We once described the Discovery Institute as the Vesuvius of Vomit. In retrospect, we think we were being too gentle. You’ll soon see what we mean.
There’s been a lot of press coverage in recent days about something PhysOrg reported recently: Florida lizards evolve rapidly, within 15 years and 20 generations. A few brief excerpts will bring you up to date:
Scientists working on islands in Florida have documented the rapid evolution of a native lizard species — in as little as 15 years — as a result of pressure from an invading lizard species, introduced from Cuba. After contact with the invasive species, the native lizards began perching higher in trees, and, generation after generation, their feet evolved to become better at gripping the thinner, smoother branches found higher up. The change occurred at an astonishing pace: Within a few months, native lizards had begun shifting to higher perches, and over the course of 15 years and 20 generations, their toe pads had become larger, with more sticky scales on their feet.
This latest study is one of only a few well-documented examples of what evolutionary biologists call “character displacement,” in which similar species competing with each other evolve differences to take advantage of different ecological niches. A classic example comes from the finches studied by Charles Darwin. Two species of finch in the Galápagos Islands diverged in beak shape as they adapted to different food sources.
You’re wondering: What can a creationist do with that? Look what we found at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog: Since When Is This News? Rapid Microevolution in Lizard Feet Reveals Little About the Origin of Species. As with the article we discussed in our “Vesuvius” post, this one is by Casey Luskin, our favorite creationist. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis.
In his introduction, Casey says that the evidence often cited by scientists amounts “only to micro- not macroevolution.” That ancient creationist clunker is the first item we discussed four years ago in Common Creationist Claims Confuted. Then Casey directs his powerful intellect to an analysis of the lizards in Florida:
Now, a new paper in Science, “Rapid evolution of a native species following invasion by a congener,” reports more small-scale changes in Anolis lizards as if they show something significant about the power of natural selection.
This is the paper he’s talking about: Rapid evolution of a native species following invasion by a congener. It’s the same research that PhysOrg wrote about. Let’s see what Casey makes of it:
[T]hese scientists found that when a new species of lizards invaded another’s territory (in fact the new species was placed there intentionally by the researchers, meaning they weren’t quite studying “natural” selection), the old one sought higher ground. That seems like a smart thing to do. To go along with the new territory, they subsequently evolved larger toepads [link to a picture].
Oooooooh! It wasn’t “natural” selection because the invasive species was placed there intentionally! How could those idiot scientists overlook such a vital point? It’s a good thing we have Casey to make everything clear. He continues:
What have we shown? Not much. We’ve seen that the size of lizard feet can change in response to invaders’ driving a species to perch at higher levels in the trees. No new traits arose. Only the size of a pre-existing trait changed.
It was nothing. Nothing at all! Here’s more:
Again, that’s interesting but such changes in the size of lizard feet do very little to explain the origin of lizards in the first place, even if these changes happen in just a few generations.
Yeah, where’s the first lizard, the one that only the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — could have created? Caution: Casey’s final paragraph contains a quote in which there are a few ellipses. They were placed there by Casey:
If we take seriously the statement from the authors that the modest results from this study can help test “evolutionary hypotheses about phenomena … on time scales too long for direct observation,” then that implies that over long periods you might be able to change the size of an organism or some of its body parts. Since when is that news?
So there you are. It’s only micro-evolution! Nothing to see here, folks. Move along now.
Oh, wait — when we began this post we said that our earlier description of the Discovery Institute as the “Vesuvius of Vomit” was too gentle. So how shall we describe them? Here we may offend a few of our more sensitive readers. If you are one of those delicate souls, we suggest that you stop reading now. Okay, you’ve been warned. Assuming that only the heartiest of you remain, this is your humble Curmudgeon’s revised opinion:
Imagine that you are hiking in a parched, sun-baked desert and you come across the remains of a vulture which has been decomposing in the sun for several days, having died of food poisoning after gorging on contaminated carrion. Then imagine that the vulture’s bloated intestines suddenly erupt, bursting through its carcass, releasing a fountain of putrefied material that had been its fatal meal. That foul fountain is the output of the Discoveroids.
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