December 12, 2020 | David F. Coppedge

Evolutionary Clues and Evolutionist Cluelessness

There is one redeeming feature in this otherwise non-rigorous Darwin story: a lesson about avoiding assumptions.

The fallacy starts right in the headline. A press release from the University of Missouri, affectionately known as Mizzou, begins, “A new evolutionary clue: University of Missouri researcher adds to timeline of human evolution by studying an island fox.”

She’s serious. She thinks she found a “new evolutionary clue” about humans by studying a completely different mammal on the other side of the world. This only could make sense to a Darwin-indoctrinated grad student like Colleen B. Young working in a Darwin echo chamber in academia. She launches into her illogical story by thinking about how Homo floresiensis, the “Hobbit” from an Indonesian cave that confused the academic world in 2003, became so small. And so she went to California. California? Sure; why not? The whole world is Darwin’s playground. Some people are foxy, aren’t they?

Young, who is working on her doctorate in biological anthropology in the College of Arts and Science, tested several popular assumptions about the characteristics of Homo floresiensis by comparing an island fox from California’s Channel Islands with its mainland U.S. relative, the gray fox. Young said upon arrival, the island fox underwent a 30% reduction in body size and developed smaller body features that are different than the mainland gray fox. She believes this change in body size was likely due to adjustments the island fox made to survive in its new, isolated environment.

“The gray fox is a migratory, omnivorous animal, similar to our recent ancestors,” Young said. “This study indicates that animals living on islands that become smaller in size may also have distinct limbs and body features just because of their new island environment. Therefore, the distinctive body features on the small-bodied Homo floresiensis are probably products of evolving in an island environment, and not resulting from suffering from diseases.”

The competing theory for the small size of the Hobbit is that they had a disease like microcephaly. Young takes the other view, that of “island dwarfism,” little more than a suggestion with many exceptions. If it were a law of nature, every creature on islands would be smaller in proportion to its conspecifics on the mainland. That is not true of Darwin’s finches on the Galapagos, or its giant tortoises, either.

Like everything else in Darwinism, the just-so story works except when it doesn’t, but both fit Darwinism. This is entertainment, not science.

Island fox, a subspecies of California gray fox typically smaller than those on the mainland. (Natl Park Service)

How can a California fox relate to a human being in Indonesia anyway? Well, silly, since everything evolves, they both evolved. And since the environment selects, an island environment selected for the same traits. This sounds reasonable when you don’t think it through. Did Ms Young ask all pertinent questions?

  • Are the islands the same size relative to the organism’s original body size? (Are the circumstances comparable?)
  • Are the food resources similar? (California’s Channel Islands are much drier than Indonesia’s islands.)
  • Are the bodies of the animals similar? (Humans walk upright, have opposable thumbs and hands for grasping.)
  • Are the mental capabilities of foxes and humans similar? (Humans could invent farming or migrate by boats.)
  • Do individuals that migrate back to the mainland necessarily get bigger? (Where is the controlled experiment?)
  • Did she define “island”? Is Australia an island or a continent?
  • How many centimeters does an island species have to shrink to become a candidate for “island dwarfism”?
  • What percentage of the body change was due to “island dwarfism” as opposed to other possible factors?
  • What percentage other species on the islands are smaller than their mainland counterparts?
  • Does the island cause dwarfism, or is there just an apparent association?
  • If the dwarf can still mate with the mainland conspecific, is this really evolution at all?
  • If no origin of species occurred, why is the clue an “evolutionary” clue?
  • How can she say that this “adds to the timeline of human evolution”? Isn’t that a non-sequitur?
  • How could it add to the timeline of human evolution, since H. floresiensis is dated too recent to be considered ancestral?

The reader can think of other missing data points in her model. The lack of rigor in her story, and the high perhapsimaybecouldness index, mean that there is excessive wiggle room to create any model. This is a frequent problem with evolutionary tales: opposite models work equally well. Natural selection makes the animal faster, except when it makes it slower. Evolution makes the organism taller, except when it makes it shorter. The same habitat produces giraffes, zebras and shrews that are all herbivores. Any story about natural selection will work, because anything that happens fits Darwin’s Stuff Happens Law.

One Redeeming Virtue

Except for its Tontological form, Young’s last paragraph is a worthwhile reminder to question assumptions and to doubt one’s understanding of fossils:

“The popular idea that every little difference in a fossil means the discovery of a new species is probably not as accurate as we once thought,” Young said. “There was probably a lot more variation going on throughout human evolution than we first thought, and these findings exemplify that variation can occur just by migrating to and living on an island. We’re just starting to scratch the surface.”

It’s not a big redeeming virtue, but it’s nice to acknowledge one’s ignorance. Think about her warning when a new species is announced because of a little difference in a bone somewhere. A new species of bat was recently announced based on a few teeth!

Undoubtedly Ms Young will progress onward to get her PhD as an new member of the DSS (Darwin Storytelling Society), devoted to dumbing down scientific explanations and spewing wrath on creationists by calling them pseudoscientists and ignoramuses. Science marches on.

 

 

 

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