Species do not compete to survive in the same space, a massive study of birds shows.
“‘Be Different or Die’ Does Not Drive Evolution” is the game-changing headline on PhysOrg based on a press release from the University of Oxford. A decade-long study of ovenbirds on several continents shows that similar species can live together in harmony. The paper, published in Nature, challenges the idea that only the fittest survive in an ecosystem.
Ovenbirds are a very diverse group. By studying the phenotypes and genotypes of 350 species, the Oxford team, with help from other universities, concluded that a key concept of Darwinism is wrong.
A new study has found that species living together are not forced to evolve differently to avoid competing with each other, challenging a theory that has held since Darwin’s Origin of Species.…
They found that although bird species occurring together were consistently more different than species living apart, this was simply an artefact of species being old by the time they meet. In fact, once variation in the age of species was accounted for, coexisting species were actually more similar than species evolving separately, opposite to Darwin’s view which remains widely-held today.
Dr. Joe Tobias (U of Oxford) hastened to resuscitate Darwin, claiming there is plenty of evidence for evolutionary divergence in young lineages. The findings, they claim, show that species can be very similar if they come into contact millions of years after evolving separately. Darwinism re-emerges, therefore, once species age is taken into account. This explanation, however, is circular: it decides which species are young and old based on evolutionary assumptions. Moreover, it creates other problems. Why would the songs of species that had been separated for millions of years be similar?
Although species living together had beaks and legs that were no more different than those of species living apart, the most surprising discovery was that they had songs that were more similar. This challenges some longstanding ideas because the standard view for the last century has been that bird species living together would need to evolve different songs to avoid confusion.
The team focused on beaks, legs, and songs of the ovenbirds – traits that involve modification of existing traits, not the creation of new traits. Modest as these findings are, however, they confront Darwin’s view that competition is a key driver of evolution. In fact, the opposite conclusion should be drawn:
‘Looking at the bigger picture, ‘be different or die’ doesn’t appear to explain evolution,’ said Dr Tobias. ‘Ovenbird species use a wide variety of beaks, from long and hooked to short and straight, but these differences appear to evolve when living in isolation, suggesting that competition is not the major driving force producing species differences. Instead, it seems to have the opposite effect in promoting the evolution of similar songs.
“The reasons for this are difficult to explain and require further study,” Tobias added. Nothing was said about the evolution of a new organ, tissue, cell type or function. Despite alleged millions of years, they are all still ovenbirds.
Good grief. Are they telling us that all the justifications for the social Darwinist experiments that left millions dead have just flown out the window? Oh, if we could just turn back the clock and tell all those German and Russian philosophers, “Hold it! Stop! Darwin was wrong! There’s room for everyone in this town. We can all be similar or different. The world will be better with cooperation, not genocide! Let a million flowers bloom! Let’s all sing like the birdies sing!”
At least we can start over now and try to get it right before the next world war.
This is “difficult to explain” and “requires further study,” Tobias says. Ten years wasn’t enough? or 150, going back to Wallace? He has enough information. He just wants job security. It wouldn’t be so difficult to explain if he would just take the Charlie & Charlie brand* glasses off. (*Darwin, Lyell)
Incidentally, the millions of years is assumed, not demonstrated. It is falsified by the similarity of songs. If isolated populations of ovenbirds can come together after “millions of years” and sing the same tunes, then not only was Darwin wrong, Joe Tobias is singing off-key, too: he thinks the birds re-evolved the same songs! That makes no sense. More likely, the bird populations weren’t segregated for so long. There’s no reason that populations can’t adapt quickly to particular niches. Adaptation to environments is not evolution as Darwin taught (universal common ancestry by unguided natural processes). It’s built-in design for robustness.
Sing a song of Darwin, the evolution race,
Ovenbirds evolve, competing for their space,
When the facts come forth, though, the story's not so cool;
Isn't that a silly song to teach the kids at school?