cambridge University

credits birds with . . . ability to estimate the sun’s arc accurately. He claims for them the equivalent of a sextant and a chronometer running on “home time. ” With these they can learn their geographical location anywhere on earth.6

Anyone doubting that birds possess these instinctive skills “is left with the difficult task of proposing an alternative, simpler explanation” for the Manx shearwaters’ demonstrated ability we have described, says the Audubon Nature Encyclopaedia.7

The wisest of men could never find his way, without charts and mechanical instruments and training, across 3,000 miles of open ocean, starting from a place thousands of miles from anywhere he had ever gone before, and in a short time locate an exact spot on a small specific island.

The reader may be aware that an extensive study of this phenomenon has been made by many other scientists. There is even strong evidence that some birds navigate by the moon, a more difficult feat, and some apparently use the north star and stellar constellations in navigating. Bats, on the other hand, can navigate blindfolded.

Feathers and Eggshells

There is no way chance mutations could have brought about the development of feathers. Each is a masterpiece of engineering. The center shaft has barbs projecting from each side. Then, smaller barbules protrude from both sides of the barbs. From these barbules, microscopic barbicels project, like tiny hooklets. In some species there are more than a million barbicels in one feather.

The hooks of the barbicels fasten neatly onto the neighboring barbules, and this makes a tightly woven vane, as the entire feather is called. If the barbs get pulled apart, the bird can hook them back together merely by preening or running its beak through the feathers! You can do this yourself.

Consider the chances of this developing naturally. A feather would be of no help for flying until completed. It would be in the way. When one understands the complex precision of a feather’s design, it is amusing to consider evolutionary claims that feathers evolved from reptile scales!

To obtain a bird by chance mutations, one would have to overcome the odds against feathers, computed along with the improbability of occurrence of all the other marvelous abilities birds would need in order to operate successfully at all. The size of the resulting odds would be a figure that would more than fill the cosmos. (George Gamow estimated that a little over 10106 grains of sand would perhaps fill the universe.8 On that basis, we could calculate that the number 10116 would be more than sufficient to fill all cosmic space if printed on thin paper. That is a figure with 116 zeroes.)

Hummingbird eggs, by David Coppedge

Evolution cannot explain the origin of the mysterious synchronized process whereby, deep inside a bird’s body, the shell of the forming egg is made from calcium stored shortly beforehand inside the hollow bones.9 The shell is painted with the specific identifying color and with dots, stripes, or shading. Many species can be recognized by these characteristic markings of their eggs.

The Amazing Mechanism for Wing-Lift in Birds

Natural selection cannot help one find an explanation for the way a wing is lifted for the upbeat in bird flight. The muscle that operates this lift is not situated on top, but far below the wing. It fastens to the “keel” bone (sternum) -low, center, aft. How does a muscle below the wing serve to lift the wing?

There is a tendon that leads upward from the muscle. It passes through a well-lubricated circular canal formed by the joining of three bones, one of which is the wishbone. The way the tendon traverses this opening reminds one of a pulley. At the top, the tendon attaches to the large humerus bone of the wing. The end of this bone is widened and rounded in such a way that the tendon obtains leverage and gives just the right twist to the entire wing for the uplift stroke.

HummingbirdWith this enchanting engineering arrangement, birds fly, and hummingbirds beat their wings up to fifty times per second. It is interesting to remember this wing-lift mechanism while watching a bird in the air.10 It is fruitless to try to account for the origin of such adroit engineering without an extraordinarily ingenious Planner.


References

5. Encyclopaedia Britannica ( 1967), s.v. “migration.”

6. Audubon Nature Encyclopaedia, “Animal: Navigation,” Vol. 1 (New York: Curtis Publishing Co., 1965), p. 89.

7. Ibid. We recall the emotional experience of watching on film as scientists nightly checked the nesting burrow and the excitement as they recovered the weary traveler and verified the band number. The small bird looked quite normal.

8. George Gamow, One, Two, Three .. . Infinity (New York: Viking Press, 1961 ), p. 7.

9. T. G. Taylor, “How an Eggshell Is Made,” Scientific American (March 1970), pp. 89-94.

10. The author has traced this tendon in several species, including the crow, Stellar’s jay, and the turkey. It is standard equipment for most present-day birds. In the turkey, two tendons pass through this opening, apparently being needed because of the greater weight and width of the wing, and consequent widening of the end of the bone, providing the essential control of wing attitude. There is no reasonable explanation of any evolutionary development cf this and other flight equipment. Speaking of flight, William W. Ballard, Professor of Biology at Dartmouth College, wrote, “And the birds, having by quite unknown steps developed the ability to escape attack through the air, managed a parallel adaptation to many terrestrial niches.” (Ballard, Comparative Anatomy and Embryology,
[New York: The Ronald Press Co. , 1 964], p. 41 .)

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