December 9, 2020 | David F. Coppedge

Desperately Defending Darwin

The desperation with which biologists and the media defend Darwin betrays underlying fear of creationists.

Some readers might remember National Geographic’s cover story for Nov 2004, “Was Darwin Wrong?” only to be blasted with big, bold type inside, “NO. The evidence for Evolution is overwhelming.” The UK atheist news magazine New Scientist posted a similar Darwin Defense cover a few years ago. So did PLoS Biology (1 April 2014). For some odd reason, Darwin always comes out on top. The media never share the views of Darwin doubters, who are not few in number. Is there a reason beyond the mere facts of biology for the intensity of media assertions that Darwin must be right? Now, another article plays along with the hymn.

Charles Darwin was right about why insects are losing the ability to fly (Science X Staff via The headline sounds defensive. Is the writer trying to protect Darwin from creationists? No; he or she is trying to defend him from his friend Joseph Hooker. The argument at hand is about why flies fly and moths crawl, and why so many insects on islands are flightless.

“He and the famous botanist Joseph Hooker had a substantial argument about why this happens. Darwin’s position was deceptively simple. If you fly, you get blown out to sea. Those left on land to produce the next generation are those most reluctant to fly, and eventually evolution does the rest. Voilà.”

The article does not state why Hooker doubted Darwin’s explanation on this one minor challenge to natural selection, and why other biologists have doubted it, too. Enter Ph.D. candidate Rachel Leihy, from the Monash University School of Biological Sciences to rescue Darwin Daddy. She and her Monash advisor Richard Chown catalogued insects from some of the windiest islands on Earth near Antarctica. As luck would have it, Darwin came out on top again!

Using a large, new dataset on insects from sub-Antarctic and Arctic islands, Monash University researchers examined every idea proposed to account for flight loss in insects, including Darwin’s wind idea.

Reporting today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, they show that Darwin was right for this ‘most windy of places’. None of the usual ideas (such as those proposed by Hooker) explain the extent of flight loss in sub-Antarctic insects, but Darwin’s idea does.

Leihy affirmed that the only plausible explanation is that wind makes it “energetically costly” to fly. The insects devote more energy to reproduction instead.

It’s remarkable that after 160 years, Darwin’s ideas continue to bring insight to ecology,” said Rachel, the lead author of the paper.

She didn’t explain why Lamarck doesn’t get the credit for being right with his “Law of Use and Disuse.” She will probably get the PhD from her adviser anyway, for at least trying Darwin’s reputation intact.

Leihy and Chown, “Wind plays a major but not exclusive role in the prevalence of insect flight loss on remote islands,” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (9 Dec 2020), DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2020.2121.

What’s the big deal here? The insects lost powered flight. That is loss of genetic information. What’s the bigger challenge, to evolve a wing by chance or to lose it? Darwin will never get humans from bacteria by this method.

The paper promotes wind into an intelligent designer, capable of selecting insects for flightlessness. Wind has no mind or concern to do such a thing. The Abstract turns on the Jargonwocky to blow fogma over that simplistic idea. Even then, the numbers only support a weak statistical argument, not a causal argument, and still must multiply hypotheses to get the desired result.

Terrestrial species on islands often show reduced dispersal abilities. For insects, the generality of explanations for island flight loss remains contentious. Although habitat stability is considered the most plausible explanation, others are frequently highlighted. Adopting a strong inference approach, we examined the hypotheses proposed to account for the prevalence of flightlessness in island insect assemblages, for a region long suspected to be globally unusual in this regard—the Southern Ocean Islands (SOIs). Combining comprehensive faunal inventories, species’ morphological information, and environmental variables from 28 SOIs, we provide the first quantitative evidence that flightlessness is exceptionally prevalent among indigenous SOI insect species (47%). Prevalence among species which have evolved elsewhere is much lower: Arctic island species (8%), species introduced to the SOIs (17%), and globally (estimated as approx. 5%). Variation in numbers of flightless species and genera across islands is best explained by variation in wind speed, although habitat stability (thermal seasonality proxy) may play a role. Variables associated with insularity, such as island size, are generally poor predictors of flightlessness. The outcomes redirect attention to Darwin’s wind hypothesis. They suggest, however, that wind selects for flightlessness through an energy trade-off between flight and reproduction, instead of by displacement from suitable habitats.

Wind is not a selector. If this were a law of nature, why are half the insects on the same island not flightless? We say it’s more reasonable to explain this from a creation view. The Creator had the foresight to allow for reprogramming existing modules for optimum survival in changing conditions.

No other scientist gets the defensive team that Darwin does, and his only degree was in theology. The reason materialists who dominate academia are so touchy to protect him is because the Stuff Happens Law allows them to be intellectually fool-filled atheists. It’s sad to see another generation of novitiates rising to replace the old guard of Darwin defenders. They are just as fool-filled as the old guard: “… and eventually evolution does the rest. Voilà.” You may now puke.

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