Some media cater to what could be called, “pop science.” They present shows and articles on scientific subjects but package them in a way that is interesting to an unscientific public. I understand this happens and I'm usually not too critical on the groups that produce pop science so long as the information is correct. When the subject is evolution, however, I've usually found that the information presented is garbage.
This is the case in an online article published by Discovery called, “10 Examples of Natural Selection.” The piece is so poorly written that I could make a series of 10 posts – one on each example – explaining how wrong is the information contained in each example. I won't do that, though. Instead, I'm going to merely point out a few of the more egregious errors since these are the same errors that I've seen evolutionists make before. Below, we'll look at just the first two paragraphs. Text that is blue and italicized is quoted directly from the article.
First, the article terribly conflates natural selection with evolution. The title of the article says it is intended to be 10 examples of natural selection, yet the author starts by talking about evolution. Read it for yourself:
“When we think of evolution, we usually think of primates evolving into humans, and of the evolutionary changes that were made over thousands and thousands of years...”
Yes! That's exactly what I talked about in a recent post. The most common understanding of the word “evolution” is ape-to-man or dino-to-bird. Scientists have a more technical meaning and they want to harp on the fact that the majority of people don't use the word the way evolutionists have defined it.
But the truth is evolution is at work all the time.
In this context, the author is using “evolution” to mean “populations change.” He doesn't mean that one kind of animal changes into another kind of animal “all the time” - he's merely taking the word most people understand to mean “common descent” and using it to mean any kind of “change.” It's equivocation at its worst.
“Sometimes the changes are small and appear insignificant at first glance, but they all play a part in natural selection and the survival of the species.”
Did you notice it? The author has now slipped in the term, “natural selection”? He was not careful to distinguish between evolution and natural selection. He starts out talking about one, then starts talking about the other. If he went on to explain the difference, that would be one thing. He doesn't.
“But natural selection doesn't lead to the development of a new species. In most cases, the process simply allows a species to better adapt to its environment ...”
I'm not sure what this person means by saying that natural selection doesn't lead to the development of a new species. Does he mean, “never” or “not always”? Never mind. Even as a lay person, I understand that natural selection does indeed allow a species to adapt to its environment. It does this by selecting from existing traits only those that are conducive to the environment (see my last post on this subject). However, this author doesn't seem to understand how it works. See here how he explains it:
“In most cases, the process simply allows a species to better adapt to its environment by changing the genetic make up from one generation to the next.” [bold added]
I'm not sure if there's a technical meaning to the term, “genetic make up.” If he means that existing genetic variation is continuously reshuffled to create the best possible combination of traits, then OK. If he intends “genetic make up” to mean “new genetic material,” then we have a problem. Natural selection does not create anything new. It can only select from existing traits. But I'm pretty sure this author means to say that natural selection creates new genetic material. Look at his next point:
And the process is actually quite predictable. If a species lacks a certain trait that will allow it to survive, there are two options: Either the species dies out or it develops the missing trait.
There are so many errors contained in these two statements that I don't think I can adequately cover them all. Still, I will try.
Mutations are random. The process of evolution is not "predictable." If dinos had really changed into birds, no one living contemporaneously with the dinos could have predicted it. Of course, maybe the author means that “natural selection” is quite predictable which has a little more substance. I might predict that gray mice are better suited to wooded environment than white mice. But I still couldn't say with certainty what effect something like introducing a new predator might have on the indigenous species there. Even natural selection is not “quite predictable.”
But the worst error lies in the comment, “If a species lacks a certain trait that will allow it to survive, there are two options: Either the species dies out or it develops the missing trait” If a species lacks a certain trait, why must it necessarily die out unless the trait evolves? Why can't it just continue in stasis? What trait are humans waiting to acquire, for example? Are we doomed for extinction or are we “working” to acquire this necessary trait? This is a classic example of bifurcation.
What makes it the worst, though, is that this wording gives the impression that evolution is a directed process. If a species needs some particular trait, somehow, natural selection will work toward acquiring that trait. That's absurd! Yet time and time again, this author gives the impression that natural selection will do just that. For example, while discussing the Rat Snake, the author said, “As a result, rat snakes have had to adapt to their local environments in an effort to avoid detection and hunt more effectively.” In the case of nylon-eating bacteria, the author said, “This is a very simple example of natural selection, where the most basic forms of life can adapt to whatever food the environment offers.” Isn't that a hoot? According to this logic, if only birdseed is available in some area, then the crocodiles there can adapt to eat birdseed!
The hilarious quotes keep coming when the author talks about humans. He begins with the following:
“Are humans still evolving? The simple answer is yes, even if the changes are not obvious.”
Wait a minute. I thought we were talking about examples of natural selection. You can see yet again how careless evolutionists shamelessly conflate natural selection with evolution as though they are the same thing. Tsk, tsk. If this were the only time I've heard that, I might chalk it up to misspeaking. However, this is rather ordinary for evolutionists and I've discussed it many times before.
One suggested example of “natural selection/evolution” among humans is how people with “sickle hemoglobin” are resistant to malaria. As before, the author hints that the trait was somehow created by a need when he says, “The mutation probably happened over hundreds of generations as a result of the constant exposure to malaria and people contracting and surviving it.” That sounds rather Lamarckian, don't you think? That's about as ridiculous as believing my children could inherit my resistance to chicken pox since people have been contracting chicken pox for thousands of years!
Besides that, “sickle hemoglobin” is better known as “sickle cell disease” or “sickle cell anemia.” Granted, it's true that someone who suffers from sickle cell is resistant to malaria but sickle cell comes with its own list of complications. Sufferers of sickle cell usually have life expectancies much less than normal. And by way of analogy, consider this: if I lost both arms, I would be resistant to handcuffs. That might be preferable if I faced the possibility of spending life in prison if I were ever arrested but all other things being equal, I'd rather have my arms.
I could go on but this post is too long already. Let me close by reminding you of the quote I cited recently from Laurence Moran of TalkOrigins.
“Scientists such as myself must share the blame for the lack of public understanding of science. We need to work harder to convey the correct information. Sometimes we don't succeed very well but that does not mean that we are dishonest. On the other hand, the general public, and creationists in particular, need to also work a little harder in order to understand science. Reading a textbook would help.”
Mr. Moran, I don't think we should “share” the blame; If the public is confused about evolution, all the blame could be laid squarely at the feet of your cohorts for their intentional conflation and equivocation when discussing the subject. Furthermore, I'm skeptical that reading a textbook would help if it were written with the same attention to details as this article.