Evolutionists: Give Us Your Best Shot
News reporters often shout evolutionary evidence with chutzpah. Let’s call their bluff.
Microevolutionary evidence: The eyes have it (PhysOrg): Reporter Steve Powell seems confident that the tiny freshwater crustacean Daphnia puts the intelligent design movement’s notion of “irreducible complexity” on the run. He argues that a new paper vindicates Charles Darwin’s theory that even very complex organs can emerge gradually.
For a beholder who is an evolutionary biologist, the eye is has [sic] long been a fascinating puzzle because of the many parts that must seamlessly work together for the whole to work properly. Biologists have addressed the question of ocular evolution with comparisons between different species, or macroevolutionary studies, and shown how the evolutionary process can be broken down into discrete steps through which a simple light-sensitive cell can evolve into a complex, multicomponent eye through adaptation.
Evidence please? Coming right up! “The correlation was clear: an increase in eye diameter of 20 micrometers, which is about one standard deviation of the mean diameter, translated into about one more egg beyond the average of about six.” There you have it; if the eye gets about 20 millionths of a meter bigger, that creature (sometimes) gets one more egg. Finally! “The study provides a quantitative foundation for eye microevolution where it had been lacking,” the author boasts. Wait—what did he just say? After 156 years since Darwin’s book, quantitative evidence was lacking till today. But think of the implications!
“The macroevolutionary approach shows differences in eyes that are much larger, that are big jumps compared to what we looked at,” he says. “We were looking at the question, ‘Are there tiny little steps that connect the big jumps?’ And what we found was, there were.”
No ID person was permitted to offer rebuttal, but it’s hard to imagine them being impressed with the data offered, or thinking the conclusion is justified.
Lungfishes are not airheads (PhysOrg): What could be a more obvious transitional form than a lungfish? It’s a fish, but it has lungs, like land animals. “Lungfishes have a massive evolutionary history,” this article boasts, but on closer inspection, we find there are fewer species now than there used to be. Evolutionists are now claiming that lungfishes are closer to tetrapods than coelacanths are. Coelacanths, the famous living fossils, used to be offered as proof of evolution, but this article cautions researchers not to make too much of brain size when making evolutionary inferences. “There’s a lot we still don’t know about the closest-living relatives of all tetrapods,” the article says, so keep the funding coming (see “Seek Funding Added to Scientific Method” on The Onion).
Our closest wormy cousins: About 70% of our genes trace their ancestry back to the acorn worm (Science Daily): This claim, also touted by Live Science and Nature, makes a big deal of similarities in genes between acorn worm genes and human genes. Acorn worms are members of hemichordata, a phylum that first appeared during the Cambrian explosion. It’s an early deuterostome (a fancy word meaning two holes—mouth and anus). But does this level of similarity prove Darwinian evolution? For one thing, it doesn’t explain how the acorn worm got 14,000 new genes for new cell types, tissues and organs without predecessors, nor why those genes persisted for 550 million years. For another, it’s to be expected that animals on the same planet have many of the same needs, such as for digestion, nervous systems and tissue development, so it’s not surprising that all animal genes overlap substantially. Finally, Evolution News & Views remarked that we share many genes with lettuce, but that doesn’t make us part salad. Look at Nature‘s last comment revealing lack of evolution over 500 million Darwin years:
The conservation of so many features across deuterostome genomes, which is brought into sharp focus with Simakov and colleagues’ addition of hemichordate genome sequences, reinforces the fact that radical morphological changes are not necessarily related to radical changes in genomes. This fact will shape the search for which of the variable features of deuterostome genomes are responsible for the great diversity we see across the group.
Coming out of their evolutionary shells (PhysOrg): This is a similar genetic comparison between turtles and humans, with similar problems. “One of the wonders of evolutionary innovation in animals is the turtle shell, which differs from any other reptilian defense adaptation, giving up teeth or venom in exchange for an impenetrable shield.” It shouldn’t be surprising that the turtle’s EDC genes, responsible for some hard parts in many animals, get used for shell construction. “Remarkably, the basic organization of the EDC gene cluster is shared between turtles and humans due to inheritance from a common ancestor that lived approximately 310 million years ago.” This is circular reasoning; the assumption of evolution is offered as evidence for evolution.
Missing link between dinosaur nests and bird nests (Science): Waving the loaded phrase “missing link,” Science writes, “Whereas some dinosaurs buried their eggs crocodile-style, a new analysis suggests that other dinosaurs built open nests on the ground, foreshadowing the nests of birds.” This is an empty claim based purely on circumstantial evidence (actually, just the porosity of some eggshells based on fossils), providing neither a genetic mutation linked to a phenotype, nor evidence of a lineage to birds.
Gekko japonicus genome reveals evolution of adhesive toe pads and tail regeneration (Nature Communications): We have here what appears to be the emergence of an innovation: adhesive toe pads in some geckos, those wondrous microscopic structures that engineers want to copy to allow humans to climb walls. The authors present evidence of gene duplications in beta-keratin genes that became adapted as setae in gecko toes:
The emergence of novel lineage-specific morphological features is always accompanied with genes duplications [sic] and diversions. A prominent example is the large-scale duplication of β-keratin genes that has been crucial to the evolution of scales, claws, beaks and feathers in reptiles and birds. The emergence of setae in geckos also resulted from the duplication and diversion of β-keratin genes.
The authors are confident that “The obtained genomic data provide robust genetic evidence of adaptive evolution in reptiles.” Once again, though, the evidence is circumstantial and limited. The presence of keratin genes does not organize them into setae with spatulae that can cling to walls. Many buildings use concrete but not all of them have Mount Rushmore faces. Why shouldn’t geckos possess the same genes that birds use for claws, or humans use for fingernails, but for purposes that fit their lifestyle needs? The authors make a big deal out of the fact that the toe pads use beta-keratin, but ignore the genetic information required to organize that keratin into microscopic brushes that can make use of atomic forces to cling. They merely claim that this ability evolved. Duplications are assumed just because there are more copies. To attribute this to Darwinian processes is more circular reasoning. They also find some geckos with and without setae. Some humans walk around with and without hair on their heads; is that Darwinian evolution? Maybe some lineages lost their setae. They try to make a case, but it’s spotty: “The expansion period of setae β-keratin genes proposed by this strategy was very close to the period of setae emergence in gecko indicated by fossil evidence,” they say, but provide this caveat: “Of course, the comparative analysis of β-keratin genes expansion is based on only three genomes, and it is not possible to conclude whether the patterns seen in the G. japonicus genome are unique to this species.”
Bivalve family tree offers evolutionary clues (PhysOrg): Cockles and clams! Scientists link these together into a new phylogenetic tree. It sure gave some Florida scientists a burning in the bosom:
Florida State University researchers, along with an international team of scientists, have put together the most complete look to date of the evolutionary family tree of cardiid bivalves, commonly known as cockles and clams.
“As scientists, we’re trying to understand the history of life on earth,” said Scott Steppan, professor of biological science at Florida State. “That is one of our greatest endeavors. I can’t think of anything more innately human than understanding the history of life and where everything came from.“
But if everything came from blind, unguided processes, as Steppan most likely believes, then his own brain is also the result of such processes, casting doubt on his own presumed understanding of anything. As for his evidence, all phylogenetic trees assume evolution, so this is more circular reasoning. To the extent clams have varied within their kind, young-earth creationists are comfortable with that. There’s nothing in the article that demonstrates evolution beyond the created kind.
The origin of the very first species and the start of Darwinian evolution (PhysOrg): This article begins with a cartoony Darwin tree, giving homage to the bearded Buddha who drew that first sacred icon.
Today, some evolutionary researchers believe that the first biological species should already have possessed a relatively functional biochemical apparatus, and were relatively fit – in the Darwinian sense. Yet the components of life probably did not go together so well right from the start. Initially, life presumably existed in the form of a genetically highly mixed collective state in which the biochemistry of individuals functioned in a very rough-and-ready fashion. It seems likely that even unrelated specimens of these early life forms promiscuously exchanged genetic material via horizontal gene transfer during their lifetimes. In Darwinian evolution, however, the dominant form of inheritance from one generation to the next is vertical gene transfer, between generations.
This article never rises beyond storytelling. It ignores the problem of error catastrophe, as if information can be tossed from cell to cell like hot potatoes. It uses the subjective term “fitness” promiscuously (see “Fitness for Dummies,” 10/29/02). It’s a fairy tale for grownups.
Chicken study reveals evolution can happen much faster than thought (Science Daily): This study about ‘paternal leakage’ of mitochondrial DNA is no help to Darwinism. It claims “the speed and dynamism of evolution when observed over short time periods” in the chicken lineage has been 15 times faster than thought. But they’re still chickens.
Insect evolution (Current Biology): There’s no question that insects are among the most diverse organisms on earth. But can all their differences be accounted for by neo-Darwinian mechanisms? They are all members of phylum Arthropoda, which “emerged” with all their specialized organs and parts without any ancestors in the fossil record. Distinguishing microevolution (accepted by creationists) from true innovations just happening by chance mutation is the evolutionist’s challenge, but Michael S. Engel mixes the two. He also assumes evolution produces innovations. “Holometabola include those orders with complete metamorphosis, an innovation that, like flight, was crucial for insectan hegemony,” he claims, glossing over the multitudinous genetic changes required for “one of the most significant events in Animal evolution — the origin of flight.” But insect flight is a complex, multi-system capability just as complex as that in birds. Parse this sentence as he discusses the first flyers: “While the functional morphology of the insect wing is robustly understood, the more abominable mystery has been the origin of the structure itself.” That’s akin to saying, “We understand aircraft wings, but it’s a mystery where they came from.” Engel resorts to the poof spoof of “emergence” frequently, speaking of things that arose, emerged, or developed. As such, this article is a sermon to the Darwin choir. What about fossils? “Tragically, fossils of stem-group hexapods [insects] remain elusive,” he mourns. For reasons why metamorphosis is a challenge to Darwinian mechanisms, see the Illustra documentary Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies.
7-Million-Year-Old Fossils Show How the Giraffe Got Its Long Neck (Live Science): This article is worth taking a serious look at. The long-necked giraffe is so iconic of the contest between Darwin and Lamarck, and is such a unique creature, any fossil that claims to shed light on its evolution demands attention, especially if there’s a fossil “transitional form” in the claim (see also PhysOrg).
The claim relates to a paper in the Royal Society Open Science journal that alleges an evolutionary sequence between the short okapi, the middling Samotherium and the modern long-necked giraffe. Live Science plays up the transition, but watch:
“We actually have an animal whose neck is intermediate [in length] — it’s a real missing link,” said Nikos Solounias, a professor of anatomy at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) College of Osteopathic Medicine and the lead researcher on the study.
The creature in question — Samotherium major —lived during the Late Miocene in the forested areas of Eurasia, ranging from Italy to China, Solounias said.
An ancestor of the giraffe split into two evolutionary branches, one leading to the okapi with its short neck and the other branch leading to the giraffes.
It becomes clear this is not a straight-line transition. Only a few neck vertebrae (C2 and C3) were compared to try to establish the transition. The story is not simple; the four authors do not allege a linear progression between species. They only make inferences made from bits of fossils from various continents of species, some of which are extinct.
Creation speaker and radio co-host Fred Williams wrote a comment at the end of the paper, pointing out that there’s a lot more to explain than just the lengthening of some neck vertebrae:
If the Giraffe neck truly evolved, why no mention of the vastly more difficult problems, such as the incredibly complex blood vessel system that prevents the Giraffe’s head from exploding when it gets a drink of water? When the Giraffe lowers its head, one-way valves in the neck close to prevent the massive 2 ft long heart from bursting the head at the seams. At what point did all these intricate valves “evolve”? When bent over, how does the giraffe not pass out from lack of blood due to the neck valves closing? The “wonder net” of the brain prevents this, but how did that know when to “evolve”? Given its enormous heart and blood pressure, why no problems in the legs of the Giraffe?
The problem list is enormous, instead this study focuses on some vertebrae fossil pieces to try to piece together what truth be told is an impossible story.
For more examples of functional specializations needing explanation, see our previous articles, “Giraffe has supercharged heart” (11/22/09), “Mammals worth looking up to” (07/13/14), and “The physics of long necks” (3/01/15).
Readers interested in more rigor about giraffe evolution may wish to examine the work of Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig and his 2011 book, The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis L.) What do we really know?: Testing the Theories of Gradualism, Macromutation, and Intelligent Design. Lönnig, a long-time biologist at the Max Planck Institute, considers the relevance of Samotherium and other fossils to the proposed phylogeny. You can hear Lönnig discuss his critiques of the evolutionary story on three ID the Future podcasts. See also his personal research page and this article on Evolution News & Views.
Anti-Alzheimer’s gene may have led to the rise of grandparents (Science): We conclude with a curious if not humorous evolutionary claim: Once upon a time, a mutation happened in a human brain, protecting its bearer from dementia. Natural selection preserved this beneficial mutation because it allowed old people (otherwise useless to evolution) to live longer and care for the young. Grandparenting was born. No kidding; this is seriously proposed by America’s leading science journal. The article quotes an evolutionist with a profound misunderstanding of natural selection: “Grandmothers are so important, we even evolved genes to protect their minds.” Did we do that that by intelligent design, or did selfish genes act on a pretense of mind, tricking us into thinking we are thinking? The news media failed to see this contradiction. It was picked up uncritically by Science Daily. Kelli Whitlock Burton at the AAAS begins,
Evolutionarily speaking, we are born to make babies. Our bodies—and brains—don’t fall apart until we come to the end of our child-bearing years. So why are grandmothers, who don’t reproduce and who contribute little to food production, still around and still mentally sound? A new study offers an intriguing genetic explanation.
Science Daily struck a similar tone:
The standard model of natural selection predicts that once the age of reproduction ends, individuals die. That’s because selection early in life strongly favors variants that benefit reproductive success, even at the cost of negative consequences late in life — one major reason we age.
This is the end of evolution: a reduction of human nobility to nothing more than utilization of sex organs as long as they can make babies. If you are past your child-bearing years, you are useless to natural selection. Only a mutation for grandparenting can rescue you. Your hopes, creativity, faith—everything beyond sex that gives your life meaning—is of no value in Darwin’s world. Make babies who have babies who have babies ad infinitum; that’s the only thing that matters in life, according to Burton and the AAAS that published her reductionist, fatalistic, simplistic view of human existence. She apparently never thought to apply that fatalism to her own job of writing science articles.
Do you see why we critique evolution? This last article gives away the ugly truth: you are a worthless piece of junk that is being acted on by chance and a mystical “law” called natural selection (see our Editorial from Oct. 3). All the other articles in this entry are excuses to get to that final verdict. That’s why the creation-evolution debate is not just some side issue of science; it is a fundamental battle of worldviews, with ominous consequences for you, your family, and society.
Well, Darwinians, we gave you lots of air time here to give your best shot. Nice try. We try to be fair with your evidence, but it always becomes clear that the problems outweigh the evidential props gathered to support Darwin’s tale. If we scraped off the assumption of evolution, little would be left.
The theory is discounted on its own premises. Since when did any complex thing, such as an object with controlled, powered flight like a dragonfly, arise by chance? You may as well try to propose your mutation-selection theory in the National Air and Space Museum for how those structures “emerged” by random, blind, purposeless mechanisms. That would actually be easier than accounting for a butterfly, a bird, or a bat.
Creation begins with a necessary and sufficient Cause: a Creator with the desire, power, and integrity to make the universe and life and then tell us what He did. Choose you this day: chance or design, mindlessness or reason, lies or truth, life or death, heaven or hell.