Speciation Has Been Observed

How may times have we seen creationists argue against evolution because no one has ever witnessed one species evolve into another? It’s far too many to recall, but this is a typical example: Hambo Says Bacteria Don’t Evolve. We know, of course, why speciation hasn’t been observed — because it takes a great many generations to happen. With long-lived species like ourselves, it’s impossible to literally witness. So we rely on fossils, morphology, and DNA evidence. But that’s not enough for creationists.

When we point to Richard Lenski’s E. coli long-term evolution experiment, creationists claim it’s only micro-evolution. They’re always screaming that no one has literally seen a monkey evolve into a man, or a dog into a cat, or a crock into a duck. They demand visual evidence of actual evolution, while at the same time they insist that the unseen and unevidenced events in Genesis are true. (Ah, they respond, but that’s different!)

Well, now we have something else for them to ignore — if they can. It’s at EurekAlert, the online news service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): Biologists watch speciation in a laboratory flask. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Biologists have discovered that the evolution of a new species can occur rapidly enough for them to observe the process in a simple laboratory flask. In a month-long experiment using a virus harmless to humans, biologists working at the University of California San Diego and at Michigan State University documented the evolution of a virus into two incipient species — a process known as speciation that Charles Darwin proposed to explain the branching in the tree of life, where one species splits into two distinct species during evolution.

One species of virus evolved into two in only a month? Let’s read on:

“Many theories have been proposed to explain speciation, and they have been tested through analyzing the characteristics of fossils, genomes, and natural populations of plants and animals,” said Justin Meyer, an assistant professor of biology at UC San Diego and the first author of a study that will be published in the December 9 issue of Science. “However, speciation has been notoriously difficult to thoroughly investigate because it happens too slowly to directly observe. Without direct evidence for speciation, some people [Hee hee!] have doubted the importance of evolution and Darwin’s theory of natural selection.”

After that we’re told:

Meyer’s study, which also appeared last week in an early online edition of Science, began while he was a doctoral student at Michigan State University, working in the laboratory of Richard Lenski, a professor of microbial ecology there who pioneered the use of microorganisms to study the dynamics of long-term evolution.

Lenski? Aha — they’re all in it together. It’s a Darwinite conspiracy! Anyway, here’s the paper in Science: Ecological speciation of bacteriophage lambda in allopatry and sympatry. All you can see is the abstract, unless you have a subscription.

EurekAlert has some technical information, which you can read for yourself. Here’s one last excerpt, which is certain to be seen as a challenge to creationists:

“With these experiments, no one can doubt whether speciation occurs,” Meyer added. “More importantly, we now have an experimental system to test many previously untestable ideas about the process.”

We’re anticipating a vigorous reaction from the creationist websites, including denials like: “They’re still viruses!” and “The experiment was intelligently designed!” This should be fun.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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20 responses to “Speciation Has Been Observed

  1. If I am not mistaken, this experiment is on viruses.

  2. I’m guessing that, as more novel traits are found in similar experiments, eventually the arguments will include claims of a return to a “pre-fall state.” No more useful than “they’re still bacteria,” “the experiment was designed,” or “it was only a loss of information.” Still, sometimes fun to try and predict the inane arguments we’ll hear in the future.

  3. TomS, you’re right. I fixed a couple of incorrect sentences.

  4. They’re always screaming that no one has literally seen a monkey evolve into a man, …

    Very true, creationists remain in the monkey part of the hominid tree whereas evolutionists and other normal human beings have evolved to the cro magnon species. They only need look in a mirror to verify that fact.

  5. Speciation of more complex life forms has also been observed, the first time by my compatriot Hugo de Vries more than 100 years ago. Of course creationists always find a way to reject these observations as evidence. The last version I met was “I want to see evolution from bacteria to multicellular beings”.

  6. Ceteris Paribus

    “Ecological speciation of bacteriophage lambda in allopatry and sympatry.”?
    Oh, wait. I read the “allopatry” and “sympatry” parts as if this were merely a legal dispute over who gets custody of the speciated offspring. Sorry.

  7. I was a member of bacteriophage sigma. Great parties!

  8. @mnbo
    We all know that there is no natural barrier between single-celled and multi-celled life. We all began as single celled. And then there are forms like the “slime molds”.

  9. Off-topic, excuse me, but I think that many will be glad to hear that the Panda’s Thumb is in the process of reviving.

  10. Facts and science matter little with creationists, they feel it so it must be true.

  11. docbill1351 reminisces:

    I was a member of bacteriophage sigma. Great parties!

    –but brutal initiations. During rush week, they generally lose over half their pledges to pneumococcal pneumonia alone…

  12. @docbill1351, was that during your time a Purdue? I heard that they were since kicked off campus after infecting the entire Pi Phi house.

  13. @RSG – That was after my time. I was excreted out just before the clone wars.

    In other news,

    And then there are forms like the “slime molds”.

    We used to have those at Thanksgiving when I was a kid. Never much liked them.

  14. Slime molds are everywhere. You are probably inhaling one now.

  15. Yes, I remember from long, long ago and far, far away …

    “Billy, y’all inhale yor slime mold, now, or you’ll get no punkin pie!”

  16. Tomato Addict sounds the alarm:

    Slime molds are everywhere. You are probably inhaling one now.

    Build a Wall!

    MAGA! Make Airways Great Again!

  17. michaelfugate

    USA! USA!

    Unblock Slimed Airways!

  18. Slime mold… isn’t that what Trump uses to hold his hair in place?

  19. As interesting and significant as this work is, it is open to considerable creationist criticism. Both “species” are still viruses, and presumably except for mutation, no new “information” has been added. That said, by evolving new hosts, these viruses became reproductively isolated. The work by Lenski and students with microbes and viruses shows how adaptive evolution occurs. Good stuff.

  20. Techreseller

    KevinC, old buddy old pal. Any comment? Always good for a bit of humor.