Scientists Rewind Evolution With Unique Chicken Embryo

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on August 27, 2011
Featured in News to Know

Jurassic spark part two: the chick-a-gator

Chickens with alligator-like snouts developed by Harvard evolutionary biologist Arkhat Abzhanov have supposedly “rewound evolution.”1 As evolutionary paleontologist Jack Horner has asserted, “You can’t make a dinosaur out of a chicken, if evolution doesn’t work.”2 Rewinding evolution would supposedly prove evolution happened in the first place.

In order to roll the chicken’s genetic clock back to its presumed Cretaceous ancestor, Abzhanov inserted a protein gel into the eggs to inhibit certain gene regulators. Therefore, genes which should have been regulated weren’t, bones which normally fuse into a beak didn’t,3 and “Dr. Abzhanov was able to change the evolutionary path of chickens.” Abzhanov said, “It looks exactly like a snout looks in an alligator [at this stage].”

Just as we pointed out in an article about Horner’s efforts to produce a “chickenosaurus,”4 such a creature still has a chicken genome. Like a “chickenosaurus,” a “chick-a-gator” would only be a defective bird, not a new kind of creature. The genome itself gained no new information. Like mutations, gene-regulator-zappers destroy information; they don’t create anything.

Nevertheless, Abzhanov “dreams of turning chickens back into Maniraptora, small dinosaurs thought to have given rise to the 10,000 species of birds around today.”5

Similar gene sequences appear in genomes of many different creatures along with regulatory genes to control their proper expression. This principle forms the basis for Abzhanov’s experiment. Given the lack of evidence that accumulation of mutations can create genetic blueprints for new kinds of creatures, this is now a common approach to explain how evolution happened.

Evolutionists now assert that the evolution of one organism into another is often a matter of flipping a few switches. This approach oversimplifies the complexity of genetic regulation. Furthermore, from an evolutionary standpoint, there is no reason why unused gene sequences would be retained in the genomes of creatures. And most significantly, this approach still begs the question of where any of that information—information to code for proteins or to coordinate genetic expression—came from in the first place.

From a creationist standpoint, the presence of many of the same gene sequences fine-tuned by complex gene regulators is easily understood.

From a creationist standpoint, the presence of many of the same gene sequences fine-tuned by complex gene regulators is easily understood. God is our Common Designer. Many proteins and other molecules show up in multiple creatures. God did not reinvent a new kind of biochemistry and all new designs for every creature. Instead He reused many good designs in different ways. And the DNA blueprints to make these chemicals appear to be “cut-and-pasted” throughout the living creatures of the world.

Some have mentioned that research like this might find its application in the prevention of birth defects, certainly a laudable goal. Yet we should keep in mind that, should any malformations due to gene regulator aberrancies become amenable to genetically engineered intervention, it will not be the acceptance of evolutionary principles by scientists that deserves the credit. What is really being explored in the “chick-a-gator” and the “chickenosaurus” is gene regulation and expression within an organism. The gene regulators in a genome are just as specific to an organism as the rest of the genome. And that deserves more attention than trying to prove evolution happened.

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  1. Sujata Gupta, “Reverse Evolution: Chicken Revisits its Dinosaur Past,” New Scientist, August 17, 2011,
  2. Elizabeth Mitchell, “Jurassic Spark? Hatching Dinosaurs from Chicken Eggs?,” Answers in Genesis, December 17, 2010,
  3. Gupta, “Reverse Evolution: Chicken Revisits its Dinosaur Past.”
  4. Mitchell, “Jurassic Spark?”
  5. Gupta, “Reverse Evolution: Chicken Revisits its Dinosaur Past.”


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