Caesarean Birth & the Natural Selection ‘Legend’

This has been all over the news lately. Here’s a BBC story on it from a few days ago: Caesarean births ‘affecting human evolution’. You’ve probably read about it already, so we’ll only give you a few excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

The regular use of Caesarean sections is having an impact on human evolution, say scientists. More mothers now need surgery to deliver a baby due to their narrow pelvis size, according to a study. Researchers estimate cases where the baby cannot fit down the birth canal have increased from 30 in 1,000 in the 1960s to 36 in 1,000 births today.

And here’s the evolution angle:

Dr Philipp Mitteroecker, of the department of theoretical biology at the University of Vienna, said there was a long standing question in the understanding of human evolution. “Why is the rate of birth problems, in particular what we call fetopelvic disproportion – basically that the baby doesn’t fit through the maternal birth canal – why is this rate so high?” he said.

“Without modern medical intervention such problems often were lethal and this is, from an evolutionary perspective, selection. Women with a very narrow pelvis would not have survived birth 100 years ago. They do now and pass on their genes encoding for a narrow pelvis to their daughters.”

That makes sense. Let’s read on:

It has been a long standing evolutionary question why the human pelvis has not grown wider over the years. The head of a human baby is large compared with other primates, meaning animals such as chimps can give birth relatively easily.

The researchers devised a mathematical model using data from the World Health Organization and other large birth studies. They found opposing evolutionary forces in their theoretical study. One is a trend towards larger newborns, which are more healthy. However, if they grow too large, they get stuck during labour, which historically would have proved disastrous for mother and baby, and their genes would not be passed on.

“One side of this selective force – namely the trend towards smaller babies – has vanished due to Caesarean sections,” said Dr Mitteroecker. “Our intent is not to criticise medical intervention,” he said. “But it’s had an evolutionary effect. “

Here’s a link to Dr Mitteroecker’s paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Cliff-edge model of obstetric selection in humans. You can read it online without a subscription.

As you can imagine, this has attracted the attention of creationists. A good example is at the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog: An Evolutionary Explanation for Higher Rates of Birth by Caesarian [sic] Section? It was written by Klinghoffer. He briefly discusses the issue and quotes a bit from the BBC article. Then he says, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

[I]f they’re right, it’s nothing more than microevolution. Douglas Axe, author of [link to something by Axe], tweets a point that the report doesn’t get into:

Here’s the brilliant tweet from Axe:

Long-standing evolutionary question: Why hasn’t human pelvis become wider? Human brain was a snap. Why not pelvis?

Yeah — what’s the intelligent designer’s purpose here? He’s only doing half the job. Klinghoffer says:

Good question. What’s the answer?

So Axe replies with another tweet:

Yet another example of the stark contrast between natural selection of legend (all powerful) and the humble reality.

Huh? What does that mean? If natural selection were real, it’s supposed to happen instantaneously? Somehow, Klinghoffer understands what Axe is saying, and he concludes:

The legend of natural selection holds that unguided forces fundamentally generate and shape the most marvelous objects in biology, up to and including the human brain. Don’t believe every legend that you hear.

So there you are, dear reader. Caesarean births are proof that natural selection doesn’t work. Of course, the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — doesn’t seem to be paying attention to the situation either. Oh, wait — it all goes back to the bible. In Genesis 3:16 (King James version, of course), after Adam & Eve sinned, it says:

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

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9 responses to “Caesarean Birth & the Natural Selection ‘Legend’

  1. In the 19th century, when anesthesia was being introduced, there was controversy whether it was un-biblical to make childbirth bearable, contrary to God’s command. The extreme case being Caesarean section.

    As to why evolution would not progress. How difficult is it for people to comprehend that evolution is not progressive?

  2. If creationists refuse to undergo Caesarean births, they will become two subspecies — one with smaller heads than the rest of us, and another with unusually large pelvises.

  3. Our Curmudgeon blasphemes egregiously by presuming that the Intelligent Designer is

    only doing half the job.

    Thou arrogant knave! It is precisely to address this problem of the constricted pelvis that the Intelligent Designer (Blessed be He/She/It/Them!) has lovingly hand-crafted for our benefit the Zika virus to grant us the grace of microcephaly.

    Go, repent, and blaspheme no more!

  4. TomS asks a desperate question: “How difficult is it for people to comprehend that evolution is not progressive?”
    For creationists it’s insurmountable.

  5. Don’t believe every legend that you hear.

    Especially ones that invoke supernatural entities.

  6. I thought that ID was the scientific hypothesis that some genetic mutations were influenced by an external, intelligent force. Where does it state that macro-evolution (i.e. speciation) can’t occur, as is implied in Klinghoffer’s “just micro-evolution”? For sure he wouldn’t want to be taken for a filthy creationist now, would he?

  7. So if I understand the creationist argument correctly, natural processes could never produce a pelvis with such a critical flaw. Therefore, God must have designed it (and made a few mistakes).

  8. No, despite the press hype, the paper did not show that Caesarean section is affecting human evolution. It merely describes a mathematical model that predicts it will. I am not surprised at the attention the press coverage has attracted, but that is because of its inaccurate claims, and I am surprised that so obvious a result was ever deemed worthy of publication

  9. Paul D.: The Discovery Institute is missing a remarkable opportunity here. Since only certain things are evidence of intelligent design, why not blame the crappy stuff on natural processes?

    Amazing human brain? Thanks, Intelligent Designer!
    Pelvis too small for our babies’ giant heads? Stupid evolution, you never do anything right.

    I mean, that’s the very definition of win-win.