Magical Thinking in Sauropod Evolution Footwork
Giant dinosaurs needed foot pads to support
their weight, so evolution gave it to them.
Some future day, Darwinese is going to sound as silly as pig latin.
Pig latin is a childish form of communication that allows those in on the secret to talk while others are baffled at the sounds. Some syllables may be recognizable, but the meaning is hidden. Outsiders might be impressed at the ability of the talkers to jabber away but understand each other. Once the formula for pig latin is known, though, it becomes just a stupid trick that twists plain English words according to a couple of simple rules: spell out the vowels, and add -ay to the end of leading consonants, like nix -> ixnay. Pig Latin becomes “igpay atinlay.”
Darwinese is like that. It sounds impressive when PhDs use it in scientific papers, mixing it in with highfalutin Jargonwocky that leaves non-speakers’ heads spinning. It’s especially confusing when mixed in with real Latin. Why do they say “pes” instead of foot, and “pedes” instead of feet? Why do they concoct phrases like “non-sauropod sauropodomorphs” instead of “non-lizard-foot lizard-foot-shapes”? The speakers know what they mean, but laypeople unfamiliar with Latin are likely to quit reading after a few exposures to the specialized lingo. Darwinians know this. They can hide their magical ideas in with the Latinized terms and deceive the uninitiated into thinking they are intellectuals with godlike understanding of the natural world. The Darwinized media are sure to promote the image.
It’s time to expose the trick.
Prehistoric podiatry: How dinos carried their enormous weight (University of Queensland, 11 Aug 2022).
Evolutionists at Australia’s University of Queensland took a legitimate question and Darwinized it recklessly. How could giant dinosaurs stand up?
In his book The Miracle of Man (Discovery Institute, 2022), Michael Denton explains why humans are the size they are, living on a planet the size of Earth. Given the force of gravity on an earth-sized planet, physical laws limit how large a being can be and still use limbs to make fire and invent technology. He explains on pp 194-197 why humans could not be giants: as bone strength increases by the square of the length, mass and weight increases by the cube of the length. A 60-foot-tall human, therefore, would break its thighs every time it stepped, and the giant’s head would shatter into pieces if he fell. “The bigger they are, the harder they fall,” he quips. That’s the reason why falling for adults is much more risky than for a child. Neither an Ant-Man or a Giant-Man would ever be able to swing an axe to harvest wood or gather it to build a campfire. There would be no technology for bipedal human beings outside the limited size range with which we are familiar.
And yet some dinosaurs grew to enormous heights. What about them?
Consider first that large mammals like elephants, giraffes and rhinos, which could break their bones in a hard fall, reduce the risk of falling by walking on all fours. Because these living animals are accessible to dissection, scientists can study their anatomy and physiology. Elephants [proboscidians, translated from Latin as “snout-eaters”] appear to walk on flat feet, but dissections reveal that they walk on their toes. Foot pads under their heels cushion their steps. With padding, the design of their feet works well.
Was this true of sauropods like Argentinosaurus, the largest land animals that ever lived, if all we have to observe are fossilized foot bones and tracks? Were they near the limit of possible animal sizes?
That’s a good question for a biophysicist. From dinosaur bones, the scientists can observe certain things.
Sauropod’s front feet are more columnar-like, while they present more ‘wedge high heels’ at the back supported by a large soft tissue pad.
The bones are observable, but the soft tissue pads are not. Those are inferred. They must have existed, the scientists reason with probable cause. But now the pig-latin Darwinese starts.
- UQ’s Associate Professor Steve Salisbury said this was because sauropods and elephants had different evolutionary origins.
- “Elephants belong to an ancient order of mammals called proboscideans, which first appeared in Africa roughly 60 million years ago as small, nondescript herbivores, ” Dr Salisbury said.
- “In contrast, sauropods – whose ancestors first appeared 230 million years ago – are more closely related to birds.
- “They were agile, two-legged herbivores and it was only later in their evolution that they walked on all fours.
- “Crucially, the transition to becoming the largest land animals to walk the earth seems to have involved the adaptation of a heel pad.”
Tricks of the Tirade
Now we can reveal the trick rules for speaking Darwinese:
- Assume evolution.
- Assume the geologic column with its millions of Darwin Years.
- Arbitrarily place every living thing in the timeline to show a progression from simple to complex.
- Conceal the e-word evolution with gentler euphemisms: appeared, origin of, related, adaptation.
- Conceal evolution further in passive voice sentences: “the transition to becoming” … “the adaptation of a heel pad.”
- Raise the perhapsimaybecouldness index: “seems to have” etc.
- Apply Darwin Flubber: (Emergence, Convergence and Submergence): “evolutionary origins” and “appeared”.
Applying these simple rules, a Darwinist can impersonate a scientist (see 26 July 2014 commentary) while speaking pseudoscience. Everything about the evolutionary explanation is pure, unmitigated magical thinking (see Evolution News, 6 March 2022). But it sure sounds impressive! The layman, unaware of the secret dialect, leaves in awe at what science has discovered.
Darwinese plus Jargonwocky
The paper on Science Advances1 uses the e-word evolution and its derivatives 20 times, and another 20 in the references. While they are onto something about the physical requirement for some kind of padding in a sauropod’s foot to withstand the weight of the giant beasts, the explanation for how it “evolved” is magical. They speak as if the mere need for a trait waved a magic wand and made it appear. Need a foot pad? Call Darwin: he discovered the Stuff Happens Law! The authors’ subtle soft-shoe sidestep is right in their title: “Softening the steps to gigantism in sauropod dinosaurs through the evolution of a pedal pad.” Pedal, get it? Fancy footwork provides dinosaur tennis shoes, thanks to evolution. No problem is too hard for an evolutionary scenario!
Now that you know the rules for Darwinese, observe it in action in the “scientific” paper.
- How sauropod dinosaurs were able to withstand the forces associated with their immense size represents one of the most challenging biomechanical scenarios in the evolution of terrestrial tetrapods.
- The acquisition of a developed soft tissue pad by the Late Triassic–Early Jurassic may represent one of the key adaptations for the evolution of gigantism that has become emblematic of these dinosaurs.
- Yet, despite extensive research on sauropod palaeobiology and morphological specializations associated with their evolutionary trajectory toward their archetypal gigantism, one outstanding question persists: How did sauropods, and in particular their feet, support their gigantic body on terra firma?
- Current research into sauropods agrees that a combination of plesiomorphic characters (e.g., nonmastication and ovipary) and evolutionary trends (e.g., small head, long neck, vertebral pneumatization, and columnar limbs) has led to their iconic gigantism.
- On the basis of our FEA results and the current state of the sauropodomorph fossil record, we propose that sauropod species likely acquired a pedal soft tissue pad early in the course of their evolution.
As you can clearly see, the authors were claiming to explain how sauropods got foot pads. The giant beasts surely needed them. But how did they get them? Their answer: foot pads “evolved” by evolution. Whatever you want to call it—appearance, emergence, adaptation, origin—evolution works like magic.
After getting away with magic for foot pads, why not pile the B.S. higher and deeper (PhD)? Evolution must have also created the other sauropod traits: “small head, long neck, vertebral pneumatization, and columnar limbs.” Presto—giants!
How many lucky mutations did that take? How many millions of Darwin Years?
Smearing on the Darwin Flubber
As with magic, Stuff Happens in different ways. One never knows how it will happen. Foot pads in elephants and bird-hipped dinosaurs ‘arrived’ differently:
- This evolutionary model differs from the scenario proposed for Proboscidea, where the development of a cushion structure was suggested to occur through a transition of “flat-footed” to more derived “tip-toed” morphologies.
- The results also differ from the preferred evolutionary model proposed for ornithischian dinosaurs, where larger forms (e.g., hadrosaurs) have been proposed to present more upright skeletal pedal postures than basal ones.
So what do these Darwinists really know about all this evolutionary magic?
Because our study cannot attribute a specific skeletal postural morphotype to any of our specimens but rather reveal a range of possible ones, linking an evolutionary transition toward a more upright skeletal pedal posture in sauropods would be premature given these results. It remains unclear whether the conventional model in which larger animals adopt more upright posture does not apply to sauropods or whether this traditional model may be more complex than previously thought. Nevertheless, these findings do indicate that distinct lineages of large terrestrial tetrapods evolved convergent soft tissue pad structures within their pedes. Hence, there is probably a biological link between the acquisition of gigantism and the benefits of having a soft tissue structure to absorb and redirect some loads away from the pedal skeleton.
The findings “indicate” that animals “evolved” foot pads. Probably. They acquired it. Good, because foot pads are beneficial. Now you know. Isn’t science wonderful? And with padded feet, what was to stop sauropods from growing to giant size?
Our findings provide some of the first compelling pieces of evidence supporting the long-standing hypothesis for the presence of a soft tissue pad within the sauropod pes.
‘But teacher, the evidence for the evolution of foot pads was evolution itself. Isn’t that circular reasoning?’
More Magic in Michigan
To show we’re not just picking on the Aussies, scientists in Michigan also displayed the geographic extent of Darwinian magic.
New long-necked dinosaur helps rewrite evolutionary history of sauropods in South America (University of Michigan News, 10 Aug 2022).
“What we see in the Early Jurassic, both in high latitudes and in the most tropical areas, is that sauropod species were evolutionarily and geographically interconnected, which is something that had also been seen with other groups of carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs,” Ezcurra said.
Evolution inserts itself where it is not needed. Why must they be “evolutionarily connected” instead of just geographically connected? The magical thinking in the press release shows up when they claim that complex traits just evolved by some kind of invasion:
“By the Late Jurassic, sauropods had evolved highly pneumatic vertebrae riddled with air spaces that removed one-half to three-quarters the bone weight. Perijasaurus represents an evolutionary antecedent in which the pneumatic invasions are much simpler and more limited in extent, removing less than a quarter of bone volume,” Wilson Mantilla said.
Like the other paper, this one in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology2 is filled with Darwinese:
- the evolution of pneumaticity among sauropods.
- an initial phase of sauropod evolution associated with the early acquisition of pneumatic features
- indicating an early stage of sauropod evolution
- an early off-shoot from the main line of sauropod evolution
- implications for the early evolution of sauropod presacral vertebrae
If Darwinians had to eliminate all magical thinking, they would have little to say. Maybe it would force them to limit their talk to observational, empirical facts.
1. Jannel et al., “Softening the steps to gigantism in sauropod dinosaurs through the evolution of a pedal pad.” Science Advances
10 Aug 2022, Vol 8, Issue 32, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abm8280.
2. Rincón et al., A sauropod from the Lower Jurassic La Quinta formation (Dept. Cesar, Colombia) and the initial diversification of eusauropods at low latitudes.” Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2021.2077112.
I want to use this occasion to remind readers of two facts of human nature: (1) Everyone believes in the supernatural, and (2) Everyone believes in miracles. In support of (1), realize that truth and the pursuit of truth (morality) are not made of atoms. They are non-physical, and must be non-evolving. Every proposition, therefore, is supernatural. The paper above that argues for sauropod foot pads is making use of supernatural realities in the conceptual realm. C.S. Lewis pointed out that the converse (believing that thoughts are material) is self-refuting. It would be like using thoughts to say there are no thoughts.
In support of (2), we just watched scientists arguing that the Stuff Happens Law created foot pads that allowed sauropods to walk without breaking their bones. Diagrams in the paper and press release show how elegant these foot pads had to be to work. And so we repeat: everyone believes in miracles. Evolutionists believe in miracles of chance. Creationists believe in miracles that were intelligently designed by a being who knows engineering better than any human being does. You wouldn’t say that engineers work their ‘miracles’ of rocket ships and cell phones with the Stuff Happens Law, would you? Intelligence is capable of creating engineered systems that work. Chance is not.
Understanding now that miracles of design are more rational, consider the option that the intelligent designer of sauropods is the Biblical God of creation. The Bible describes mighty beasts as examples of his wisdom and power that should cause men to stand in awe of him. And sauropods sure fit that bill.
Some modern translators have added comments to this passage in Job 40, where God is speaking to Job, that assume it is talking about a hippopotamus or elephant. Have you ever seen those animals described this way?
15 “Behold, Behemoth,
which I made as I made you;
he eats grass like an ox.
16 Behold, his strength in his loins,
and his power in the muscles of his belly.
17 He makes his tail stiff like a cedar;
the sinews of his thighs are knit together.
18 His bones are tubes of bronze,
his limbs like bars of iron.
19 “He is the first of the works of God;
let him who made him bring near his sword!
20 For the mountains yield food for him
where all the wild beasts play.
It sounds like a sauropod, doesn’t it? Elephants don’t have tails like a cedar tree. Elephant bones are strong, but not like ‘bars of iron’ required for a sauropod. We know of the existence of sauropods from fossils. Elephants, as magnificent as they are, would not be called “the first of the works of God” compared to sauropods. The word dinosaur was only invented in the 19th century. The description fits a sauropod dinosaur! And if it was, it presumes that Job had seen one. That, in turn, would explain why soft tissue is still found in dinosaur bones; most dinosaurs would have been rapidly buried in the Flood just a few thousand years ago. If a few remained after the Flood, humans would probably have exterminated them in short order. “Dragon slaying” because a sport because post-Flood humans would probably have found them to be a nuisance and a danger (see this piece on dragon legends and another page with links to more). We know humans have a selfish tendency to drive pests extinct unless they think about God’s design for the balance of nature. Furthermore, the biosphere most likely had changed drastically after the Flood and could not support the largest dinosaurs.
If you are an atheist or evolutionist, you may find this silly. So go ahead; trust in the Stuff Happens Law, and use reason to argue for it. Tell us all about silliness. Make my day.