April 13, 2016 | David F. Coppedge

Darwin Can't Win for Losing

Progress must be made with gains, not losses.

Evolutionary biologists like to attribute every change to evolution. Their task, however, is to explain the tremendous rise in complexity from the first replicator to a human brain. Destroying and removing things is not the way to get there.

Implications of lemuriform extinctions for the Malagasy flora (PNAS). ” Using statistical models and morphometric analyses, we demonstrate that the extinction of large-bodied lemurs resulted in a significant reduction in functional morphological space associated with seed dispersal ability.”

Eyeless cave shrimp senses light and can live frozen in ice (New Scientist). It’s pretty neat that a blind cave shrimp can sense some kinds of light and survive frozen in ice. Still, it’s not the first case of living frozen (just the first in a cave environment), and it is a sad situation to lose one’s eyes. Where is a case of an eyeless animal in a cave being introduced to the sunshine and evolving eyes?

Amazing Blind Cavefish Walks Up Rocks and Waterfalls (Live Science). A blind fish in Thailand can struggle up walls of its cave using its fins. Live Science gets excited about how this “could reveal much to scientists about the earliest stages of tetrapod evolution,” but the fins are not legs yet after however long the species has lived in the cave. The eyes, though, have been completely lost.

Research reveals trend in bird-shape evolution on islands (Science Daily). A study claims to support the evolution of flightlessness on islands.

“I would be shocked if a hummingbird or tanager or fruit-dove ever lost the ability to fly entirely,” Wright said. “It’s central to how they make a living. But these birds are still reducing the size of their flight muscles when relief from predators allows them to do so.”

The paper on PNAS celebrates the predictability of evolution on islands. “Islands with fewer predator species were associated with more dramatic shifts toward flightlessness, implicating reduced predation pressure as the most likely cause of this trend,” the summary states. “These predictable evolutionary changes likely exacerbate the vulnerability of flighted island birds to introduced predators and reduce the potential for small-island species to give rise to subsequent radiations.” Yet where are any ecosystems where predators were introduced, and ground birds evolved flight?

Interstellar cloud could have wiped out the dinosaurs (New Scientist). The famous “iridium anomaly” that is supposed to be the smoking gun of the impact that supposedly killed off the dinosaurs may have come instead from Earth’s passage through a giant molecular cloud in the Milky Way, these scientists suggest. If so, it’s a double loss: loss for a popular theory, and loss for the dinosaurs.

Planets stripped bare by host stars (BBC News). The theory of evolution is not purely about biological change. It’s an entire worldview package encompassing the entire cosmos, from big bang to galaxy evolution, to stellar evolution, to planetary evolution, to the origin of life and biological evolution. This article, based on a paper in Nature Communications (“Hot super-Earths stripped by their host stars”) doesn’t help super-Earths hoping to grow their own evolutionary trees.

Co-author Dr Guy Davies, from the University of Birmingham, said: “For these planets it is like standing next to a hairdryer turned up to its hottest setting.

“There has been much theoretical speculation that such planets might be stripped of their atmospheres. We now have the observational evidence to confirm this, which removes any lingering doubts over the theory.”

You can’t win a race by running backwards.

Observational science: degeneration, de-evolution, and extinction. Evolutionary hope: steady progress up the tree of life. Don’t ask the storytellers about evolution. Ask the blind cave fish.

 

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Comments

  • Gary says:

    “Where is a case of an eyeless animal in a cave being introduced to the sunshine and evolving eyes?”

    Not to say it can’t happen! Some of the findings relating to epigenetics could yet turn me into a follower of Lamarck. Perhaps God designed the DNA and whole inheritance system to be sensitive in various ways to environmental factors. The more we learn about DNA, the more remarkable it becomes. If the eyeless animal became such by a change to a dark environment, then perhaps introduction of light could reverse the epigenetic switch to reactivate the genes responsible for eye development. Perhaps it would take more than one generation to accomplish this feat. Just a thought.

  • John C says:

    Gary,
    I believe I understand what you are saying, but if the eyeless animal was returned to the light “reactivating genes” is still working with material that is already there. You are dealing with genetic robusticity, just in a new way of expressing it, not new information, which is what evolution requires.There’s no evolution in your what-if..

  • lux113 says:

    So let’s see if I got this… in places where animals use their muscles less — they have smaller muscles?

    I’ve been noticing this evolution here at my house — I exercise less than my roommate.. and I have not ‘evolved’ muscles… while my roommate who does exercise HAS “evolved” muscles.

    I would wager that if he spent a life of exercising his genes would carry over a larger musculature to his children. We’ve found a lot of evidence of these types of genetic changes — families in famines carry over weaker genes to their progeny, for example. But, of course, I would expect it to carry over about 7 generations — since that’s what the Bible states about ‘the sins of the father’.

  • lux113 says:

    Sorry, correction, Biblically speaking all references are to the third or fourth generation. I’m not sure where I got the other?

  • Gary says:

    After reading a recent research paper by Jeanson and Lisle (see https://answersingenesis.org/natural-selection/speciation/on-the-origin-of-eukaryotic-species-genotypic-and-phenotypic-diversity/) in Answers Research Journal, I conclude that my comment above may demonstrate a lack of understanding of the role of epigenetics in inheritance. Very interesting research paper, by the way!

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