Instant Evolution?

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The headline read, “Instant Evolution in Whiteflies: Just Add Bacteria.”[1] Any time I see the words instant, speedy, or sudden together with evolution, I’m intrigued. Evolution, as the term is commonly used, denotes an unobservable process that occurred in the past over eons of time resulting in the change of one kind of organism into a completely different kind of organism. According to evolutionary ideas, changes in organisms aren’t supposed to happen rapidly, hence the need to modify the word evolution with an adjective such as “instant” when a change does occur quickly.

The whitefly under investigation was Bemisia tabaci or the sweet potato whitefly. It poses an agricultural threat by essentially sucking nutrients from the leaves of the plant and leaving large amounts of honeydew which can lead to mold growth. The insect, like many, harbors a bacterial symbiont—in this case Rickettsia sp. nr. bellii—which provides reproductive benefits to the whitefly.

The researchers found that whiteflies with Rickettsia lay more eggs, have more eggs survive, and the sex ratio is changed favoring more female offspring (the bacteria are passed maternally—mother to offspring). A news article on the research stated the following:

“It’s instant evolution,” said Molly Hunter, a professor of entomology in the UA’s [University of Arizona] College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the study’s principal investigator. “Our lab studies suggest that these bacteria can transform an insect population over a very short time.”
I agree that their research shows that bacteria have the ability to alter the whitefly population, but is that an example of “instant evolution”? No. It is merely an alteration of reproductive abilities that the whitefly already possessed. It’s clearly not the gain of new structures and functions needed for molecules-to-man evolution. Instead, what we see may be an example of natural selection in action, as in the year 2,000 only one percent of the whiteflies in Arizona had Rickettsia and now almost all of them do. Since the whiteflies with bacteria lay more eggs and more of those eggs survive, they may be preferentially selected for.

Once again, evolutionists have committed the fallacy of equivocation by using examples of natural selection in the present as a plausible mechanism for evolution in the past. For more information please read, “Is Natural Selection the Same Thing as Evolution?”

[1] “Instant Evolution in Whiteflies: Just Add Bacteria,”, April 7, 2011,

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