Lopsided Snakes


LiveScience: “Snake with Taste for Escargot Evolves Bizarre Strategy” http://www.livescience.com/animalworld/070308_right_snakes.html

One of this week’s examples of “evolution” in action is Pareas iwasakii, the Japanese snake. According to LiveScience, this snail-sucking snake “has evolved an upper jaw with more teeth on the right side than the left” that allows it to tug snails out of their shells more efficiently (based on the usual curvature of snail shells). The snake uses this method (which you can watch on video) because its jaws are too weak to crush snail shells. When faced with snails whose shells curved in the less-usual way, the snakes were more challenged and took longer to “free” the snails from their shells.

Scientists at Kyoto University in Japan determined that these snakes have an average of 17.5 teeth on the left jaw as opposed to 24.9 teeth on the right jaw; this asymmetry was found even in unhatched snakes, which indicates that the asymmetry has a genetic origin. “[T]he snake has evolved an upper jaw with more teeth on the right side than the left,” the article explains, calling it a “toothy adaptation.”

This asymmetry was found even in unhatched snakes, which indicates that the asymmetry has a genetic origin.

But is this “evolution”? In one sense, yes—in the sense that the term “evolution” refers to a change in the frequency of a gene occurring in a population (but not in a molecules-to-man sense, as we will explain later). In this snake population, which (presumably) was originally dominated by snakes with symmetrical genes, the success of the right-toothed snakes has increased the frequency of the genes for right-toothedness in these snakes. This sort of evolution in no way contradicts the biblical account; furthermore, it is based on solid investigative research.

The problem is, “evolution” is also used to refer to the unobserved speculation that over time, molecules could turn into men, fish could turn into philosophers, and so forth. But unlike the serpentine example above, such “evolution” would require the addition of a great volume of genetic information. Such information-increasing evolution has never been observed. Thus, when evolutionary scientists find examples of animal populations adapting to their environments, the news is touted as indirect “evidence” that life is the result of millions of years of evolution. In reality, this borderline-dishonest tactic amounts to a modicum of science and a mound of evolutionary philosophy.

For a good overview of how natural selection, mutations, and adaptation all come into play in the real world, see Muddy Waters: Clarifying the confusion about natural selection.

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