Another Fossil Flub

By Wayne Jackson

In his famous book, Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain quipped: “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such trifling investment of fact.”

There it was in the November issue of National Geographic – splashed all over the place with the flair of P.T. Barnum. “Feathers For T Rex?” Then, “New Birdlike Fossils Are Missing Links In Dinosaur Evolution.” Oh, but there was more; the writers of Geographic were just getting warmed up.

“IT’S A MISSING LINK between terrestrial dinosaurs and birds that could actually fly,” shouted a large pull-quote, right by the side of a color photo of the “dinosaur-bird” mongrel. Then, in smaller type at the bottom of the page: “With arms of a primitive bird and the tail of a dinosaur, this creature found in Liaoning Province, China, is a true missing link in the complex chain that connects dinosaurs to birds.” The new discovery has been named Archaeoraptor liaoningensis.

It ought to have been dubbed, Archaeo big-bigblunder!

On and on the article continued – abounding in the most outlandish claims imaginable. One senses that the authors were periodically skipping around the room with glee as they wrote.

Then came the crushing, egg-all-over-my-face news: What they had was not a “link” between two ancient creatures, but literally two ancient organisms – one a bird, the other a dinosaur!

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On January 24, 2000, on the National Geographic web site, a subdued headline simply stated: “Dino-Bird Fossil Controversy.” Then, with humiliating blush, this confession:

“Continued studies of a fossil specimen that was first thought to be a missing link between dinosaurs and birds have revealed that the fossil may be the remains of two or more extinct creatures. Scientists now suggest that one part of the fossil may be a primitive toothed bird and another portion may be the tail of a dromaeosaurid dinosaur.”

What happened was this:

Following National Geographic’s announcement of the phenomenal find, Dr. Xu Xing of Beijing’s Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP) returned to China and to the Liaoning Province, where the fossil(s) were discovered. While there, Professor Xu Xing began to suspect that the dinosaur-like tail really did not even belong to the rest of the animal. Further tests – scans of the fossil – seem to confirm the scientist’s suspicions.

And so now, National Geographic is poised to issue something of a retraction in the March edition of the magazine. It is a humbling moment in the journal’s history.

Let me, if I may, make a couple of observations.

(1) This case illustrates again, as have so many others in the past, that evolutionists are ever ready to jump to the flimsiest conclusion in an attempt to support their bankrupt theory of organic evolution. It happened with the “Nebraska Man” – a supposed pre-human specimen manufactured from one “tooth,” that figured prominently in the Scopes Trial – that tooth turned out to be a mere pig’s tooth.

It happened again with the “Piltdown Man” – a fraudulent hoax that had the evolutionists completely fooled for a while. They are so desperate for “proof” that anything passes muster.

(2) From a purely logical point of view, even if a dinosaur fossil were discovered, that had some sort of feathered features, that would not prove that the specimen was a link between dinosaurs and birds. It would only prove that some dinosaurs had feathers. A chicken has scales on its legs; that does not prove that it is related to reptiles. This type of “reasoning” would not pass the test of freshman logic. It would take a vast amount of fossil evidence to establish a valid “link” between these drastically different creatures.

Finally, those who are so easily intimidated by every “scientific” announcement from the evolutionary community ought to learn something from this case. Don’t believe every pronouncement from the disciples of Darwin. All too often, their “desire” is the father of the “evidence.”

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About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.