Neo-Darwinists would not have predicted the results they got when studying fish, alligators, monkeys and mice.
Blind Fish See Adaptive Light
In a blind fish that dwells in deep, dark Mexican caves, scientists have found evidence for a long-debated mechanism of evolutionary change that is distinct from natural selection of spontaneously arising mutations, as reported this week in the journal Science.
The “distinct” alternative mechanism is called “cryptic variation.” It implies that variations (mutations) occur without causing any outward change to the looks or functions of organisms. These mutations “lie in wait” until the shock of a new environment forces them to the surface. PhysOrg points out that despite being “elegant” [an adjective often used by Richard Dawkins], Darwin’s “classical view of evolution” is too slow:
It’s an elegant model. It’s also an extremely time-consuming process likely to fail organisms needing to cope with sudden, potentially life-threatening changes in their environments. Surely some other mechanism could enable more rapid adaptive response.
In the case of blind cave fish studied in Mexico, New England scientists believe that variations in heat shock protein 90 (HSP90), which masks eye mutations, became adaptive when fish colonized or became trapped in caves. Since eyes were useless in the new environment, mutations in HSP90 relaxed controls that would have protected the eyes from change. Elizabeth Pennisi explained in Science that “the stresses of cave life disturbed the function of HSP90 and unmasked the genetic variation, providing a rich template upon which natural selection acted” (in this case, negative selection to remove eyes). What it could mean – contra Darwin – is that HSP90 acts as an “evolutionary capacitor,” storing up variations for rapid adaptability.
The study bolsters those who have long believed HSP90 is an evolutionary force, says Kazuo Takahashi, a quantitative geneticist at Okayama University in Japan. “Its impact is huge.”
As a “capacitor” or mutational sponge, HSP90 would store up variations, preventing their expression until a need arises. This runs counter to neo-Darwinian principles because de novo mutations should provide the major grist for natural selection. “HSP90 is a so-called molecular chaperone, which ensures proteins take on and maintain their correct shape, even if their amino acid sequence varies slightly because of mutations,” Pennisi explained. A new environment could relax the control HSP90 would otherwise have over mutation expression. Thus the phrase “evolutionary force” used above might better be called “adaptive regulation.”
The original paper in Science asked what evolution is doing, storing up mutations:
Thus, although de novo mutations may exist and contribute to phenotypic evolution, repeated use of standing variation has played an important role in the evolution in these fish. However, these observations also raise a critical question: How is genetic variation maintained in a population if it is not adaptive before new selective conditions?
To explain what they were seeing, the authors resurrected a controversial theory by C H. Waddington in 1942 called cryptic variation. This idea proposes that “developmental processes are quite robust and produce the same phenotype regardless of minor genotypic variation,” the paper says, until the shock of a new environment removes the regulation, allowing selection to act. This alternative method of adaptation “would have helped potentiate a rapid response to the cave environment” perhaps by reducing the cost of investing energy in useless eyes. Pennisi suggests that “many evolutionary capacitors may exist” in nature.
Although the authors believe both evolutionary mechanisms are in play in the cave fish, their focus was on the non-Darwinian function. Non-Darwinists might view “cryptic variation” as a design feature, suppressing the harmful effects of mutations, yet storing up variations for rapid response to environmental shocks. (It should be noted that eye loss is a case of negative selection, far different from the notion of new eyes forming by an unguided sequence of positive selections on random mutations.) They would also surely point out that the words “capacitor” and “chaperone” connote design.
Genes Shake Monkey from Tree
Science Daily reported that tooth-combed primates, considered a transitional form by fossil evidence, appeared 15 million years too early to play that role according to genetic “molecular clock” evidence. “This is not the first time that genetic data disagrees with paleontological data,” the article states. “For many groups of mammals, geneticists tend to put forward earlier dates of origin than those provided by direct observation of the fossil record.” The article tries to make the case that geneticists should calibrate their measurements by the new fossils, not the other way around. Nevertheless, the headline indicates surprise that “Fossil Primate Shakes Up History of Tooth-Combed Primates.” The first sentence is usually key to the article. “Fossils discovered in Tunisia challenge several hypotheses concerning the origin of tooth-combed primates,” it reads.
Shark Bites Darwin
Could this be possible in Darwin’s world? Science Daily says that “New genetic research finds shark, human proteins stunningly similar.” So similar are they, a simple reading of the data would make sharks more closely related to humans than they are to fish! Key quote from Michael Stanhope of Cornell:
“We were very surprised to find, that for many categories of proteins, sharks share more similarities with humans than zebrafish,” Stanhope said. “Although sharks and bony fishes are not closely related, they are nonetheless both fish … while mammals have very different anatomies and physiologies. Nevertheless, our findings open the possibility that some aspects of white shark metabolism, as well as other aspects of its overall biochemistry, might be more similar to that of a mammal than to that of a bony fish.”
The article quickly changed the subject, diverting attention to shark features and the need for conservation.
Adaptive Radiation Ratted Out
“Study of rodent family tree puts brakes on commonly held understanding of evolution,” Science Daily published in another iconoclastic headline. This time, it’s the widely-held notion of “adaptive radiation.” According to this notion, organisms are likely to quickly diversify as they spread into a new ecospace. In the case of rodents, this didn’t always happen. Florida State evolutionists found one case supporting the theory, but other cases where the early colonizers appeared to suppress the diversity of later species. In general, “The study of the evolutionary history of rodents calls into doubt a generally held understanding that when a species colonizes a new region, such as a continent, evolution leads to a dramatic increase in the number and variety of species,” the article says. One researcher highlighted the upset in the data: “Biological diversification, or adaptive radiation, is generally thought to be the major explanation for diversification across all of life,” he said. It’s apparently not always true for “the tree of the most evolutionally successful group of mammals — the muroid rodents.”
Your Reptile Relative
If tool use were to be consistently applied as the most important measure of human ancestry, evolutionists might have to propose that humans are descended from alligators. That’s because alligators have been observed using tools to lure prey, according to Live Science – “the first convincing evidence of tool use in any reptile.” It’s not just an isolated observation:
New research shows that alligators and crocodiles can use small sticks to attract birds looking for nesting materials. If the birds get too close, they become a meal. The behavior has so far been observed among American alligators in Louisiana, as well as mugger crocodiles (also known as marsh crocodiles) in India.
According to the article, “The finding, along with other recent work, suggests reptiles are much more intelligent than generally acknowledged.…” Since birds can also use tools, this seems to diminish the value of tool use as a measure of evolutionary relatedness.
Remember these episodes when Darwin dobermans try to bark that evolution is a FACT that is supported by TONS of evidence. You can tell them “Sure; it shows that humans are descended from alligators and cousins of sharks (but not fish), gene evolution usually contradicts fossil evidence, and species evolve except when they don’t. Nice theory.” You might apply the evidence in these stories to prove that humans descended from sharks, picked up intelligence from alligators along the way, and developed mammalian characteristics independently of monkeys by means of “convergent evolution.” Humans like to swim like sharks, don’t they? And sharks still have an appetite for human flesh, don’t they? Keep it up by applying the same logic Darwinists use. After all, you are appealing to observational evidence, not to predetermined assumptions of what you “believe” happened “by faith,” right? Should be fun.