Thursday, July 12, 2007

More on Gigantoraptor

I feel kinda bad for Xing Xu and his fellow paleontologists. They're the team of Chinese scientists that made the exciting discovery of a new fossil dinosaur, one that was 25 feet long and probably weighed 3,000 pounds. It was classified as a member of the family Oviraptor, the "bird-like" dinosaurs, and was all-the-more unusual because it had even more bird-like characteristics than many smaller members of the family. It was such a notable find that it warranted not only the designation of a new species but its own new genus, Gigantoraptor. Heady stuff, the dream of paleontologists. And indeed, the official documentation of this find was rightly accorded the honor of appearing in the prestigious journal Nature.

So why do I feel sorry for these folks? Well, to tell the truth, this wonderful discovery hasn't received nearly the attention and excitement it deserves. It hasn't come close to receiving the notoriety that other, similar dinosaurs (members of the same dinosaur family) have received in recent decades. And this is for one simple reason... this find doesn't fit the evolutionary paradigm.

According to a New York Times article, paleontologists admitted that
the discovery contradicted widely-held theories that carnivorous dinosaurs got smaller as they evolved more birdlike characteristics.
But paleontologists were also quick to assure us that
the new specimen [does] not challenge the theorized dinosaur-bird link.
Oh, really? I would submit that the lack of enthusiasm for this fossil species belies this confident stance. The way science is supposed to work is that new evidence that contradicts a current theory, by falsifying predictions of that theory, is greeted with great enthusiasm. Such contradictory evidence provides great opportunity to reconsider, to tweak or--where warranted--even to replace the current theory. It should help us to stop wasting time seeking to verify a false theory.

In this case, however, there is too much at stake. That birds evolved from dinosaurs is seen as a necessary aspect of neo-Darwinian theory; if birds appeared fully-formed (as the fossil record actually suggests), then evolutionary theory is wrong. Neo-Darwinism--the theory that the diversity of life can be explained by strictly natural means--is the only thing supporting a naturalistic approach to science in general, and naturalism is the worldview that most effectively enables us to avoid wrestling with issues of morality and self-control. Acceptance of naturalism--entailing as it does the absence of an absolute Law-Giver and thus of any basis for morality--has (in turn) allowed us to elevate personal autonomy (especially in the area of sexual behavior) to the highest of all values. (There are, of course, significant ramifications of this autonomy, including the death of millions of unborn human beings, the death of millions of adults through epidemic sexually-transmitted diseases, and a robust world-wide sex-slavery trade, to mention a few.)

Let's talk turkey. Taken objectively, the existing evidence overwhelmingly refutes the notion that the birdlike dinosaurs represent an evolutionary step between dinosaurs and birds. All such dinosaurs existed in a relatively brief period of time that came much later than the first birds. In addition, a mass extinction event (one that saw the extinction of the vast majority of life on Earth and all larger and higher life forms) seperates these fossils from the modern birds. Moreover, birds (every last one of them, whether hummingbird, ostrich, or Archaeopteryx) possess feathers. There is absolutely no evidence that any of these birdlike dinosaurs possessed feathers; the only place feathers appear in association with these fossils is in the artists' renderings and the imaginations of the journalists and headline writers. And this absence of feathers cannot be attributed to the fact that these animals lived too long ago to preserve feathers--Archaeopteryx, after all, predated the oviraptors by more than 100 million years.

Were we able to view the fossil record objectively, Gigantoraptor and other dinosaurs like it would be recognized as very interesting, extinct creatures, dinosaurs that had beak-like mouths, long tails, and pelvic bones and legs that adapted them for fast running in the late Cretaceous. The idea that this 3,000-pound dinosaur was evolving into a bird is ludicrous, absurd. The relative silence about this exciting find is testimony to the fact that even evolutionists recognize this, that some even suspect that it implies the same about the other (smaller) oviraptors.

I long for the future day when science again becomes the objective search for truth it is meant to be. In that day, a startling fossil discovery like that of Xing Xu and his colleagues will be marveled at in the way it deserves.

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