-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
Xiaotingia zhengi is the name of a 155 million-year-old fossil found in China and described in the latest issue of Nature. It’s a chicken-sized, feathered beast similar to Archaeopteryx. This new fossil provides us with a more detailed picture of bird evolution.
When Xiaotingia’s skeletal parameters are input to a computer-based tool that computes biological systematics, its position with respect to other bird-like fossils is revealed. Those results show Xiaotingia is a more distant relative to modern birds than Archaeopteryx but with enough significant features with Archaeopteryx to move Archaeopteryx into a new classification. This taxonomic revaluation means that Archaeopteryx is a little less closely related to birds than previously thought.
The change in Archaeopteryx’s status has brought the creationists out of the woodwork.
Creationists claim that the change of status represents a prediction failure by evolutionary biologists. However, the precise taxonomic status of Archaeopteryx was never a specific prediction of evolutionary theory.
Each new fossil discovery refines our understanding of evolutionary theory. This new fossil enhances our understanding of avian descent from dinosaurs. The hyperbolic rantings of creationists are a sign of their desperation, indicating they know they’re losing the evolution debate. The change of Archaeopteryx, from a first cousin of birds to a second cousin, does nothing to diminish the theory of common descent or descent with modification.
Creationists like to point out that evolutionists have a problem when it comes to answering the question of how life began from non-life. This is, of course, an absurd question. No one was around at that time (or times) when life began from non-life. There is no possible way for anyone to answer this question without being present at that time and observing the event.
There is no shame in admitting “I don’t know.” The shame occurs when you make up an answer.