Monday, December 12, 2016

Readers respond to feathered dinosaurs

I received some interesting emails in response to my post last week on feathered dinosaurs.  I asked the authors if I could share them anonymously, and they agreed.  I've edited them slightly to remove names.  I don't really want to distract from the point by getting into an argument about this or that ministry.  So here is response #1:
I appreciated your post about the preserved tail and feathers; thanks for continuing to bring things like this to the attention of the YEC community. This new find is soooo amazing!  Thanks for expressing your excitement and encouraging others to celebrate how creation--all of it--reveals God's glory!  I expect ministries like [redacted] to respond to this with negativity and skepticism, which is really too bad.  They will probably claim this is just a bird, since it undeniably has feathers.
Just wanted to mention a couple of things in response to your post.  Regarding Archaeoraptor, it was indeed a composite, but the species used were both feathered animals!  I read a lot of creationist articles in the early 2000's claiming that we should question whether other feathered dinosaur fossils were fakes also, since Archaeoraptor was a dinosaur fossil combined with a bird fossil.  But when the two species within Archaeoraptor were properly described, one was the bird Yanornis, and the other one was Microraptor, a theropod dinosaur that almost all creationists agree had pretty much modern flight feathers!  So the composite wasn't a case of people putting bird feathers on a dinosaur--it was feathered dinosaur combined with a feathered bird.
I know you're probably aware of all this, but I just want to point out the irony here.  I don't think creationist ministries should have been using this to call feathered dinosaurs into question.  I also don't think the Archaeoraptor fiasco has created a precedent for being suspicious of feathered dinosaur fossils at all, or at least not for being suspicious about the feathered part. 
Later in your post, you wrote, "Since dinosaurs didn't fly, symmetric feathers would make sense."  It might be correct that all dinosaurs didn't fly, but we don't know for sure.  Several of the smaller feathered maniraptorans definitely had gliding abilities and may have been capable of true flight.  Some of them did have rather large wings and even asymmetrical feathers.... 
Thanks for keeping the blog up; it really is a breath of fresh air from a paleontological perspective.
He's quite right on both counts.  The fraud Archaeoraptor was only possible because the two fossils that were used to put it together had feathers.  Also, I definitely should have been clearer with my comments on flying dinosaurs.  We're actually not at all certain that some of those small feathered critters couldn't fly, and asymmetric flight feathers were present on some of the feathered dinosaur species that we already know about.  Here's a drawing of the glider Microraptor gui (that I gushed about before on this blog).

Photo: Dinopedia

And an actual Microraptor fossil complete with feathers:

Photo: Wikimedia
The next letter was really eye-opening.
I am writing to you because I am disappointed with the major creationist organizations. Here we have some of the best evidence ever for feathered dinosaurs, and all [redacted] manage to do is make article titles with puns, reference the Archaeoraptor hoax, and just say that because there are feathers, that it must be from a bird as birds are the only known animals to possess feathers. I was expecting their responses to be along these lines, but it was still disappointing to actually see them in writing.  
I am trying not to be frustrated, and I want to turn my disappointment around to something productive. What I have really realized over the past few years is that we have a plethora of creationist apologetics organizations, but essentially no organizations dedicated to promoting creationist scientific research and communication to the public. That is why I am so pleased with Core Academy. I’m not sure what the rest of us can do at this point (besides donate), but I would like to just sit down with other creationist scientists (and theologians) to discuss the future of this kind of thing. I wonder if we could set aside some time at the next CBS/CGS meeting for some good discussion about where to take things in the future.
Well, I think a lot of folks at [redacted] would strongly disagree with your assessment, but I'll let the rest of that note speak for itself.  I definitely think we should have more conversations about the future of creationism at the Origins conference.  We'll talk more about that as we get closer to summer.

In the mean time, hit that donate button and help Core Academy finish our holiday fund drive!

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