Recently there have been a huge movement to view birds as modern day dinosaurs, with even modern movies like Jurassic World hinting at the idea. Most claim that Archaeopteryx is the missing link between dinosaurs and birds, and that some dinosaurs have been found with “feathers”. However creation science has argued back that the “feathers” were collagen squeezed out of the animal during the fossilization process. Any extra evidences?
Well, if we’re starting off by viewing every subject through the lens of scripture rather than the other way around, then I would observe that the birds were created on Day Five (Genesis 1:21-23) before the dinosaurs and other land animals on Day Six (Genesis 1:24-25). And I would also note that every creature brought forth after his kind.
So before you even begin with the various theories surrounding this topic, you would want to determine whether the Bible is going to guide you on this quest or something else.
I hope this thought will help you.
The Archaeopteryx is one of the most controversial fossil finds and scientists, including paleontologists, biologists and astrophysics experts have been debating its significance since the first specimen was discovered in 1861 (and five others in other places since then). Initially such a feathered dinosaur was hailed as the proof of evolution of birds from reptiles. Later it was debunked as a fraud, then restored, then questioned again as to whether it was indeed a transitional form, whether it could fly or glide, whether its feathers were truly feathers etc. In the meanwhile several other types of feathered dinosaur fossils were found.
Now, the central question here is this - did birds evolve from reptiles?
The classical Darwinian evolutionary teaching has been that all organisms evolved from simpler organisms by a gradual accumulation of changes (attributed to mutation, viral genomic incorporation etc.) and those that survived were ‘selected’ by natural selection leading to new forms. However this view has some very serious flaws which make it untenable as a reliable theory to explain the evolution of various types of animals and birds on earth. Here are some of the important points in this discussion.
1. Macroevolution and microevolution: There is overwhelming evidence of changes within a species - fossil evidence, microbiological genomic changes, morphological changes in present day animals and humans etc. These are variations that happen as a part of adaptation and many of these are reversible when the environment changes. On the other hand, there is hardly any evidence of gradual changes that lead to a change from one type of animal (or sub-phyla) to another (macroevolution) - eg. amphibian to reptile or reptile to bird (archaeopteryx)
2. Fossil evidence and absence of transitional forms: If indeed, macroevolution was true, there there should have been innumerable forms that form the transition between one type to another, but these are not found. The Archaeopteryx was celebrated as one such transitional form but this has been seriously questioned - it could just have been a reptile (or bird) that had feathers. Even 150 or so years after Darwin, paleontologists like David Raup (Field Museum of Natural History) and Stephen Jay Gould have stated that today, we have even fewer examples of transitional forms than in Darwin’s time and that the extreme rarity of transitional forms is one of the best kept trade secrets of paleontology.
So, microevolution (variations within a species) is a well confirmed fact with evidence but the evolution from reptile to bird is more of an extrapolation from microevoultion-evidence and is not supported by evidence itself.
3. Mathematical problems: When the probability numbers of gradual evolution were computed by mathematicians, it was found that gradual evolution was impossible even if the age of the earth was considered to be 5 billion years. It would take hundreds of thousands times this age to consider the possibility that gradual evolution took place.
3. Neo-darwinism and other variations: When it became clear to the scientific community that gradual evolution was untenable from fossil evidence, and mathematics and other kinds of biological evidence, there was a bit of philosophical gymnastics done and neo-darwinsim was born. One of these was the theory of ‘Punctuated equilibrium’ which hypothesised that fully formed forms of animals were formed in sudden bursts of evolution after long gaps of no change. Some held that every form of the animal is a transitional form and therefore we need not look for transitional forms.
The debate goes on. Today, even among those who do not hold to a theistic worldview, the theory of evolution (at least classical variety) is untenable and newer forms of evolution are being put forth to somehow explain a Godless cause for all the variety of life we see around us. So, is the Archaeopteryx truly the progenitor of birds - the first bird, did birds evolve from reptiles? I think it is anybody’s guess. I am personally not convinced. At the same time, I am not convinced that the explanations of so-called ‘creation scientists’ is also very convincing, especially the part about collagen being squeezed out.
If you are interested in reading about a critical view of evolution, I would suggest John Lennox’s “God’s undertaker” and David Berlinski’s “The Devil’s Delusion” which have a few chapters on evolution - these are a good starting point. Lennox is a Christian theist mathematician, Berlinski is an agnostic physicist. There are other more recent works by Stephen Meyer (Darwin’s doubt) and Berlinski and others which also deal particularly with this topic but I haven’t personally read these.
Below are some video links which you might find useful, and a link to the latest article from ‘Nature’ about the archaeopteryx.