May 2, 2011 | David F. Coppedge

Evolution Bends to Fit the Evidence

A good scientific theory should predict what is observed.  When the theory is confronted with unexpected evidence, should the theory be jettisoned or modified?  Darwin predicted slow, gradual change over long periods of time.  Let’s see what evolutionists do with surprises (cf. 01/23/2009).

  1. Explosive evolution:  Evolution has been anything but gradual in the case of pupfish.  A press release from UC Davis says that 50 species of pupfish from Massachusetts to Venezuela “are all pretty much the same” in the way they look and act and eat.  “If the evolution of all pupfish is like a steadily expanding cloud, [Chris] Martin found that the San Salvador Island and Yucatan pupfish are like bursts of fireworks within it.  They show explosive rates of evolution – changing up to 130 times faster than other pupfish,” the article claimed.
  2. Emerging from the ooze:  George Poinar at Oregon State is trying to put together the evolution of nematodes (roundworms), which he thinks originated a billion years ago as one of the earliest forms of multicellular life.  Here is his explanation for their origin: “They literally emerged from the primordial ooze.
        In the next paragraph, though, the article listed all the parts that would have had to emerge: “But they are functional animals, with nervous and digestive systems, muscles, good mobility, and they are capable of rapid reproduction and learned behavior” (see 06/25/2005 on how Caltech scientists are trying to reverse-engineer a roundworm’s developmental program).
        Even though Poinar just wrote a book on nematode evolution, “There’s still a huge amount we don’t know about nematodes,” he admitted – like maybe how something this complex could literally emerge from ooze.
  3. Evolution by subtraction:  Clearly, a huge amount of new genetic information would have had to accompany the growth of Darwin’s tree of life from root to branch tips.  It would also be expected that closely related species would have closely related genomes.  That’s apparently not the case with the lab plant Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress) and the lyre-leaved rock cress.
        A press release from Max Planck Institute began, “It would appear reasonable to assume that two closely related plant species would have similar genetic blueprints.”  But the lyre-leaved rock cress has a genome fifty percent bigger than the other; “Moreover, these changes arose over a very short period in evolutionary terms.”
        It’s not like the lyre-leaved cress has gained new genetic information; on the contrary, “considerable elements have been lost from some parts of the thale cress genome.”  To further exasperate Darwin, the article said, “A smaller genome appears to offer advantages during the natural selection of individuals.”  One of the researchers is asserting, “We consider the thale cress with its more streamlined genome as the form derived through evolution.”  Too bad the American species didn’t obey Darwin’s law of subtraction (03/10/2011).
  4. Pigs, birds, and cleanliness:  Birds evolved to wash themselves.  Pigs evolved to lie in the mud.  Can opposite outcomes be ascribed to a scientific law?  Victoria Gill at the BBC News had no problem with this, announcing cheerfully and confidently alongside of a contented pig lying in slop, “Pigs have ‘evolved to love mud’”.
        She quoted Mark Bracke [Wageningen University] speculating, “Liking shallow water could have been a point in the evolution of whales from land-dwelling mammals.”  After all, he said to his eager reporter, “We all evolved from fish, so it could be that this motivation to be in water could be something that was preserved in animals that are able to do so.”
        Bracke’s apparently Lamarckian explanation does not explain why pigs didn’t evolve onward to follow the whales.  Gill did think it adequate to call this statement by Bracke an explanation: “He explained, ‘It seems to me that this preference to be in shallow water could have been a turning point in the evolution of whales from land-dwelling mammals.’”
        None of the other science news sites laughed at this.  They jumped on the bandwagon and joined in the chorus: Live Science told its readers “Why Pigs Love Mud” using Bracke’s speculation as if it were a scientific explanation.
        PhysOrg followed suit, swallowing Bracke’s notion that “pigs and other wallowing animals did not evolve functional sweat glands because wallowing was a part of their lifestyle,” never stopping to ask if lifestyle is a cause or effect of evolution.  Some children like to wallow in mud but they still have sweat glands; others like to take showers but sprinklers have not emerged on their heads.
  5. Imaginary evolution:  It might seem unfair to propose a theory that cannot be tested or falsified.  That did not stop Jack O’Malley-James of the University of St Andrews from proposing that plants inhabiting planets orbiting two-star systems might have black leaves and flowers (see PhysOrg).
        “Depending on the colours of their star-light, plants would evolve very differently,” he told a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society last month.  Space.com was gleeful about this imaginary scenario, but did admit in the end, “Of course, this is all speculation, because scientists have yet to find conclusive evidence of any life forms beyond Earth.
  6. Nutcracker sweetgrass:  For decades, Paranthropus boisei has been nicknamed “Nutcracker Man” based on its teeth (whether or not it was a man or ape is another question; CMI).  No longer; we’re hearing today from Live Science, Science Daily, PhysOrg and the other secular science news sites that this creature probably ate grass like cows or pigs – “a discovery that upsets conventional wisdom about early humanity’s diet.”  Maybe its new nickname will be Cow Boy.

Surprises like this are common in articles on evolution (04/12/2011, 03/25/2011, 02/18/2011, 01/31/2011).  Yet educational sites like Evolution of Life, using cartoon graphics, continue to portray the standard gradualistic Darwinian story as if scientists know what they are talking about.

Let’s listen in on the Darwin Cacophony Orchestra’s performance of Psychovsky’s Nutcracker-Man Suite, consisting of the following movements:

If this sound and fury is not your cup of tea, try listening in on The Creation across town.  Word has it a number of leading scientists have given it high marks (source).

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