May 6, 2024 | David F. Coppedge

Lay Science Reporters Perpetuate Evolutionary Myths

Myths are homologous by common descent
of mutations in logic. Or is that by design?



Jonathan Wells published Icons of Evolution 24 years ago, yet his ten examples of evolutionary myths keep rising like zombies.

One of the myths in his book was the argument from homology for evolution. We all know it from the constant repetition in school textbooks and science documentaries: similar limb bones prove they are related by common ancestry, as taught by Darwin. Critics both within the Darwin Party and among intelligent design leaders have pointed out flaws with the argument:

  • Homology was noticed long before Darwin and was not attributed to evolution, but to common design.
  • Evolutionists redefined homology as due to common ancestry, which made the argument circular.
  • Evolutionists then defined analogy as similarity not due to common ancestry, reinforcing the circularity.
  • There are numerous examples of similarities that cannot possibly be due to common ancestry.
  • Evolutionists defined the word convergence as similarity not due to common ancestry. This is a word game.
  • So homology proves evolution, except when it doesn’t.

Occasionally the homology argument pops up in science reporting. Here is an example posted today.

Why do most mammals have 5 fingers? (Live Science, 5 May 2024). Reporter Katherine Irving writes for Live Science, The Scientist, and Science Magazine, but has apparently never been told about these logical fallacies in the homology argument.

If you look at the paws of a cat, a dog or even a kangaroo, you’ll notice they have something in common with our hands. Even if some might be shrunken or differently positioned, all of these mammals have five digits, or fingers. Why do we share this pattern with our furry friends, even though we evolved under different conditions?

To answer the question of why mammals have five fingers, we must first understand why tetrapod (Greek for “four-footed”) vertebrates have five fingers. Mammals belong to the superclass Tetrapoda, which also includes reptiles, amphibians and birds. Even members of this group without traditional limbs have five fingers in their skeleton — whales, seals and sea lions have five fingers in their flippers — even if they have four or fewer toes.

What she is repeating is that the five-finger homology evolved due to common ancestry. “Why do we share this pattern?” she asks, with only Darwinian answers in her toolkit. You can look in vain for any mention of the logical fallacies listed above. She is oblivious to what critics have been saying for decades. She simply repeats the myth as taught in a high-school textbook.

Irving discusses Hox genes, embryos and other facts, but those are irrelevant to the logic of the argument. Then she repeats the fallacy, relying on Thomas Stewart, an evolutionary biologist at Penn State, as her Darwin Party guru.

Nobody is sure when this five-finger plan first evolved. The first known animals to develop fingers evolved from fish around 360 million years ago and had as many as eight fingers, Stewart said. However, the existence of the five-finger plan in most living tetrapods indicates that the trait is likely a “homology”a gene or structure that is shared between organisms because they have a common ancestor. The common ancestor of all living tetrapods must have somehow evolved to have five fingers and passed that pattern down to its descendants.

The circularity of the argument is evident here: homology is defined in terms of common descent, and then is used as evidence of common descent. The Stuff Happens Law is also clearly stated: the pattern “somehow evolved” but “nobody is sure when” the stuff happened. Any concept of functional optimization in the pattern is lost on her.

Irving invites another Darwin Party guru, Kimberly Cooper, a evolutionary developmental geneticist at the University of California, San Diego, to speculate about canalization—the idea that once a gene mutates a certain way, it’s hard to change (see 3 June 2020). It gets channeled, like stick in a rut. But these ruts cannot be deep, Cooper says, because mutations for extra fingers (polydactyly; see 14 June 2019) can occur often in many species.

Raising the perhapsimaybecouldness index helps in conundrums like this.

“If it’s that easy,” Cooper asked, “why don’t polydactyl species exist?” She argued it must be because polydactyly is an evolutionary disadvantage. Some speculate it might be down to gene linkage: As genes evolve over millions of years, some become linked, meaning changing one gene (the amount of fingers) could lead to other more serious health issues. But as of yet, nobody has offered concrete proof, Stewart told Live Science.

Is it not odd to use ignorance as evidence for a theory? Irving asks Dr Stewart how he knows the pattern is due to evolution. He’s excited that he doesn’t know.

“We can ask a very simple question of why don’t we see more than five fingers, and it seems like we should arrive at a simple answer,” he said. “But it’s a really deep problem. That makes [this field] really exciting.”

With all the criticisms of the homology argument for decades, why didn’t Irving and her Darwin Party gurus mention them? Why didn’t Irving even think of asking non-Darwinists about these issues? Why didn’t she explore engineering reasons why five fingers might be the best

Exercise your ability to answer this common evolutionary icon until you can explain it to a friend in your own words. Here are resources to help:

    1. Is Homology Evidence for Evolution? (Long Story Short). This humorous video explains the logical flaws in the homology argument, quoting Darwinist papers that recognize the circularity.
    2. Neo-Darwinism’s Homology Problem (Discovery Institute). A brief old video features Jonathan Wells, Paul Nelson and David Berlinski debunking the homology argument.
    3. Icons of Evolution 10th Anniversary: Dr Jonathan Wells on Homology in Vertebrate Limbs (Discovery Institute). In his calm and wry manner, Dr Wells describes the history and logical flaws with homology.
    4. Do Homology and Phylogenetics REALLY Support Darwin’s Tree of Life? (Basics of ID Biology, Ep. 4, Discovery Institute, 2022). A witty 15-minute video debunking homology as evidence for Darwinian evolution, showing that a Darwinian tree of life does not emerge from anatomy, molecules, or fossils.
    5. The dead walk again, teaching students myths.

      Books: Icons of Evolution (2000) and Zombie Science (2017) by Dr Jonathan Wells discusses homology as a flawed icon of evolution. His website contains additional resources and articles.

Also check out our previous articles on this topic:

    • Extreme Convergences Strain Credibility (21 March 2022)
    • Why Just Five Digits on Tetrapod Limbs? (14 June 2019)
    • More Examples of “Convergent Evolution” Claimed (13 June 2015)
    • Genetic Convergent Evolution Strains Credibility (6 Sept 2013)
    • Homology for Dummies (5 May 2004)
    • Can Evolution Create Homologous Structures by Different Paths? (22 April 2004)

or search on “homology” or “convergence” in the Search bar.

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