March 27, 2019 | Jerry Bergman

Living Fossil Giant Bee Challenges Evolution

Describing insects fossilized in amber is a matter of observable fact. Describing how they “evolved” is storytelling.

 

Big Bees Challenge Evolution: Explaining the Role of Just-so-Stories

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

Darwinists picture evolution as a tree with a thick trunk and numerous branches extending up and outward. This tree represents evolution from one life form at the base of the tree evolving into something else, then the descendents branching out into the limbs and tips in a process of “descent with modification.” Every one of the estimated millions of life forms that have lived on earth up to the present day, including us, came from this single trunk, evolutionists teach. New fossil discoveries are indeed supporting a branching tree like evolution – but they are producing an upside down tree! Many life forms are found near the base of the tree and, due to extinction, fewer are found as we move up the tree. These new discoveries include many thousands of extinct animals, documenting the fact that many more life forms existed in the past and fewer exist today. The picture is opposite what Darwin envisioned, supporting instead the Genesis creation account of an early biosphere much more diverse than ours today.

Recently, one more of many thousands of “living fossils” thought to be extinct was discovered alive and well. This new species was a giant bee that had a wing span of 6 cm and “fierce mandibles.”[1] Enormously large insects, such as dragonflies, have been discovered in the fossil record, many exquisitely preserved in amber or in fossil impressions in rock. The “giant dragonflies” are called ‘griffin flies’ or Meganisopterans, an extinct family of insects. All were larger than today’s dragonflies and damselflies. The very largest of these was Meganeuropsis. Fossils of this huge insect were first described by Frank Carpenter in 1939. The wing of this fossil was, and still is, exhibited in the Comparative Zoology Museum at Harvard University.

Evolutionary Just-so-Stories

An article in New Scientist, Britain’s premiere general science magazine, cautioned, when researching the evolution of life, “beware [of] evolutionary just-so-stories.”[2] Just So Stories is the title of a 1902 collection of fanciful origin stories by the British author Rudyard Kipling. This classic of children’s literature is among Kipling’s best-known works. The fictional stories include such tales as how leopards got their spots, how camels got humps, and how zebras got their stripes. In one example, the elephant got its snout as a result of a tug-of-war fight that stretched his originally short trunk into the size it is today. The long trunk was presumably inherited by all the elephant’s descendants, perhaps as a version of Lamarckism, which was widely discussed back then.

The expression “just-so-stories” today is used to describe similar stories that lack a factual basis. It was popularized by the late Harvard University Professor Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), famous for putting science into layman’s terms. A paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science, Gould was one of the most influential and widely-read authors of popular science in the last century. He was also well-known for his unusual honesty about the major problems with evolution, for which he was condemned by some orthodox evolutionists (and frequently quoted by Darwin skeptics). His critics included some of the leading evolutionists alive today, Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett.[3]

The Living Fossil Big Bee

Every now and then one of these ancient giant insects is discovered to be still living today. An example is the world’s largest bee, Megachile pluto, which was recently rediscovered on an Indonesian island. The bee, which grows up to an inch and a half long and has a wingspan of 2.5 inches, is roughly four times larger than a honeybee. Morphologically, it is clearly a bee, and yet it is very different from all of the bees we are familiar with, especially the honeybee. Called a living fossil, it has very large un-bee like mandibles that resemble those of a stag beetle. The bee uses its large mandibles to scrape sticky tree resin and wood off trees. It then uses the resin as glue to build burrows within—of all places—termite nests. The female bees use the nest to raise their young, just like honeybees use their beehives to rear their young. [4] Like other bees, Megachile feeds on nectar and pollen.

Reported widely by the press, this find created an interest in the enormous variety of insect life on earth. Unfortunately, labels such as “primitive” are often applied by evolutionary scientists and reporters to describe life assumed to have existed eons ago, but this ancient bee was anything than primitive. It had as complex a body and brain as modern insects have.  How do we know this? The answer lies in the way they were preserved.

Amber as a Time Capsule

Thousands of insects have been preserved in amber (hardened tree resin). Many look nearly identical to what they looked like when they were first entombed in the sticky amber glob which eventually turns into a hard shell.[5] Inside amber, entire organisms are enclosed into crystal time capsules that appear to stop time, giving scientists windows into past ecological systems. Even the details of wing structure, including the fine filament structures that make up the wing support system, are effectively preserved in exquisite detail.[6]

Amber is not tree sap, but rather is hardened plant resin. The resin is a semi-solid amorphous organic substance secreted in pockets and canals through epithelial cells of the tree. Plants secrete resins for their protective benefits in response to injury. As part of the tree repair system, resin also protects the plant from harmful insects and pathogens.[7]  This aromatic resin oozes from the tree and flows down the tree trunk, filling external fissures, while at the same time trapping seeds, feathers and insects. Some of the resin oozes out of trees, trapping debris such as leaves and bacteria.[8] The hardened resin becomes buried and is fossilized by a natural polymerization of the original organic compounds.

Fact and Fiction

The fossil record the amber produces is unambiguous: no evidence of body or even wing evolution exists. All insects entombed in amber, or having left impressions in the rock fossil record, already had fully developed functional wings. The description of fossils in amber is not a just-so-story. In the current case, the descriptive details about the giant bee Megachile, its body and its habitat, are also not just-so-stories, but are observable facts. The tales told about evolution of wings “from an unknown ancestor” to fully functional wings, conversely, requires a set of hypothetical scenarios, i.e., just-so-stories.[9]

Many insects discovered in amber are, as far as we can tell, either identical to their modern counterparts, or are very different. Even so, like the Megachile pluto bee, the different species appear just as highly “evolved” as any modern insect. One cannot get an evolutionary story out of the observable facts. Consequently, discussions of the evolution of insects involve the practice of inventing just-so-stories to support that hypothetical evolution. With the so-called “Amber Forest” (fossil record of amber) we have a fairly good picture of the insect population in the ancient world.[10] We do not need just-so-stories to describe the record. Evolutionists, though, depend on stories to try to explain insect origins, as if to add chapters to Kipling’s book, e.g., “How the Bee Got Its Wings.” Creationists let the facts speak for themselves. They realize that Darwinian just-so-stories are mere attempts to fit the facts into an evolutionary framework.

Summary

We have the advantage with the Megachile pluto “living fossil” that we can study its modern nest and behavior to infer the traits of its fossilized counterparts. We can observe its complexity directly. To postulate the bee’s origin, though, Darwinists must use just-so-stories. They appeal to imagination to come up with what they consider plausible narratives to account for unobservable histories, such as how a hypothetical “bee ancestor” without wings became a true bee with wings, including the muscles, nerves and brains to use them. Scientists and laypersons alike need to separate fact from fiction. They need to identify and filter out any just-so-stories used to concoct an evolutionary scenario. This requires asking what has been observed vs what has been imagined, because the giant bee in amber silently proclaims, “I was designed to fly!”


[1] Scully, Ruby Prosser. 2019. World’s Biggest Bee Found After 40 Years. New Scientist 3219:19. March 2.

[2] Marshall, Michael. 2019. Beware Evolutionary just-so Stories. New Scientist 241(3219): 25. March 2.

[3] Morris, Richard. 2001. The Evolutionists: The Struggle for Darwin’s Soul. New York: Freeman. pp. 78-92.

[4] Main, Douglas. 2019. World’s largest bee, once presumed extinct, filmed alive in the wild. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/02/worlds-largest-bee-rediscovered-not-extinct/

[5] Grimaldi, David and  Michael S. Engel. 2005. Evolution of the Insects. Cambridge University Press.

[6] Brodsky, Andrei K. 1996. The Evolution of Insect Flight.  New York: Oxford University Press: 30. 21-30.

[7] Poinar, George, 1992. Life in Amber. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. pp. 1-15.

[8] Poinar, George and Roberta Poinar. 1994. The Quest for Life in Amber. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

[9] Brodsky, 1996. pp. 81-97.

[10] Poinar, George and Roberta Poinar. 1999. The Amber Forest: A Reconstruction of a Vanished World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology at several colleges and universities including for over 40 years at Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored, are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

(Visited 586 times, 1 visits today)

Comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.