August 17, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Humans Lose Some, Win Some in Animal Olympics

Imagine humans competing in Olympic events with animals.  Astrobiology Magazine predicts we would lose many events, but excel in others: “In most cases of physical competition, the animals beat us at our own games,” says the website’s staff writer, Dr. David Noever.

  • 100 Meter Sprint:  Cheetah wins the gold at 3 seconds.  Silver goes to Ostrich, bronze to Greyhound.  Elephant and Hippo beat Human, far back in the pack at 10 seconds.  If birds were allowed, Swift could go 102 mph, and Peregrine Falcon at 185 mph, or Mach 0.25.
  • Long Jump:  Grey Kangaroo wins at 12 meters, Impala wins silver at 10 meters, Human might win bronze at just under 9.
  • 100 Meter Freestyle:  Swordfish, at 78 mph, wins the gold; Sailfish at 66 is not far behind.  Killer Whale and Squid put in good shows.  Human, at 5 mph, is dead last.

But the Human contingent can take pride in certain events they win hands down: “shooting rifles, javelin throws, fencing and archery.”  (Apparently no one told him about the archer fish: see 09/30/2002 headline.)

This otherwise fun article is marred by several uninformed, ridiculous Darwinian assumptions.  Dr. Noever should know ever so painfully that every one of his evolutionary pronouncements is questionable at best, outright false at worst; yet he spouts them with the glibness of a politician.  Here are quotes numbered for comments afterwards.

  1. With over 10,000 human competitors taking part in more than 20 sports, the Olympic battle of better physiques leaves out the other millions of species with specialized survival skills.  These animals have evolved their success from repeated failures, as matters of life and death….
    Darwinian selection has been announced through history with the same life-and-death struggle that is the Olympic hallmark: Let the Games Begin.
  2. Fortunately the memory of having a tail (and gills) is not too distant.  As one principle of embryology maintains, stages of evolution from water to land are played out in our mother’s womb.  All humans have to lose their gills and tail, in order eventually to master the land.
  3. To an evolutionary theorist, the only event that matters is the game of survival, which is a complex function of reproductive rates, maturation, resource limits and lifespan.
  4. All winners, whether animal or human, are likely temporary champions.  The animal Olympics is far from the top of the evolved food chain.

Got your baloney detector handy?  Let’s examine his evolutionary assertions.

  1. The struggle for existence metaphor, the original Malthus/Darwin picture of nature red in tooth and claw with only the strongest surviving, is now known to be simplistic and often simply wrong, even to Darwinians.  After the atrocities of social Darwinism, the Darwin Party is now trying to project a kindler, gentler picture of evolution: cooperation, altruism, symbiosis.  Noever assumes that struggle will produce Olympic champions, like cheetahs from flatworms, given enough time.  Evidence, please?
        Notice also how he incorrectly associates animal fitness with human physique.  Fitness has nothing necessarily to do with strength or vitality, as we usually think of it (“fitness centers” with brawny weightlifters, etc.).  Fitness in evolutionary terms means anything a Darwinist wants, as long as it results in fertile offspring.  To a Darwinist, who is more “fit”: a bodybuilder who intimidates women, or a beer-belly couch potato who has a way with girls?  As long as the latter produces lots of gene carriers (i.e., kids) before he dies of a heart attack, he is Charlie’s champion.
  2. The “principle of embryology” he references, the old Recapitulation Theory, is as defunct as the tooth fairy.  How many times do creationists and knowledgeable evolutionists have to remind the purveyors of this myth that it is utterly false and illogical?  Human embryos never have gills nor structures that develop into gills, and they never have slits.  Conclusion: they never have gill slits.  Similarly, human embryos never have tails.  No animal is obliged to play some mythical recording of its evolutionary past on the way to becoming an adult.  Why should it, when any “memory” or use for those genes is gone, and every structure in the embryo has a function?  It’s all hogwash, but look at the power of myth: once propounded to impressionable minds, once it gains a following, it is easier to embellish the myth than to dislodge it.
  3. If you define fitness in terms of survival, you fall into the tautology trap.  This has been explained so many times in such detail by so many theorists on both sides of the origins debate, it needs no elaboration here (see 06/25/2002 commentary, for instance).  If he wants to claim selection is a complex function, let’s see the math.  Let’s watch him assign observable values and error bars to the factors and coefficients.  Otherwise, this assertion is a handwaving dodge.
  4. This statement, again, assumes evolution instead of demonstrating it.  Getting the Darwin Party to repent of this cardinal sin is like asking a leopard to change its spots or a cheetah to stop cheating.  Noever just assumes that the struggle for survival will produce innovation, new function, new complex and interrelated structures, and engineering expertise.  He assumes that natural selection (a conservative process) is up to the task.  Evolutionists neither demonstrate that selection has such powers, nor show that it ever did in the past: the fossil record shows sudden appearance, stasis and extinction, with large and systematic gaps.  (Exercise: name all the transitional forms for: kangaroos, swordfish, squid, cheetahs, peregrine falcons, and all the others in this article.  Can’t be done.)  There is no basis, therefore, for him to extrapolate selection into the future, to presume evolution will add new, improved athletes to the Olympic line-up over millions of years to come.

So the gold medal in the Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week competition goes to: David Noever, for his line: “As one principle of embryology maintains, stages of evolution from water to land are played out in our mother’s womb.  All humans have to lose their gills and tail, in order eventually to master the land.”  Didn’t Mom teach him not to tell fibs?

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