Gems or Fool’s Gold?

on January 17, 2009
Featured in News to Know

They’re the “gems” of evolution—but what are their imperfections?

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Earlier in the month, the journal Nature reported 15 alleged transitional forms that have already received significant press coverage in the past. So does this rehashing “illustrate the breadth, depth and power of evolutionary thinking”? Let’s take a look at the gems one by one and see which ones we’ve already covered.

Gems from the Fossil Record

  1. Land-living ancestors of whales: Are raoellids the latest proof of whale evolution? See “River-Slosher—Missing Link?
  2. From water to land: Is Tiktaalik proof that fish once walked on land? See our response, part 1 and part 2.
  3. The origin of feathers: Are feathered dinosaurs found in the fossil record? See “The Evolution of Feathers: A Major Problem for Darwinism” and “Did Dinosaurs Turn into Birds?
  4. The evolutionary history of teeth: Do differences in rodent teeth prove evolution? We had never before responded to this model that “predicts the dentition patterns found in mouselike rodent species with various diets, providing an example of ecologically driven evolution along a developmentally favoured trajectory.” From the summary given, it appears this is nothing more than an evolutionary spin tacked onto some otherwise interesting developmental biology.
  5. The origin of the vertebrate skeleton: What does the “neural crest” have to do with evolution? This one presupposes evolution, presenting a neural crest “unique to vertebrates,” then trying to account for it within the evolution model. For example, finding “[s]keletal similarities that result from a shared evolutionary history,” as this research purports to do, presupposes a shared evolutionary history.

Gems from habitats

  1. Natural selection in speciation: Do stickleback fish prove evolution before our very eyes? See “Reverse Evolution Found In Small Fish Species” and “Natural Selection Theory Strengthened By Armored Fish Study.”
  2. Natural selection in lizards: Does lizard evolution prove evolution before our very eyes? See “Lizards Losing Limbs Case For Evolution in Action.”
  3. A case of co-evolution: What does the “Red Queen” have to do with evolution? Nature argues that parasite resistance in water fleas—soon overcome by the parasites “evolving” to infect them again—is a perfect example of evolution. We suspect this process is far more similar to the “evolution” of antibiotic resistance.
  4. Differential dispersal in wild birds: Does genetic variation prove evolution? See “Natural Selection vs. Evolution.”
  5. Selective survival in wild guppies: Does natural selection prove evolution? See “The Guppies and the Nematode....”
  6. Evolutionary history matters: Are similarities in anatomies proof of evolution? See “Does Homology Provide Evidence of Evolutionary Naturalism?

Gems from molecular processes

  1. Darwin’s Galapagos finches: Do Darwin’s finches prove evolution? See “‘Evolution’ of Finch Beaks—Again.”
  2. Microevolution meets macroevolution: Do we observe genetic changes that lead to an increase in information? See “Are Mutations Part of the ‘Engine’ of Evolution?
  3. Toxin resistance in snakes and clams: Does toxin resistance prove evolution? Again, this seems similar to the argument for the supposed “evolution” of antibiotic resistance.
  4. Variation versus stability: Does everything prove evolution? See “Hasn’t Evolution Been Proven True?

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