From Fins Through Fantasy to Wings

by on ; last featured January 17, 2007

National Geographic recently published a feature article by Carl Zimmer titled “From Fins To Wings.”1 The article begins by stating that today’s biologists are beginning to understand the origins of life’s complexity. Harvard researcher Howard Berg is quoted: “The basic idea of evolution is so elegant, so beautiful, and so simple.” He continues, “The idea is simply that you fiddle around and you change something, and then you ask, ‘Does it improve my survival or not?’ And if it doesn’t then those individuals die and the idea goes away. And if it does, then those individuals succeed, and you keep fiddling around, improving. It’s an enormously powerful technique.”

The to take the concept of complexity and imply it is a result of the toolkit of nature rather than from the spoken Word of the Creator.

I could not help but notice that Howard Berg has just described the adaptation of an evolutionist position. The article “From Fins to Wings” is a clever adaptation of the argument of complexity proposed by both biblical creationists and those in the Intelligent Design movement. Michael Behe and many others in the Intelligent Design movement and the biblical creationist camp have shown that complexity implies order and is the result of an Intelligent Designer or the Creator God of the Bible. The goal of Zimmer, as with many other evolutionists today, is to take the concept of complexity and imply it is a result of the toolkit of nature rather than from the spoken Word of the Creator.

The subtleness with which this is packaged for public consumption rivals the restaurant and food industry. How delicious the food looks in the advertisement or on the commercial. Hours are spent to make the food appear pleasing to the sense of sight, that our sense of taste may be so stimulated as to cause us to go out and buy the product.

The article looks to popularity as a way of persuading the curious. In regards to complexity being the direct product of “intelligent design” by a superior being, Zimmer says, “The vast majority of biologists do not share this belief ” (emphasis mine). It is interesting that Zimmer appears to be appealing to one’s sense of democracy to gain allegiance or establish truth. It would be prudent at this time to point out that popularity and truth are not always in synergism. It is also important to remember that a system of beliefs is defined as a religion by Merriam-Webster.

As one begins reading an article such as this, some questions should arise about the author’s intent. First, what opinions are the readers being persuaded to believe, and, secondly, are they factual?

Zimmer begins his quest by taking us on an elegant trip up the evolutionary tree while serving enticing bits of evolutionary propaganda. The trip begins with examples of life evolving From One Cell to Trillions as seen in man, demonstrating the Blueprints for Bodies. He then attempts to feed curiosity with How We Got a Head and then hopes to open our imperfect eyes with Catching the Light. We are then allowed to feast on his main course From Fins to Limbs. Some desserts, such as A Feathers Tale, Early Blooming, and Complexity of Mixture, are added for the journey home.

How factual are statements that have words such as “presumably,” “may,” “may have,” “think,” “kind of,” “yet to determine,” and “probably”?

Let’s look at some of Zimmer’s “facts” from the article.

From One Cell to Trillions

Nicole King, biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and in studying choanoflagellates (a type of protist), identified proteins believed to be necessary for single-celled organisms to evolve into multicellular organisms. Zimmer states “that this process began over 600 million years ago and that choanoflagellates, which presumably have no need to talk to other cells, may use these proteins to sense changes in their environment.” Where is the evidence that proves that this took place 600 million years ago? Why does Zimmer presume that these cells have no need to talk to one another? One might question how the proteins to sense changes in their environment arose in the first place?

Blueprints for Bodies

In this section Zimmer clearly, yet unintentionally, shows that design is in the genetic programming. He states that scientists have found genes responsible for laying out the fly’s body plan that have nearly identical counterparts in many other animals and humans, ranging from crabs to earthworms to lampreys to us.

Overlooking the lack of transitional species could easily be palatable to the unaware, but the key word in his statement is counterpart. It is a word that can be used for a dual purpose. It can imply that evolutionary transition into higher forms along the evolutionary tree took place and/or mean that there are analogous body parts between organisms on different parts of the evolutionary tree. The reader is then asked to accept this belief with the statement: “now scientists generally agree that the common ancestor of all of these animals—a wormlike creature that lived an estimated 570 million years ago—already had a basic set of body-plan genes.” Again the reader must ask: what is the source for this information? Zimmer then goes on to say “Its descendants then used those genes to build new kinds of bodies.” He calls this genetic toolkit the mechanism through which evolution forged its success.

Zimmer has suggested the transition of fly larva to man with the only evidence being that we have nearly identical genes for some structures. In reality, it would take a tremendous gain of genetic information to go from a fly to a man, and there is no known mechanism that can do this (see Not by Chance!). According to Craig Venter of Celera Genomics, where the fruit fly’s genome is being researched, a fruit fly has approximately 13,000 genes, whereas, according to the Human Genome Project, a human has between 20,000 and 25,000 genes. Is Zimmer’s point that both flies and humans have genes for appendages? How does this prove evolution to be true? Using this same thought process one might conclude that the windshield wiper and windshield washer fluid evolved from the human eye since they both have similar parts with similar functions. The premise is not supported with facts. The fact is that the car windshield washing system had a designer.

If he would only look, Zimmer would find his answer in the only perfect, accurate history book on earth, the Bible, and specifically in the book of Genesis. And, God did not need a toolkit—He created ex nihilo.

How We Got a Head

In this section, Zimmer attempts to relate the sea squirts’ 360 neural cells as precursors to primitive neural crest cells containing some of the same genes responsible for building our own brains. Zimmer concludes this section by stating that over half a billion years ago our own headless ancestors may have resembled these modest creatures, already equipped with genes and cells that would later sculpt the faces and brains that make us human. Zimmer states “The human head is, inch for inch, the most complex part of our body.” If our ancestors were headless, then how could evolution give an account for the genetic gain of information that would be needed to go from being headless to the complexity of the human brain we know today? It is an example of fantasy rather than fact. The same reasoning and imagery is seen in museums throughout the country that picture a species and their offspring based on a tooth or a fragment of a bone. “Piltdown man,” Archaeoraptor (see Archaeoraptor: Phony ‘feathered’ fossil), and many others that have made headlines promoting evolution have not only been found to be empty of truth, but frauds.

Catching the Light

Zimmer quotes Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species concerning the idea of natural selection producing the eye: “the eye seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” He then goes on to say the eye is actually far from perfect and that evolution, with all its blunders, made the eye; he had no doubt. Zimmer correctly says that the difference between the human eye and a fly’s eye is profound. But didn’t Zimmer earlier say that the genes for the fly’s body plan and humans are nearly identical? Where did the genetic information come from to make the human eye different from the fly eye? Mutation and natural selection, the alleged driving forces of evolution, cannot originate genetic information (see Mutation-selection in biblical perspective). I would refer to Peter W.V. Gurney’s article entitled “Is our ‘inverted’ retina really ‘bad design’?” for evidence that rebuts some of Zimmer’s claims of bad design of the eye.2

From Fins to Limbs

Zimmer takes us through the adaptation of the fin to a wing then a wing to a limb that supposedly took place over 380 million years. The journey over time is filled with bats flying out of Arizona caves, horses galloping over Mongolian steppes, moles burrowing through Connecticut gardens, and whales diving thousands of feet in the Pacific Ocean. How flowing the imagery that suits National Geographic (and I admit to being a fan).

Now the main course has been prepared for presentation and is ready for the consumption.

Zimmer says scientists think Tiktaalik roseae used its fins not only to swim but also to crawl across coastal wetlands. Tiktaalik roseae was a tropical fish that lived in shallow water. Its fossils were found in northern Canada where today is a harsh arctic environment. A group of University of Chicago scientists theorizes that this is a result of continental drift. It is believed that the fish adapted to their new harsh environment by crawling from shallow pond to shallow pond over land in search of food and new habitation.3 Neil Shubin, a paleontologist at the University of Chicago says “Could it walk? Could it rotate its shoulder and the rest? No. It’s doing half the function, but it’s half the function that suits the animal fully well.” This leads one to wonder if the survival of the fittest through natural selection fits. This transitional species would appear, to use the evolutionist’s terminology, to be at a disadvantage when coming in contact with predators. The University of Chicago website on Tiktaalik roseae also states “we knew that some fish in the Middle Devonian (375 million years ago) were experimenting with their fins in ways that would allow for the evolution of the weight bearing structure of tetrapod limbs.”3 How do they know fish are capable of experimenting? What has science come to?

Zimmer concludes this section stating that laboratories are uncovering the genes responsible for building limbs and finding that, once again, evolution used the tools already at hand. He says evolution must have borrowed these genes in early fish and reused them to build fins. Later, subtle shifts in the patterns formed by these genes caused these appendages to change shape into legs, arms, and wings.

Zimmer’s genetic toolbox is once again opened without evidence that confirms the tools are capable or did indeed do the work he claims. Zimmer even speaks of evolution in terms of a person who must have borrowed genetic information intending to reuse it later. The fin through fantasy to wing through fantasy to limb is complete.


Will evolutionists continue to adapt their beliefs further into fantasies of time and chance producing new species, while denying the amazing design of living creatures you and I observe today, and for what purpose?

Scientists, both creationists and evolutionists, are intrigued by the genetic information found in each species’ DNA; however, creationists have found the truth of the origins of species, genetic diversity, and design in all living things in the book of Genesis.

Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it (Job 40:2).


  1. Carl Zimmer, “From Fins to Wings,” National Geographic Interactive, November 2006.
  2. Peter W.V. Gurney, “Is our ‘inverted’ retina really ‘bad design’?,”TJ 13(1); 37-44, 1999.
  3. Tiktaalik roseae: the fossil (


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