How Does Evolution Explain Birds?

i suspect “thinks” is subjective…other than survival drives of eat, sleep, sex there wasn’t much room for thought with these creatures

There are a ton of really good books on evolution for lay people: The Panda’s Thumb is my recommendation.

Also, it sounds like you think birds are mammals. They aren’t.


Scientists have a long history of making sweeping statements about the mental and emotional capacities of others – dogs, whales, slaves, the cleaning lady, poor people – and being proven wrong. Just in the last few years it’s been shown that birds and dolphins use names to refer to individuals. In fact, some birds show significant ability to identify objects, count, and make up labels (“words”). Lab mice were studied intensively for decades without anyone realizing they sing.

Stating that other creatures don’t have much room for thought reveals more about human assumptions, egotism, and even fears than it does about animal cognition.

But the trouble is that the Cercopithecids are more closely related to the apes than they are to the Cebids. So if we call both Cercopithecids “monkeys” and Cebids “monkeys”, how can we say that Pongids/Hominids aren’t “monkeys”? That would be like saying that jaguars are cats, and housecats are cats, but lions aren’t cats. Any coherent group that contains both jaguars and housecats has to include lions. Likewise, any coherent group that contains both old world monkeys and new world monkeys also has to include apes. This is the same reason that if “apes” includes chimpanzees, gorillas, gibbons and orangutans, it also has to include humans. Any group that contains both chimps and gorillas but excludes humans is an incoherent group. Therefore, humans are apes and apes are monkeys.

As far as I am aware, that’s not true. The apes that were ancestral to both the great apes and humans were arboreal, and so more like modern apes than they were to the human clade within apes.

Your problem is that you are thinking of nature, or Nature, as a sentient being, with a goal in mind. Nature is just a force, it doesn’t have a mind, and it’s not some sort of diety. The concept of Mother Nature is of a goddess, and I think that’s where some people get confused.

This, by the way, explains things like arthritis that develops in old age, and also what used to be called adult-onset diabetes. Both diseases appear after the organism is past breeding age.

I’ve heard that before, but I’ve decided to take issue with it. Please respond: My species has invented the internet, this computer, calculus, and cockroaches are still hiding under stoves. The complexity of the abilities is to laugh. My species has come farther from the first life form’s ability set.

ETA: What? Chronos? [puts on asbestos underwear]

Oh, this sounds like the crowd to ask:

What is the deal with the independent development of eyes? This didn’t happen far back enough that there’s a common eye-ancestor? And if I have a blind spot (as seen on Wikipedia), why don’t I notice it? I have a student who’s asking these same things.

First, it must be members, not a member. Natural selection is a statistical phenomenon; one individual possessing a novel trait will just be “damped” out in subsequent generations.

Second, it’s not so much that these individuals “develop something a bit different”, but rather there is variation around a mean in most traits. Some of those variations will better allow the individual to procure resources than its neighbors; other variations of that trait will allow for less efficient procurement. Those individuals with variations of whatever traits that allow them to better procure resources will be statistically more likely to mate and pass those favored variations on to their offspring (provided the variation is inheritable). Those with the less-favorable variations will be less likely to mate, thus those variations will be less frequent in subsequent generations.

New traits, then, are typically just variations on old traits. But it only becomes a new trait in hindsight; in the 'here and now" when selection is actually acting, it’s just a slight variation on an existing trait.

Just one branch; all modern birds share a common ancestor, which was, indeed, a theropod dinosaur.

Both of those animals are gliders, which really consists of a suite of adaptations every bit as specialized as, but very different from, those found in true fliers. While gliding in general may have been a temporary path on the way to flight, once you have fine tuned the fine art of gliding to the extent that flying squirrels and fish have, there’s generally no going back.

And Jack Horner intends to spend his own money to tweak the hell out of bird embryos to make a proto-avian critter: How to Build a Dinosaur

Major oversimplification. Many traits are not individually malleable; some disappear simply because the resources are best used elsewhere. Bird “hands”, for example, consist of two fused fingers and a reduced “thumb”. They did not, however, lose fingers because they interfered with reproduction; their ancestors lost fingers, and they subsequently fused what was left because it made for a more stable wing structure. They did not lose their teeth because they interfered with reproduction (there were several toothed birds in the Cretaceous which reproduced quite well, thankyouverymuch), they lost them because there were advantages to doing so that were independent of reproduction. Other traits can be lost simply because the genes that control body development are switched on or off at various times as a consequence of those same genes controlling the development of yet other traits which may be more selectively favored (which is another possibility for tooth loss in birds).

You don’t notice your blind spot because you have stereoscopic vision: the field of view from one eye overlaps the field of view of the other, resulting in no actual blind spots in the complete field of vision. You only notice your blind spot if you a) close one eye, and b) look for it.

Our species has also developed means of completely eradicating itself, but we couldn’t wipe out cockroaches if we tried (and we have tried). Eating anything that’s vaguely organic and reproducing faster than anything can kill them are both things that cockroaches are extremely good at, far better than we are.

Now, if you want to argue that humans are the coolest beings on the planet, well, maybe we are. Argue that we’re the smartest? No disagreement there. But most evolved? No, just differently evolved.

There’s an old misconception about how we see that posits that our sight is a reflection of the external world. This is why some people have a hard time understanding why we don’t notice the blind spots: if there’s something blocking the window (eyes) then I shouldn’t be able to see what’s behind it, and hence I should see instead some black spot.

That’s not the way the brain works, however. Hermann Helmholtz coined the expression “unconscious inference” to describe vision. What we see is not a reflection of the world but rather an educated guess based on frequently poor data. Most of the time the guess is good enough, but sometimes our brains guess wrong and we call that an optical illusion. Our brains guess around the blind spot and fill in the missing information, either from what the other eye sees, or simply from what information is available around that region. On the Wikipedia page on blind spots, there is an experiment where you can see a letter disappear. As it is, the region where it should be appears completely white. However, if you change the background colour, you will find that your brain will fill in with that colour instead of white.

I made an example; it works just like the Wikipedia experiment: look at the O while closing you right eye. Move your head closer and further from the screen until the X disappears. The difference here is that there are three O-X pairs, each with a different coloured and patterned background. In each case your brain will fill in not only with the colour but also with the pattern, because that’s going to be the “best” guess.


Exactly. Nature doesn’t have a plan. It’s just random mutations and the struggle for survival. Imagine there used to be a bunch of proto-bird reptiles that ran around on two legs. Then one day a couple of mutants were born. One had a pair of arms that let it flap in the breeze and fly. The other had a pair of feet that were backwards. The flying mutant escaped from predators and grew up to lay many eggs. The stumbling mutant didn’t do so well.

define “ability set”, cockroaches have abilities you’d never dream of. They live and reproduce in much greater numbers then you. They can survive without a head for 6 weeks. You try that if you think you’re so evolved.
FYI your species also invented nuclear weapons, wacko religious cults, pollution, The View, deterministic genocide, some bad stuff.

What’s more evolved a roach or a tomato plant? I mean if you define evolved as intelligence, which seems to be your implication, then tomatoes aren’t evolved at all.

Finally if roaches are so inferior how come they manage to infest intelligent human’s dwellings?

We can’t fly, we can’t breathe underwater, we can’t spit poison, we can’t have 20 babies at one time, we can’t survive freezing in a block of ice, we can’t hibernate, we can’t change sex, we can’t run at 70 miles an hour, we can’t continually regrow our teeth, we are more limited in practically every sense we do have and don’t even have a lot of others, we can’t regrow limbs…

Success is a factor of context, because evolution is a factor of context. Stick you in a desert, or at the bottom of the ocean, or 100 feet up in the air, and I imagine you might have problems where another animal might not.

Brilliant! Bob Bakker wrote a rather controversial book suggesting birds are evolved dinos. The ornischians group are the bird hipped dino class. There have been lots of dinos found with feathers and they were egg laying.

Bakker’s book may have been controversial 20 years ago, but not because he suggested dinosaurs evolved from birds.

And birds evolved from the Saurischia (the so-called “lizard-hipped” branch of Dinosauria), not the Ornithischia (the “bird-hipped” branch).

Except birds evolved from Saurischian dinosaurs rather than Ornithischian dinosaurs.

the sites you referenced were interesting information about language and its use by non-human animals, particularly ones in the wild, however i stand by my “speculation” that early animals lacked the ability to “think” in the manner quoted in the earlier post which infered reasoning. and i’m not egotistical or fearful of animal cognition, mearly trying to keep things real and not credit early creatures with abilites that clearly developed later