Friday, December 13, 2013

Birds and dinosaurs

For some reason creationists are in a crusade to try to discredit the notion that birds have evolved from dinosaurs. It's probably their second-most popular specific claim that they oppose about evolutionary history (the most popular being, of course, that humans and apes have a common ancestor species.) I don't even understand why they hate the notion that much. Even the creationists who accept 99% of the theory of evolution (without using that name, of course) still oppose the notion that birds are dinosaurs.

There are a couple of scientists who, while not being creationists, also loudly oppose the notion that birds evolved from dinosaurs. They are very vocal, and are sometimes quoted in tabloids and blogs.

Naturally creationists often cling to these tabloid articles as well. It really helps bolster their anti-evolutionary movement when they can quote newspaper headers like "birds have not evolved from dinosaurs after all, say scientists".

There's a huge irony in this, however. Those few scientists are not defending creationism. Their claim is that birds and dinosaurs have a more ancient common ancestor, rather than birds having evolved directly from dinosaurs. (This claim has been discredited by paleontologists and evolutionary biologists time and again, but it's still a somewhat rational and scientific hypothesis to make. It simply puts into question where exactly birds branched out in the evolutionary tree, and proposes that it happened earlier.)

In other words, the creationists are promoting an alternative evolutionary tree for birds, without realizing it. Those scientists who create those controversial tabloid news headers are not claiming that evolution didn't happen. They are simply saying that birds evolved from a more ancient ancestral species than dinosaurs.

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