Weekend Entertainment: Evolutionary Just-So Stories
When you see a science headline in the form “How the …. got its ….” prepare for a laugh. Now, even some evolutionists are laughing.
How the Daffodil Got Its Trumpet: That’s the literal headline on Science Daily. Answer: it’s not a modified petal, “as previously thought.” (Since it looks like a petal, “it’s easy to see why this was believed for so long.“) Instead, the daffodil took a stamen, the male pollen-producing organ, and twisted it into a trumpet.
How the Rhinoceros Beetle Got Its Horns: Kipling could hardly be more creative than the plot told by Live Science. Since it was found that the horns don’t interfere with the bugs’ flight, the bugs were free to develop their horns into elaborate ornaments to attract mates. “Because the horns don’t impair the beetles’ ability to fly, they might be unconstrained by natural selection,” a grad student at U of Montana said, working on his storytelling skills, armed with the creative powers of Darwin’s “stuff happens” law (9/15/2008). Here’s his youthful attempt: the beetle said, “Mate with me! I’m so healthy I can support a totally useless appendage!”
How the Hippie Used Flower Power: Helen Pilcher wove an elaborate tale on New Scientist trying to explain “How flower power paved the way for our evolution.” The upshot: flowering plants attracted bugs. Bugs attracted hominids, inspiring them to develop hands for swatting them, teeth for munching them, and binocular vision for seeing them. “The primates evolved grabbing hands and feet, and digits with nails and sensitive pads that helped them to move around these fine branches and manipulate the food there.” Did they evolve those things on purpose?
How One Insect Got Its Wings: Switch on a fruit fly gene, get a wing. It’s simple, according to Science Daily. “The events could be responsible for this big event in evolutionary history, when the insect got its wing.” This must be the truth. Switch off that gene, and the fly doesn’t get a wing. Does that mean it’s no longer a “fly”?
How the Tarsier Got Its Bulging Eyes: The better to see you with, my darling. Those bulging eyes “shed light on evolution of human vision,” according to PhysOrg. This just-so story replaces an earlier “prevailing view” about the origin of tricolor vision—the notion that it “evolved only after they started getting up with the sun, a shift that gave rise to anthropoid (higher) primates, which, in turn, gave rise to the human lineage.” But isn’t it odd that tarsiers, which are only active at night, have such good daytime-adapted color vision? Thus the new story: “These contradictory lines of evidence led the authors to suggest that early tarsiers were instead adapted to dim light levels, such as twilight or bright moonlight,” the story goes. “These light conditions were dark enough to favor large eyes but still bright enough to support trichromatic color vision.”
How the Killer Cells Made Humans What They Are Today: Natural killer cells were “vital” to human evolution, according to a just-so story published by Medical Xpress. The photo of Laetoli footprints adds to the mystery. Once upon a time, genetic bottlenecks threatened human ancestors migrating out of Africa. Two professors “suggest that modern humans mated with archaic humans such as Neanderthals, which re-introduced receptor diversity and thus improved the survival rates of individuals carrying genes from these genetically divergent parents.”
How the Fish Got Its Butt Fin: An unusual “anal fin” on a fossil fish has the science media speculating, working up the just-so story to explain it. According to Live Science, one storyteller said, “Rather than gradual acquisition of complex characteristics, maybe there was a bit more experimentation and odd acquisitions.” Science Daily, promising “new insight into evolution” in its headline, got into full Kipling mode with this quote: “It’s not clear why the fins are positioned so far back on the fish, or what advantage they might have provided. However, they do show that our early vertebrate ancestors tried out lots of different body plans before settling on two arms and two legs. If they hadn’t then our bodies would have looked very different!” And that, children, is how a fossil fin on a fish’s butt “shed more light” on our evolution.
Laugh Out Loud
Considering the recklessness of many “adaptationist” stories that “misuse” evolution, a festival is being schedueld at MIT to laugh at evolutionary just-so stories. Called the “BAH!” Festival (Bad Ad-Hoc Hypotheses), the event was sold out and promises to be an ongoing event. A cartoon on the festival page illustrates the problem: an evolutionists suggests that babies are shaped like footballs and need to be burped because early human ancestors punted them like footballs from village to village. According to the website, “The Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses (BAH!) is a celebration of well-argued and thoroughly researched but completely incorrect evolutionary theory.” Live Science calls it “Survival of the Funniest.” Seven lectures will amuse listeners with “internally coherent, even convincing — but ultimately hilariously absurd — explanations of evolutionary adaptation” and “ludicrous conclusions supported by careful evolutionary explanations.”
Pure satire, the festival is intended, first of all, to make people laugh. But, like most good satire, the event also pokes fun at a real issue, in this case, the misuse of evolutionary theory.
The major criticism for evolutionary theorists is hyperadaptationism, “over-the-top” evolutionary ideas that try to explain too many of an organism’s features as adaptations….
Taking part in the festival “shows an awareness of the issue and the ability to joke about it and understand it,” ….
Case in point: the “aquatic ape” hypothesis (a proposed period of sea-going humanity) was used to explain human hairlessness, taste for seafood and enjoyment of swimming. “Clearly, it’s crazy” a festival organizer said, even though it was presented in all seriousness and offered as the “best contender” for a phenomenon lacking a good story (see 9/22/09, #7).
Isn’t it great that evolutionists are starting to laugh at themselves? Help them out! LOL (laugh out loud) and wish them LOL (lots of luck).
If winners of the BAH! Festival are announced, we will try to inform you here.
BAH BAH quack cheap, have you any fool?
Yes sir, yes sir at the BAH Festival.
One for the Master (Darwin),
One for the dame (science teacher)
One for the little boy
Who learns it in the lane.
BAH humbug, can’t take it any more;
Gone to Seattle to get the true score.