See the fantastic bird-of-paradise mating dance

• Video of spectacular mating dance of bird-of-paradise (4 mins).
• Four different groups of feathers are involved in this amazing display.
• Implications of this wondrous design for evolution and God.

THE BIRD-OF-PARADISE IS FAMOUS FOR ITS MALE COURTING DANCE. But you have to see it to believe it, and I guarantee it will make your day. Click here to see this 4-minute video from Cornell University (then click back-button to return to blog writeup). It’s one of the most awesome biological things I have ever seen.

The video shows that four different groups of feathers are used to create the “smiley face” appearance of the displaying male.

The bird-of-paradise lives in New Guinea, just north of Australia, in the rainforest.

THE SPECIES HAS AN UNUSUALLY LOW POPULATION OF FEMALES, and competition among males for mates is intensely fierce. This has led the species to have one of the most bizarre and elaborate courtship displays in the avian world. The average female rejects 15-20 potential suitors before consenting to mate. The show that males put on to attract females can be a long process that takes up many hours in a day.

The following paragraph is an excerpt by a renowned biologist:
“WHY IS THE MALE BIRD DOING THIS?”  That is, what exactly is the female looking for that makes her not only drive the evolution of this display, but makes some patterns and behaviors more acceptable than others? Good genes? Some pre-existing sensory bias in the female? In fact we know almost nothing about what drives this genre of “female choice” sexual selection. This means that, for the time being, we can only marvel at it, and at the power of natural selection — of which sexual selection is a subset.

The author, Jerry Coyne, is a strong proponent of evolution, as you can see. But other writings make clear he is an atheist, based on the argument that science cannot prove God exists. He also argues that science is the only source of truth. And generally implies that evolution can explain all of life in its amazing design. That is, there is no need to invoke God to explain wondrous designs like the bird-of-paradise. This is a little inconsistent because science, by his own admission above, cannot explain what drives evolution to develop this marvelous dancing display. That is, evolution by spasmodic random changes doesn’t have all the answers.

IT’S MUCH EASIER FOR ME, JUST A PHYSICIST WOWED BY THE WONDER, to accredit this magnificent mating display to God, however he made it happen. I also think that God is outside of science and therefore can’t be proven or disproven by science.
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The Gray Nomad ….. Think well, and help someone to hope.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. [Book of Romans, chapter 1].

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6 years ago

Thanks Ian for this post. I agree with you, regarding giving God the credit. We all accept there is truth in science. However, science is far from being complete, it has had to correct accepted “facts” or “truth” in the past. So how many more times will corrections have to be make in the thousands of years to come? So what is thought true today, may be only half-true or false tomorrow. So why are atheist so arrogant? And why are they so concerned in what others may believe? Seems they would have better things to do than to try to disprove something they can not disprove.

Karen Larre
Karen Larre
6 years ago

Truly Amazing! Thanks for sharing, Ian!

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