August 21, 2013 | David F. Coppedge

Survival of the Weakest

If “sometimes it pays to be a weakling,” what does that mean for 154 years of Darwinian teaching about survival of the fittest?  What does it mean, further, when sexual selection doesn’t work?

Natural selection works, except when it doesn’tScience Now teased with the shocking headline, “Sometimes it pays to be a weakling.”  The article discussed rams and their big horns.  Decades of study are now showing that while the rams with the biggest horns tend to win mates, they die younger; the weaker ones with stubby horns have enough offspring to maintain their genes in the population.  So there’s a tradeoff; “Horn length has opposite effects on reproduction and survival,” one author of a new study explained.  This tradeoff affects more than just sheep:

Pondering the peacock’s elaborate plumage, the father of evolutionary biology, Charles Darwin, proposed that the drive for sex—and for producing offspring—was a powerful force in evolution. Fending off potential rivals or vying for a female’s attention has driven males to be ever more extremebigger, stronger, more colorful. This process, called sexual selection, should also affect the genes, so that only versions of genes that lead to these enhanced qualities should exist. But this isn’t what happens in the real world. There are plenty of small, weak males among the supermen.

Sexual selection works, except when it doesn’t:  Another article on Science Now cuts away at the other “selection” pillar of Darwinism, sexual selection. “Forget plumage; birds sniff out good mates,” the headline shouts.  As shown in a previous article, female peahens don’t even look at all those fancy feathers on the peacock (7/30/13).  Now, another study on birds says that it’s smell, not looks, that attracts the females: “bird odor was a more reliable predictor of reproductive success than a male’s size or his plumage.”  Do the males just grow all those ornaments for fun?  Why would sexual or natural selection drive the extremes of ornamentation, if they really don’t make that big a difference to reproductive success?

Spider fandango:   A cute and humorous case of male ornamentation and behavior was posted on Live Science about jumping spiders in Australia called peacock spiders.  These little guys can dance!  Only 4 mm in size, the males might have been overlooked but for photographer Jürgen Otto, who has patiently documented their mating rituals.  The male sports a vividly colored tail flap that, “once unfurled, resembles an abstract Indian blanket of intense color,” which he shakes in a rapid courtship dance.  Even those who hate spiders will have to admit that the antics of these critters are cute, especially when put to music, as shown in video clips included in the interview.  Asked how this evolved, Otto said, “I am not sure, but it evolved probably in a similar fashion as it did in birds of paradise or peacocks, a result of sexual selection.”

There’s no question that extremes of sexual dimorphism occur in nature; but among other species within the same family or order, the males and females often look similar.  This means that sexual selection, if it works at all, is not a universal principle in biology.  Is it useful, then?  Try that with any other explanation.  “I’m a good student except when I’m not.”  “I can answer any question except the ones I don’t know the answer to.”  “I tell the truth except when I lie.”  This is the kind of science bequeathed to us by Charles Darwin.  Are we better off with his legacy?  Send that charlatan back on the boat.



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  • lux113 says:

    I’m ultimately surprised by the way scientists throw around theories without deeply considering the implications.

    It’s not exactly related to this story.. but I always think of the stick bug. The bug has near perfect camouflage, making it look almost identical to the tree it’s on. Evolution would tell us that over a sequence of many, many minute changes this insect developed it’s camo by simply the level of survival it provided. That’s all well and good, except evolution doesn’t know what it’s trying for. Just how many pear shaped and peanut shaped and other random forms would have to have genetically mutated before it happened upon a form that was beneficial camouflage? I’m no statistician.. but I’d say a lot. Millions? Billions? Wouldn’t it be up there with winning the lotto? Trial and error is a very cruel creator.. where are the vast assortments of stick bugs? Are we really to expect that they all died out? Every single one? And then what the evolutionist must remember.. is that once the insect has say reached a halfway point to his perfect camouflage all that progress could be lost – the next mutation may be detrimental again – because we have to remember that evolution doesn’t know what it is trying for.. it just tries and if it works it works. Those who support the theory don’t seem to grasp that without a guiding principle other than simply “survival” there’s no reason a person would gain a stub that would be an arm.. then say – start working on an eye on that stub.. then mutate the parts of a stinging tail like protuberance.. it has no idea what it wants..

    It’s frustrating.. if they only knew how preposterous the whole thing is. If we only had the opportunity to watch nature built from the bottom up by a mindless creator as they describe, we could then put this to rest. Unfortunately.. if nature functioned that way, we wouldn’t be here to document the process

  • lux113 says:

    One more comment… (and sorry about the lack of proofreading in the previous one)

    I have another serious argument against the “selection” process of evolution I’d like to sort of donate here.

    It’s called “All changes are not make or break”.

    By Darwinist standards all changes are the result of mutation and natural selection, and when they say “all changes” that would mean every single one. Here’s the problem though, all changes aren’t make or break. If every change is the result of mutation then that means every one of them.. ear lobes, eye lashes, whatever. The problem is that if we had two lines of humans.. one with ear lobes and one without.. there is no survival advantage to the one over the other. This would result in two distinct lines of the species – one with and one without. Considering a wide variety of our morphological changes are like that, have no net effect on survival or if so a minimal effect, then this would lead to vast numbers of lineages all with slight differences. Enough so that it would be difficult to determine what exactly our species was. There would not be a generally uniform definition of a human.. it would be very vague.

    That’s just one argument.. I’ve got dozens more. Evolution doesn’t work without a guiding process.

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