Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Evolutionary "Just-so" Stories, part 2 of n...

For Evolution to work there needs to be more than just lots of time; there needs to be some type of mechanism that will effectively change one species into another species. They propose that natural selection, working over time, through countless genetic mutations, has the power to perform the changes necessary. One of the supposedly clearest examples of how natural selection can alter a species population was the Peppered Moth analysis done in Britain. It seems that the moths, light in color, were hidden against the bark of the similarly colored trees which they landed on. This camouflage thereby made it difficult for predators to see them. Enter the industrial age and the associated soot it generated. The soot darkened the light colored trees in the forest making the lighter colored moths easier for their predators to see... and pick out for consumption. Now darker moths were more easily hidden from predators and their numbers increased. There were even photographs taken in the 1950s that illustrated this phenomenon. Wow - natural selection at work! One problem. The photos were staged. It seems that during the day the moths didn't land on the tree trunks but stayed in the upper regions of branches and leaves... oops. Phillip Johnson writes about this fraud in a recent issue of Touchstone Magazine in an article titled, Mothballed Science. But I'm not addressing the issue of fraud here. Indeed, fraud is pretty non-discriminatory in that it effects not just evolutionists but the entirety of the human race. What I'm addressing is the idea that camouflage is an indicator of the evolutionary process at work. It makes sense doesn't it? I mean, if natural selection weeds out those unfit for survival, then any animal that stands out in a crowd will more than likely be the one targeted for consumption. This, though, does not take into account an animal's speed, agility, or... toxicity. Enter brightly colored poisonous frogs. In a recent study titled, Multiple, recurring origins of aposematism and diet specialization in poison frogs, scientists have concluded that the origin of aposematism (i.e., the association, in a prey organism, of the presence of a warning signal with unprofitability to predators) evolved at least 5 times independently. This is highly improbable because of, as the authors state, "the prey’s increased conspicuousness." Well now that's interesting isn't it? We can easily understand how blending in with the background can help both a predator and its prey; and we can easily understand how being poisonous to your predator will effectively keep that predator from having you for lunch. But how do we explain having the feature of being poisonous while at the same time advertising your presence by wearing a neon pink leisure suit? If the poisonous aspect evolved first, why the need for flashiness? If the flashiness evolved first, then who would be left to evolve the poisonous feature? So what is it? Do animals with camouflage provide evidence for the evolutionary paradigm or do animals with aposematism provide evidence? Or is it both? It really doesn't matter to the evolutionist, for whatever the outcome - Evolution will explain it. It's "just-so."

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