Godzilla Evolves, and Other Darwin Silliness
When evolution is your proverbial hammer, you can go crazy pounding everything that looks like a nail.
No, Godzilla Is Not Evolution; It is Semi-Intelligent Design
A movie monster evolves, fed by fear (Science Magazine). “In this essay, we suggest that Godzilla—which has grown significantly since its debut— is evolving in response to a spike in humanity’s collective anxiety,” say Nathaniel J. Dominy and Ryan Calsbeek in advance of Godzilla’s latest reincarnation in a monster movie. If you think Dominy and Calsbeek are just speaking metaphorically, look at what they say in a press release from Dartmouth University:, where they use human anxiety as the selective pressure on the monster’s evolution:
- Film critics and fans have long observed that Godzilla has been getting larger over time, as buildings become taller. In fact, Godzilla has evolved 30 times faster than other organisms on Earth, according to a team of Dartmouth scientists whose findings are published in Science….
- The researchers propose that Godzilla has been “evolving in response to a spike in humanity’s collective anxiety.”
This quote shows they are actually relying on evolutionary theory as their explanatory hammer:
If one accepts that Godzilla is a ceratosaurid dinosaur from the Jurassic period, as argued in the film series, then he represents a sensational example of evolutionary stability over a span of at least 145 million years. Yet Godzilla has doubled in size since 1954, far surpassing the rate of evolution observed in 2,500 natural organisms today. “Godzilla’s body was consistent for some 150 million years until 1954, suggesting a sudden and strong selective pressure on body size during the past 65 years,” says co-author Nathaniel J. Dominy, the Charles Hansen Professor of Anthropology and a professor of the ecology, evolution, ecosystems and society graduate program at Dartmouth. Dominy co-authored the study with Ryan Calsbeek, an associate professor of biological sciences and of the ecology, evolution, ecosystems and society graduate program at Dartmouth.
Calsbeek is one of the guys pretending to do science while vacationing in the Bahamas (3 December 2003). That’s because evolutionary research is so easy. No matter what you look at, you just say, “It evolved.”
Once this gem of storytelling received the imprimatur of the AAAS, toady reporters ran with it. Laura Geggel at Live Science snapped to attention, saluting the evolutionary angle: “A new analysis of Godzilla’s height even revealed that he has evolved 30 times faster than any real organism on Earth,” she says; “… even though these dinosaurs evolved to have huge bodies, Godzilla’s growth spurt far outpaces theirs, the researchers said.” This growth spurt is “setting evolutionary records,” her subtitle alleges. Geggel should have written LOL, but she offered no criticism for the stupid idea.
On the Walk of Stars
As human ancestors went from swinging through trees to walking on two legs, they may have received a boost from an unlikely source: ancient supernovas.
These powerful stellar explosions may have showered Earth with enough energy to shift the planet’s climate, bathing Earth in electrons and sparking powerful, lightning-filled storms, according to a new hypothesis.
Lightning then could have kindled raging wildfires that scorched African landscapes. As savanna replaced the forest habitat, early humans that lived there may have been pushed to walk on two legs, the new study suggests.
How does Mindy Waisberger get away with this much raw speculation as a science reporter? She hedges her bets. “However, don’t go jumping to conclusions just yet. Many factors likely contributed to the evolution of bipedalism,” she warns. Many factors! The Stuff Happens Law takes care of the odds. Now you can jump to conclusions! –but only as long as they are evolutionary conclusions.
Pained Expressions of Gratitude
Pain Free, Thanks to Evolution (Science Daily). Naked mole rats seem resistant to many types of pain, says Peter Libby, MD. Evaluating a hypothesis by Gary Lewin, he writes:
Lewin surmises that “throughout the course of evolution, the highveld mole-rat has clearly acquired a highly active gene for a single ion channel, which has allowed it to make its home in places that are avoided by other species of mole-rat.” The MDC scientist regards this as another wonderful example of how environment shapes evolution over the long term.
But the naked mole rats are still naked mole rats. Nothing evolved. There was no origin of species. In addition, Libby writes that “many species have downregulated the gene for this channel” that causes sensitivity to pain. But those “many species” didn’t evolve, either. The facts fit what Michael Behe argues in Darwin Devolves: organisms can get by in stressful environments by breaking, blunting or tossing any trait they don’t need. That is not evolution. There’s nobody to thank.