April 29, 2024 | David F. Coppedge

Calling It Evolution When It’s Not

Evolutionists’ favorite word gets dragged
into situations that don’t involve speciation


What was the title of Darwin’s famous book? On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection. Emphasize that word origin. When an existing species changes a bit, but is still the same species, that is not evolution. You’ve changed a lot since you were born. So has the human population: we have people of all shapes and sizes and colors, but they are all Homo sapiens. Some people live at high elevations that would leave most of us gasping for air. When the word “evolution” is expanded to include changes like this, it loses its distinctive meaning and can mislead people. Darwin meant “evolution” to mean that humans have bacteria ancestors: every living thing on earth came from a single root organism that was modified gradually through the Stuff Happens Law, natural selection.

Evolutionists commit another fallacy by assuming that the environment “selects” organisms that will survive. Darwin himself regularly committed the fallacy of analogy, thinking that artificial breeding was analogous to natural selection (read Darwin’s Bluff by Robert Shedinger; he documents this personification fallacy in Darwin’s own words). Environments are not selectors. Evolutionary biologists fail to look inside the organism for pre-programmed mechanisms that were designed into organisms to permit them to adapt. That’s why ICR president Dr Randy Guliuzza is promoting a new theory of biological design that invokes internal causes, not external ones (YouTube).

Add Salt, Evolve Frog

Rensselaer Researcher Finds that Frog Species Evolved Rapidly in Response To Road Salts (Renssaelaer News, 22 April 2024). Salt makes frogs evolve? Notice how they make the situation sound Darwinian right from the first Tontological sentence:

When we think of evolution, we think of a process that happens over hundreds or thousands of years. In research recently published, a team led by Rick Relyea, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences and David M. Darrin ’40 Senior Endowed Chair at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, found a species of frog that has evolved over the course of merely 25 years.

But it’s the same species of frog! Their paper in Ecology and Evolution doesn’t identify any speciation event, or any new species of frog that has become reproductively isolated from the initial frogs in the area that lived prior to humans adding salt to roads to get the snow to melt. It makes the increased salt tolerance in the frogs due to natural selection. By contrasting this case with “evolution” that takes hundreds or thousands of years (often millions of years), they tried to Darwinize a change that is not Darwinian.

Don’t swallow the line that evolution “usually” occurs slowly. Darwinians treat evolutionary rates like silly putty. They say it can vary from almost instantaneous to billions of years.

The adaptation was spurred on by something many assume is innocuous: salt.

Ask right there: did salt spur on the frog’s changes, or were the changes spurred on by the salt? The voice of the verb (active vs passive) can mislead the reader. The press release does not overtly personify salt as a selecting agent, but it claims repeatedly that the frogs “evolved salt tolerance” because of the presence of excessive salt. The paper uses the e-word evolution 27 times, but at one point they admit they don’t know the changes were Darwinian.

Alternatively, the higher chloride tolerance of the APHS population could be the result of phenotypic plasticity. While all the tadpoles from each population in our experiments underwent the same exposure to road salts, plastic responses can still be present in the form of inherited environmental effects, such as maternal effects (Rossiter, 1996). As with frequency dependent selection, our experiment was not designed to test for mechanisms such as maternal effects. However, in the future, combining laboratory and field experiments would be helpful for exploring this possibility further.

Maternal effects and phenotypic plasticity are epigenetic. Those are internal mechanisms for adaptation, not selection effects. But keep the funding coming, they imply; some day over the rainbow they might be able to find evidence for Darwinian evolution by natural selection. Maybe someday it will make frogs sprout wings and fly.

Mental Change Is Not Genetic Change

Combatting deepfakes is an evolutionary arms race (New Scientist, 13 March 2024). This is a blatant distortion of Darwinian terms. Yes, deepfakes using artificial intelligence (AI) are a serious concern for election integrity this year. But why does Jonathan Goodman call this an evolutionary arms race instead of an intellectual arms race? Darwinians talk of “evolutionary arms races” between predators and prey, like the comb jelly that develops armor to avoid the Anomalocaris predator that emerged to lurk in Cambrian seas (not that those are Darwinian, either).

If humans create deepfakes by design, and other humans try to combat the deepfakes by design, that is not evolution! It is an issue of intelligent design and ethics. Are humans evolving into new species in this “evolutionary arms race” like Homo deepfaker and Homo deepfake-combatter as a result of mutations in their genes? Don’t call this evolution when it is not.

Sugar glider, a gliding marsupial. From Baylor College of Medicine (Photo credit: Joe MacDonald).

Gliding Is Not Flying

Scientists unveil genetics behind development of gliding (Baylor College of Medicine, 24 April 2024). At first glance, this research article may appear the most Darwinian. Natures podcast gives it the Kiplingesque title, “How gliding marsupials got their ‘wings’,” and the research paper in Nature by Moreno et al. speaks of evolution, selection and natural selection dozens of times. It’s primarily about a cute hand-sized marsupial called a sugar glider that can glide from place to place with a stretched-out flap of furry skin called a patagium.

A closer look, however, reveals that the large team of evolutionary biologists failed to establish that this is a case of Darwinian evolution.

  • The gene, Emx2, conserved in mammals, is a homeobox gene with multiple important functions that can be expressed differently by cis-regulatory elements.
  • The capacity for gliding pre-exists: “we find evidence that Emx2 expression patterns in gliders may have been modified from a pre-existing program found in all mammals.”
  • Stretchable skin already exists in these marsupials, an example being the mother’s pouch.
  • Patagium convergence between unrelated mammals and three marsupial lineages suggest this is a gene expression phenomenon, not an evolutionary novelty, that occurs easily.
  • No new genes emerged by a Darwinian process: “This suggests that at least some of the networks downstream of Emx2 are conserved across mammals. Given the similarities in spatial expression between mouse and sugar gliders, we postulate that the evolution of marsupial patagia was facilitated by lineage-specific changes in the levels and duration of expression, a gene expressed in a conserved domain across mammals, rather than through the evolution of novel spatial domains.
  • The tissues of the patagium (skin, hair, etc) pre-exist in all mammals. The patagium only consists of enlarged tissue between front and hind limbs, allowing the animal to stretch out the tissue and catch air somewhat like a kite, parachute, or wingsuit. It is nothing like powered flight, which requires irreducibly complex systems.
  • Even so, the authors cannot prove that the gliding species did not always have gliding ability, without presupposing Darwinian evolution. Their phylogenetic diagram is built on the assumption of evolution in deep time.
  • The authors speak of evolutionary “tinkering” with pre-existing systems in wobbly, suggestive terms (see quote below).

In short, gliding with stretched out skin is a minor adaptation of pre-existing tissue caused by differential gene expression through pre-existing regulatory elements.

Some human ski jumpers can glide longer distances by forming their slender bodies into an airfoil in ways that would not be available to obese people. If ski-jumping gliders were classified into a phylogenetic diagram, would they look like a different species? Would European gliders and American gliders be shown as a case of “convergent evolution”? Phenotypes within a genotype can vary considerably. There are also some species of snake that can glide farther than others when leaping from a branch.

The authors make too much of this adaptation as an example of evolution, but fail to make the case that it was the result of random mutations and natural selection. Instead, internal epigenetic adaptations could explain why the skin enlarged in some marsupials permitting them to glide short distances. Since many epigenetic modifications are heritable, that could explain why some lineages glide and others do not.

Not all change is Darwinian. Creationists do not have issues with small-scale modification of existing tissues like in this case. Darwinian evolution has too many negative associations. It should not be given credit for minor things that have nothing to do with universal common ancestry via natural selection.

Quote from the paper by Moreno et al. showing the degree of guesswork (e.g., high perhapsimaybecouldness index) involved in how the data are interpreted:

Convergent evolution of traits in species experiencing similar selective pressures provides a natural experiment for examining the extent to which developmental programs change in predictable ways. In mammals, enhancers evolve more rapidly compared with other regions of the genome, but the rate at which different enhancers evolve varies considerably. For traits that are present in most taxonomic groups and have critical roles in organismal survival, such as the skull or the limbs, enhancer conservation tends to be high because of strong constraints imposed by purifying selection. Thus, changes in such traits, including those leading to convergence, arise through alterations in a small fraction of enhancers tolerating evolutionary sequence modification. As a result, selection is predicted to act on orthologous elements across different species. By contrast, a novel phenotypic trait like the patagium probably arises from evolutionary tinkering with much less critical tissue parameters (that is, lateral skin morphology). While common ecological pressures may promote morphological convergence among species, there may be a larger number of possible genetic changes tolerated by purifying selection, leading to less strict regulatory convergence. Thus, non-orthologous accelerated enhancers targeting the same key developmental gene may represent a way in which rapid enhancer evolution in mammals is harnessed by natural selection to generate phenotypic novelty.

Notice the personification fallacy in the clause “rapid enhancer evolution… is harnessed by natural selection.”









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  • JSwan says:

    For lack of real evidence they do love to sprinkle in as many ‘evolved’ as possible.

    I like watching nature documentaries except when some them keep saying certain features evolved, as if it is their own religious god of the gaps. They need to just stick to the observable facts.

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