ICR: Evolution, Climate Change, and Creationism

The University of California, Santa Barbara, has this news item at their website: Rapid Adaptation is Purple Sea Urchins’ Weapon Against Ocean Acidification. A few excerpts will give you the general idea:

In the race against climate change and ocean acidification, some sea urchins may still have a few tricks up their spiny sleeves, suggesting that adaptation will likely play a large role for the sea creatures as the carbon content of the ocean increases.

“What we want to know is, given that this is a process that happens over time, can marine animals adapt? Could evolution come to the rescue?” said postdoctoral researcher Morgan Kelly, from UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology.

Nice little question — can evolution deal with climate change? Here’s more:

Due to rising carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, the oceans of the future are projected to absorb more carbon dioxide, leading to acidification of the water. The change in the ocean chemistry is expected to negatively affect the way urchins and other calcifying creatures create and maintain their shells and exoskeletons.

Why the concern about sea urchins? We’re told:

They are considered a keystone species, meaning their population has an important impact on the rest of the undersea ecosystem.

Okay, what did they do?

To observe the potential effects of future increased levels of carbon dioxide in ocean water, the researchers bred generations of purple sea urchins in conditions mimicking projected environment of the ocean in near the end of the century.

We’ll skip the details. You can click over there to read the whole story. Also, here’s the published paper in Global Change Biology: Natural variation and the capacity to adapt to ocean acidification in the keystone sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. This is what they found:

The findings suggest that the effects of ocean acidification may not have as deleterious an impact on sea urchin size or population growth rates as previously thought. Good news for the keystone species, and good news for the creatures that eat them. The results also suggest that adaptation is a major factor in the response of ecologically important species to climate change.

“We don’t expect evolution to completely erase the effects of ocean acidification, but we do expect evolution to mitigate these effects. And the more heritable variation there is, the greater the power of evolution to mitigate the effects of climate change,” said Kelly.

Very nice, but we know you’re wondering: What do the creationists think about this? For the answer to that burning question, we turn now to the website of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). Their article on this news is Spiny Sea Creature Rapidly Accommodates Chemical Changes.

We won’t bother you with ICR’s description of the research. Instead we’ll jump right to their peculiar interpretation. They say, with bold font added by us:

But whether or not the larvae evolved through mutations and selection — the supposed engines of evolution — or some other internal mechanism is not yet known. The data are consistent with the hypothesis that God created urchins with an inherent potential to adjust their internal machinery to accommodate pH (acidity) changes.

Doncha just love creation science? But what isn’t consistent with the hypothesis that God-did-it? Let’s read on:

Perhaps accidental mutations did confer acid tolerance to urchins. This has happened in the past, and it would be consistent with either a creation or an evolutionary way of thinking. But a well-designed self-adjusting process challenges evolutionary thinking.

Yes, this is a big challenge to evolutionary thinking. Maybe the results were due to mutation. But hey — it coulda been an example of creationism at work. ICR continues:

Preliminarily, two clues seem to signal a design rather than an accidental cause for the adjustment. First, the change occurred rapidly, as though an acid-response and adjustment system was already in place within the urchins. Second, the change precisely met the newfound need of the urchin offspring, and random changes rarely meet needs with precision.

Jeepers — the mutation did the job. That’s a powerful design clue. But what about 90% of all species that went extinct for lack of appropriate mutations? Is that also due to design? Don’t ask. Here’s ICR’s conclusion — in which they dismiss both evolution and climate change:

Meanwhile, the claim that these urchins “evolved” through natural selection is just as premature as claiming that anthropogenic CO2 is poised to cause mass extinctions.

So there you are. Despite all the research going on, creationism is still alive and well. Like Count Dracula, it just won’t die.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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16 responses to “ICR: Evolution, Climate Change, and Creationism

  1. Never underestimate the power of human stupidity to persist. I will not be here to see it but when climate change goes into full swing, you will hear the creatards screaming ‘it aint climate change!!!’

  2. So as long as it’s not E Coli adapting to acidification, obvious ID? Are they recruiting from a multiple personality disorder support group?

  3. Dean says: “So as long as it’s not E Coli adapting to acidification, obvious ID?”

    Your E. Coli comment is good. It now occurs to me that they’re departing from the usual creationist acceptance of “micro-evolution.” They seem to be saying that all evolution is designed. If the designer is responsible for everything, that creates problems they haven’t thought through. First, not everything is as harmless as a sea urchin. What about mutations that can help harmful organisms to survive? Second, there’s the “designed” failure of many harmless species to adapt and survive.

  4. To try and frame an issue within a very narrow window is typical of political speak. Who really cares about the implications of the biology of a single creature when your looking at a biological infrastructure as complex as what really occurs in nature? Until we switch to symbiotic mode instead of parasitic, we are going to scratching our heads for a long time.

  5. retiredsciguy

    If evolution were designed by an all-knowing designer, why did the designer go to all the trouble of designing all those different species of dinosaurs just to have them all wiped out by an asteroid? Certainly, the all-knowing designer would have seen the cosmic collision coming, and He would have made them able to withstand the very drastic changes that the collision would bring.

  6. @retiredsciguy, one might as well ask why there was design of the adaptive immune system in vertebrates, when defense against bacteria could have been accomplished by not designing them so well (not giving them flagella, for example).

  7. L.Long is only partially right. They’ll also be blaming whatever effect of not-climate change on Teh Gays and Evolutionism. That three degrees is God’s punishment, ya see.

  8. retiredsciguy

    @TomS — Yep, all sorts of evidence supporting Darwinian evolution; no evidence that can only be explained by design. Lots of evidence against design, however.

  9. Mark Joseph

    @Our favorite Curmudgeon:
    “Doncha just love creation science?”


  10. @RSG: Clearly the dinosaurs were necessary in the early development of mammals.

  11. Oops. Closing the anchor tag, but this might be a job for Curmie.

  12. docbill1351

    First, creationists and wingnuts have a difficult time dismissing their former climate skeptic poster child Richard Muller, but they do anyway. Muller pulled together a team and analyzed ALL the climate data they could find and demonstrated conclusively (see that word, read it again) that not only is climate change real but individual events such as the Industrial Revolution and the impact of the automobile can be clearly identified.

    Idiots like Oklahoma’s Jim Inhoff who used to point to Muller as a legitimate skeptic supporting their belief now call his study “biased” and that Muller was “bought off.” Of course, with no evidence, and no evidence will sway creationists and wingnuts.

    Second, on Science Friday a few weeks ago (I think) there was an interview with some oyster ranchers and researchers in Seattle (or somewhere northwest) about how the pH of the ocean has dropped enough that oysters are having a difficult time forming shells. They get pinholes that cause the oyster to get a disease or die or not mature, I forget which, or all. Anyway, not good for the oyster.

    They said that the ocean absorbs 95% of the CO2 released into the atmosphere and that if we managed to hold emissions to their current rate or dropped them, the oceans would return to the previous pH in 100 years or so.

    100 years! That’s what they said. The damage is done. But, it gets worse. They also said that if current release levels of CO2 continue to the end of the century it will take 10,000 years for the oceans to recover.

    Yes, 10,000 years. I haven’t looked into these estimates in any detail, rather this was the upshot of the discussion about oyster farming and research.

  13. All fixed, oh great crimson sphere, and may I add that your link was very funny.

  14. I had forgotten that cartoon even had a caption, but it is entirely relevant to The Controversy.

  15. If climate change is real…then how come there are still monkeys?
    /// 😉

  16. retiredsciguy

    @TA: Our heros, the dinosaurs!