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Wanting Proof

on January 23, 2010

PhysOrg: “‘Survival of the Cutest’ Proves Darwin RightPerhaps it’s a fault, but we can hardly pass up on responding to any study that, it’s claimed, “proves Darwin right.” But it’s no surprise that we find this “proof” wanting as well.

The study, published in American Naturalist, considers the diversity of skull shapes of the domestic dog. Biologists Chris Klingenberg of the University of Manchester and Abby Drake of the College of the Holy Cross compared this diversity to the diversity of all skull shapes in taxonomic order Carnivora, home of such creatures as cats, bears, walruses, and many others.

The amount of diversity is especially surprising for evolutionists.

Surprisingly, the shape of domestic dog skulls show more diversity than the entire order does as a whole. As the press release explains, “This means, for instance, that a Collie has a skull shape that is more different from that of a Pekingese than the skull shape of the cat is from that of a walrus.” The amount of diversity is especially surprising for evolutionists, who believe evolution has worked on order Carnivora for 60 million years more than on the “recently” domesticated dog.

The study fits squarely within the creationist framework for understanding biology. Artificial selection is even more powerful than natural selection for creating diversity within an animal kind, as artificial selection allows breeders to preserve otherwise “unfit” characteristics and even exaggerate them. Thus, Klingenberg noted that of all dog types, those bred as companion dogs (rather than for hunting, herding, or guarding) were the most variable:

Domestic dogs are boldly going where no self-respecting carnivore ever has gone before. Domestic dogs don’t live in the wild so they don’t have to run after things and kill them—their food comes out of a tin and the toughest thing they’ll ever have to chew is their owner’s slippers. So they can get away with a lot of variation that would affect functions such as breathing and chewing and would therefore lead to their extinction. Natural selection has been relaxed and replaced with artificial selection for various shapes that breeders favour. Dogs are bred for their looks, not for doing a job, so there is more scope for outlandish variations, which are then able to survive and reproduce.

Although the study does indeed demonstrate “the power of Darwinian selection,” it offers no proof for the Darwinian idea that all species evolved from a simple common ancestor. Domestic dogs are not evolving into non-dog species, and even if, someday, a dog breed were so abnormal as to be deemed another species, it could only be through the loss of genetic information—the opposite of a simple organism evolving into something more complex.

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