God’s Handiwork Seen in Feathers

by Ken Ham on March 24, 2016

God’s creation is full of indescribable beauty. It seems no matter where we look—the oceans, mountains, rainforests, deep in the earth, or out to the heavens—there is beauty even amidst the ugliness caused by the Fall (Genesis 3). And this beauty cries out for a Creator (Psalm 19:1), but sadly, many people attribute this beauty to nature or evolution.

Bird Evolution

Recently an article appeared in the Washington Post regarding an upcoming book, Feathers: Displays of Brilliant Plumage. If the preview provided in the article is any indication, this book is full of breathtaking photos of feathers from birds around the world. The author of the article raves about the “design” of these “works of art and engineering” and some of the complex uses for feathers. But then describes feathers as going “all the way back to the dinosaurs” and says that “today, birds have developed even more complex uses for feathers [than dinosaurs did].”

Exchanging the Truth of God for a Lie

It’s sad that people can recognize the incredible beauty of the natural world but then turn right around and credit evolution with bringing it all about. Really, this is exactly what Romans 1 describes:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:18–23)

People are actively suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. Through His creation, God has made His existence and even some of His attributes plain to all. And yet, instead of attributing the incredible design of nature to God, many people praise nature or evolutionary processes—they’ve exchanged the Creator God, who died for their sin and who loves them, for the lie of evolution. How tragic!

Feathers Couldn’t Have Evolved

AiG’s Dr. David Menton, who taught anatomy and histology at Washington University School of Medicine for 34 years and now works here at our Creation Museum, is our resident feather expert. He often talks about the incredible design of feathers and the impossibility that they evolved from dinosaur scales. He said,

The most ignored thing in this whole feather evolution debate and feathers on dinosaurs is feather maintenance. One thing you have to remember about feathers is they are high maintenance. Don’t even think about putting feathers on a creature unless you are prepared to maintain those feathers. Birds spend a large portion of their time preening and grooming to keep their feathers clean, orderly, and waterproof. They instinctively know to clean their feathers.

But it’s more than just behavior. You also have to have the right tools. You must have a beak, and in the case of the vast majority of birds, you must have a preen gland that produces oil which you can use to clean and waterproof your feathers. But you must also have the right number of vertebrae (this varies widely between bird species) to be able to reach the oil gland located near the base of the tail on the bird’s back.

It’s difficult to imagine dinosaurs trying to preen themselves! But there’s no selective value that you can imagine that wouldn’t be undone with a lack of feather maintenance. You can’t fly, you can’t attract a mate, [and] you won’t keep warm with broken off, damaged, and dirty feathers.

Feathers are incredibly complex structures. There is no way that such a structure could evolve from a scale, which is simply a fold in the skin. The beauty and design of feathers point to the Creator.

You can learn more about the incredible design of feathers in Dr. Menton’s humorous talk Formed to Fly.

Using Creation to Point People to Christ

At the Creation Museum, we have a whole room, the Hall of Wonders, dedicated to looking at God’s Creation and marveling in the beauty and design of what He has made. We want to use what God has created to introduce people to our Creator, Jesus Christ.

Now, this isn’t the same as what is taught in the Intelligent Design movement. This movement points out that things look too complex and designed to have come about by purely naturalistic means. But often people aren’t told who the creator is! It could be a god, an alien, or the God of the Bible. When we use creation to point people toward God, we need to be sure we’re pointing them toward the God of the Bible and His Son. And remember that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).

We can discuss the complexity of creation but then point out that it’s obviously broken. That’s a perfect way to jump into the gospel. Starting in Genesis, we can show how God made a “very good” (Genesis 1:31) world, but Adam’s sin introduced death and suffering into all of creation (Genesis 3). We die because we sinned in Adam and continue to sin (Romans 5:12). But Jesus Christ stepped into history, died on the Cross, paying our penalty of death for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). He rose from the grave, defeating death (1 Corinthians 15:55–57), and now He offers forgiveness, new life, and eternal life to those who will believe and trust in Him (Romans 10:9–10; 2 Corinthians 5:17). That’s how to use God’s creation to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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