8. Why would God create birds that can’t fly?

Take… These Broken Wings… and Learn to Fly Again…

Wings give flying birds some major advantages: wings allow them to escape predators, travel to better environments, and obtain food. But for land animals, wings are a disadvantage over traditional arms. Arms and hands allow animals to climb trees, protect themselves, grasp and carry things, and type 65wpm.

The Plague of Ostrich Arms

For the sake of example, imagine a plague strikes humanity and half of our children are born with the flightless wings of an ostrich; no arms  — just wings.  If you were born with wings, how would you feel about having feathery arm buds instead of arms and hands?

No doubt you’d learn to make the best of it, but life with ostrich wings would be more difficult; you wouldn’t be able to grab or carry things easily, dining out would be much more embarrassing, and texting would be nearly impossible. Finding a mate with arms would also be difficult, since the “armies” would probably prefer mates with arms. People might even question God’s design choice and begin to abort babies stricken with the “wing gene.”

For the same reasons, it’s difficult to imagine why a designer would purposely give wings to birds that can’t fly.

Does Evolution Offer a Better Explanation?

The evolutionist must also explain this abnormality. What possible advantage could a non-flying bird have over a flying one?

I’m no expert, but I can think of a few reasons non-flying birds might evolve.

Take penguins for example. A flying bird trapped in Antarctica is better served by being fat and warm than having the ability to fly (especially with so few predators around). While body fat prevents these bird from flying, it also keeps them alive and producing offspring.

While we could argue that God designed penguins this way from the beginning, one wonders why he would equip them with the wing bones of a bird.  Why not the fins of a shark? All I’m saying is, if you’re designing a flying creature, make it fly like a bird; if you’re designing a swimming creature, make it swim like a fish.  Why design a flightless flying creature that swims like a fish?!

Why design penguin fins and fish fins differently?

The ostrich is another example, being born large may prevent you from flying, but it also means predators are less of a threat.

For other birds, just because it can’t fly doesn’t mean it can’t reproduce.


Creationism says that God either: 1) designed flightless birds to be flightless from the beginning (a bit of a strange design choice) or, 2) allowed a mutation that caused them to stop flying. Evolution says that all birds used to fly, but mutations and adaptations caused them to lose their flight.

But this curiosity doesn’t stop there. It’s interesting to note that all flying vertebrates (e.g. birds, bats, pteranodons, etc.) must give up their useful forelimbs in order to have wings. God essentially says, “You can have wings, or arms, but not both.” Why not? If forelimbs are so important (and they obviously are, or God would’t’ve given them to all vertebrates), then why not allow some animals to have wings and arms? Especially those winged animals constrained to the ground? It might make sense from a design prospective, but from an evolutionary prospective, evolution must use what’s already there.

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19 Responses to 8. Why would God create birds that can’t fly?

  1. Matthew D. Holden says:

    I like your take. Anything that addresses these issues with humor is okay by me. I try to do the same thing with my blog, http://www.thebiblicalatheist.wordpress.com. I work my way through the Bible, retelling the stories in humorous ways, pointing out what makes you say WTF? Give it a shot and let me know what you think?

    • Thanks, and I’ll definitely check it out!

      • Anonymous says:

        Even though penguins do not fly, they do have wings for a purpose as pointed out by “Science Now” here’s a quote:
        Science Now says it best: “Penguins can’t fly, but don’t feel sorry for them.” They use their wings to propel themselves through the water, diving for up to 7 minutes and to depths of 300 meters!

  2. rautakyy says:

    Your blog is great! Humour is such a healthy way of adressing these issues, as you do it whitout distorting facts.

    There are stranger things though, that a god has supposedly created whith no apparent reason. Like lower legbones on whales. What are those for? They are there, yet the whale has no use for them. It is as if a god decided to make the whales whith five fins instead of just three, but when the god was almost finished creating the whales, the alledged god decided not to bother whith the secon pair of fins and the bones were left there just as unfinished (though non harmful ) remnants of god having second thoughts or being too busy whith other animals.

    It could also be, that the whales were monstrous creations of the devil and should be hunted to extinction, since the devil obviously sought to surpass gods creation by creating something even more intelligent (and less harmfull to nature) than gods image, the ape-like human being.

    It should be noted here that most christians have no issues against evolution theory. That it is a minority of ignorant fanatics who oppose the scientific proof of evolution and that Charles Darwin was a christian. Yet, it does contradict the idea of the Bible being the true absolute word of a god.

    • True, I guess being raised a creationist I tend to think that’s what all Christian’s believe. But you’re right, most Christians these days do accept evolution (though most Christians I know do not). So henceforth, such posts are directed at those who don’t.

      The whale amazes me too. I’ve heard that the leg bones are for birthing, but come on… just look at the arm, wrist, and fingers! They’re are so… so… eerily similar to our own! I’m sure I’ll get to that one eventually.

  3. rautakyy says:

    I am eagerly, but patiently waiting for the whole list of your 500 questions.

    If whale legbones are for birthing, then why does the male whale also have them? Why does the male human have nipples? I am developing a hypothesis of “uninteligent design”. That everything was created by a drunk or complete idiot of a god.

    • DanD says:

      Don’t forget to include eyes in that list. Human eyes have the nerve connection in front, producing the blind spot, and the need for saccading in order to develop a complete visual picture.

      There are several species of mollusk that have an eye equally as complex as humans, but with the nerve connection in the back. No blind spot.

      • rautakyy says:

        Haha! Perfect DanD. I wonder, if this supposed perfect creator god has migraines. I mean, are migraines part of the “image” of this god, that just randomly manifest in some human individuals, a result of “sin” (as in, a sin someone else like Adam was responsible for), or just a design flaw? What they mostly resemble is a design flaw, though. They would serve as a perfect example of UI ( short for “unintelligent design”).

  4. LennyThynn says:

    There’s one other option that I see you haven’t put in there. Wouldn’t the world be boring otherwise? You could also ask why create a platypus (it’s a duck/rooster/otter/thing…what would be the purpose of that?), or why an echidna(when there are hedgehogs already), and why create the two so that you can hardly tell them apart when they are babies? Or why create so many types of deer/antelope? Or why create so many types of canines? And so on and so forth.

    I think He likes variety, no matter how weird, no matter in which environment. I do too. I hate boring things XD And whatever else the world is, it isn’t boring. Oh, and have you thought how on earth penguins would have been able to fly, even if they had the right wings for it? Even aeroplanes have trouble in Antarctica, the weather isn’t right for it. It’s much more useful for them to swim than fly.

    Personally, I think evolution is an interesting study, but I have yet to see proof of it. Too many missing links for me. Unless you count pictures drawn in books, or plaster of paris models. Oh well, to each his own, I guess. I believe in an unseeable God, and you in a so far unprovable theory. *shrug* Hardly anyone takes into account that Darwin said that it was all nonsense on his deathbed… *sigh*

    If I don’t make sense…well, that’s me, I suppose. I was tempted to erase it all and not post anything. But what’s the sense in thinking things, and not telling them to people? Keep posting those questions, they make people think things through.

    • Howdy Lenny, thanks for posting, I’m glad you did. Anyone who can discuss such things without getting angry or defensive is okay by me. 😉

      There is the possibility that God created different species (some very similar) just because it’s just His creative nature. So there are (at least) a couple possibilities here:
      1) God created these animals because He’s creative and wanted variety or
      2) these animals are a natural result of animals evolving to adapt to their environment.

      I don’t know if I can definitively answer this question, but it is interesting to ponder either possibility in response to various evidence…

      • Looking at dinosaurs and other extinct animals, is it more likely that God was expressing creativity by creating so many different creatures only to kill them all off, or that these animals died out or adapted to changing environments and predators?

      • Looking at all plants and animals, is it more likely that God creatively made all things but reused DNA as a shortcut, or that all animals share DNA because they stemmed from a common ancestor?

      • Looking at large fossil deposits like the Burgess Shale (and similar deposits in China) is it more likely that God creatively made all these tens of thousands of invertebrate-only animals and then isolated them from all living vertebrates, or that there was a time when only invertebrates existed?

      • Does a whale have arms, wrists and 5 fingers just like a mammal because it’s more creative than giving him fins, or because they gradually evolved from arms and hands? Likewise, does it breathe air because it’s more creative to make a “fish” that can’t breathe underwater, or because it once breathed air as a land animal?

      • Is the recent evolution of all dog breeds from the gray wolf evidence of God’s interest in creating different dogs, or evidence of DNA’s ability to rapidly change?

      • Is the platypus an example of God’s creativity in mixing genes, or a surviving transitional form that proves birds and mammals once shared a common ancestor? (It has the body of a mammal, but the sex genes of a bird.)

      On the question of flying penguins, I imagine they used to fly like birds – only in a much different form. Just like a gray wolf can change into a Yorkshire Terrier or a Bulldog, I can imagine a bird can change into a penguin. I’m no expert, but a map of Pangaea shows that Antarctica was once much closer to Africa — perhaps birds were stranded on the continent as it drifted Southward, giving them plenty of time to adapt as the environment grew colder and colder.

      I grew up an ardent anti-evolutionist, but it’s evidence like that above that made me (and over 50% of Christians) admit it seems reasonable, if not probable. Sure, we don’t have a complete fossil record going from apes to men, but bones are easily destroyed, and I think we’ve found enough unique human and ape skulls to show we undergo changes just like all other animals.

      As for Darwin’s deathbed conversion, I heard it was a myth. Even AnswersInGenesis admits it’s probably bogus.

      Keep thinking!

    • Anonymous says:

      The “theory” part on the Theory of Evolution is merely a formality. Look it up, research it and you will find that the Theory of Evolution is irrefutable. Don’t ask (like most creationists with some knowledge of science) that why if it is correct it is still a theory. In the practical sense of science the Theory is the explanation of a proven fact in order to understand how it happens, whereas the Law is a mathematical representation of such phenomenon. Ex. Law of Universal Gravitation: F = Gm1m2/r2. Just because it has “theory” on the name it doesn’t mean that it “hasn’t been proven” or “lacks evidence”. Evolution is a fact, Creation is a delusional fantasy.

      • MyAvatarIsAPygmyAtheistAlien says:

        As I understand it, there’s both the law of gravity and the theory of gravity. Likewise, evolution is both a fact and a theory.

        It’s funny, but not surprising that creationists don’t understand that in science, to be elevated to “Theory” is akin to winning an Oscar award, which is the highest prize a movie can get.

        Theories are the Oscars of the scientific world 😉

    • cromagnostic says:

      Hey at least you posted hope you continue to do so!

      I understand where you are coming from on evolution and the missing links. I wanted to extend to you a beautiful article from last month’s National Geographic and pose that quite often popular science has one look for those “missing links” by only looking for that “missing in-between-ape-skeleton” we have yet to dig up when there is much more to it than that. With respects to the article, it was in regards to a particular plant that evolved AROUND the echolocation of a fruit bat that in turn re-inspired new generations of fruit bats due to the new generations of plant…

      (Naturally I replied to your post here because the OP deals with birds that cannot fly yet here is a mammal that can and it involves your question on missing links)

      Point being: nature influences nature and there is a “back and forth ebb-and-flow” to it that goes far beyond just some ape “getting smarter.” Add mutations and natural stressors that even to this DAY influence human DNA on top of this and the missing link is quite honestly probably several extinct species of plants and low-level-radiation and not only some “ancient ancestor ape” link. (An oversimplification yes, but brevity is the point here)

      By the way, although I am not one, theists can subscribe to the possibility of evolution too.



  5. Pingback: 26. Why doesn’t God allow humans to regenerate limbs? | 500 Questions about God & Christianity

  6. Enshalla says:

    In the end, why did God come up with the platypus? Design or joke?

    • MyAvatarIsAPygmyAtheistAlien says:

      If there is a god, I’d say it’s one of the cutest jokes he ever came up with. The worst joke? Making us women bleed out profusely for a week every month. Why not set us up to have estrous cycles… Minimal bleeding! Instead of monthly moments of opportunity? And what up with pathetic leg hair? Doesn’t serve any real purpose, no heating feature, always wanting to remove it. Other body hair is cool I guess. Just not on the legs 😉

      • MyAvatarIsAPygmyAtheistAlien says:

        As a grea gay friend once told me: Gurl! If you Been bleeding for a week, and ain’t dead yet! I would’ve call 911 on your ass! 😉

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’d recommend the article, but I can’t remember the name…I think it’s by a Catholic named Peter Kreeft or somebody, but they mention that evolution could have possibly been the will of God. As for it not being in the creation account…well you yourself said the Bible was written by men with all the limitations of men (aramaic/hebrew/whatever translations and the difficulties thereof). I try not to be too philosophical about religion though…After all, you gotta take some stuff on faith or your head’ll explode. Hell, if it turns out it was all the longest running joke in religious history maybe I’ll enjoy being reincarnated as a Horse’s ass 😀

  8. Shawn Snow says:

    It’s easy to criticize creationism and it seems to be the hip thing these days, but shouldn’t we be past this? I don’t think making fun of the bible makes you look cool anymore, it just makes you look like a guest who is late to a party. Everyone (except for the lost causes) already accepts that creationism has obvious logical holes. Spend you time doing something more productive. As for the evolutionist, you should apply the same level of scrutiny to your theory as well. There are many questions and anomalies that make the current tenets of evolution look silly as well, it just requires a little more effort since evolution didn’t come from a children’s book of fairy tails.

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