Darwin’s notion that only the fittest survive has been called into question by new research published today (27 March 2011) in Nature.
A collaboration between the Universities of Exeter and Bath in the UK, with a group from San Diego State University in the US, challenges our current understanding of evolution by showing that biodiversity may evolve where previously thought impossible.
The work represents a new approach to studying evolution that may eventually lead to a better understanding of the diversity of bacteria that cause human diseases.
Conventional wisdom has it that for any given niche there should be a best species, the fittest, that will eventually dominate to exclude all others.
This is the principle of survival of the fittest. Ecologists often call this idea the `competitive exclusion principle’ and it predicts that complex environments are needed to support complex, diverse populations.
Professor Robert Beardmore, from the University of Exeter, said: ”Microbiologists have tested this principle by constructing very simple environments in the lab to see what happens after hundreds of generations of bacterial evolution, about 3,000 years in human terms. It had been believed that the genome of only the fittest bacteria would be left, but that wasn’t their finding. The experiments generated lots of unexpected genetic diversity.”
The reason why naturalists are so obsessed with defending Darwinism is because they’re afraid (remember the irrational factors mentioned above) that if Darwinism is wrong, then creationism or intelligent design (which is different of ”creationism”) is true. This either/or mentality is another example of irrationality.
This is also the reason why the recent sympathetic review by atheist Thomas Nagel of ID theorist Stephen Meyer’s lastest book has been replied with hostility and emotionality by some of the most extreme naturalists out there (as an example, read this atheist philosopher blog’s entry). This is the predictable, consistent, emotional response of extreme naturalists when confronted with uncomfortable information which challenge their philosophical beliefs.
In the first five decades of this century — the heyday of the theory — zoologists, palaeontologists and comparative anatomists assembled the impressive exhibits that generations of school children have seen in Natural History Museums the world over: the evolution of the horse family; the fossils that illustrate the transition from fish to amphibian to reptile to mammal; and the discovery of astonishing extinct species such as ”Archaeopteryx”, apparently half-reptile, half-bird.
Over successive decades, these exhibits have been first disputed, then downgraded, and finally shunted off to obscure museum basements, as further research has shown them to be flawed or misconceived.
Anyone educated in a western country in the last forty years will recall being shown a chart of the evolution of the horse from ”Eohippus”, a small dog-like creature in the Eocene period 50 million years ago, to ”Mesohippus”, a sheep-sized animal of 30 million years ago, eventually to ”Dinohippus”, the size of a Shetland pony. This chart was drawn in 1950 by Harvard’s professor of palaeontology George Simpson, to accompany his standard text book, ”Horses”, which encapsulated all the research done by the American Museum of Natural History in the previous half century.
Simpson plainly believed that his evidence was incontrovertible because he wrote, ‘The history of the horse family is still one of the clearest and most convincing for showing that organisms really have evolved. . . There really is no point nowadays in continuing to collect and to study fossils simply to determine whether or not evolution is a fact. The question has been decisively answered in the affirmative.’
Yet shortly after this affirmation, Simpson admits in passing that the chart he has drawn contains major gaps that he has not included: a gap before ”Eohippus” and its unknown ancestors, for example, and another gap after ”Eohippus” and before its supposed descendant ”Mesohippus”. What is it, scientifically, that connects these isolated species on the famous chart if it is not fossil remains? And how could such unconnected examples demonstrate either genetic mutation or natural selection? Even though, today, the bones themselves have been relegated to the basement, the famous chart with its unproven continuity still appears in museum displays and handbooks, text books, encyclopaedias and lectures.
Neo-Darwinists were quick to claim that modern discoveries of molecular biology supported their theory. They said, for example, that if you analyse the DNA, the genetic blueprint, of plants and animals you find how closely or distantly they are related. That studying DNA sequences enables you to draw up the precise family tree of all living things and show how they are related by common ancestry.
This is a very important claim and central to the theory. If true, it would mean that animals neo-Darwinists say are closely related, such as two reptiles, would have greater similarity in their DNA than animals that are not so closely related, such as a reptile and a bird.
In 1981, molecular biologists working under Dr Morris Goodman at Ann Arbor University decided to test this hypothesis. They took the alpha haemoglobin DNA of two reptiles — a snake and a crocodile — which are said by Darwinists to be closely related, and the haemoglobin DNA of a bird, in this case a farmyard chicken.
They found that the two animals who had least DNA sequences in common were the two reptiles, the snake and the crocodile. They had only around 5% of DNA sequences in common — only one twentieth of their haemoglobin DNA. The two creatures whose DNA was closest were the crocodile and the chicken, where there were 17.5% of sequences in common — nearly one fifth. The actual DNA similarities were the reverse of that predicted by neo-Darwinism.
Even more baffling is the fact that radically different genetic coding can give rise to animals that look outwardly very similar and exhibit similar behavior, while creatures that look and behave completely differently can have much in common genetically. There are, for instance, more than 3,000 species of frogs, all of which look superficially the same. But there is a greater variation of DNA between them than there is between the bat and the blue whale.
Further, if neo-Darwinist evolutionary ideas of gradual genetic change were true, then one would expect to find that simple organisms have simple DNA and complex organisms have complex DNA. In some cases, this is true. The simple nematode worm is a favorite subject of laboratory study because its DNA contains a mere 1,000 nucleotide bases. At the other end of the complexity scale, humans have 23 chromosomes which in total contain 3,000 million nucleotide bases.
Unfortunately, this promisingly Darwinian progression is contradicted by many counter examples. While human DNA is contained in 23 pairs of chromosomes, the humble goldfish has more than twice as many, at 47. The even humbler garden snail — not much more than a glob of slime in a shell — has 27 chromosomes. Some species of rose bush have 56 chromosomes. So the simple fact is that DNA analysis does not confirm neo- Darwinist theory. In the laboratory, DNA analysis falsifies neo- Darwinist theory.