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Horse Feathers!

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

Does the media influence popular thought? Consider the following statements that describe Guanlong, a dinosaur recently discovered in China: “Scientists say the 160-million-year old animal, which had simple feathers and an elaborate head crest, is the oldest known tyrannosaur” (Owen, 2006a, emp. added). In another account about this same creature, Bjorn Carey noted that this new dinosaur species was “likely covered in feathers” (2006, emp. added). He further commented: “Also, it was likely as feathered as a chicken” (emp. added). Would anyone doubt that this creature had feathers after having read such vivid descriptions? And yet, a thorough review of the original article (see Xu, et al., 2006) reveals nothing about feathers! An editorial news story in the same issue by Thomas Holtz does mention “feathered dinosaurs” in passing, but it does not mention any in reference to Guanlong (2006, 439:665).

How could the mainstream media make such an obvious mistake? In trying to decipher how the press would feel justified in promoting such propaganda, we should consider two motivating factors: (1) the artist’s depiction of this creature was covered in feathers; and (2) two years earlier, another small tyrannosaurid—Dilong paradoxus—was discovered that scientists believed did possess protofeathers, deemed “featherlike structures” (see Roach, 2004). Since this creature is in the same family, they might have “inferred” that the Guanlong had feathers as well. [However, we have previously written how these alleged “protofeathers” could easily be identified as flayed collagen fibers and not feathers (Harrub, 2005).] In the MSNBC account regarding Guanlong, Carey Bjorn interviewed James Clark of George Washington University, who noted: “We previously discovered another closely related primitive tyrannosaur, called Dilong paradoxus, that is famous for its feathers. Because they’re so closely related, there’s no reason at all to think it didn’t have feathers” (as quoted in Bjorn, 2006). No reason—except for the fact that the fossil description never once even mentioned the word feathers.

Birds have always been a “thorn-in-the-flesh” for evolutionists. In trying to explain their existence, Darwinians have had to rely on the dinosaur-to-birds theory (for a full rebuttal to this theory see The scenario sounds simple enough—scales evolved into feathers and eventually dinosaurs either leapt into the air or jumped out of trees and flight became a reality. The truth on the matter is something entirely different, as scientists are slowly admitting. A recent discovery of a featherless, carnivorous dinosaur has researchers rethinking feather evolution. Ursula B. Göhlich and Luis M. Chiappe noted: “The absence of feathers or feather-like structures in a fossil phylogenetically nested within feathered theropods indicates that the evolution of these integumentary structures might be more complex than we originally thought” (2006, 440:329, emp. added). Complex does not even begin to describe the amazing properties of feathers and flight.

Named Juravenator starki, this new dinosaur places evolutionists in a conundrum. Scientists have assumed and inferred that other dinosaurs in this family were covered in feathers—on their way to becoming birds—and yet, this fossil evidence demonstrates that the Juraventorwas still covered with scales. Commenting on Göhlich and Chiappe’s work, James Owen remarked: “The authors say the new species undermines the notion that a covering of simple, hair-like feathers was characteristic of such early theropods as was previously believed” (2006b). He further noted: “The specimen includes sections of fossilized skin that shows no evidence of feathers, despite the fact that the dinosaur’s Jurassic age contemporaries from the same group were feathered” (2006b). As Xing Xu observed: “So Juravenator should bear filamentous feathers. But it seems to be a scaled animal, at least on the tail and hind legs. Why, then does a member of a feathered dinosaur family bear scales?” (2006, 440:288, italics in orig.). In an interview with Reuters, Göhlich noted: “Now we have a little dinosaur that belongs to coelurosaurs that does not show feathers. This is a problem” (as quoted in “Fossil Prompts Rethink...,” 2006, emp. added). Problem, indeed. If dinosaurs are evolving feathers at this point in the evolutionary timeline, then this scaled creature presents a dilemma.

Their answer to this “problem”? Xing Xu noted that “it would not be surprising if feathers were lost and scaly skin re-evolved in some basal coelurosaurian species, or if feathers evolved several times independently early in coelurosaurian evolution” (440:288). So now we are to believe that dinosaurs evolved feathers, and then some of them “re-evolved” scales—or that the process of feather evolution occurred “several times” in different species? Horse feathers! All of this re-evolution and numerous occurrences of evolution in order to explain the existence of feathers is a smokescreen to hide the fact that Darwinian’s do not have a clue as to what the real story is, and they are willing to bend their observations to fit their beloved theory.

In a telling article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, four social scientists from Columbia and Yale universities revealed this week that scientific papers could actually perpetuate false ideas rather than correct them. They noted: “We found that published statements, regardless of their verity, tend to interfere with interpretation of the subsequent experiments and, therefore, can act as scientific ‘microparadigms,’ similar to dominant scientific theories” (Rzhetsky, et al., 2006, 103:4940). They also “found that previously published statements, regardless of whether they are subsequently shown to be true or false, can have a profound effect on interpretations of further experiments and the probability that a scientific community would converge to a correct conclusion” (103:4940). These papers discussing feathers and the dinosaur-to-birds theory are classic examples of scientific papers that are perpetuating false ideas rather than correcting them. Dinosaurs are not the evolutionary ancestors of birds.


Carey, Bjorn (2006), “Oldest Known Tyrannosaur Found,” MSNBC News, [On-line], URL:

“Fossil Prompts Rethink on Dinosaur Feathers,” (2006), MSNBC News, [On-line], URL:

Göhlich, Ursula B. and Luis M. Chiappe (2006), “A New Carnivorous Dinosaur From the Late Jurassic Solnhofen Archipelago,” Nature, 440:329-332, March 16.

Harrub, Brad (2005), “T. Rex Anniversary and Newsweek,” Apologetics Press, [Online], URL:

Holtz, Thomas R. Jr. (2006), “A Jurassic Tyrant is Crowned,” Nature, 439:665-666, February 9.

Owen, James (2006a), “T. Rex’s Oldest Ancestor Discovered in China,” National Geographic News, [On-line], URL:

Owen, James (2006b), “Scaly New Dinosaur Creates Flap Over Feather Evolution,” National Geographic News, [On-line], URL:

Rzhetsky, Andrey, Ivan Iossifov, Ji Meng Loh, and Kevin P. White (2006), “Microparadigms: Chains of Collective Reasoning in Publications About Molecular Interactions,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103[13]4940-4945, March 28.

Roach, John (2004), “New Dinosaur Discovered: T. Rex Cousin Had Feathers,” National Geographic News, [On-line], URL:

Xu, Xing (2006), “Scales, Feathers, and Dinosaurs,” Nature, 440:287-288, March 16.

Xu, X., J.M. Clark, et al., (2006), “A Basal Tyrannosauroid Dinosaur from the Late Jurassic of China,” Nature, 439:715-718, February 9.

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