July 21, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

What Is This Babbler Trying to Say?

Some Darwinians think the Sulawesi Babbler is saying “I evolved!”
How do they know they are not mistranslating its babblings?


When Paul the Apostle preached Jesus and the Resurrection to the eggheads at Athens, some reacted, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Today’s eggheads shrug off the miracle of a Man predicting his resurrection and then pulling it off. That’s too empirical for them. They would rather listen to some babbling birds in Indonesia in order to practice their powers of divination. Grinning with anticipation, they listen carefully to the Sulawesi Babblers hiding in the trees, trying to discern the hidden message, “We evolved!”

The birding website eBird introduces the Sulawesi babbler, Pellorneum celebense:

A plump, small, long-legged nondescript brown songbird with paler underparts that vary from whitish to buffy in different parts of the range. Found singly or in pairs, on or near the ground, in understory of lowland and foothill forest and forest edges. Restricted to Sulawesi and the Togian and Butung islands, where it is the only babbler present. Long legs, plain overall appearance, and ground-loving habits make it readily identified within its small range. A vocal species with bold calls, including a musical “dewiyou-dee-dee” and repetitive cries of “KEER-KEER-KEER…”.

It’s obvious that the call means, “Do you, like we, desire D (Darwin)? Three cheers!” What else could it mean?

Birds in Southeast Asia: Sulawesi babblers are teaching us fresh things about evolution (Phys.org). Evolutionary ornithologists from Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences went to hear the plain, plaintive birds singing their Darwin worship tunes. What they heard, though, surprised them. They’re not evolving anything like Darwin’s finches. They evolve fast! This needs some explaining.

Everyone has heard of Darwin’s finches evolving completely different bill shapes on the Galápagos islands. The Galápagos are isolated out in the Pacific, so the birds there have had millions of years to evolve separately. But sometimes evolution can occur on much smaller scales of time and space and can be harder to detect just by looking at the animals in question.

That’s why you need experts in Darwin divination to tell you what is really going on. Evolution is slow except when it is fast. Evolution needs lots of space except when it happens in close quarters. Keer! Keer! Keer!

The scientific paper explains more:

Marcaigh et al., “Evolution in the understorey: The Sulawesi babbler Pellorneum celebense (Passeriformes: Pellorneidae) has diverged rapidly on land-bridge islands in the Wallacean biodiversity hotspot.” Zoologischer Anzeiger (8 July 2021), Volume 293, pages 314-325.

Genetic, acoustic, and morphological data agree on multiple isolated populations, likely representing independently evolving lineages. The Sulawesi babbler shows signs of rapid speciation, with populations diverging between Central and Southeast Sulawesi, and even on land-bridge islands which were connected within the last few tens of thousands of years. The genetic divergence between Sulawesi babbler populations in this time has been around 33% of their divergence from sister species which have been isolated from Sulawesi for millions of years. This is likely facilitated by the Sulawesi babbler’s understorey lifestyle, which inhibits gene flow and promotes speciation. Similar patterns of endemism are seen in Sulawesi’s mammals and amphibians. This work highlights the undocumented biodiversity of a threatened hotspot, wrought by complex processes of speciation which interact with ecology and geology. Subspecific taxonomy has at times been controversial, but we argue that discrete populations such as these play a key role in evolution. Lying as they do at the heart of the biodiversity hotspot of Wallacea, these islands can reveal much about the evolution of biodiversity at all of its levels, from the gene to the ecosystem.

Did you catch that? They’re studying subspecies of babblers, not new species. All the birds are the same species. How, exactly, does this differ from young-earth creationist baraminology?

The birds, furthermore, hybridize easily, just like the Galapagos finches. This team went to all this work to hear the birds babble, “We evolved!” when really the best they can come up with is, “We might evolve in the future!” A closer look at the translation shows that the Darwinians got the verb tense wrong. The birds are only offering futureware.

If we are to understand how populations become species, it is natural that we must study populations as well as species. Variation below the species level provides the raw material for natural selection, as populations will begin to diverge before they evolve physiological barriers to reproduction (Dobzhansky, 1940).

How do they know that subspecies are raw material for the Stuff Happens Law, without assuming that first? Circular reasoning!

Therefore, targeting the species level and below allows us to study both current and past speciation (e.g. Brelsford & Irwin, 2009; Everson et al., 2018). Units of diversity below the species level have been defined differently through scientific history, as varieties (Linnaeus, 1766), subspecies (Esper, 1781; Mayr, 1963), incipient species (Dobzhansky & Pavlovsky, 1967), conservation units (Coates et al., 2018) or Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESUs) (Moritz, 1994).

Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), father of taxonomy, was a creationist.

Linnaeus was a creationist (see biography). His assignment of “varieties” did not imply molecules-to-man transformation. “Subspecies” is not controversial in the origins debate, nor is “conservation units.” The terms incipient species and Evolutionary Significant Units (ESUs), however, embed evolutionary imagination into the language.

Though division of subspecific diversity into units has often generated controversy, it is evident that this diversity is pivotal to evolution (O’Brien & Mayr, 1991; Phillimore & Owens, 2006).

It is evident? They should speak for themselves. It’s not scientific to hypnotize readers through Tontological sentence structures, when they admit that controversy exists. Should not students be instructed by those who “teach the controversy” about evolution? Why hide controversial aspects of origins, like the origin of species? Why do the Darwin DODOs always censor the controversy? (Click the dodo icon above.)

Indeed, while the species features in the title of evolutionary biology’s founding text (Darwin, 1859), the subtitle refers to subspecific “races”.

Darwin was a racist, as we have repeatedly shown (3 June 2021, 10 Sept 2020, 26 Feb 2020). To him, non-white Europeans were “subspecies” that were inferior to the more evolved civilized men of the Victorian age.

Mistranslated Tweets

Off these Darwinians go, making audio recordings of the birds, logging where they are found, hoping to find evidence for Darwin’s quaint Victorian myth. Alas, the birds are not really that different. They should have been able to fly across short distances and interbreed, but they apparently didn’t wish to. Are the differences real? Are they “evolutionarily significant”? Should they be given different species names? Do the genes really show evolution?

The Wawonii population shows strong divergence in mtDNA, but as this is based on one sample and lacks acoustic or morphological data, we recommend that it be studied in more detail before a taxonomic judgement is made.

When all is said and done, the birds are all interfertile Sulawesi Babblers. Nothing evolved. Their varieties are on the same level as human variations. We are interfertile, too: variations on one species in terms of skin color, hair color, height and other traits. Just as it is highly racist to accuse any human varieties to be superior or inferior, or to be considered “subspecies” of Homo sapiens, it is unscientific and irrational to do that to these birds.

What’s the big Darwin deal about plain-looking, nondescript light-brown babbling birds? They are not saying “We evolved.” They are only tweeting “dewiyou-dee-dee” punctuated by repetitive cries of “KEER-KEER-KEER…”.

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