Which came first: the Archaeopteryx or the dinosaur egg?


Published: 27 May 2014 (GMT+10)
This children’s book pictures a large egg, suggests it might be a dinosaur egg, and spends the rest of the book asking which reptile might have laid it.

Look what they’re telling your kids—the first bird was an Archaeopteryx, which hatched from an egg that was laid when the only other animals on the earth were reptiles! This is the storyline of a children’s picture-story book titled The Wonderful Egg, by Dahlov Ipcar (née Zorach, 1917– ), that has just been republished. It first saw the light of day in 1958.1 She is best known for colourful and geometrically-patterned paintings of animals.

Although the original edition was loaded with scientific errors (including some which even evolutionists repudiate), incredibly it “achieved specific recommendation from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAC) as well as from the American Council on Education and the Association for Childhood Education International”.2 We are waiting to see if these recommendations reoccur, as almost all of the book’s claims are factually erroneous, and none has been corrected in the 2014 reprint.

Error upon error in The Wonderful Egg

There never was a time when the whole earth was “covered with big green jungles”, as The Wonderful Egg claims. Now, even evolutionists have conceded that there was grass for dinosaurs to eat. Nor is it a fact that “the only animals that lived in the green jungles of the world were the dinosaurs”. For instance, we now know that dinosaurs ate birds and the mammal Repenomamus ate dinosaurs. Nor yet that “most of them were big”. Some were indeed big, but there were also small chicken-sized ones. Those reptiles that “swam in the warm seas” are not called dinosaurs, and neither are those that “flew through the air”.3 See Evidence for a young world, and Dinosaur Questions and Answers.

A double-page spread from The Wonderful Egg. The book claims that 100 million years ago the earth was covered with big green jungles, and the only animals were the dinosaurs.

Also, many of the illustrations show the dinosaurs with tails dragging on the ground and the bipedal ones with a kangaroo-like ‘tripod’ posture. This is an outdated view; from the structures of the hip and shoulder bones, paleontologists now think that dinosaurs held their spinal column almost horizontally with their tail held straight out as a counterbalance.

Brontosaurus is given pride of place in The Wonderful Egg. Unfortunately ‘Bronty’ never existed.

The first of the 12 reptiles individually pictured and described in The Wonderful Egg is Brontosaurus. However, there never was a Brontosaurus dinosaur. ‘Bronty’ simply never existed! In the 1870s, Othniel Charles Marsh (1831–1899) discovered some very large dinosaur fossils in Lake Como, Wyoming, USA, and thought that he had discovered a new genus. He gave them the name Brontosaurus, meaning ‘thunder lizard’, because he thought that the ground must have thundered when such a huge animal walked by. Unfortunately the head was missing. To remedy this obvious defect, he added a skull that he found several kilometres away in a different quarry and in a different layer of stratum, but told no one about this. With its correct head, it was found to be a type of dinosaur that had previously been named—by the same paleontologist—and called Apatosaurus. By the rules of naming, the first validly published name of a creature has precedence, so Apatosaurus stands and Brontosaurus is relegated to a ‘junior synonym’ not for formal use. See Thunder lizards.

Another candidate for laying the egg, pictured and described in the book, is an Elasmosaurus. This is one of a group of marine reptiles called plesiosaurs. However, there is now evidence that several of the plesiosaurs gave birth to live young rather than by laying eggs.4 Hence it is incorrect for The Wonderful Egg book to say that Elasmosaurus definitively laid eggs.


As this classic sketch (above) so beautifully illustrates (p. 63 in Duane Gish’s book, Dinosaurs by Design), it’s hard to imagine what a supposed ‘transitional form’, making its way from water to land, might have looked like. It was neither well-suited to where it’s [supposedly] going, nor to whence it [supposedly] came! And, as the evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould himself acknowledged, what are the chances of producing a ‘hopeful monster’ rather than a monstrosity, and with what would the hopeful monster mate? (The scan below is taken from p. 107 from Gary Parker’s 1980 book Creation: the Facts of Life.)


The bird that hatched out of the egg, Archaeopteryx, is no longer regarded even by evolutionists as being the first bird species, as claimed in The Wonderful Egg. As to any specimen being the first bird ever, with what would it mate? If it couldn’t produce offspring, it would not be an ancestor of anything. The book describes it as “the first beautiful bird that ever sang a song high in the treetops of the green world of long, long ago.” Birds ‘sing’ for two main reasons: to say “Go away” to other male birds and thereby establish their territory, or to say “Come hither” to female birds to attract a mate. Neither of these two types of bird-calls would have had any meaning if there was ever a time when there was only one bird! See also Birds: fliers from the beginning.

So where did the concept of a bird hatching from a reptile egg come from?

Schindewolf, Darwin, and that reptilian egg

This ‘miraculous egg’ concept goes back to the 1930s, when a German evolutionist paleontologist, Otto Schindewolf (1896–1971),5 had a problem. His problem was that the zillions of intermediary links in the progression of non-birds turning into birds, as required by the fiction of evolution, were all missing from the fossil record.

There was nothing new about this, of course. In 1859, in his Origin of Species, Charles Darwin devoted the whole of Chapter 9 to this pervasive problem (which was not just limited to birds) under the heading “On the Imperfection of the Geological record”.6 He wrote:

“But just in proportion as this process of extermination [i.e. natural selection—Ed.] has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.”7

Darwin’s solution, in typical evasive Darwinian fashion, was to re-state the problem; he wrote: “The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.” However, the ‘evidence’ for the imperfection is the lack of intermediates; when it comes to kinds of living creatures we actually have today, the record is very complete. See The links are missing.

Schindewolf’s solution to the same problem was much more innovative, albeit wildly preposterous. He too wrote a book, published in 1936, in which he said (translated from the German text): “The first bird hatched from a reptilian egg.”8

Goldschmidt and ‘hopeful monsters’

We know this because Richard Goldschmidt (1878–1958), a German evolutionary geneticist, who in 1936 became Professor of Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley,9 (unsurprisingly) had the very same problem concerning the fossil record. As he put it: “… practically all known orders and families appear suddenly and without any apparent transitions”.10 He conceded that the gradual accumulation of small mutations advocated by neo-Darwinians was sufficient for microevolution,11 but for him, this could not bridge the unlimited gap between species. So he too wrote a book, published in 1940, and titled The Material Basis of Evolution.12

He gave his purpose for this on pp. 6 & 183:

“It will be one of the major contentions of this book to show that the facts of microevolution do not suffice for an understanding of macroevolution.”
“The decisive step in evolution, the first step towards macroevolution, the step from one species to another, requires another evolutionary method than that of sheer accumulation of micromutations.” (All italics in the original.)

Goldschmidt’s solution to the problem was to introduce his readers to Otto Schindewolf, and he wrote (p. 395): “He [Schindewolf] shows that the many missing links in the paleontological record are sought for in vain because they never existed: ‘The first bird hatched from a reptilian egg.’”

As Goldschmidt approved of, translated, and introduced this bizarre ‘bird-from-reptilian-egg’ concept to American academia,13 it is usually attributed to him in English textbooks and journal articles. And in fact he sought to provide a basis for it in his book. Under the heading “The hopeful monster”,14 he said (p. 393): “… the hopeful monster is one of the means of macroevolution by single large steps”. He explained (p. 390):

“A monstrosity appearing in a single genetic step might permit the occupation of a new environmental niche and thus produce a new type in one step. A Manx cat with a hereditary concrescence of the tail vertebrae, or a comparable mouse or rat mutant, is just a monster. But a mutant of Archaeopteryx producing the same monstrosity was a hopeful monster because the resultant fanlike arrangement of the tail-feathers was a great improvement in the mechanics of flying.”

And he gave his mechanism for this thus (p. 396):

“Species and the higher categories originate in single macroevolutionary steps as completely new genetic systems. The genetical process which is involved consists of a repatterning of the chromosomes, which results in a new genetic system.”

Chromosomes are long structures of double-helical DNA. Goldschmidt imagined that re-arranging existing chromosomes could create a fundamentally new creature. However, it is now known that the way in which chromosomes/genes are inherited does not create new creatures, but only variations of what already existed. We suggest that the only ‘hopeful’ aspect of this scenario was that in the mind of Prof. Goldschmidt. Orthodox Darwinians characteristically rejected this denial of their cherished gradualism over immense ages.

Gould and ‘punctuated equilibrium’

In the 1970s, Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002), was Professor of Geology, Biology, and the History of Science at Harvard University and Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology at its Museum of Comparative Zoology, and he had a problem. It was the same problem that Charles Darwin, Prof. Schindewolf, and Prof. Goldschmidt had all faced. And now (in 1977), 118 years after Darwin had written Origin of Species, Gould still had not found any evidence of intermediate species in the fossil record. He wrote:

“The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.”15
“All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between major groups are characteristically abrupt.”16

Gould’s solution was basically a rephrasing of Goldschmidt’s concept of sudden appearances, without the latter’s erroneous views about chromosomes and genetics. In 1977, in an article entitled Return of the Hopeful Monster, Gould, after noting that ‘hopeful monster’ was the terminology used by Goldschmidt, wrote: “As a Darwinian I wish to defend Goldschmidt’s postulate that macroevolution is not simply microevolution extrapolated, and that major structural transitions can occur rapidly without a smooth series of intermediate stages.” Gould called his version ‘punctuated equilibrium’.17,18

He was not unaware of the problems, such as what would the first such monster mate with, if all its relatives were members of a different species? And: “Major disruptions of entire genetic systems do not produce favored—or even viable—creatures.” Despite these total confutations, Gould went so far as to say: “I … predict that during this decade [i.e. the 1980s—Ed.] Goldschmidt will be largely vindicated in the world of evolutionary biology.” Not surprisingly, this did not happen!

Bully for Brontosaurus


According to an article Prof. Gould wrote entitled Bully for Brontosaurus (published in a 1991 book of the same title), he regarded the names Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus as synonyms, but preferred Brontosaurus (meaning ‘thunder lizard’) as being more descriptively appropriate than Apatosaurus (meaning ‘deceptive lizard’).


Surprisingly, the non-existent Brontosaurus is depicted on the postage stamps of some 29 countries, including a 1989 United States 25c and, most recently, a 2013 Bequa $2.75. Shown is a 1991 North Korea 20 won.

We hasten to add that Gould did not go so far as to support the concept of the first bird hatching from a reptile’s egg. But if animals don’t go from reptile to bird in one jump, how far do they go? From leg to wing? Or from mostly leg to just a little bit of wing? If so, how would such encumbered ‘monsters’ survive? As Henry Morris and Gary Parker have pointed out, “If the jump isn’t big and dramatic, what’s the difference between the hopeful monster mechanism and the discredited concept of the gradual accumulation of minor mutations?”19 See: Hopeful monsters revisited and Punctuated equilibrium: come of age?

In short, the evolutionist dogma that reptiles turned into birds, ubiquitously taught in universities and schools, is totally false. Nevertheless, children are being indoctrinated with this nonsense via the recently republished children’s book The Wonderful Egg.

Setting the record straight

Contrary to what The Wonderful Egg says, as creationists we say the earth was created by God, some 6,000 years ago. The animals that lived in the sea and those that flew (including Archaeopteryx) were created by God on Day 5 of Creation Week. All the land-dwelling animals, including the dinosaurs, were created by God on Day 6 of Creation Week.

And God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.’ So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.’ And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:20–25)

No animals of any kind have ever changed into different animals of another kind—neither overnight, nor yet over millions of years. So the answer to the question that forms the title of this article is: Archaeopteryx.


Our copy of the 1958 book20 is stamped “Buchanan Elementary Library, Moccasin Elementary School” (it’s in Michigan, USA), so lots of the children there read it. Now that it has been reprinted, parents be aware of what your school library may be lending your kids to read. And beware of what you might be buying for your kids!

References and notes

  1. Ipcar, D, The Wonderful Egg, Doubleday New York, 1958. The 2014 edition is published by Flying Books (an imprint of Nobrow). Our attention was called to this book by an article published in Google by Beatnik Mary. Return to text.
  2. Morris, H., and Parker, G., What Is Creation Science?, Master Books, USA, p. 148. Return to text.
  3. Although Pteranodon, Elasmosaurus and Tylosaurus are all called reptiles on their respective pages in The Wonderful Egg, that are lumped together as dinosaurs on “a chart that tells you how big the dinosaurs were”. (There are no page numbers.) Return to text.
  4. O’Keefe, F. and Chiappe, L., Viviparity and K-Selected Life History in a Mesozoic Marine Plesiosaur (Reptilia, Sauropterygia), Science 333(6044):870–73, 12 August 2011. Return to text.
  5. From 1948 he occupied the position of chair of geology and paleontology at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen. (Source: Encyclopedia.com). Return to text.
  6. Chapter 9 in Editions 1 to 5, Chapter 10 in Edition 6 (1872). This problem was in addition to those mentioned in the whole of Chapter 6 (in all Editions) titled ‘Difficulties on Theory’. Return to text.
  7. Darwin Online, On the Origin of Species, 1st Edition, 1859, pp. 280. Return to text.
  8. Schindewolf, O.H., Paläontologie, Entwicklungslehre und Genetik: Kritik und Synthese [Paleontology, the theory of evolution, and genetics: A critique and synthesis], Gebrüder Bornträger, Berlin, 1936. The quote is on p. 59, according to Encyclopedia.com at encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2830906071.html. Return to text.
  9. As a Jew, he had to flee Germany from his fellow evolutionists, the Nazis. Return to text.
  10. Goldschmidt, R.B., Evolution as viewed by one geneticist, American Scientist 40:84–98, 1952. Return to text.
  11. Which we say is merely variation within a species. We actually advise against the micro-vs. macro distinction because the real issue is not the size of change but the direction of change. See The evolution train’s a-comin’: (Sorry, a-goin’—in the wrong direction). Return to text.
  12. Goldschmidt, R., The Material Basis of Evolution, Pageant Books, New Jersey, 1940. Return to text.
  13. The 1960 reprint of Ref. 12 is marked “Copyright Yale University Press”. Return to text.
  14. Ref. 12, pp. 390–95. Return to text.
  15. Gould, S., Evolution’s Erratic Pace, Natural History 86(5):14, May 1977. Return to text.
  16. Gould, S., Return of the Hopeful Monster, Natural History 86(6):22–30, June/July 1977. Return to text.
  17. See Eldredge, N. and Gould, S., Punctuated equilibria: an alternative to phyletic gradualism, in Models in Paleobiology, edited by Schopf, TJM Freeman, Cooper & Co, San Francisco, 1972, pp. 82–115. Note: Eldredge preferred the plural ‘equilibria’; Gould preferred the singular ’equilibrium’. Return to text.
  18. Some critics have jokingly referred to this as “evolution by jerks”, to which Gould responded that “gradualism was evolution by creeps”! (Source: Stephen Jay Gould: Wikipedia.) Return to text.
  19. Morris, H., and Parker, G., Ref. 2, p. 150. Return to text.
  20. Obtained from Amazon Used Books, April 2014. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

What about dinosaurs?
by Dr David Catchpoole
US $0.60
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US $19.00

Readers’ comments

Dave R.
So, it was because the dinosaur wasn't "chicken"? Maybe. But I think it was because he fancied one, when he saw a diner on the other side of the road (saur a dino)!
Garth B.
@Dave R.
Because it wasn't yet a chicken? [Ed: And would never become one!]
Dave R.
Some conundrums –
Which came first – the dinosaur or the egg? Why did the dinosaur cross the road? How is it that the majority of very bright people throw their God-given power of reasoning away, when they consider the origin of life?
Answers to the first and third given in Genesis and Romans 1. Any guesses for the second?

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