Give or take a geologic period or two, 400 million years ago a milestone in evolution occurred: inland fish developed legs, enabling them to travel over land to get to other waters and find new food sources. Paleoichthyologists believed they have discovered fossilized fish footprints to corroborate the hypothesis; lesser luminaries tell us these footprints are those of an extinct frog. The absence of transitional fish with feet and legs should never, ever be a reason to doubt established scientific doctrines, for such skepticism is at the end of the day a polemic made from silence. The Doubters will themselves be silenced when the Men In White find these missing links. Meanwhile, where the fish with feet are no one knows.
That the trustees of scientific truths have not found the transitional remains of the Elect Reptilia should not cause us to pause. We are promised that the answer will one day come if we do not lose faith. What is important is that we believe (and build upon) the fundamental dogma Darwin first taught us.
Whether the reptiles evolved into birds during years spanning a geologic era, or the change occurred by sudden jumps in a period or two is the topic of passionate debate among the Men In White. The student of geology and ultimately the public are asked to accept either opinion by faith; indeed for the very long times proposed there can be no proof. Problems that arise, can be resolved by creating optimistic theories such as The Hopeful Monster. The saltation of a new species (abrupt change) was the inspiration of Dr. O.H. Schindewolf, Europe’s top paleontologist in his day who wrote several landmark works in his field. Schindewolf became convinced that his talking points needed a re-write after he lost a series of debates on the origin of life. There were too many problems with the traditional “slow-change” storyline. One complication, for an example, was that Men In White had searched a hundred years for transitional forms in the fossil record without finding any. He worried none would ever be found. If the Men In White were going to keep the faith, they would need a new truth. In the 1930s Schindewolf proposed that a reptile laid an egg and hatched out a full-fledged bird. As expected, the saltation theory was met with so much derision from all sides, including his own, that it was laughed at until Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould rescued it with a witty resolution to merge both views. Darwinian orthodoxy survived the crisis and went on to debate another day.
Their confidence restored, the Men In White asserted that over a period of the next 200 million years or so reptilia grew feathers. It was about the same time their scales fell off. The steering forces of nature, combined with a little luck, hardened the lizard’s eggshells, too. Men In White surmised that reptiles did not develop feathers initially for flying; instead, they devised them for catching insects. They are not sure what First Cause triggered feather-growing, or even why some reptiles did not grow feathers the same way others did; this negligible aspect was determined to have no significant relevance to the debate. Partially-feathered reptilia went on to produce offspring who begat little ones with even more feathers, layer upon layer, and afterward became what we see as birds in trees. It’s true. It’s science. You must believe.
The insect-catching scenario postulates that a population of dinosaurs over long periods of time frayed out their foreleg and tail scales by some means originating from a source we know not where or how or what – gradually forming flight feathers with a rigid center shaft and hundreds of parallel barbs running out from it. If you examine a bird, it has thousands of little barbules that hook together to make an effective seal. As the dinosaur dashed about chasing insects, it was able to keep these delicate inventions from getting broken so that there was a selective advantage for the feathers to gradually become larger and larger. Eventually, like-minded insect-chasers found each other and had offspring; and before long its forelegs were shaped like an airfoil nicely streamlined with the proper curvature in the proper direction to generate lift. The reptile-birds grew perched feet, too, and the scales on the tail were also converted into feathers for steering and balance. A day arrived for its maiden flight, first only a few feet or so, but eventually the reptile, er … bird I meant to say, soared the heavens. Given time and luck, all things are possible.
You need to remember that this design took millions, if not billions, of years to come together. Should any one member of this delicate line of reptile-bird descendants die or mutate in any manner other than the way it did, the entire evolutionary system breaks down and needs to start over. Thankfully, the reptiles mutated in a way that was not destructive to the plan nature had for them. The coordinated development of the reptile-bird is a miracle on a scale not seen again until Jesus turned water into wine. A wonder it is that secular humanism denies the notion a bright young Man from Galilee jumped chromosomes, when mindless reptilia could do this without assistance from Anyone.
Obviously, the reptile-bird no longer needed gills and simply disposed of them. For reasons we do not know, the reptiles lost their little bumps near the plume. Birds do not have scales or scutum, though they kept the skin around their legs. Birds are warm-blooded and reptiles are not. Differences in genetic instruction are as far apart as the east is from the west, but we are told by the Men In White that long ago they were the same.
That a lizard is 100% devoted to producing another reptile is a concept the Men In White have abandoned. The genetic tool box of the reptilian class involves hundreds of thousands of interdependent genes. If altered, even slightly, or if rapid integration took place in an attempt to create a class of aves, such an experiment – even if tried in a modern laboratory – would produce a monstrosity of the worse kind. Such a creature could not live on its own, if at all. But that does not mean the Men In White are not doing their best to imitate the miracle of life within confines of their germ-free Petri dish, experiments they claim were once performed in hostile prehistoric conditions with grand success and without their help. If only the Men In White could find a way to reproduce the ideal conditions that turn reptilia into birds the debate over life origin would be settled.
Rearranging chromosomes, turning protein receptors on and off, and cell cloning is possible; but it requires generous grants, combined brain-power of a company of post-doctors, a good plan, modern equipment, a clean laboratory, and the benevolent care of a watchful graduate student at all times.
What is next? The Men In White will be turning scales into feathers. Should they pull it off, the scientific community will issue awards and prizes to reward the acumen and effort of the intelligent planners who worked tirelessly to oversee the project from beginning to end. Their handiwork will vindicate Darwin. All this was accomplished billions of years before, they will say – by chance and random selection –without intelligence or providence guiding the process.
It all makes “cents” if you think about it. It’s true. It’s science. You must believe.