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Is the theory of evolution being disproved by bats?

Is the theory of evolution being disproved by bats?


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For some species the Darwin's theory evolution makes perfect sense. I can easily imagine how, for example, the giraffe has evolved to its current appearance: the natural selection was favoring individuals that could consume more vegetable food from trees using longer necks, and some individuals were getting at birth necks longer than average by pure genetic randomness and the long neck trait was being propagated to descendant individuals by means of genetic inheritance. I have no problem with understanding this kind of evolution.

Now let's have a look at the bat and its relatives. The bat is one of the few mammals that have something to do with flying and the only one that took flying to the bird level. Paleontologically, first mammals date to the dinosaur era and initially looked similar to the present-day shrew (which looks much like a mouse). The question is: how in the world prehistoric mouse-like creatures could grow wings over time? It impossible to believe that some mouse-like individuals were getting wing-like limbs by mutation and the "wings" were growing out accompanied with the knowledge of how the "wings" can actually be used. Ok, then maybe first wings were tiny moth-size wings and then grew larger? But where natural selection would come into play in this case? Such mouse-like individuals would have no advantage over their wingless relatives and thus would not be able to transfer those wing-growing genes to their descendants, quite the contrary, such individuals with useless mutations that interfere with their ability to walk would be suppressed by natural selection and therefore "weeded out".

So what is the story behind the bat's wings and is the Darwin's theory really able to support it?


Take a look at this little fellow:

It's a flying squirrel - a shy little nocturnal rodent which lives in trees and, despite its name, does not actually fly. It does, however, have a skin membrane called a patagium between its fore and hind limbs which allows it to glide from tree to tree and thus evade ground predators.

It's not hard to see how the flying squirrel's patagium may have evolved: after all, ordinary squirrels, to which the flying squirrel is indeed related, also spend most of their time in trees and avoid the ground, often performing quite impressive leaps to cross from one tree to another. With sufficient pressure to minimize time spent on the ground, any little morphological changes that allowed longer leaps would be favored by natural selection.

Indeed, there are plenty of other groups of mammals which have independently evolved very similar adaptations to gliding. Given how many small arboreal mammals there are, this is perhaps not surprising. What's special about bats is not the fact that they possess flight membranes - it's that they're the only group of mammals, so far, to have taken the next step to actual powered flight.


Check out this famous paper by Gould and Lewontin, the Spandrels of San Marco. It's essentially a criticism of your question as it's not really the right question to ask. You're engaging in what they call "adaptive storytelling". The truth is that barring fossil intermediaries it's almost impossible to infer how a species transitioned from primitive ancestors. Secondly you're assuming constant selective pressure over time. It certainly can be the case that traits evolve in certain environments but are conserved over time despite no longer serving their original function (why do flightless birds have feathers still? etc.).


Perhaps you didn't realise that bats' wings are equivalent to the front limbs of other mammals? They aren't extra limbs, just adapted ones, and the wings are formed from flaps of skin between the 'fingers'.

Taking that into account, I don't even see how anyone can think this is a challenge to the theory of evolution. It's obvious that increased skin webbing between fingers, eventually combined with increased finger length, provides an adaptive benefit to tree-dwelling small mammals. Initially it gives increased air resistance to allow controlled falling, then to allow gliding (like in flying squirrels), and in the most extreme cases to allow flying.

These kinds of questions are always about a failure of imagination, or a misunderstanding of the basic facts, and never about the theory of evolution being wrong. (edit: that doesn't mean the theory of evolution can't be challenged - it is a theory - but that this isn't a valid way to challenge it).


Creationists Point to Huge Holes in Evolution “Theory”

In Time magazine, August 23, 1999, evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould asserted that “evolution is as well documented as any phenomenon in science” and “we can call evolution a ‘fact.’” This is typical of the stratagem used by evolutionists: If you make a statement strong enough and repeat it often enough, you may be able to convince yourself and others that it may be true. Yet, despite their dogmatism, there are many knowledgeable people who do not believe that the evidence supports the theory of evolution.


The Institute for Creation Research

ICR began publishing its popular free newsletter Acts & Facts in June 1972, over 31 years ago. The first two issues were 6-page, single-column, fold-over tract-like papers, black-and-white&mdashnot very impressive in appearance.

Issue No. 1 contained only news items describing some of our early campus meetings. Specially featured was the meeting held by Dr. Duane Gish on the Davis campus of the University of California. This was the meeting that involved an unscheduled 2½ hour debate with world-famous evolutionist, G. Ledyard Stebbins. A favorable response from the large student attendance and a very positive write-up in the student paper eventually led to Dr. Gish's famous cartoon booklet, Have You Been Brainwashed? which has been greatly used by the Lord in the past three decades, being distributed in the millions all over the world.

That issue also announced the publication of Dr. Gish's first book, Evolution: The Fossils Say No! which has been used widely and has won many evolutionists to accept the truth of special creation.

Issue No. 2 also was mostly news, but it did contain a semi-technical article on "The Mathematical Impossibility of Evolution" which is being reproduced herein as a matter of interest&mdashnot only of historical interest as the forerunner of our popular Impact articles (the first of which was published in the first 1973 issue), but also because it still seems to show in a very simple way that evolution is impossible&mdashno one, to my knowledge, has ever tried to refute it.

The third issue of Acts & Facts reported on the first ICR-sponsored expedition to Mount Ararat in search of Noah's Ark, led by John Morris. The first Impact article, however, was published in the January/February 1973 issue on the subject, "Evolution, Creation, and the Public Schools," urging that concerned citizens should use an educational and persuasion approach, rather than legislation or litigation, in trying to get a balanced approach to origins teaching accepted in the public schools.

In spite of this advice, however, many well-meaning creationists have tried&mdashalways unsuccessfully&mdashto try to force this issue. We still recommend education and persuasion as the best policy.

Anyway, an Impact article on significant scientific or apologetics topics has been published every month since that first 1973 Acts & Facts. The forerunner of all these, still quite valid, I believe, is reproduced with a few modifications below:

The Mathematical Impossibility of Evolution

According to the most-widely accepted theory of evolution today, the sole mechanism for producing evolution is that of random mutation combined with natural selection. Mutations are random changes in genetic systems. Natural selection is considered by evolutionists to be a sort of sieve, which retains the "good" mutations and allows the others to pass away.

Since random changes in ordered systems almost always will decrease the amount of order in those systems, nearly all mutations are harmful to the organisms which experience them. Nevertheless, the evolutionist insists that each complex organism in the world today has arisen by a long string of gradually accumulated good mutations preserved by natural selection. No one has ever actually observed a genuine mutation occurring in the natural environment which was beneficial (that is, adding useful genetic information to an existing genetic code), and therefore, retained by the selection process. For some reason, however, the idea has a certain persuasive quality about it and seems eminently reasonable to many people&mdashuntil it is examined quantitatively, that is!

For example, consider a very simple putative organism composed of only 200 integrated and functioning parts, and the problem of deriving that organism by this type of process. The system presumably must have started with only one part and then gradually built itself up over many generations into its 200-part organization. The developing organism, at each successive stage, must itself be integrated and functioning in its environment in order to survive until the next stage. Each successive stage, of course, becomes statistically less likely than the preceding one, since it is far easier for a complex system to break down than to build itself up. A four-component integrated system can more easily "mutate" (that is, somehow suddenly change) into a three-component system (or even a four-component non-functioning system) than into a five-component integrated system. If, at any step in the chain, the system mutates "downward," then it is either destroyed altogether or else moves backward, in an evolutionary sense.

Therefore, the successful production of a 200-component functioning organism requires, at least, 200 successive, successful such "mutations," each of which is highly unlikely. Even evolutionists recognize that true mutations are very rare, and beneficial mutations are extremely rare&mdashnot more than one out of a thousand mutations are beneficial, at the very most.

But let us give the evolutionist the benefit of every consideration. Assume that, at each mutational step, there is equally as much chance for it to be good as bad. Thus, the probability for the success of each mutation is assumed to be one out of two, or one-half. Elementary statistical theory shows that the probability of 200 successive mutations being successful is then (½) 200 , or one chance out of 10 60 . The number 10 60 , if written out, would be "one" followed by sixty "zeros." In other words, the chance that a 200-component organism could be formed by mutation and natural selection is less than one chance out of a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion! Lest anyone think that a 200-part system is unreasonably complex, it should be noted that even a one-celled plant or animal may have millions of molecular "parts."

The evolutionist might react by saying that even though any one such mutating organism might not be successful, surely some around the world would be, especially in the 10 billion years (or 10 18 seconds) of assumed earth history. Therefore, let us imagine that every one of the earth's 10 14 square feet of surface harbors a billion (i.e., 10 9 ) mutating systems and that each mutation requires one-half second (actually it would take far more time than this). Each system can thus go through its 200 mutations in 100 seconds and then, if it is unsuccessful, start over for a new try. In 10 18 seconds, there can, therefore, be 10 18 /10 2 , or 10 16 , trials by each mutating system. Multiplying all these numbers together, there would be a total possible number of attempts to develop a 200-component system equal to 10 14 (10 9 ) (10 16 ), or 10 39 attempts. Since the probability against the success of any one of them is 10 60 , it is obvious that the probability that just one of these 10 39 attempts might be successful is only one out of 10 60 /10 39 , or 10 21 .

All this means that the chance that any kind of a 200-component integrated functioning organism could be developed by mutation and natural selection just once, anywhere in the world, in all the assumed expanse of geologic time, is less than one chance out of a billion trillion. What possible conclusion, therefore, can we derive from such considerations as this except that evolution by mutation and natural selection is mathematically and logically indefensible!

Discussion

There have been many other ways in which creationist writers have used probability arguments to refute evolutionism, especially the idea of random changes preserved, if beneficial, by natural selection. James Coppedge devoted almost an entire book, Evolution: Possible or Impossible (Zondervan, 1973, 276 pp.), to this type of approach. I have also used other probability-type arguments to the same end (see, e.g., Science and Creation, Master Books, pp. 161-201).

The first such book, so far as I know, to use mathematics and probability in refuting evolution was written by a pastor, W. A. Williams, way back in 1928. Entitled, Evolution Disproved, it made a great impression on me when I first read it about 1943, at a time when I myself was still struggling with evolution.

In fact, evolutionists themselves have attacked traditional Darwinism on the same basis (see the Wistar Institute Symposium, Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, 1967, 140 pp.). While these scientists did not reject evolution itself, they did insist that the Darwinian randomness postulate would never work.

Furthermore, since the law of increasing entropy, or the second law of thermodynamics, is essentially a statement of probabilities, many writers have also used that law itself to show that evolution on any significant scale is essentially impossible. Evolutionists have usually ignored the arguments or else used vacuous arguments against them ("Anything can happen given enough time" "The earth is an open system, so the second law doesn't apply" "Order can arise out of chaos through dissipative structures" etc.).

In the real world of scientific observation, as opposed to metaphysical speculation, however, no more complex system can ever "evolve" out of a less complex system, so the probability of the naturalistic origin of even the simplest imaginary form of life is zero.

The existence of complexity of any kind is evidence of God and creation. "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: He calleth them all by names by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power not one faileth" (Isaiah 40:26).


Your book is as much about scientists as it is about science, and casting a huge shadow over the story is the biologist Carl Woese, whom you call “a brilliant crank.” Explain why he is so important to this story.

He was a microbiologist at the University of Illinois, in Urbana, in the middle of the American prairie, working away during the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was deeply interested in the early history of life on Earth, going way back to the beginning of cellular and pre-cellular life close to 4 billion years ago. He thought, “How in the world can I learn about that?”

He decided the way to do it would be to go inside living cells, find a single molecule common to all forms of life, pull that molecule out, sequence its genomic letters, and then collect paragraphs of those letters for one organism and another and compare them to see who was related to whom, how distantly, how closely, and the way life had diverged over billions of years. He then made the discovery that some of these creatures that looked like bacteria, were, in fact, not bacteria at all but the archaea, this third kingdom of life. That discovery got him on the front page of the New York Times on November 3, 1977.


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Thousands of children are to receive publicly-funded vouchers enabling them to attend the schools – which follow a strict fundamentalist curriculum.

The Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) programme teaches controversial religious beliefs, aimed at disproving evolution and proving creationism.

Youngsters will be told that if it can be proved that dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time as man, then Darwinism is fatally flawed.

Critics have slammed the content of the religious course books, labelling them “bizarre” and accusing them of promoting radical religious and political ideas.

One ACE textbook called Biology 1099, Accelerated Christian Education Inc reads: “Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence.

“Have you heard of the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”

Another claim taught is that a Japanese whaling boat once caught a dinosaur.

One former pupil, Jonny Scaramanga, 27, who went through the ACE programme as a child, but now campaigns against Christian fundamentalism, said the Nessie claim was presented as “evidence” that evolution could not have happened.

He added: “The reason for that is they’re saying if Noah’s flood only happened 4,000 years ago, which they believe literally happened, then possibly a sea monster survived.

“If it was millions of years ago then that would be ridiculous. That’s their logic. It’s a common thing among creationists to believe in sea monsters.”

Private religious schools, including the Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, Louisiana, which follows the ACE curriculum, have already been cleared to receive the state voucher money transferred from public school funding, thanks to a bill pushed through by Republican state governor Bobby Jindal, a Hindu convert to Catholicism.

Boston-based researcher and writer Bruce Wilson, who specialises in the American political religious right, said: “One of these texts from Bob Jones University Press claims that dinosaurs were fire-breathing dragons. It has little to do with science as we currently understand. It’s more like medieval scholasticism.”

Mr Wilson believes that such fundamentalist Christian teaching is going on in at least 13 American states.

He added: “There’s a lot of public funding going to private schools, probably around 200,000 pupils are receiving this education.


Evidence for Creation

Creation overflows with evidence that points toward the Creator God. The design and complexity of life loudly declare, “There is a God!”

Probability of Evolution

Mathematical and probability calculations powerfully demonstrate the impossibility of biological evolution to produce the diversity and complexity of life.


Evolution as Mythology, Part 1 (of 5): The Theory of Evolution is a Myth

The creation-evolution debate is usually framed as science v. religion: verifiable fact v. faith. But we contend that it takes at least as much faith to believe in the theory of evolution as in creation by a supernatural God. And in reality, evolution has more characteristics of a “myth” than of a scientific theory.

To justify this statement, one must first define “mythology” and identify its function. According to the American Heritage Dictionary:

Mythology (n): “A body or collection of myths belonging to a people and addressing their origin, history, deities, ancestors, and heroes.”

Myth (n): “A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society.”

Mythology serves an important sociological purpose. It explains the worldview of a culture or people. It validates the thinking, practices, and ideals of a culture. A creation myth explains existence without a creation myth, a culture or people are without “roots” and without purpose.

A myth can be based on truth or fiction—or it may contain an element of truth within a fanciful story. But a key characteristic of a myth is that it is hard to prove (or disprove) with the technology of the culture a myth requires faith. The significance of a myth, therefore, is not so much whether it is true or false, but that it defines the worldview and forms part of the foundation of a culture. And since a myth is so important to the system of beliefs of a culture, myths die hard.

Man seems to possess an innate psychological need for a creation myth to explain his origins: virtually all primitive cultures reveal a creation myth among their oral histories. And the intensity of the creation-evolution debate in modern America for over 100 years shows man hasn’t changed the deep psychological need for such a myth remains.

Is the theory of evolution mythology? To answer, one must define the theory. In its most complete form, evolution holds that life spontaneously arose from nonliving matter, and through numerous small changes over geological ages, all life-forms arose from that initial common ancestor.

Clearly, evolution is a creation story but how is it similar to—and different from—other “creation myths”?

Creation myths from nearly all ancient cultures involve a powerful, supernatural “god” who creates the world and causes life-forms to be brought forth. This seems an important distinction: no supernatural being is required in the theory of evolution everything is based on random natural processes called natural selection. Yet as one reads the literature, natural selection takes on godlike qualities. Whenever something cannot be explained, natural selection is cited with reverence, as if an omnipotent miracle-worker. Prominent evolutionists describe the process in terms Christians reserve for God and the Bible. For example, Sir Julian Huxley describes evolution as “a universal and all-pervading process” that is “the whole of reality.” 1 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin says “evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow.” 2

Evolutionary theory definitely meets one important characteristic of a myth: according to Ernst Mayr, the “Darwin of the 20th Century,” evolution is “man’s worldview today.” 3 Evolution explains origins to a culture that either rejects a supernatural God (atheism) or believes God is uninvolved in at least some aspects of creation. Hence, evolution serves the important sociological purpose of validating the thinking and practices of a culture that puts its faith in undirected natural processes.

The faith component of the theory is evident from the literature. Science philosopher Karl Popper perceives evolution as a “metaphysical research program” 4 G. W. Harper refers to it as a “metaphysical belief.” 5 And Harold Urey, a founder of origin-of-life research, describes evolution as a faith which seems to defy logic:

“All of us who study the origin of life find that the more we look into it, the more we feel that it is too complex to have evolved anywhere. We believe as an article of faith that life evolved from dead matter on this planet. It is just that its complexity is so great, it is hard for us to imagine that it did.” 6

Some evolutionists even behave like religious fundamentalists—so obsessive about their belief that they will not tolerate contrary opinion, because it challenges their fundamental myth. Western academics do not demand death for heretics, but they sometimes try to destroy the career of those who challenge evolution. Stories circulate of scientists with impeccable credentials denied academic tenure and/or grants or persecuted in other ways after they question the theory. Such persecution is eerily reminiscent of that practiced by the Catholic Church on Galileo and other scientists in Renaissance Europe.

Evolution shows two more characteristics typical of a religion: it has a prophet, Charles Darwin, and it often seems to have the Gnostic quality of a secret-knowledge-known-only-to-a-select-few. The modern literature is filled with papers on evolution that quote Darwin’s nineteenth century speculations—just as modern Christians quote the Bible. Probability arguments that seem compelling to mathematicians and physicists are often dismissed by citing higher authority (“biologists have accepted evolution”). Fundamental issues, such as the evolution of the eye, are answered with plausible speculation but scant supporting fact—as in a PBS documentary — because, as evolutionary zoologist Pierre P. Grassé says, “We rarely discover these rules (which govern the living world) because they are highly complex.” 7

The theory of evolution contains the characteristics of a myth. But the question is whether evolution is more fact-based like science, or faith-based like many religions. The next article will detail how the theory fails in key aspects of the modern scientific method.

Dr. Hugh Henry, Ph.D.

Dr. Hugh Henry received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Virginia in 1971, retired after 26 years at Varian Medical Systems, and currently serves as Lecturer in physics at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, KY.

Daniel J. Dyke, M.Div., M.Th.

Mr. Daniel J. Dyke received his Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary 1981 and currently serves as professor of Old Testament at Cincinnati Christian University in Cincinnati, OH.

Dr. Charles Cruze, Ph.D.


Evolutionary flaws disprove the theory of intelligent design

Professor Glenn-Peter Sætre at the University of Oslo is one of Norway's most prominent evolutionary scientists. Credit: UiO

Evolution has produced countless amazing life forms, but you need look no further than to the human body to find examples showing that evolution has also produced a number of poor constructions."The many flaws of evolution makes it impossible to believe in the theory of intelligent design," says Professor Glenn-Peter Sætre at the University of Oslo.

An obvious example of "unintelligent design" in the human body is that women have a narrow birth canal, which makes childbirth both more dangerous and more painful than in other species. Maternal death is now a rare phenomenon in industrialized countries, but according to the World Health Organization, the death rate in several African countries without access to Western medicine is up to approximately 200 times higher than that of Norway.

"The human body is also constructed poorly in a lot of other ways. We are for example not able to synthesize the all-important vitamin C, unlike other mammals. Therefore, we must either obtain vitamin C through our food or die from scurvy. It is unreasonable to claim that this is the result of an intelligent design," Sætre points out.

Even eating can be dangerous

The evolutionary flaws do not stop there: The human body is even constructed in a way that makes it dangerous to eat! The problem is that both the food that should be heading for the stomach and the air that should be heading for the lungs, enters our body via the same channel—the pharynx. The air, the food and the water follows the same route down to the point where the pharynx splits into the windpipe (trachea) and the oesophagus. The windpipe is luckily equipped with a small valve or flap—the epiglottis—that stops food from entering it, but the epiglottis sometimes closes too late. The result is that food enters your trachea, where it can cause fatal choking.

It would have been smarter if food and air entered the human body via completely separate channels, such as in whales. These big mammals have developed blowholes on the top of the head, with the same function as the nostrils in other mammals. This means that whales do not have to raise the whole head above water to get air into the lungs. At the same time, the construction separates the trachea completely from the oesophagus, so that the whales do not run the risk of getting food or water in their windpipe or lungs when diving. In humans, we must rely on getting help from a bystander who is familiar with Heimlich's maneuver if our windpipe becomes blocked. However, whales have no need for friends with strong arms and knowledge about first aid.

"Wisdom teeth in humans are also an example of a poor construction. They are of poor quality, and there is often not enough room for them in the jaw. Andwhy do we have an appendix? It has no function in our digestive system, and it can easily become infected. An intelligent and professional engineer could easily have avoided these flawed constructions in the human body," Sætre adds.

Professor Sætre by no means believes that evolution is a miserable process. For example, it has given the world wonderful and varied creatures such as the tiger, the blue whale, and the finches on the Galapagos Islands. His point is instead that evolution has no foresight or intelligence there is no plan that can guide the direction of evolution.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was presented in the book The Origin of Speciesin 1859 and is considered one of the greatest advances in science of all time. According to Darwin's theory, all life on earth has arisen through a process of change from pre-existing forms. This very process of change is called evolution.

"Evolution is amazing, but the process can only work on the genetic variation that is already present in a species at any given time. If some gene variants give higher survival rates or more reproductive success, more individuals in the next generation are going to have these genes. However, evolution cannot plan for a better trait and then develop a set of genes that will produce that trait. Therefore, the process of evolution has produced a number of suboptimal or non-perfect adaptations," explains Sætre.

Improving the birth canal

The human birth canal is an obvious example of such a suboptimal solution. It works well enough for humans to survive, reproduce and populate the earth. But at the same time, both women and children risk their lives at every birth that takes place without medical supervision. The reason is that evolution has only managed to achieve a compromise between several different considerations, explains Professor Sætre.

"The main problem is that the birth canal passes through the pelvis, where space is limited. However, evolution has also equipped humans with big brains—which creates the need for a big skull. The skull simply cannot pass through the pelvis if it is too big, and evolution has solved this problem by allowing humans to give birth to children at a much more premature stage than in related species like the chimpanzee and the gorilla," explains Sætre.

There is however a limit to how immature a baby can be at birth, and there is obviously also a limit to how big the pelvis can be. "We don't quite know what the most important limitation in the size of the pelvis is, but you can imagine that it would be difficult to walk upright on two legs with a very wide pelvis," he comments.

A creative "designer" or engineer would not have had much trouble finding another solution. For example, childbirth would have been much easier if the opening of the birth canal was placed a little higher up the body, in the bone-free area between the pelvis and ribs. In this area, the fetus would not have to pass through a narrow opening in the bony skeleton on the way out. Human surgeons developed this particular solution –the Caesarean section– a long time ago.

"You would need a lot of mutations in order to change the positioning of the birth canal in a similar way. I really doubt that evolution ever will be able to come up with such a solution," comments Sætre.

Intelligent design is unscientific

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution from 1859 is both famous and recognized in wide circles, but especially in the United States, a large number of people believe that there must be an intelligence and a designer behind creation. Supporters of intelligent design (ID) believe that nature is so finely tuned that evolution may not have progressed by chance, but instead is the result of forward-looking engineering. They want the public school system to teach ID as an alternative to the theory of evolution. From time to time, this debate also emerges in European countries.

Professor Glenn-Peter Sætre does not think it is a good idea to use resources to teach ID in the school system.

"In science, we make hypotheses and test them, and then we reject the hypotheses that cannot be confirmed. In this waywe are getting closer and closer to the truth, but such a way of thinking is completely absent from the followers of ID. Instead, they "cherry-pick" natural phenomena that they think are a bit strange, and then they claim that these phenomena cannot be explained by evolution. Ergo, there must be a designer," says Sætre.

"But unfortunately, the ID supporters do not care if their arguments are refuted time and time again. All the "unexplainable" examples they cite can be explained by the theory of evolution," he adds.

The squid's eye is smarter

One of the favourite examples of ID adherents is the human eye, which they claim could not have arisen through an evolution without a plan. The reason is that all the constituents of the eye—the pupil, the lens, the retina with photosensitive cells, etc. – must be in place in order for the eye to work.

"But that argument ignores the fact that we find all kinds of eyes in nature. We, as biologists, can present a long list showing how the eye has evolved, from the simplest photosensitive organs of mussels for example, to the advanced eyes of mammals. There are also organisms where the development of the eye has gone further than in humans. The eagle and many other birds of prey have a much sharper visual sense than humans, and other bird species have photosensitive cells that can perceive light of wavelengths that are invisible to us," explains Sætre.

Inventing the same thing twice

An intelligent designer would probably be satisfied if he or she invented gunpowder once, but the evolution without a plan does not work that way. Therefore, the eye and the sense of vision have developed several times over the millennia. This is why insects have a completely different eye than ours.

"The octopus has an eye that looks a lot like our human eye, except that it is much better! The retina of the squid does not have a blind spot because the "cables" that carry electrical signals from the photosensitive cells in the retina are exiting the eye from the back of the retina," explains Sætre.

Instead, in humans and our evolutionary relatives, the eye is constructed so that the "cables" lie on top of the retina and block some of the incoming light from reaching the photosensitive cells. Not very smart. The construction also creates the need for the cables to pass through the retina, and this occurs in the blind spot, which is approximately15 degrees from the point where the eye focuses the sharp vision.

There are no photosensitive cells in the blind spot, but you are not noticing this partial blindness on a daily basis because the brain compensates for the lack of visual information. Yet it is easy to prove that the blind spot exists YouTube is full of evidence that the brain is guessing at what you would have seen if you had the eye of a cephalopod.

ID is a marginal phenomenon

Professor Glenn-Peter Sætre does not waste time annoying himself about the theory of ID, which is still a marginal phenomenon in Norway and in most other European countries.

"My impression is that the leading representatives of the major faiths in the world accept modern science. They realize that it is unreasonable to believe that the Bible should function as a textbook that trumps everything we have developed in knowledge and technology over the last 2000 years. It is not necessary to take the stories and parables of religious works literally, thus becoming a science denier," says Sætre.

"I am an atheist myself, but I know that there are also evolutionists—especially in the United States—who are devout Christians. That combination is not as common in Norway, but then we are also a more secular society," he adds.

The solar cells trump photosynthesis

The starting point for evolution is that the "machinery" that copies the DNA in our cells does not work flawlessly, so mutations occur all the time. Most of the mutations are disadvantageous, and they are weeded out when the individuals carrying them fail in the fight to survive and reproduce. However, some of the mutations are either neutral or beneficial, and these will give rise to a genetic variation that evolution can work on.

Although evolution has no plan, the process has nevertheless managed to produce such ingenious constructions as the chlorophyll molecule. This is both incredible and impressive! But director Vebjørn BakkenatUiO:Energyis not so impressed. The reason is that chlorophyll is only able to utilize between 1 and 2 percent of the available energy in the sunlight.

"I have been slightly annoyed by some people who keep repeating that we should learn from the plants when we are developing efficient solar cells. Scientists have surpassed nature a long time ago," says Bakken.

The most efficient solar cells available today are able to utilize an impressive 47.1 percent of the energy in sunlight! Admittedly, these solar cells are very complicated and expensive concepts that are only available in the laboratory to date.

"But even if we stick to the common silicon solar cells—which completely dominate the market today—the theoretical limit of utilization is at approximately 29 percent efficiency. Much better than what nature and chlorophyll has achieved. The large volume of commercially sold panels are in the range of 16-19 percent efficiency," adds Bakken.

So, solar cells have long since achieved much better efficiency than nature.

"But I would like to add that human engineers have not yet achieved the same reliability and longevity that evolution has produced. A very ordinary tree can function without problems for hundreds of years, and this is far more than we have achieved with solar cells. Nature's own photosynthesis is also capable of absorbing and converting CO2at very low concentrations, so we still have something to learn from nature," Bakken adds.

In 1976, the British evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins published the book The Selfish Gene. In the book, he argues that it is easier to explain evolution if you look at genes—instead of organisms—as the focus of natural selection.

"Dawkins' argument is very useful, because it makes it easier to understand complex selection scenarios where there may be conflict between different levels. For example, we humans have a lot of "useless" DNA sequences in our genome—sequences that do not encode something we need. They are called transposons or transposable elements, and they act almost like some kind of parasite in the genome. They simply utilize the "machinery" in our cells to make copies of themselves, and they can often be directly harmful to the host organism. Dawkins' theory makes it easier to understand why the transposons exist," comments Sætre.

The theory about the selfish gene also makes it easier to understand why there are sterile casts in ants, bees and other eusocial insects. Most individuals in an ant or bee colony are sterile females called workers, and they are never able to procreate and pass on their own genes to the next generation. However, their genes are largely copies of the genes that the queen carries, since the workers are her sisters. That point is good enough for evolution.

"Richard Dawkins' perspective makes it easier to understand the communities that eusocial insects live in. In fact, having a sterile caste can actually make the society more effective. In total, more ants are produced in an eusocial nest than if each ant had found a partner and reproduced on its own," explains Sætre.

The principle of helping close relatives to reproduce can also explain human behaviour to some extent. The British scientist J.B.S. Haldane allegedly sat at a bar when he discovered the principle called inclusive fitness. Haldane argued that he might risk his own life and jump into a river if he could save the life of a close relative in danger of drowning, but he would hardly risk as much for any other person he was not closely related to. The explanation is that we share many genes with close relatives, but fewer genes are shared with total strangers.

Left- and right-leaning flatfish

Returning to the eye of the octopus, Professor Sætre argues that an intelligent designer would probably have settled for solving the same problem once. But evolution does not have a plan, and that is why there are a lot of different eyes out there. Evolution without a plan is also the reason why the birds and the bats and the bees have developed separate techniques for flying. Evolution has, by the way, given birds lungs that are far better constructed than the lungs of bats and other mammals. The birds have lungs consisting of long tubes running straight through their bodies, keeping all parts of the lungs well oxygenated. We mammals instead have to breathe in and out through the same passage, and the result is that we always have a residue of used air in the farthest corners of our lungs.

The American evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gouldtold us about another famous "double invention" in his book The Panda's Thumbfrom 1980. The title alludes that the ancestors of the present pandas did not have a thumb, but it would be useful to have a thumb when you spend a lot of time in trees. The result is that evolution gave the panda a thumb, but the funny thing is that the pandas' thumb did not develop from a normal finger. Instead, the panda's thumb is a modified version of one of the sesamoid bones in the hands, which basically has a completely different function.

Becoming flat boosts survival

Glenn-Peter Sætre has another example, which also illustrates that evolution can often invent the same thing twice: Flatfish and rays. Both are flat, but in different ways.

"A fish that lives close to the seafloor may have increased survival rates if it is able to hide from predators. Many millions of years ago, some ancestors of modern flatfish started to place their bodies sideways on the seafloor when hiding, because the reduced height made it harder to spot them. The sideways hiding caused one eye to end up in the mud, and that was not very clever. Fortunately, a series of random mutations in the genes of flatfish gave evolution something to work on. The result is the strange, asymmetrical flatfish we have today," Sætre explains.

The proof is that juvenile modern flatfish looks like any other fish when they hatch from their eggs. The flatfish larvae have symmetrical bodies with an eye on each side. But as the flatfish grows, it changes its appearance. The body begins to tilt, and the eye on the one side begins to wander over to the other side. Finally, the body has changed so much that the left side has become a white underside and the right side has become a darker upper side—or vice versa. The adult flatfish has now obtained its characteristic appearance, which is well suited to camouflage on the seabed.

Professor Sætre points out that the ancestors of modern day rays—like the manta ray—went through a similar evolution. They increased their survival rates by becoming flat and easier to hide, but they did not lie down sideways as the ancestral flatfish. Instead, they settled straight down on the seafloor and started flattening themselves while keeping the original symmetry.

"Evolution is a fantastic and exciting process, which has come up with an endless number of creative life forms and shapes. However, there is no reason to believe that an intelligent designer controlled the process. Any poor designer with millions of years available for trying out new solutions could have done a much better job," says Professor Glenn-Peter Sætre.


Is the theory of evolution being disproved by bats? - Biology

Darwin's Theory of Evolution is the widely held notion that all life is related and has descended from a common ancestor: the birds and the bananas, the fishes and the flowers -- all related. Darwin's general theory presumes the development of life from non-life and stresses a purely naturalistic (undirected) "descent with modification". That is, complex creatures evolve from more simplistic ancestors naturally over time. In a nutshell, as random genetic mutations occur within an organism's genetic code, the beneficial mutations are preserved because they aid survival -- a process known as "natural selection." These beneficial mutations are passed on to the next generation. Over time, beneficial mutations accumulate and the result is an entirely different organism (not just a variation of the original, but an entirely different creature).

Darwin's Theory of Evolution - Natural Selection
While Darwin's Theory of Evolution is a relatively young archetype, the evolutionary worldview itself is as old as antiquity. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Anaximander postulated the development of life from non-life and the evolutionary descent of man from animal. Charles Darwin simply brought something new to the old philosophy -- a plausible mechanism called "natural selection." Natural selection acts to preserve and accumulate minor advantageous genetic mutations. Suppose a member of a species developed a functional advantage (it grew wings and learned to fly). Its offspring would inherit that advantage and pass it on to their offspring. The inferior (disadvantaged) members of the same species would gradually die out, leaving only the superior (advantaged) members of the species. Natural selection is the preservation of a functional advantage that enables a species to compete better in the wild. Natural selection is the naturalistic equivalent to domestic breeding. Over the centuries, human breeders have produced dramatic changes in domestic animal populations by selecting individuals to breed. Breeders eliminate undesirable traits gradually over time. Similarly, natural selection eliminates inferior species gradually over time.

Darwin's Theory of Evolution - Slowly But Surely.
Darwin's Theory of Evolution is a slow gradual process. Darwin wrote, "…Natural selection acts only by taking advantage of slight successive variations she can never take a great and sudden leap, but must advance by short and sure, though slow steps." [1] Thus, Darwin conceded that, "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down." [2] Such a complex organ would be known as an "irreducibly complex system". An irreducibly complex system is one composed of multiple parts, all of which are necessary for the system to function. If even one part is missing, the entire system will fail to function. Every individual part is integral. [3] Thus, such a system could not have evolved slowly, piece by piece. The common mousetrap is an everyday non-biological example of irreducible complexity. It is composed of five basic parts: a catch (to hold the bait), a powerful spring, a thin rod called "the hammer," a holding bar to secure the hammer in place, and a platform to mount the trap. If any one of these parts is missing, the mechanism will not work. Each individual part is integral. The mousetrap is irreducibly complex. [4]

Darwin's Theory of Evolution - A Theory In Crisis
Darwin's Theory of Evolution is a theory in crisis in light of the tremendous advances we've made in molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics over the past fifty years. We now know that there are in fact tens of thousands of irreducibly complex systems on the cellular level. Specified complexity pervades the microscopic biological world. Molecular biologist Michael Denton wrote, "Although the tiniest bacterial cells are incredibly small, weighing less than 10 -12 grams, each is in effect a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machinery built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world." [5]

And we don't need a microscope to observe irreducible complexity. The eye, the ear and the heart are all examples of irreducible complexity, though they were not recognized as such in Darwin's day. Nevertheless, Darwin confessed, "To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree." [6]


Is the theory of evolution being disproved by bats? - Biology

Natural selection can only take place if there is variation, or differences, among individuals in a population. Importantly, these differences must have some genetic basis otherwise, the selection will not lead to change in the next generation. This is critical because variation among individuals can be caused by non-genetic reasons such as an individual being taller because of better nutrition rather than different genes.

Genetic diversity in a population comes from two main mechanisms: mutation and sexual reproduction. Mutation, a change in DNA, is the ultimate source of new alleles, or new genetic variation in any population. The genetic changes caused by mutation can have one of three outcomes on the phenotype. A mutation affects the phenotype of the organism in a way that gives it reduced fitness—lower likelihood of survival or fewer offspring. A mutation may produce a phenotype with a beneficial effect on fitness. And, many mutations will also have no effect on the fitness of the phenotype these are called neutral mutations. Mutations may also have a whole range of effect sizes on the fitness of the organism that expresses them in their phenotype, from a small effect to a great effect. Sexual reproduction also leads to genetic diversity: when two parents reproduce, unique combinations of alleles assemble to produce the unique genotypes and thus phenotypes in each of the offspring.

A heritable trait that helps the survival and reproduction of an organism in its present environment is called an adaptation. Scientists describe groups of organisms becoming adapted to their environment when a change in the range of genetic variation occurs over time that increases or maintains the “fit” of the population to its environment. The webbed feet of platypuses are an adaptation for swimming. The snow leopards’ thick fur is an adaptation for living in the cold. The cheetahs’ fast speed is an adaptation for catching prey.

Whether or not a trait is favorable depends on the environmental conditions at the time. The same traits are not always selected because environmental conditions can change. For example, consider a species of plant that grew in a moist climate and did not need to conserve water. Large leaves were selected because they allowed the plant to obtain more energy from the sun. Large leaves require more water to maintain than small leaves, and the moist environment provided favorable conditions to support large leaves. After thousands of years, the climate changed, and the area no longer had excess water. The direction of natural selection shifted so that plants with small leaves were selected because those populations were able to conserve water to survive the new environmental conditions.

The evolution of species has resulted in enormous variation in form and function. Sometimes, evolution gives rise to groups of organisms that become tremendously different from each other. When two species evolve in diverse directions from a common point, it is called divergent evolution. Such divergent evolution can be seen in the forms of the reproductive organs of flowering plants which share the same basic anatomies however, they can look very different as a result of selection in different physical environments and adaptation to different kinds of pollinators (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Flowering plants evolved from a common ancestor. Notice that the (a) dense blazing star (Liatrus spicata) and the (b) purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) vary in appearance, yet both share a similar basic morphology. (credit a: modification of work by Drew Avery credit b: modification of work by Cory Zanker)

In other cases, similar phenotypes evolve independently in distantly related species. For example, flight has evolved in both bats and insects, and they both have structures we refer to as wings, which are adaptations to flight. However, the wings of bats and insects have evolved from very different original structures. This phenomenon is called convergent evolution, where similar traits evolve independently in species that do not share a recent common ancestry. The two species came to the same function, flying, but did so separately from each other.

These physical changes occur over enormous spans of time and help explain how evolution occurs. Natural selection acts on individual organisms, which in turn can shape an entire species. Although natural selection may work in a single generation on an individual, it can take thousands or even millions of years for the genotype of an entire species to evolve. It is over these large time spans that life on earth has changed and continues to change.

In Summary: Darwin and the Theory of Evolution

Natural selection, the driving force behind evolution, can only work if variation exists among organisms. Variation arises ultimately from genetic mutations. Diversity is further encouraged through sexual reproduction. As environments change, selective pressures shift and favor different adaptations. In this way, given thousands or millions of years, species evolve.



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