October 26, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Amazing Insects Defy Evolution

Two recent articles about insects call for the ring buoy on the H.M.S. Darwin.  The first is about fossil amber from India, reported by the BBC News.  “We have complete, three-dimensionally preserved specimens that are 52 million years old,” one of the discoverers announced with astonishment, “and you can handle them almost like living ones.”  The insects are so perfectly preserved they look like they could crawl out if released from their gooey prison.
    Several things about the discovery challenge conventional evolutionary wisdom.  One is that they contradict the theory of endemism, the notion that organisms living in isolation will tend to become more unique.  The insects found resemble those from other parts of the world.  Gondwana and Laurasia were supposed to have drifted apart slowly for 100 million years, but here in the Indian amber, the diversity of insects resembles specimens from Asia, Africa, and even South America.  “This means that, despite millions of years in isolation in the ocean, the region was a lot more biologically diverse that previously believed.”  To rescue the theory, the team envisioned insects flying long distances or drifting on ocean currents.
    Another challenge from these fossils is that rain forests were not supposed to exist in this region 50 million years ago.  Finding evidence of a tropical environment twice as old as previously thought, the team had to say that they hadn’t found such environments before because “fossil deposits are simply very uncommon in tropical regions.”  A photo with the article shows where the amber samples were found in lignite mines in western India.
    New Scientist also reported the story, underscoring the falsifying evidence that calls for theory revision: “India spent tens of millions of years as an island before colliding with Asia.  Yet the fossil record contains no evidence that unique species evolved on the subcontinent during this time, so India may not have been as isolated as it seemed to be.”
    Living insects defy evolution, too.  The Guardian wrote a fascinating article about honeybees’ computational abilities.  “Bees can solve complex mathematical problems which keep computers busy for days, research has shown.”  One well-known puzzle, the so-called “traveling salesman” or “Chinese postman” problem, tries to solve for the optimal route between a number of points.  If computers had to calculate every route and then try to solve for the shortest one, it could take days.  “Bees,” however, “manage to reach the same solution using a brain the size of a grass seed.”  This is, in fact, their specialty: “Foraging bees solve travelling salesman problems every day.  They visit flowers at multiple locations and, because bees use lots of energy to fly, they find a route which keeps flying to a minimum.”  It’s unclear whether bees use a heuristic algorithm (by which computers could converge on solutions more rapidly, too), but the bee succeeds somehow, and with dramatically smaller hardware.  A team at the University of London thinks humans could learn from honeybees how to solve such problems more efficiently.  “Despite their tiny brains bees are capable of extraordinary feats of behaviour,” a researcher remarked, daring not explain how evolution could have produced a brain the size of a grass seed that can challenge our best computers.

Darwinism is like the patient who has more bandages than skin, or the traveling salesman that lost money on every sale but thought he could make it up in volume.  In either case, the outcome will not be pretty.  Time for a body transplant and a new product.

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