The Natural History Museum has some wonderful fossils, as well as casts of wonderful fossils faked to look real.

Recognise this?

Archaeopteryx - The Hall of Einar

Here’s the Museum’s admirably succinct interpretation for this one:

In 1861, an Archaeopteryx fossil caused confusion, having the feathers of a bird, but the teeth, claws and bony tail of a dinosaur. In 1868, Huxley suggested it was an evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds.

What a genius Thomas Henry Huxley was, for recognising the similarities between fossil dinosaurs and birds. People didn’t believe him and widespread acceptance didn’t come until the 1970s. For all the people who don’t believe in the truth of evolution, and who demand a ‘missing link’, here was one. The problem of finding every missing link, though, is that it just multiplies the number of ‘missing links’ there are to find by two. We then needed one between dinosaurs and Archaeopteryx and one between Archaeopteryx and birds. However much evidence you find, you can’t argue using evidence against belief. The best definition of belief I’ve found is ‘holding something to be true without the evidence’. I might add ‘insisting something is true in spite of the evidence against it’ to extend it. I had people at school who believed that fossils were planted there by God to mislead unbelievers. Exasperating, isn’t it?

There’s a sketch of an Archaeopteryx in the Museum, too.

Anatomical drawing by Joseph Dinkel from Sir Richard Owen’s paper on the Archaeopteryx, 1863.

Archaeopteryx - The Hall of Einar

What a fabulous piece of work. Dinosaurs didn’t all die out 65 million years ago, when 50% of life on Earth was destroyed by a huge collision of an asteroid or comet with Earth. Some were left alive and evolved into the nearly 10,000 species of birds we have today. Those 10,000 species of birds are all our distant cousins and it’s now our responsibility to ensure each one survives. Imagine surviving an asteroid strike only for humans to finish the extinction job through hunting, habitat destruction, and global heating.

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