Evolution 101- part 22: Half Way to Flatworm

Remember, normal text is copied from Evolution 101 by the Understanding Evolution team! (Battle Cry: “Stop Asking Questions!”) http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

BOLD font is me, Rent A Friend 2000, being Bold.

Looking at complexity: Life is full of grand complications, such as aerodynamic wings, multi-part organs like eyes, and intricate chemical pathways. When faced with such complexity, both opponents and proponents of evolution, Darwin included, have asked the question: how could it evolve?

 frog bird etc
Complex adaptions: bird wings, insect wings, vertebrate eyes, and insect eyes.

Science does not sweep such difficult questions under the rug, but takes them up as interesting areas for research. The difficulty is as follows.

OK, I’ve got it! “Evolution did it!” Send that to everyone and let’s go to lunch. Oh, and let’s make fun of the creationists for claiming God did it.

Since many of these complex traits seem to be adaptive, they are likely to have evolved in small steps through natural selection. That is, intermediate forms of the adaptation must have evolved before evolution arrived at a fully-fledged wing, chemical pathway, or eye.

Note the use of the phrase “must have evolved” in the place of actual evidence. This is a statement of faith, not of science. Also, there are MANY examples of biological systems which are irreducibly complex- meaning we know through study and observation that they need multiple specific parts all at once for the system to work AT ALL. Like a machine, these systems, organs, organelles, chemical pathways, and protein machines could not have formed through small steps and gradual accumulations, but must have had all of their necessary parts immediately. They will gloss over this fact in the following section.

But what good is half a wing or only a few of the elements of an eyeball? The intermediate forms of these adaptations may not seem adaptive — so how could they be produced by natural selection? [Editor’s Note: Produced by Natural Selection? Keep this question in mind.]

There are several ways such complex novelties may evolve:

  • Advantageous intermediates: It’s possible that those intermediate stages actually were advantageous, even if not in an obvious way. What good is “half an eye?” A simple eye with just a few of the components of a complex eye could still sense light and dark, like eyespots on simple flatworms do. This ability might have been advantageous for an organism with no vision at all and could have evolved through natural selection.
flatwormA Planaria flatworm with its light-sensitive eyespots.

Michael Behe covers this well in his book, Darwin’s Black Box. While the arguments against this evolutionary cartoon are valid, a better argument is an examination of the irreducible complexity of light sensitive cells which turn light into sight (And the chemical cascades which do the job of making sight possible). These cells, like all cells, are very complex, but unless they are fully functional, they do the organism and themselves no good, and thus would be weeded out by natural selection. Building these cells one piece at a time is impossible, not merely unlikely, as they depend on multiple parts and processes to function at all.

And do I have to point out that, even after THEY explained that Natural Selection only selects from what is already in the population- meaning it takes AWAY genetic information- they again want to give credit to Natural Selection as being able to produce the ability to see? Remember when they said this back in Part 14? “Natural selection just selects among whatever variations exist in the population.” So, sure,  those flatworms which can see may survive better than those that can’t, but that doesn’t do anything to explain where the complex machinery of sight came from.

  • Co-opting: The intermediate stages of a complex feature might have served a different purpose than the fully-fledged adaptation serves. What good is “half a wing?” Even if it’s not good for flying, it might be good for something else. The evolution of the very first feathers might have had nothing to do with flight and everything to do with insulation or display. Natural selection is an excellent thief, taking features that evolved in one context and using them for new functions.hairy dino

Once again we are skipping the actual, observable complexity of real feathers for some dark streaks which we will declare to be feathers. First problem- fossils of modern birds have been found in rock layers older than this. Secondly, these dark fibers have also been found on fossils of an ichthyosaur- a dinosaur which is a lot like a dolphin. Either these dark lines are, as some have proposed, protein strands from the decay of the dead animal as it fossilized, or a fish like dinosaur was also growing feathers. And third, even if this is a lizard with feathers, so what? That no more proves it was evolving into a bird than the beak proves birds evolved from turtles or parrot fish. That leap is based, not on the evidence, but on the evolutionary bias used to color the interpretation of evidence or maybe an odd species.

One of the best reasons for this dino to bird theory is fossils like Archeoraptor being put forth by magazines like National Geographic. You need to see the facts behind this amazing fraud for yourself. Here’s a spoiler-  they were told MONTHS BEFORE they published on it. They had been shown (By a pro-evolutionary lab who examined the fossil) that archeoraptor was a fraud made of several different animals in several different kinds of rocks. Even so, National Geographic shrugged it off and published it as fact anyways, KNOWING it was a fruad. Watch the story here.

I love science, kids. I love Biology, and I love studying all kinds of living things. But I can tell you one thing from observation: If Natural Selection was anything to shout about, these kinds of science frauds would have gone extinct many years ago. Even the flatworm can see that I’m right.

Join me next week for part 23 (The Big Finish!).


Evolution 101- Part 17: Ring Around the Species (or, How to Turn Owls into Owls)

Remember, normal text is copied from Evolution 101 by the Understanding Evolution team! (Free Toy Inside!) http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

BOLD font is me, Rent A Friend 2000, being Bold.

A plausible model
We have several plausible models of how speciation occurs — but of course, it’s hard for us to get an eye-witness account of a natural speciation event since most of these events happened in the distant past.

Just to reiterate: Science requires observation. These guys just admitted that this part of the story CAN’T be observed, as it happened in the distant past. Oh, you’re saying, but they said “MOST of these events happened in the distant past.” Doesn’t that mean SOME are happening today? Just go back to Part 16 and read about Iguana Island to see the observational evidence from recent times and I’ll let you decide how “Plausible” it is.

We can figure out that speciation events happened and often when they happened, but it’s more difficult to figure out how they happened.

Once again I am having trouble not being sarcastic. Let me just summarize their first two main points: We can’t observe speciation, and we don’t know how it happens. But we KNOW it happens and when. We just can’t say WHAT happens when it happens because we’ve never watched it happen. See? Even that sounds sarcastic. Try this sometime, folks. It’s not as easy as it looks.

However, we can use our models of speciation to make predictions and then check these predictions against our observations of the natural world and the outcomes of experiments.

Wait, check these predictions against WHAT observations? Just a few lines up they admitted that they COULD NOT observe much because it all happened in the distant past. Now they have enough going on to verify predictions? Am I still reading the same web site?

As an example, we’ll examine some evidence relevant to the allopatric speciation model.

Allopatric, according to Wikipedia, means geographic speciation… speciation that occurs when biological populations of the same species become… isolated from each other to an extent that prevents or interferes with genetic interchange.

Scientists have found a lot of evidence that is consistent with allopatric speciation being a common way that new species form:

  • Geographic patterns: If allopatric speciation happens, we’d predict that populations of the same species in different geographic locations would be genetically different. There are abundant observations suggesting that this is often true. For example, many species exhibit regional “varieties” that are slightly different genetically and in appearance, as in the case of the Northern Spotted Owl and the Mexican Spotted Owl. Also, ring species are convincing examples of how genetic differences may arise through reduced gene flow and geographic distance.

Anybody else notice that they failed to tell you what Ring Species are? If they are convincing examples, why are we told NOTHING about them? This doesn’t disprove evolution of course, I’m just starting to notice more and more how sloppy the authors of this web site are. Come on Understanding Evolution Team! Get on the ball!

 owl city
Spotted owl subspecies living in different geographic locations show some genetic and morphological differences. This observation is consistent with the idea that new species form through geographic isolation.

I think Hobbits are a Ring Species. Think about it.

  • Experimental results: The first steps of speciation have been produced in several laboratory experiments involving “geographic” isolation. For example, Diane Dodd examined the effects of geographic isolation and selection on fruit flies. She took fruit flies from a single population and divided them into separate populations living in different cages to simulate geographic isolation. Half of the populations lived on maltose-based food, and the other populations lived on starch-based foods. After many generations, the flies were tested to see which flies they preferred to mate with. Dodd found that some reproductive isolation had occurred as a result of the geographic isolation and selection for different food sources in the two environments: “maltose flies” preferred other “maltose flies,” and “starch flies” preferred other “starch flies.” Although, we can’t be sure, these preference differences probably [Editor’s note: “Probably”] existed because selection for using different food sources also affected certain genes involved in reproductive behavior. This is the sort of result we’d expect, if allopatric speciation were a typical mode of speciation.

Once again, I have no problem with this in theory. I don’t doubt that within each kind we have lots of different varieties popping up, like the cat kind producing lions and tigers and panthers and cheetahs, and all varieties being adapted to their environment due to what we could call Natural Selection. On this we have no disagreement. What we don’t have is a solid definition of species. And as the paragraph above admits, the researchers can’t say WHY a group of flies prefers a similar group. Maybe they just like the smell of those who live on the same food. This is why I swore off Taco Bell many years ago.  

The weak examples this site is giving makes me want to send them to the library, or at least Wikipedia. Also, as the point of this site is to explain the evidence for evolution. In the owl example above, or the fly example, we have no case to think the populations gained any new genetic information. Two kids of spotted owl may well have come from a single original kind of spotted owl, but you can get more than 2 million five card hands from a deck of 52. What does it prove? Just like every other example, nothing.You can shuffle, show off, and lose lots of cards without accounting for the creation of a single one, let alone the whole deck. To explain even ONE card, you need a designer.

The most likely explanation, based on all observable data is that these two owl populations, if they started as the same species, lost some information which has caused them to be identifiably different, like the dog varieties, or they are merely expressing specific parts of their genes due to environmental factors like the Galapagos finches. Neither option will turn bacteria into wolves or cabbages, and that, I would like to remind you (And the authors responsible for this web site) is the point of evolution.  A process which turns owls into owls but cannot turn bacteria into cabbages and wolves is NOT evolution. Its just shuffling the cards that were already in the deck.

Why this is so funny to me is because I hear atheists ALL of the time saying “Evolution has proven that there is no God.” In light of this section’s scientific proof, the argument goes like this. “Because owls turn into owls, there is no God.” If Socrates was still with us, I’ll bet he’d have a few follow up questions to that declaration.

The creation story in the Bible says that God made all the kinds, and we would expect that he would make them full of genetic variability so there can be many different varieties resulting through time. A few chapters later Noah takes two of every KIND (not variety) onto the ark, and post-flood those kinds reproduce and spread around the world. This is why we have the great varieties we do with far fewer kinds. As the genes are selected or lost, new varieties arise and display more of the tremendous information possessed in the original kinds, but each variation lacking some information which the earlier generations had. This is why the poodle, while physically distinct from the other dogs (And yet the same species), is also a horrible collection of harmful mutations when compared to the genome of the wolves or even mutts we have today. The observed facts fit the creation model. They do NOT support evolution, and calling this kind of dissemination of existing genes “Evolution” is simply false, as it would be to Play Black Jack and then claim the dealer invented the ace of spades by dealing.

Join me next week for part 18.


Evolution 101- part 16: The Mystery of Iguana Island

Remember, normal text is copied from Evolution 101 by the Understanding Evolution team! (with special guest star Charlie Sheen!) http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

BOLD font is me, Rent A Friend 2000, being Bold.

Defining microevolution: Microevolution is evolution on a small scale — within a single population. That means narrowing our focus to one branch of the tree of life.

I think you’ll find it means further applying the term “Evolution” in a place it doesn’t belong. Here’s a metaphor: Getting rich is merely the result of differentiating your financial income. Remember when your boss cut your Christmas bonus in half? That was an observable difference in your financial income. It’s proof that you are getting rich!

And now, on with the show: Read more of this post

Evolution 101- part 15: Co-Evolution and Fish Repair

Remember, normal text is copied from Evolution 101 by the Understanding Evolution team! (with a low tonight of Evolution 92, and tomorrow a high of Evolution 105 with gusts of Empiricism out of the east) http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

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Coevolution: The term coevolution is used to describe cases where two (or more) species reciprocally affect each other’s evolution. So for example, an evolutionary change in the morphology of a plant, might affect the morphology of an herbivore that eats the plant, which in turn might affect the evolution of the plant, which might affect the evolution of the herbivore…and so on.

This would make sense if there was any reason to believe evolution was happening in the first place. So far we have seen none, so providing a scenario where competition or mutual benefit might provide ever changing conditions for natural selection to act in becomes a mental exercise, but still completely unrealistic. For this to matter to the over all scheme of evolution, they need a mechanism by which information is ADDED to the genomes of both species, making it at least twice as unlikely to happen by mutation and other previously discussed mechanisms. If you tear pages out of Green Eggs and Ham AND Peter Rabbit, you will not end up with Lord of the Rings AND The Hobbit. You need some method of adding HUGE amounts of information which, in this case, now relates to the information being added to another volume. Read more of this post

Evolution 101- part 14: Vestigial Organs and Other Recent News from the 1940’s

Remember, normal text is copied from Evolution 101 by the Understanding Evolution team! (New Year’s Pledge: Less Data, MORE DARWIN!) http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

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Adaptation: An adaptation is a feature that is common in a population because it provides some improved function. Adaptations are well fitted to their function and are produced by natural selection.

It’s like beating a dead horse, but here I go again: Natural Selection CANNOT PRODUCE ANYTHING. All it can do it SELECT, or choose, from what is already there. That’s what the name means- nature selecting certain things to survive and others not to. Look at their example of Natural Selection in a previous section: Birds eat the green beetles until there are no more green beetles. What is left? Brown ones. Did the birds eating the green ones PRODUCE the brown ones? No. It only removed the green ones. So to say adaptations are PRODUCED by natural selection is again either ignorant or deceptive.  On the other hand, maybe I’ll get a bag of M&M’s and eat all the green ones, and then claimed I invented the red ones. Can I sue for royalties on that?I’ll therefore skip the list of examples they provided of alleged “adaptations.” Read more of this post

Evolution 101- part 13: Peacocks and Perverts

Remember, normal text is copied from Evolution 101 by the Understanding Evolution team! (Celebrating Christmas by cursing the Virgin Mary since 1998) http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

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What about fitness?

Hey! I did pushups AND sit ups yesterday. 12 of EACH!

Biologists use the word fitness to describe how good a particular genotype is at leaving offspring in the next generation relative to how good other genotypes are at it. So if brown beetles consistently leave more offspring than green beetles because of their color, you’d say that the brown beetles had a higher fitness.

The brown beetles have a greater fitness relative to the green beetles.

Of course, fitness is a relative thing. A genotype’s fitness depends on the environment in which the organism lives. The fittest genotype during an ice age, for example, is probably not the fittest genotype once the ice age is over.

To clarify- survival of the fittest ONLY MEANS survival of those who have statistically more offspring than others. And here you all were thinking fit means smart, or big, or strong. Nope. Remember, survival of the fittest is the mantra which, on this view, turned T Rex into Chickens. Read more of this post

Evolution 101- part 11: Gene Flow and the Arch Duke of Hearts

Remember, normal text is copied from Evolution 101 by the Understanding Evolution team! (Ironic Mascot: Ken Ham) http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

BOLD font is me, Rent A Friend 2000, being Bold.

The causes of mutationsMutations happen for several reasons.

  1. DNA fails to copy accurately
    Most of the mutations that we think matter to evolution are “naturally-occurring.” For example, when a cell divides, it makes a copy of its DNA — and sometimes the copy is not quite perfect. That small difference from the original DNA sequence is a mutation.DNA Copies
Did I mention that an average functional protein needs 300 amino acids in the right order? That means 900 of those DNA letters in the right order. You know how having one number wrong in a telephone number means you can’t make your call? It can be a lot like that.
  1. External influences can create mutations
    Mutations can also be caused by exposure to specific chemicals or radiation. These agents cause the DNA to break down. This is not necessarily unnatural — even in the most isolated and pristine environments, DNA breaks down. Nevertheless, when the cell repairs the DNA, it might not do a perfect job of the repair. So the cell would end up with DNA slightly different than the original DNA and hence, a mutation.Radio ACTIVE

Now they’re just TAUNTING the TMNT fans. Radioactive waste COULD cause mutations in a turtle, but not THOSE mutations. Way to harsh our Ninja Turtle buzz, man. Read more of this post

Evolution 101- part 10: Mutants- Yes, Ninja Turtles- No.

Remember, normal text is copied from Evolution 101 by the Understanding Evolution team! (Ironic Mascot: Ken Ham) http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

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So, what are the sources of genetic variation?

Genetic variation

Without genetic variation, some of the basic mechanisms of evolutionary change cannot operate.

“Some.” Did you get that? So, in a world of clones, other mechanisms of evolutionary change apparently could happen. I think they didn’t proof read this stuff.

There are three primary sources of genetic variation, which we will learn more about:

  1. Mutations are changes in the DNA. A single mutation can have a large effect, but in many cases, evolutionary change is based on the accumulation of many mutations.
  2. Gene flow is any movement of genes from one population to another and is an important source of genetic variation.
  3. Sex can introduce new gene combinations into a population. This genetic shuffling is another important source of genetic variation.

Genetic shuffling is a source of variation.


Mutation is a change in DNA, the hereditary material of life. An organism’s DNA affects how it looks, how it behaves, and its physiology — all aspects of its life. So a change in an organism’s DNA can cause changes in all aspects of its life.

Just to keep you on your toes, some scientific fact which doesn’t contradict itself. Enjoy it while it lasts. Read more of this post

Evolution 101- part 9: Hope, Change, and Lethal Mutations

Remember, normal text is copied from Evolution 101 by the Understanding Evolution team! (now serving the tri-state area!) http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

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Mechanisms of change

Each of these four processes is a basic mechanism of evolutionary change.

A mutation could cause parents with genes for bright green coloration to have offspring with a gene for brown coloration. That would make genes for brown coloration more frequent in the population than they were before the mutation.Or a pre-existing recessive gene. A change in the frequency of a trait does NOT equate to a change in the genes of the individuals. Besides, in the example given, the beetles already had genes for brown. This has no bearing on the story above unless it is meant to explain why brown beetles exist in the first place, which, in the paragraph above, they do not attempt to do.
Some individuals from a population of brown beetles might have joined a population of green beetles. That would make genes for brown coloration more frequent in the green beetle population than they were before the brown beetles migrated into it.Do I need to say how this doesn’t represent new genetic information? Let’s all take a second and remember that Evolution is supposed to explain the process by which bacteria became wolves and cabbages.
 beetles migration

Read more of this post

Evolution 101- part 8: Here Come the Beetles!

Remember, normal text is copied from Evolution 101 by the Understanding Evolution team! (aka: Evo-Event Staff) http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

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Descent with modification

We’ve defined evolution as descent with modification from a common ancestor, but exactly what has been modified? Evolution only occurs when there is a change in gene frequency within a population over time. These genetic differences are heritable and can be passed on to the next generation — which is what really matters in evolution: long term change.

They’ve got the last part right- long term change is what matters, but their definition is still paper thin and an inch tall. A Change in Gene Frequency is not good enough. It needs to be an INCREASE in genetic information, not merely a change in the frequency of genetic information which is already there. This is like saying “I know where this candybar originated! I can prove that this chocolate bar used to be a gum recipe because I found a label on one that says, “Now 20% bigger!”” Which is delicious but nonsensical. Also, I know America has forgotten this, but CHANGE can mean decay, or other forms of getting worse. If enough of the right genes go away, the species dies. Extinction is not evolution, even if they do appear on the same page of your glossary. Read more of this post

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