June 7, 2011 | David F. Coppedge

Evolution Against Intuition

As a general theory of life, evolution promises to explain everything.  Not all observations fit neatly into that assumption.  How do evolutionists respond when surprising or counter-intuitive observations require integration into the theory?  Sometimes the only answer is that they evolved because they evolved.  These examples can provide case studies for the discerning.

  1. Keep your tonsils:  It wasn't that long ago when tonsils were routinely removed in children, partly from the belief they were useless vestiges of an evolutionary past.  Now, an article on Medical Xpress claims that removal of tonsils and the appendix, or both, is linked to heart disease.  The article did not mention the old vestigial organs argument, but a reader brought it up in the comments.
  2. Touch your ear: Observations at Johns Hopkins showed overlap between the sense of touch and the sense of hearing.  This might be intuitively obvious, since these highly complex senses are contained within the same body and sensed by the same brain.  According to a posting on Medical Xpress, however, it means the two senses evolved together.
  3. The human animal:  Humans care for animals, therefore they evolved language.  Is that the counter-intuitive explanation by MacGregor Campbell on New Scientist?  Readers can decide what he meant when he said, “Our connection to animals may have been so transformative that it led us to develop skills like language and domestication that ultimately enabled our planet-wide success.”
  4. Wander woman:  Observation: some fossil human teeth of males have more metal than those of females.  Conclusion: “Early hominin women had wanderlust.”  Read the dramatic deduction at New Scientist, where reporter Ferris Jabr swallowed whole the opinions of Sandi Copeland of the Max Planck Institute, including this gem: “contemporary chimpanzee societies could offer a possible explanation for the wanderlust of early hominin women.”'
  5. Blessed autism:  The condition of autism is usually considered a serious problem for those afflicted and their families, but believe it or not, some evolutionary psychologists find blessings in the condition.  Science Daily wrote this headline without choking: “Autism May Have Had Advantages in Humans' Hunter-Gatherer Past, Researcher Believes.” A psychologist at USC thinks individuals with autism were better hunter-gatherers.  It was not stated whether Jared Reser surveyed modern hunters for their opinions, or even if so, whether a deduction would be possible about unobservable ancestors.
  6. Skunk stunk:  Just-so story alert: “How the skunk got its stripes” is the subject of an article on Science Daily.  Ted Stankowich at U Massachusetts Amherst believes the white stripes offer a warning to predators.  Of course, any explanation is going to be plagued by counter-examples such as porcupines.  The USC team offered a composite explanation: “They found that the evolution of boldly colored body patterns was best explained by body length, habitat openness, anal spray ability and burrowing behavior,” but did not offer which factors, or in what proportions, provide necessary or sufficient conditions to explain the patterns.
  7. Creepy crawly:  Why do spiders have eight legs?  Just-so story alert #2: National Geographic tells us that “spiders evolved spare legs” so that they could get by with six if predators chewed them out. Kids may wonder whey they didn’t evolve spare arms to be able to continue playing baseball if a bear bites off one arm.  Insects have six legs; can they get by with four? Researchers in France made their deduction based on experiments with spiders missing legs in the lab, but it’s not clear they discovered a law of nature that is free of numerous exceptions in the animal world.
  8. Thank me lucky charms: Keep your rabbit’s foot.  Evolutionists are telling us that superstitions actually make evolutionary sense.  PhysOrg described “Evolutionary reasons for believing in luck” by first admitting that the superstition at first glance would appear maladaptive, but then cited a Canadian pair who found something good in believing things that are false.  Another scientist had a few qualms over their model, “elegant as he thinks it is.”
  9. Mammoth problem:  Evolutionists are having a “mammoth problem – sorting out mammoth evolution” now that woolly mammoths and Columbia mammoths are thought to have been interfertile.  That’s especially surprising since “differences between the species have long been considered as unique adaptations to the environments where they evolved.”  The mitochondrial DNA between the two is indistinguishable, researchers at McMaster University found.  Interfertility cannot help evolution explain the origin of these species, but evolution was given explanatory priority throughout the article on PhysOrg.
  10. Ancient armorLive Science calls this observation a “mystery” that “puzzles scientists,” yet evolutionary explanation won out anyway.  Some unknown kind of spiny covering was detected on an unknown organism said to be 700 million years old found in Alaska.  One suggestion was that it was an early form of armor to protect from predators, but predators are not known from that period in the evolutionary timeline.

Sometimes evolutionists take credit for findings that their opponents used as evidence against evolution.  Jonathan Wells argued in Icons of Evolution that Haeckel’s faked embryo drawings ignored the fact that embryonic development follows an hourglass-shaped timeline: animal embryos begin very different, then converge toward a similar appearance, then diverge again.  PhysOrg has now acknowledged this fact, but still championed evolution in spite of what appears to be a falsification: how could evolution explain such a pattern?  Darwin himself had considered embryonic recapitulation the best example of his theory, the idea that embryos seem to retrace their evolutionary ancestry.

The article even admitted that Haeckel’s theory has “long since been debunked,” and further admitted that the evolution of developmental patterns remains unsolved.  But evolution triumphed over the observations again, even though a study at the RIKEN Center in Kobe found “striking support for the hourglass model” – opposite the predictions of Darwin and Haeckel that embryos should begin similar and then diverge, producing a cone-shaped timeline. 

One of the researchers was baffled.  “It is puzzling for me how vertebrate embryos established differences in early developmental stages while conserving the mid-embryonic stages,” said Naoko Irie. “It’s obvious that later developmental stages will not exist if earlier stages fail to develop successfully.”  What to do?  An appeal to futureware rescued Darwinism from the jaws of defeat.  Irie ended optimistically, “We would like to go down to the level of tissues and primordial organs to find which structures have been conserved during evolution.”

One encouraging sign is that more readers seem to be mocking the evolutionary just-so stories in the comments.  They usually get shouted down by Darwin bigots (some with terrible spelling and no sense of history or philosophy) with appeals to the science/faith dichotomy, as in “Keep faith in the church, and leave science to the scientists.”  Learn how to answer that package of false dichotomy, glittering generalities and loaded words and you can send the bigots packing.

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