August 14, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

Evolution Is Slow, Except When It Is Super-Fast

Evolutionary biologists seem comfortable with rates of evolution that vary by eight orders of magnitude or more.  While some animals found at the alleged dawn of multicellular life at the beginning of the Cambrian have changed little in 500 million years, other organisms seem to evolve right before our eyes.  Sara Goudarzi on LiveScience described one recent instance as evolution in a “heartbeat” or a “nanosecond” compared to usual rates of change.  It involves a species of mussels exposed to an invasive crab in New England waters.  The mussels apparently responded to the new predator by growing thicker shells.  The mussels had not seen this crab in North American waters before, but according to James Byers [U of New Hampshire], co-author of a paper in Science,1 “the mussels’ wheels were well-greased to respond” and evolved to fit the new situation.  “That’s our best guess,” he said.


1Freeman and Byers, “Divergent Induced Responses to an Invasive Predator in Marine Mussel Populations,” Science, 11 August 2006: Vol. 313. no. 5788, pp. 831-833, DOI: 10.1126/science.1125485.

This is not really evolution – only variation – because it involves one species of mussel.  It makes sense that only variations able to resist the attack of the crabs will remain, because all the others will be victimized.  This process is not controversial even among the most ardent creationists.  Evolutionists, though with their personifying language, make it seem like the mussels organized their defensive strategy with intelligent planning.  The real value of this story is in pointing out the flexibility of Charlie Gumby.
    Evolution produces fast predators and prey, except when it produces slow ones.  It leads to bigger individuals, except when it prefers smaller ones.  It generates colorful birds and dull ones, birds that can fly faster and farther, and birds that lose flight altogether.  It makes tasty fruit to attract animals and poisonous fruit to repel them.  Males are explained to be both smart or dumb by evolutionary theory; females are choosy but really driven by their hormones.  Altruism is really disguised selfishness, but selfishness leads to the overall good.  Through evolution emerge showy patterns and camouflage, opacity and transparency, attraction and repulsion, loudness and quietness, high body mass and low density, change and stasis, group behavior and solitude, and opposite strategies for survival.  Since evolutionary theory is jack of all trades, it is master of none.  Some would not even honor such a slippery concept with the rank of jack.  Joker, maybe.

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