Jonathan Sarfati
(Published 22nd August 2002 in Creation Magazine, with permission).

While it’s widely treated as fact that birds evolved from dinosaurs, Genesis is clear that dinosaurs-land animals-were created one day after the birds. And a minority of evolutionists still resist the dino-to-bird theory on scientific grounds. The leader of the evolutionary objections for many years has been Dr Alan Feduccia, professor and former head of biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the author of the encyclopedic The Origin and Evolution of Birds (1999). He has pointed out many anomalies, e.g. the allegedly birdlike dinosaurs are ‘dated’ 25-80 million years after the oldest true bird they are supposed to have evolved into. And the theropods had curved, serrated teeth while the ‘oldest’ birds such as Archaeopteryx had straight, unserrated peg-like teeth.

Dr Feduccia explains the superficial similarities between birds and dinosaurs as convergent evolution, i.e. where different groups evolve similar structures because of a similar lifestyle, in this case walking upright on two hind legs. Creationists would explain this as evidence of a common designer who designed similar structures for similar purposes. Feduccia published a significant paper in Science1 showing that ‘birds lack the embryonic thumb that dinosaurs had, suggesting that it is "almost impossible" for the species to be closely related’. We reported on this and other current discoveries in Dino-Bird Evolution Falls Flat! (1998).

Now Feduccia and a new Ph.D. graduate Julie Nowicki have refined the embryological study and published their findings in the leading German biological journal Naturwissenschaften. They opened a number of ostrich eggs to examine the embryos at various stages of development. Most studies had concentrated on embryos in the second half of development, when most of the structures are fully formed and merely need to grow. But Feduccia and Nowicki found that the main skeletal features in ostriches, supposedly ‘primitive’ birds, develop between days 8 and 15 of the 42 days in the egg. The research conclusively showed that only digits 2, 3 and 4 (corresponding to our index, middle and ring fingers) develop in birds. This contrasts with dinosaur hands that develop from digits 1, 2 and 3. Feduccia pointed out: ‘This creates a new problem for those who insist that dinosaurs were ancestors of modern birds. How can a bird hand, for example, with digits two, three and four evolve from a dinosaur hand that has only digits one, two and three? That would be almost impossible.’

If the birds had evolved from dinosaurs, then one would expect common genes. These in turn would code for a common development in the embryo. But this is not the case here, hence Feduccia is right to argue against this theory. However, a common designer is a coherent explanation for the fact that similar structures (in this case, three-fingered hands) are programmed to develop in a totally different way. This is not the only example where superficially homologous structures actually develop in totally different ways. One of the most commonly argued proofs of evolution is the pentadactyl limb pattern, i.e. the five-digit limbs found in amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. However, the human embryo develops a bony plate, then material between the digits dissolves; in frogs, the digits grow outwards from buds. This difference is even more striking than that discovered by Feduccia which he published in prestigious journals and which he (correctly) used as evidence against the dino-to-bird theory. So, logically, this huge difference in limb formation should likewise be regarded as evidence against a common ancestor for humans and amphibians. In other words, as evidence against the entire evolutionary ‘big picture’

This report was published in The Christian Bird Observer’s Magazine, October 2002