April 5, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

Evolution Evolves at Random

Imagine a science always shifting as if in Brownian motion, never getting anywhere. That’s Darwinism.

In our 20+ years reporting on evolution, we have seen several common themes. Complex organisms or traits appear “earlier than thought.” New theories “challenge existing views.” Ancestors move around. Trees get redrawn. The only certainty about Darwinism comes from the dogmatic statement repeated often in the media, “Evolution is a fact!” They can’t figure out the details, which are often contradictory to evolutionary expectations, but evolution is a fact! Do you hear? Evolution is a fact!

Tomography brings insights into the early evolution of bones (Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin). What is the wonderful new insight into the early evolution of bones promised in the headline? Answer: the earliest animals with bones already had the structures and cells of later vertebrates. Looking for evolution in bone structure, they figured that “this complex architecture of live and inorganic material must have emerged at some point in the course of evolution.” They imaged bones of early armored fish, called placoderms, that lived 423 and 348 million Darwin Years ago, finding microscopic channels called lacunae. What they saw looked familiar.

Elaborate analysis of the high-resolution 3D images shows in detail how the network was constructed of cavities (lacuna) and the channels between them. “This proves that our early, still-jawless ancestors already possessed bones characterised by internal structure similar to ours and probably by many similar physiological capabilities as well”, Witzmann explains.

They were also surprised that the lacunae were so well preserved. “The channels are a thousand times narrower than a human hair and yet, amazingly, they have been almost completely preserved over these 400 million years.” What do you know? (Good question to ask Darwinians.)

Cartoon by Brett Miller. Used by permission.

Endangered songbird challenging assumptions about evolution (Colorado Arts and Sciences Museum). The law of natural selection that Darwin supposedly made famous has lots of exceptions when scientists look at the details. Examining two species of seedeaters (small songbirds that inhabit South America), the ornithologists were surprised to learn that they did not diverge by mutation and selection.

By comparing this bird to a closely related neighbor (the Tawny-Bellied Seedeater) in the same group (the southern capuchino seedeaters), the researchers determined that genetic shuffling of existing variations, rather than new random mutations, brought this species into existence—and their own behaviors are keeping them apart.

That sounds like what creationists would say: shuffling of existing genetic information is responsible for ‘new species’, not Darwinian mechanisms. “This species is one of only two known examples across the globe to have traveled this path, challenging the typical assumptions of how new species form,” they claim. Perhaps they have not been looking. Their paper is published in Science 26 March 2021 with a title that begins, “Rapid speciation via the evolution of pre-mating isolation” — rapid speciation? Darwin was promoting gradualism.

Similar but not identical evolutionary trajectories of birds in adaptation to high-elevation environments (Chinese Academy of Sciences via Phys.org). There are so many exceptions to Darwin’s theory that his theory gets lost in noise. This study about high-altitude birds says that Stuff Happens different ways. It’s complicated, you see.

Adaptation in different animals to the same environment is often achieved through similar phenotypic solutions. However, this study indicates that genetic adaptations follow more complex trajectories. That is, the common developmental and genetic architecture inherited from the ancestor together with microhabitats unique to each species shapes similar but not identical evolutionary trajectories. 

Credit: Brett Miller

Skin Deep: New Study Suggests Aquatic Skin Adaptations of Whales and Hippos Evolved Independently (American Museum of Natural History). Hippos and whales live in the water full time. The old evolutionary theory was that their water-adapted smooth skin proved they both evolved from a mammal that already lived in the water. A new story has evolved.

A new study shows that the similarly smooth, nearly hairless skin of whales and hippopotamuses evolved independently. The work suggests that their last common ancestor was likely a land-dwelling mammal, uprooting current thinking that the skin came fine-tuned for life in the water from a shared amphibious ancestor….

How mammals left terra firma and became fully aquatic is one of the most fascinating evolutionary stories, perhaps rivaled only by how animals traded water for land in the first place or by the evolution of flight,” said John Gatesy, a senior research scientist in the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Vertebrate Zoology and a corresponding author on the study. “Our latest findings contradict the current dogma in the field—that relatives of the amphibious hippo might have been part of the transition as mammals re-entered life in the water.”

Ancient Britons extracted salt from seawater more than 5500 years ago (New Scientist). This story adds to the “earlier than thought” theme. Archaeology shows that ancient humans living when civilization was young were smarter than evolving primates should have been.

Stone Age Britons extracted salt from seawater using industrial-style processes more than 5500 years ago. The discovery means people in Great Britain were producing salt thousands of years earlier than thought, before the Bronze Age….

“It changes how we think about Neolithic society,” says Stephen Sherlock, an independent archaeologist based in Redcar, UK.

Starling success traced to rapid adaptation (Phys.org). How long does adaptation take in Darwinian theory? Millions of years? How about 130 years for starlings?

The amazing thing about the evolutionary changes among starling populations since they were introduced in North America is that the changes happened in a span of just 130 years in parallel with a huge expansion in the bird’s range and population size,” says lead author Natalie Hofmeister, a doctoral candidate at the Cornell Lab. “For a long time we didn’t think that was possible—that it took millions of years for genetic mutations to change a genome.”

How do evolutionists respond to being proved wrong over and over? They love it. It’s amazing. It’s exciting. It sheds light on evolution. It allows individual Darwinists to move puzzle pieces around on the gym floor and say, “Look at me!” (see “How Not to Work a Puzzle” in the 5 Feb 2013 commentary).



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