Are Dinosaurs Still Among Us?

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It’s a popular evolutionary idea that dinosaurs are still among us—but not in the way you think. Evolutionists certainly don’t think a T. rex or a Stegosaurus is going to wander into your backyard, but they do think the colorful creatures perched on the bird feeder by your porch represent dinosaurs that are still among us.

“The Age of the Dinosaurs is Now”

A new exhibit, “Dinosaurs Among Us,” at the American Museum of Natural History showcases the idea that dinosaurs are still among us in the form of birds. Their website says,

The evolution of life on Earth is full of amazing episodes. But one story that really captures the imagination is the transition from the familiar, charismatic dinosaurs that dominated the planet for around 170 million years into a new, small, airborne form: birds.

The video below, posted on YouTube by the American Museum of Natural History, features the text “the age of dinosaurs is now.”

And in another of their videos we are told, “The dinosaurs didn’t go extinct 65 million years ago. We still have them around today. You can see them in your backyard; you can see them everywhere.”

To back up this claim that dinosaurs and birds are basically one and the same, the museum provides supposed behavioral and anatomical evidence. But rather than supporting their imagined link between dinos and birds, the so-called evidence they provide really highlights their interpretation of the evidence. They start with the assumption that dinosaurs evolved into birds, and then they view some observable facts through that lens while ignoring the massive differences between the two groups. As with anything in the creation/evolution controversy, the issue isn’t about the evidence, but rather the interpretation of the evidence.

Shared Behavior = Shared Ancestry?

To back up their claim that birds are just dinosaurs, they point to similar behaviors, such as nesting and caring for young—something birds and crocodiles do and something some dinosaurs appear to have done. They say, “Shared behaviors like these are evidence of common ancestry.” They also point to similarities in bird and dinosaur eggs as another “link in the chain of evidence connecting them.” But as we’ve pointed out many times, this is an interpretation of the evidence that simply assumes evolution to be true. They assume we see similarities because of shared ancestry. But there’s certainly another option: such similarities are reflections of a shared Creator. This Creator made all life to live in the same world, eat the same food, drink the same water, and breathe the same air; so we shouldn’t be surprised to see similarities across the animal world. Similarities in no way “prove” evolution. The claim that they do is merely an interpretation of the evidence.

“Big, Bad, . . . and Feathered”

Of course no discussion of dino-birds would be complete without trotting out the feathered dinosaurs. And this exhibit is full of them. Every dinosaur featured in the photos boasts a fluffy, bird-like coat or at least a small clump of feathers. Feathers have become a standard feature on modern depictions of theropod dinosaurs and even occasionally on other dinosaurs; but the evidence is contentious. (And it’s not just creationists who aren’t convinced! Many evolutionists, such as Alan Feduccia, a leading bird evolution expert, deny feathered dinosaurs).

The website mentions that a cousin of T. rex “sported a shaggy coat of the filaments called ‘proto-feathers.’” But considering that these fossilized filaments do not exhibit any of the features of feather anatomy (such as hooks, barbs, or barbules), they could easily—and much more likely—be collagen fibers, a sort of connective tissue commonly found in skin as well as many other places. The supposed “feathers” on “feathered” dinosaurs aren’t feathers at all. They are filaments that, because of evolutionary presuppositions about the history of life, have been labeled as “proto-feathers” on the path to becoming true feathers.

Smart Dinosaurs with Super Lungs

Another part of the “Dinosaurs Among Us” exhibit claims that “kinship . . . goes much deeper” than just eggs and feathers. Computed tomography (CT) scans of birds, crocodiles, and dinosaurs reveal some internal similarities. Indeed, a video on the website goes so far as to claim that certain dinosaurs “all have a brain that is identical to the earliest birds.” One page on their website goes into more detail about what they mean by “identical.”

Birds have large brains for their body size; much of this additional size is in the cerebrum, “the part of the brain responsible for learning,” as well as the optic lobe, which is responsible for sight. Reptiles of the equivalent size do not have this increased brain size.

This teaches us nothing about their having descended from a common ancestor.

CT scans of fossilized dinosaur skulls show that “one group of theropods displays the trend toward inflation of the ‘thinking’ brain we see in living birds.” So by “identical” they mean that in some theropods there’s a trend toward having an enlarged cerebrum as birds do. This teaches us nothing about their having descended from a common ancestor. It just shows that, as they say, “Theropod dinosaurs were probably capable of advanced learned behavior.” (Read more about dinosaurs and birdbrains in “Were Birdbrains on the Dinosaur Pre-flight Checklist for Evolution?”)

They move on to show the “unbroken . . . link between birds and dinosaurs” in the “super lungs” of birds, dinosaurs, and birds’ “living relatives”—crocodiles and alligators. They claim that the supposed last common ancestor of birds and crocodiles “also had birdlike lungs.” But crocodile and alligator lungs are nothing like bird lungs!

Bird lungs are completely unique in the animal kingdom. Instead of sequentially breathing in and out to fill and empty lungs like we do, they have a unidirectional airflow that constantly supplies fully oxygenated air to the bird’s hard-working flight muscles and the rest of its body. Air sacs, scattered throughout a bird’s body, briefly store fully oxygenated air and then continue to supply this fresh air to the bird even while the bird exhales carbon dioxide. This remarkably complex and highly efficient design is without equal, even among some reptiles that share some of its features.

Crocodiles also have a unidirectional airflow, but that’s where the similarities stop. Crocodiles have a diaphragm, as we do, to pull air into their bodies. Birds don’t have or need this muscle. Crocodile lungs look like a bag with chambers; bird lungs look utterly different as they branch throughout the body. And this is just a very brief overview. You can learn more in Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell’s illustrated article “Lizard Breath Fails to Support Kinship with Birds.”

To claim that reptile lungs are bird-like is to ignore vast anatomical and functional differences and to concentrate on a few very minor similarities. Each design serves the animals quite well, but no observational evidence has shown any way that these systems could evolve from a common ancestor.

The Similarities Just Don’t Stop!

The above similarities between birds and dinosaurs have been rather underwhelming. But they claim there are more! Actually, they say, “Once you start seeing the resemblances between non-bird dinosaurs and living birds, you won’t be able to stop!” This claim is only true if you are an evolutionist looking for any similarity to connect the dots between the two groups.

The website highlights another section of the exhibit, “Dinosaur Bones, Beaks, and Claws.” Their list includes the discovery of what might be hollow bones in some dinosaurs, toothless beaks in some dinosaurs, and claws. Birds have hollow bones which, containing air sacs, are integral to their respiratory system and, as a bonus, are quite lightweight, allowing them to fly. Dinosaurs might have hollow bones, but our bones are not solid structures either. The “hollow” spaces in our bones are filled with marrow, as dinosaur bones likely were too, though marrow isn’t commonly fossilized. Birds, however, have pneumatic bones. These bones are filled with air and are an essential part of their unique respiratory system—a system dinosaurs did not share.

Another similarity that they note is the surprising presence of a wishbone, or furcula, in theropods. The furcula is formed from the fusion of the collarbones (clavicles). Many evolutionists consider this the “smoking gun” for the dino-to-bird evolution story because the furcula has only been found on birds and theropod dinosaurs.

In birds, the furcula shows great diversity in size and shape, depending on the bird’s method of flight (or lack thereof). The flight muscles are anchored to this bone. In some birds it acts as a spring, allowing the powerful flight muscles to flex without snapping the bone. There is evidence that birds also use this bone to augment air movement during breathing.

Clearly scientists could not know that theropod dinosaurs used their furculae for flight or avian respiration. Since all we have is fossil evidence, it is difficult to definitively determine the purpose of the theropod furcula, but some scientists have suggested it increased forelimb mobility. Evolutionist Alan Feduccia has noted that even though some theropods have furculae, their distinctly un-birdlike shoulder anatomy makes it “unlikely that any of these structures could have articulated or functioned in a manner similar to the bird furcula or the hypertrophied furcula of the first bird, Archaeopteryx.”1 Others, assuming an evolutionary relationship between birds and dinosaurs, suggest dinosaurs used them to aid breathing as they suspect birds do. Interestingly, one paper notes that “only the early ornithurines possess a furcula typical of extant avian clades.”2 In everyday language this means that only “early ornithurines”—birds in a biblical view—have wishbones typical of living birds. Of course, this is not surprising.

Just because birds and theropods both possess furculae does not mean that they are related to one another.

Just because birds and theropods both possess furculae does not mean that they are related to one another. God simply used a similar design in two distinct groups of animals. Anatomical differences indicate that their furculae would have differed in not only structure but also function. Instead of searching for similarities between theropods and birds, scientists should study dinosaur furculae to determine what God designed this bone to do, because, whatever its function, it was perfectly designed to do what it was created for.

They go on to claim, “The similarities are especially striking when it comes to legs, feet, and claws.” But bird and dinosaur legs really aren’t that similar. Bipedal dinosaurs did walk on their toes, like birds do, so we expect some similarity in the structure of the foot and ankle. But the femur (thigh bone) and knee of a bird are inside its body and are essential to its breathing structure. The femur of the dinosaur (which is anatomically almost identical to a human, though this is not pointed out), as well as its knees, are outside the body and appear to have nothing to do with breathing.

It should be noted that dinosaurs are very different from other reptiles, particularly in the placement of their legs. Rather than spreading out to the sides, as they do in other reptiles, they were directly under the body. The obvious anatomical differences between dinosaurs and other reptiles should hint that there would be other differences in bone structure, organ placement, and other areas. This doesn’t mean that dinosaurs are more closely related to birds any more than saying that bats, very different from other mammals but with some similarities to birds, prove that bats evolved from birds— something no evolutionist would argue.

Similarity in anatomy does not mean shared ancestry.

God’s Word, Our Starting Point

The idea that birds are descended from dinosaurs comes directly from a naturalistic evolutionary interpretation of the fossils and of living birds. The idea does not come from the facts themselves but from an interpretation of the facts that assumes evolution to be true. Exhibits such as “Dinosaurs Among Us” are nothing more than propaganda pieces for this popular evolutionary idea. Sadly, many kids will tour through this exhibit without realizing that this is merely an interpretation and not observational science.

Though some Christians try to mesh evolution with a Creator, this idea completely contradicts God’s Word, which says that kinds will always reproduce according to their kinds (Genesis 1:21, 25) and that birds were created on Day Five and land animals—which would include dinosaurs—were created on Day Six (Genesis 1:20–25). Instead of interpreting the world through the faulty lens of man’s ideas about the past, we need to turn to God’s perfect Word, given to us by the eyewitness Creator who never lies (Titus 1:2), to give us the true history of life and the universe.

Footnotes

  1. Alan Feduccia, The Origin and Evolution of Birds (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 77.
  2. Sterling J. Nesbitt et al., “The Theropod Furcula,” Journal of Morphology 270, no. 7 (2009): 874, doi:10.1002/jmor.10724.

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