April 5, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

Insect Wings: How Darwinists Fly Off Course

Asking the wrong questions can lead a scientist nowhere.
A recent example is trying to explain insect wings.


Did insect wings evolve, or were they created? In today’s example of Darwinian futility, we shall see two groups of evolutionists getting nowhere in their attempt to find how insect wings emerged.

To understand the vanity of their exercise, grant for the sake of argument that insect wings did not evolve; they were designed for flight from the beginning. Call that Case #1. If that is true, any scientists trying to find how they evolved are guaranteed to get a wrong answer, no matter how detailed their efforts. More likely they will waver endlessly between opposing hypotheses, like teams on a snipe hunt arguing over strategies for finding the elusive birds. Continuing this thought experiment, it becomes clear that the teams will also be asking the wrong questions. They will be obsessed with where the snipe is, not whether it even exists in the woods behind the house where the tricksters are inside, laughing and enjoying hot cocoa beside the fireplace.

In fairness, if we grant for the sake of argument that insect wings evolved but were not designed (Case #2), the evolutionary teams are not better off. That’s because the evidence is scant. The evolutionists would not even be debating the question if they had a clear, undisputed path from land to flight seen in fossil and living insects. As we shall see, there is no clear trail, so it is impossible to know if the evolutionary explanation is true. The proponents of intelligent design, however, can present an inference to design from the irreducible complexity of insect flight, appealing to our uniform experience with systems of powered flight. For every one of them that humans have observed coming into being (e.g., airplanes, jets, rockets), all were products of forethought and design. Since powered flight is an all-or-nothing proposition (either it works or it doesn’t), design has a stronger logical and empirical argument. With evolution, the best they can say is maybe the origin of insect flight proceeded by a certain pathway or other. Their opponents, however, can keep them frustrated with the old critique, “What good is half a wing?” How could natural selection favor something that didn’t work? Darwin’s theory does not allow for incipient structures that might lead to a powered flight in the future. Every variation must be functional—so functional, in fact, that every member of the population without it dies. That’s the cost of selection.

Now consider whether Case #1 is actually happening in a debate about the origin of insect wings.

The Ugly Hexapod: A Darwin Fairy Tale, by Brett Miller

Unearthing the Evolutionary Origins of Insect Wings (The Scientist, April 4, 2022).

Writer Jef Akst has locked herself into a snipe hunt by seeking an “evolutionary” origin for insect wings. She could have asked, “Did insect wings evolve, or were they designed?” She either knows that suggesting validity for the latter explanation would be a career-ending move, or she is so brainwashed that she cannot conceive of possibilities outside the evolutionary box. This closed-mindedness, however, will lead to problems. Indeed, it already has:

For more than a century, researchers have argued over the evolutionary origin of insect wings. Although many hypotheses have been proposed, biologists typically support one of two competing ideas: that wings evolved as an outgrowth from the tergum, a part of the body wall on an insect’s back, or that they originated in the pleura, the insect’s sides, which are themselves generally thought to be derived from ancestral leg segments. “[T]hese two schools of thought have been in an intellectual battle for decades,” Miami University evolutionary biologist Yoshi Tomoyasu tells The Scientist in an email. He calls the origin of wings “one of the major mysteries in biology.” 

From here, Akst goes into detail about two recent proposals at odds with either other. One study finds homologous molecules between a tiny shrimp-like animal and a flying beetle in the pleura. Another team finds homologous molecules in a part of the body wall called the tergum. The two teams are not so far apart that they cannot conceive of the possibility of agreement in the future, but for now, they are locked in competing theories. Then Akst presents a third hypothesis by another team, “suggesting that the story could be even more complicated.

In terms of the tergum versus pleura debate, Jockusch says her work “doesn’t favor either of those hypotheses about wings.” Rather, “what it says is we need other kinds of evidence.

Moreover, she adds, the origin of wings is not the only facet of their evolution that’s left unsettled. Hand in hand with the inquiry into wings’ evolutionary origins is a lively discussion about their novelty—whether they should be considered a completely new structure or merely a modification of a homologous body part in an ancestral animal. “I think that’s probably a significant point of debate,” says Jockusch. Evolutionary biologists have often argued that wings are novel structures, but Bruce says she sees clear homology, and now suspects that true evolutionary novelty is even rarer than currently appreciated.

Akst’s ending anecdote that one of the debaters find the subject “interesting” hardly satisfies. Imagine snipe hunting teams getting together in the cold, not getting warmer, but finding the hunt “interesting.”

As for her introduction to these multifaceted debates about insect appendages as the result of a last-minute change in her thesis project, Bruce chuckles. “Luckily, it actually was interesting.

Yes, velly intellesting.

This drawing by Andrzej Krauze, portraying one of the suggested ancestors of winged insects, appears in The Scientist article. It is just as imaginative (and fairy-tale-like) as Brett Miller’s cartoon above.


OK class, what is the biggest question the two evolutionary camps are ignoring? [Think, then scroll down.]





All three storytelling teams ignore the engineering requirements for powered flight! They all talk about what tissue might have been involved in some ancestral relationship to insect wings, but ignore all the functional requirements. Quick: what are they?

    1. Muscle adaptations
    2. Nervous system adaptations
    3. Metabolic adaptations
    4. Reproductive adaptations
    5. Brain adaptations (flight software)
    6. Genetic information to code all the above.

That is just a partial list. The same functional requirements are needed for the other three cases of powered flight in animals: pterosaurs, birds, and bats. See Flight: The Genius of Birds for explanation of these requirements, and why they cannot be expected from mindless, gradual Darwinian processes.

This huge oversight means that the evolutionists are hindering science. They are taking science down the primrose path to futility, while failing to pursue solid, empirically-sound, logical explanations. They are wasting their time, and the public’s time, and funding assets, for their useless hobby of just-so storytelling. They need to be held accountable for impersonating scientists (26 July 2014 commentary).

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