October 26, 2023 | David F. Coppedge

Darwinism as a Driver of Useless Busy Work

What drives some scientists to absurd
levels of ‘much ado about nothing’?


We’re going to look at two Darwinian papers, one about birds, one about leopards, published yesterday to see if anything useful was brought about by Darwinian theory. Both papers show exceptional ‘busy work’ (graphs, equations, models and such), but did the conclusions justify so much effort?

To understand that question, recall that creationists—even the most ardent young-earth creationists—allow for significant diversification within created kinds. Some go as far as to say all cats derived from an original ‘cat kind’ in just a few thousand years, but they deny that cats had non-cat ancestors. They ascribe the diversification within created kinds to internal mechanisms designed by the Creator for allowing creatures to “fill the earth” and adapt to new environments. This is very different from Darwinian dependence on blind, unguided processes of random mutations and natural selection. Adaptability in creation models required foresight and intelligence.

Creationists in their presentations will use charts of dog varieties to show that the original genome of the “dog kind” possessed enormous potential for variability within limits. Poodles and chihuahuas, they explain, all derived from the wolf. It took intelligence in intentional planning in the breeders’ mind to “drive” the variations in directions they desired. That’s intelligent design, not evolution. The same could be said for roses, horses, and all other domesticated species.

This built-in variability is not surprising to creationists when examples of diversity in nature are brought up: cichlid fish in African lakes, for instance. As diverse as those fish appear, they remain not just fish, but cichlid fish. Creationists deny they evolved from pre-fish or other kinds of fish. Other examples include orchids, Heliconius butterflies, Anolis lizards, the elephant family (mammoths, mastodons), sauropod dinosaurs, and many others. These are not trophies for Darwinism, because creationists can point to empirical limits to variation. Transcending those limits requires Darwinian faith.

Variability within limits, therefore, is accepted by young-earth creationists. Created variability, they argue, extends at least to the level of genus and in some cases to the family. Dogs and cats will never evolve into dats and cogs. It is incumbent upon Darwinists, who imagine no limits to variability, to distinguish and demonstrate their theory’s causative powers from those of creationists. Otherwise they have established nothing unique to distinguish their view in debate, since their opponents already grant significant variability within created kinds. They cannot use variability within genera or families as evidence for Darwinian common ancestry by natural selection, because it begs the question. It would be like claiming “bird beaks change shape, therefore humans have bacteria ancestors.” An umpire would call foul. Keep that in mind as we proceed.

Note: For preparation, see Shifting the Burden of Proof and Circular Reasoning in the Baloney Detector.

Clouding Up Explanation of Clouded Leopards

Genomic insights reveal evolutionary history of clouded leopards, inform conservation (Phys.org, 25 Oct 2023). This is the press release.

How genomic insights into the evolutionary history of clouded leopards inform their conservation (Yuan et al., Science Advances, 25 Oct 2023). This is the formal paper.

These publications amass details about a genus of panthers called clouded leopards (genus Neofelis), of which there are two extant species with minor differences in diet and habitat.

The two extant clouded leopard species, Neofelis nebulosa and Neofelis diardi, are the closest living relatives to the five big cats of the genus Panthera, and, together, they form the subfamily Pantherinae (1, 2). Clouded leopards (Fig. 1A) are highly adapted to an arboreal lifestyle. They have broad paws, a long tail to maintain balance, and flexible ankles that can rotate nearly 180°, allowing them to descend trees headfirst. Compared to all other extant felids, clouded leopards also have the largest upper canine teeth in proportion to body size; their canines are similar in proportion to those of some extinct sabertooth cats. Despite their large upper canines, clouded leopards do not kill their prey with a canine shear bite such as the sabretooths but, instead, use a crushing nape bite such as extant large felids.

The word “selection” is catnip for Darwinians.

Before proceeding to hear their evolutionary explanation, ask yourself whether these are candidates for a Darwin story. Creationists already believe that members of the cat kind can climb trees, and possess canine teeth, paws, tails, ankles, a variety of patterns on their coats, and behaviors like biting their prey. So what? Some creationists already accept that sabretooth cats and mountain lions along with cheetahs are likely derived from the original cat kind (although some would divide the cat kinds at the subfamily or genus level; those debates are carried on by specialists in baraminology, the study of created kinds).

The work that Yuan et al. did on their Darwin story is impressive. The open-access paper has color charts, gene comparisons, phylogenetic trees, estimates of divergence times, anatomic drawings, comparisons of tail length, coat patterns, paw shape, behavior, and much more. Readers can learn some worthwhile things about these beautiful and endangered creatures, some of it interesting and perhaps useful to readers. But the Darwinian material (the purpose of the paper) is utterly useless. Why talk about the “evolutionary history” of clouded leopards instead of just the “history” of clouded leopards? Every creature has a history, but calling it an evolutionary history begs the question of evolution. It’s circular reasoning.

Their main evidence to support Darwinian evolution of clouded leopards consists of genetic hints of positive selection. Look at the busy work behind it:

To identify specific signatures of natural selection in the clouded leopard lineage, we performed positive selection tests (see Materials and Methods) on 11,833 single-copy orthologues shared between Neofelis and Panthera. Our results revealed 153 positively selected genes (PSGs), 386 rapidly evolving genes (REGs), and 21 evolutionarily convergent genes that are strongly associated with tooth development (5 genes), pigmentation (17 genes), muscle development (5 genes), stature (4 genes), and olfaction, among others (Fig. 2A and tables S6 to S8).

This sounds impressive to a novice reader; it looks like rigorous, quantitative science. But it has fundamental flaws in the reasoning and methods, as we will see.

Notice that all cats from Tabby to Leo the Lion have genes for tooth development, pigmentation, muscles, stature and olfaction. Whatever “evolved” was not a new organ like a third eye or wings. The traits of clouded leopards are common to all cats. They only differ in expression and degree. No new tissue or organ or system evolved.

Most importantly, the tests they performed for “positive selection” (ratio of synonymous to non-synonymous mutations) are based on a logical flaw (see 22 May 2020 and 5 Sept 2008). The test does nothing to establish that some novelty or innovation confers an actual benefit to the animal. It only compares particular codons in genes that evolutionists assume were “selected” regardless of the phenotypic effect, based on the belief that if they were retained, evolution must have selected them—more circular reasoning.

Did they find any actual benefit from a genetic variation? No! They only reported some deleterious mutations.

Population declines and inbreeding have led to reduced genetic diversity and the accumulation of deleterious variation that likely affect reproduction of clouded leopards, highlighting the urgent need for effective conservation efforts.

Some evolution! If these cats were champions of evolutionary fitness, they wouldn’t be endangered now, would they?

The press release states that “Evolutionary biologists seek to understand the genetics of the species and their evolution through effective conservation actions,” but Darwinism did not justify all the effort this team put into it. Conservationists didn’t need to see Darwin’s imprimatur to advocate for protecting these cats. The genetic comparisons and descriptions could have been done by a creationist team. Conclusion: Darwinism offered nothing useful. It was much ado about nothing.

Darwin’s finches. Note the beak differences and how minor they are (Wiki Commons) Surely the multiple systems required for powered flight are far more challenging for evolutionists to explain.

Beak Careful About Bird Evolution

The next example of useless busy work by Darwinists is for the birds.

Innovation and elaboration on the avian tree of life (Guillerme et al., Science Advances, 25 Oct 2023). A second project published the same day in the AAAS open-access journal Science Advances is even more audacious in its claims for macroevolution. Does it succeed where the leopard study did not?

Look first at some word counts: macroevolution (23), mega-evolution (33), innovation (144), evolved or evolution (210), deep time (3). This team is all out for Darwin! They looked at 8,748 species of birds (∼85% of all extant bird species) from museum samples. They contrived detailed phylogenetic trees and charts analyzing each bird’s score on “innovation” vs “elaboration” at the levels of order and class. (Note: all birds belong to the Class Aves.)

You know what they paid attention to? Beaks. Just bird beaks.

Notice to Darwinists: all birds have beaks. Be careful about evolutionary claims based on beaks. Remember the Grants’ lifelong work on an evolutionary question about “Darwin’s finches” that gets a ho-hum from creationists? (5 Jan 2011; the Grants are still at it in 2023).

Yes, beaks vary widely (spoonbills vs hornbills, hummingbirds vs parakeets), but beaks are made of the same material (keratin) by similar genes. It’s the regulation of the genes that causes the variability.

With 144 mentions of “innovation,” certainly the team must have found some wondrous examples of new cell types, tissues, organs or systems that “emerged” by natural selection. Actually, they mention none. They only assume innovations occurred between bird clades by a Darwinian process. Talk about circular reasoning! This is what charlatans do: they come up with a pet theory to explain every observation, then use the same observations as evidence for the theory. Try that in a debate with a creationist who has his Baloney Detector turned on.

Even more comical to a Darwin skeptic is the way these evolutionists admit explosive emergence of new traits and stasis, as if talking about punctuated equilibria without using the term. This gives away the store to creationists, who can accuse them of believing in magic. If you can bear a long quote from the Introduction, watch them mention gaps, abrupt appearance and the missing connection between microevolution and macroevolution in their own words:

Understanding patterns and constraints in the adaptive evolution of species traits is a major goal of evolutionary research. At macroevolutionary scales, renewed attention has been given to variation in the tempo and mode of trait evolution among lineages. This has led to growing recognition of the importance of major jumps or discontinuities in evolutionary rates as drivers of diversification of species traits. For example, in both bird beaks and mammal skulls there are major jumps in the rate of trait evolution early in clade history as morphological diversity expands with lower magnitude jumps toward the present. Major jumps in species trait values are consistent with the concept of megaevolution, describing major discontinuities in phenotypes observed from the fossil record, first proposed by [George Gaylord] Simpson [citations dating from 1953 and 1984].

Megaevolutionary dynamics appear to contrast with theory based on microevolutionary processes. Over microevolutionary time scales, phenotypic evolution is expected to follow lines of least resistance. The term “line of least resistance” has been used both specifically to describe phenotypic evolution along the axis of greatest genetic variation and more loosely to describe the direction of phenotypic evolution with greatest observable variation. Regardless of the definition used, the microevolutionary line of least resistance represents the direction with the most potential for evolution because it contains the most variation on which selection can act. This expectation is supported by numerous studies showing that phenotypic divergence is often biased along (i.e., aligned with) the line of least resistance. These studies suggest that alignment of phenotypic divergence with the line of least resistance may be common over comparatively short time scales (1 to 2 million year). More generally, the alignment of macroevolutionary divergence with the microevolutionary line of least resistance is expected to decline over time. However, there is evidence, for example, from Anolis lizards, that stability in the direction of phenotypic evolution can extend over time scales spanning tens of millions of years.

The juxtaposition of microevolutionary predictions to macro- and megaevolutionary observations is notable and raises the question of how phenotypic divergence accumulates across evolutionary scales. In particular, how can megaevolutionary jumps emerge from gradual micro- or macroevolutionary processes of phenotypic evolution implied by microevolutionary predictions?

Evolution, evolution, evolution. That’s two dozen mentions of their favorite word in this section, with more than 180 to go. But if you put Darwin in, you get Darwin out (DIDO, like GIGO). This paper is so circular it’s dizzying. How do they fit Darwinian gradualism into the observations of gaps and stasis? It’s easy. Just adjust the evolutionary rate—how fast or slow its miracles “occur”—

Both innovation and elaboration could, in principle, occur at the macro- or megaevolutionary scale.

Magic is possible “in principle” because obviously birds evolved, with their wings, feathers, and all the requirements for powered flight. Talk about begging the question. Elsewhere,

Across scales, there is remarkable flexibility in the routes to innovation, consistent with the idea that morphological divergence may be less constrained in deep time than is sometimes assumed.

This means: evolution is fast except when it is slow. It’s fast when a new phylum, class, or order explodes into existence, but then calms down to a gradual rate when the mythical Selector gets tired. But how likely is it that major new body plans, organs and tissues would just emerge by chance? How many lucky coordinated mutations would that take? Hundreds? Thousands? Their explanation is indistinguishable from magic. There isn’t enough time in the whole assumed age of the universe for just two or three coordinated mutations to “occur.” These evolutionists play fast and loose with time, chance, and miracles:

The disconnect between observations of reorientation of trait space at the macroevolutionary scale and an apparent predominance of elaborationspecies could be viewed as a paradox. We formalize this paradox by testing whether elaboration is more common at higher taxonomic levels (megaevolutionary scale) than at the species level (macroevolutionary scale). … This difference confirms our observation that innovation is indeed common and dominant at the megaevolutionary scale; however, the contributions of elaboration and innovation are shown to be indistinguishable at the macroevolutionary scale. Hence, although species often evolve preferentially along a shared phylogenetic major axes of beak variation within clades, there is frequent deviation from these major axes, and the phylogenetic major axes of beak variation change among clades. This could be explained in part because the evolutionary rate matrix (R) is more influenced by shifts in the adaptive landscape through time and thus reflecting natural selection in deeper nodes more than in younger nodes (figs. S9 and S10).

Charts, phylogenetic trees, and detailed looks at thousands of bird beaks litter this paper. It’s much ado about nothing. “By assessing the multivariate directions of the evolution of beak shapes of species and clades, we aim to deepen our understanding of how diversity in morphological form arises at macro- and megaevolutionary scales in birds,” they promised. But they never delivered any understanding. They only suggested that it might be able to.

Our analyses suggest that the reorientation of phenotypes via innovation is a ubiquitous route for divergence that can arise through gradual change alone, opening up further avenues for evolution to explore.

Evolution “arises.” Birds evolved because they evolved. Now you understand.

These are prime examples of how Darwinians create tons of verbiage that give an appearance of scientific rigor while simply rehashing their own dogma. Filled with distracting sidesteps occasionally about evidence that is irrelevant to their conclusions, the logic and meat of the articles consist of vacuous restatements of their beliefs dressed up in Jargonwocky.

We expose what goes on in the Darwin Sausage factory so that you see what they do before the Darwin Party packages it up for the public schools. Has wretched illogic, smelly ineptitude and slippery wordplay ever been so gussied up as in Darwin Baloney? To think this garbage is sold to the unsuspecting reader as “science” should arouse one’s disgust response. Hopefully that would be followed up with appropriate action.



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