Evolutionary Explanations Add Illogic to Speculation
Some evolutionary explanations may sound reasonable until you do the accounting from Darwin’s explanatory resources.
Sealing their fate: An article on seal (pinniped) evolution on Science Daily seems to give a straightforward account of why some species exhibit sexual dimorphism – large disparities between male and female body types. Many seals, for instance, have large, dominant males who battle for control of their harems. But can that fact have anything to do with climate change?
A new study using the fossil record establishes that sexual dimorphism in pinnipeds, marked by harem-like behavior, arose around 27 million years ago in association with changing climatic conditions. Taken in the modern context of climate change, this research has major implications for the future of the species.
The problem with the explanation is that a cause as broad as climate change should affect many more kinds of animals than pinnipeds. And if seals are particularly prone to climate-generated sexual dimorphism, why do some species of seals exhibit it, and others do not? Why would climate make the males large and dominant, but never the females? The explanation appears vacuous when one realizes that temperature (climate) has no causative power; it just is. Since the theory could explain opposite results with equal ease, it really explains nothing at all.
Yet the article praises Thomas Cullen, a graduate of Carleton University, for making a “discovery” about pinnipeds that was published in the journal Evolution. He apparently found an association between one fossil (presumed “ancestral”) that might show sexual dimorphism with estimates in evolutionary time of when the climate changed over an imagined period of 7 million years. As philosophers are quick to point out, correlation is not causation. Here’s how Cullen reasoned:
Once Cullen and his team addressed the question of when sexual dimorphism in pinnipeds evolved, he was able to turn to the question of why it happened.”Our interpretation is that these changes were happening at a time when Earth was experiencing major climate and ocean circulation changes. Harem colonies were likely located at ocean upwelling sites that concentrate nutrients in otherwise nutrient-poor water. We think that this environmental factor, this concentration of large numbers of pinnipeds into one area, pressured them into developing the harem mating system and sexual dimorphism.”
It’s not clear, though, why concentrated populations should make males big and females small. Presumably it could lead to equality, or reduced fecundity. If the evidence pointed that way, would Cullen admit to being falsified? Unlikely; he could probably explain the opposite case with equal ease, appealing to evolutionary theory. Nevertheless, he leaped from this highly speculative “explanation” into politics, worrying that today’s “climate change” might pressure modern seals toward sexual dimorphism:
“Climate change today appears to be having an effect on the Arctic and Antarctic more than on the temperate and equatorial latitudes. Most Arctic and Antarctic pinnipeds aren’t really sexually dimorphic, and we think this is because the water in those areas is quite nutrient rich. The pinnipeds there didn’t have that selection pressure to form harem behavior because of the wide availability of nutrients. Going forward, if the effect of climate change is increased water temperature in the Arctic and Antarctic, it would suggest that the nutrient levels will be reduced. This could put more pressure on pinnipeds in the polar regions areas to form colonies and, as a result, harem behavior.”
For one thing, Cullen doesn’t make it clear why we should be worried about it, even if he is right. Before “climate change” became a political football, there have been dimorphic species and non-dimorphic species in the same environments. Monogamous birds whose males and females look alike live alongside ungulates who maintain harems. This undermines the suggestion that climate is a “cause” of dimorphism. Additionally, is Cullen sneaking in some morality into the picture, suggesting that it would be “bad” if seals are driven toward dimorphism? If evolution produces both outcomes, what’s the problem?
Any way you look at Cullen’s evolutionary “explanation,” therefore, it is speculative and illogical. He stacks a big explanatory burden on one fossil, of doubtful date that is not indisputable evidence of dimorphism to begin with. Yet Cullen goes on to trumpet his “discovery” as a triumph of Darwinian theory:
Cullen’s research presents some of the earliest evidence in marine mammals of what Charles Darwin wrote about when positing his theories of sexual selection in evolution. There has been a relative lack of new data on sexual dimorphism in the fossil record until now.
“This paper shows that the fossil record can be really useful in answering evolutionary questions that could otherwise not be addressed,” says Cullen. “It also shows that a combination of modern and fossil analysis is crucial to thoroughly addressing evolutionary problems. We were really lucky to have access to a specimen of this nature.”
Evolutionary puzzle solved! PhysOrg celebrated how researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute succeeded in “Solving an evolutionary puzzle” – how some small fish in New Bedford Harbor developed resistance to PCBs. The explanation? The little fish, named killifish, lost a function:
Normally when fish are exposed to harmful chemicals, the body steps up production of enzymes that break down the pollutants, a process controlled by the AHR2 protein. Some of the PCBs are not broken down in this way, and their continued stimulation of AHR2 disrupts cellular functions, leading to toxicity. In the New Bedford Harbor killifish, the AHR2 system has become resistant to this effect.
“The killifish have managed to shut down the pathway,” said Mark Hahn, a biologist at WHOI and coauthor of the paper. “It’s an example of how some populations are able to adapt to changes in their environment—a snapshot of evolution at work.”
Losing functions is not going to help Darwinism in the long run. It’s like the merchant who lost money on every sale but hoped to make it up in volume. Here, a complex system involving enzymes was shut down; nothing new was innovated by a Darwinian process. This case is reminiscent of what Ken Ham said in his recent debate (2/05/14); he recalled a teacher giving a prime example of “evolution at work” in the case of cave fish going blind. No logic can support a theory that accounts for all the advances in organismal complexity by a series of retreats, or by breaking complex systems that already exist.
Being fair to spite: Another example of a speculative evolutionary explanation with dangling logical lapses was published on Live Science, “Fairness May Have Evolved from Spite.” Right off the bat, we see hedging of bets: it “may have evolved” this way. A reader is thus granted permission to respond, “Then again, it may not have” (see 2/19/14). Staff evolutionist Stephanie Pappas, who routinely justifies various sexual perversions on evolutionary grounds (e.g., 2/14/13), here used a Tufts University study to turn “negative” spite into a “positive” evolutionary force for good:
The study is based on a theoretical model, not human experiments, but it opens up the possibility that fairness evolved not out of Kumbaya-style cooperation, but out of a need to get by when others act spiteful. In an economic game, the study found, fair behavior evolved in order to survive in an environment where spiteful players thrived.
America’s illustrious AAAS chimed in with a rhetorical question, “Did Fairness Evolve from Spite?” The default response should be, “No, until you prove it.”
Once again, though, this “suggestion” did not provide a Darwinian explanation. It did not tie a genetic mutation in the gametes to the trait, and then account for the trait’s spread by population genetics. Did spite happen by chance, or by design? If humans (or animals) started acting spiteful, how did that happen by unguided natural processes? Did a cosmic ray hit the sperm of a male, turning his offspring toward a propensity for spitefulness? Was that morally wrong? The articles contain a subtext that spite is bad, and fairness is good. That’s a moral judgment that Christians can understand, but it has no place in Darwinian theory. Yet “evolution” is offered throughout as the explanation for the origin of fairness. Science Magazine speculates recklessly:
Though they warn against generalizing to humans, the researchers point out that if fairness is the basis for a moral society, then paradoxically, spite may have played a role in the evolution of morality.
That statement makes no sense in Darwinian theory. Even if these behaviors are somehow tied to genetic mutations and natural selection, there is no way for Darwinism to predict that fairness would arise in the first place, or persist, or become dominant. There are certainly no grounds for judging spitefulness to be immoral. The whole explanation is speculative and theoretical, derived from “game theory,” not empirical observation and tests. It’s also reductionist, taking the wind out of any moral judgment humans might make in law or public policy. It reduces everything to games of winners and losers, not right and wrong.
Left hanging: Lucy Fiske made an observation that was hard to fit into her understanding of human nature, if fairness or altruism are products of blind, unguided natural contingencies. PhysOrg reported her observing Indonesians willing to travel some distance to act as human shields against terrorists. In “A rare insight into human kindness,” she said, “I was really moved by stories they told me about helping each other … It is more of a goodwill story than I expected because of the care from Indonesians.” If evolutionary theory was any help explaining her emotional response to this observation, she didn’t mention it.
If we can accomplish one thing here, it is to help readers see through the phony triumphalism of the Darwin Party, a group of phonies who pretend to represent “science” that must be protected in the schools. OK, then, look at their explanations. What are they? They are speculative, illogical, vacuous stories pretending to be scientific explanations. Darwinians can’t even remain true to their own theory, let alone account for the origin of fish, seals, and human beings. Study these examples to see how they ply their trade in divination: using a questionable fossil to spin a tale about millions of years, using a breakdown to support a theory of innovation, using what they know to be a moral evil to weave a story about the origin of moral goodness. You don’t have to be a Christian to condemn this. It’s pure nonsense on its face. If you respect true science, how can you endure this? Everyone should be laughing out loud, not honoring these people as the receptacles of wisdom.
Darwinians are the modern mesmers, captivating the weak-minded with silly notions. They are the charlatans, the pretenders, the hoodwinkers. Don’t drink the Darwine! It’s snake oil, turning the drinker’s cerebral cortex into oatmeal, putting a silly grin on his face, making him believe he is a champion of science and reason. The “explainers” in the above stories are themselves Darwinoholics. They are drunk on Charlie’s “zombie idea,” expressing “irrational exuberance” over what? Nonsense, non-science, non-sentience. Don’t be captivated by their siren song. Instead, be a taker of captives (2 Corinthians 10:5).