googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Does a new species of finch mean the finch has evolved?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Does a new species of finch mean the finch has evolved?

A headline from reads, “A New Bird Species Has Evolved on Galapagos And Scientists Watched It Happen” The opening sentence claims, For the first time, scientists have been able to observe something amazing: the evolution of a completely new species, in the wild, in real-time. And it took just two generations. Wow! Scientists watched evolution happen in real time? I guess I should just give up and quit blogging! //RKBentley shakes his head//

I'm not really sure what all the fuss is about. First off, this isn't even news. The article was published 11/24/2017 and it cites a article that was published a day earlier. However, I found this same study discussed on on 11/6/2009. Second, the article is talking about hybridization – the cross-breeding of two different species. Hybridization is ridiculously common. It's been observed and understood for centuries. For example, how long have there been mules? A mule is the offspring of a donkey bred with a horse.

Hybrids are usually (but not always) sterile so we wouldn't necessarily consider a hybrid a new species. Species is a largely subjective term but when speciation is determined to have taken place, there is always someone anxious to label it “evolution.” Here are a few examples I've talked about before:
  • Scientists watch as a new species evolves before their eyes: Speciation, the formation of new species through evolution, is not usually an event you can directly observe. Organisms typically take many generations to accumulate enough changes to diverge into new species; it's a slow process... But biologists working at the University of California, San Diego, and at Michigan State University, may have just put a rest to all of those naysayers. They report to having witnessed the evolution of a new species [of virus] happen right before their eyes, in a simple laboratory flask, according to”
  • World-first hybrid shark found off Australia: Australian scientists hailed what they described as a world-first discovery of two shark species interbreeding Tuesday, a never-before-seen phenomenon which could help them cope with warmer oceans... It’s very surprising because no one’s ever seen shark hybrids before, this is not a common occurrence by any stretch of the imagination... This is evolution in action.
  • Pressured by Predators, Lizards See Rapid Shift in Natural Selection: “Countering the widespread view of evolution as a process played out over the course of eons, evolutionary biologists have shown that natural selection can turn on a dime -- within months -- as a population's needs change. In a study of island lizards exposed to a new predator, the scientists found that natural selection dramatically changed direction over a very short time, within a single generation....”
God created organisms “according to their kind.” Grass, herbs, and fruit have kinds (Genesis 1:11); Marine animals and birds have kinds (Genesis 1:21); Cattle, beasts, and every animal that walks upon the earth has kinds (Genesis 1:24-25). At the time of the Flood, representative animals from each terrestrial kind were brought aboard the Ark to keep them alive (Genesis 6:19-20). All of the various species of animals that exist today are descended from the smaller kinds originally created by God.

When I read headlines like these, it's my opinion that what we observe is better explained by Genesis than by evolution. For example, we have several instances of speciation happening rapidly. Creationists have been saying this is the case all along yet evolutionists still act surprised every time it does. They're so ingrained into their “millions of years” way of thinking that they act shocked when a new species forms in only few generations. They see a a new species of finch appear in two generations yet they scold creationists by claiming the 4,000 years since the Flood is not enough time for a bear to become a polar bear or a wolf to become a dog.

Which brings me to another point – how are these people defining evolution? When most people think of evolution, they think of dinosaur to bird or ape to man. However, evolutionists describe any change in a population of animals as evolution. If there were a population of moths where 60% of the moths have light pigment, the population is said to have evolved if the next generation has only 50% with light pigment. It's evolution by definition. The examples of “evolution” we observe don’t demonstrate any mechanism that could eventually turn a molecule into a man.

The sensational headlines that talk about evolution happening before our eyes are seldom anything more than hype. Even if we are occasionally surprised, it is ultimately nothing more than an anecdotal example of a rather mundane phenomenon – a new recombination of traits that have already existed in the population. Two lizards giving birth to a bird would be news. Two finches giving birth to a finch is click bait.

Further reading:


Steven J. said...

As you note, most hybrids are sterile or nearly so (and if not completely sterile, then interfertile only with a member of a parent species). These hybrids are able to mate with one another, establishing a new, self-perpetuating, more or less isolated gene pool of their own. So it's a bigger deal than just another instance of hybridization.

Given that Dmitry Belyayev managed to create very human-friendly, nearly domesticated foxes (a few kinks still need to be worked out before they make really good pets) from wild foxes in under half a century, I don't think many evolutionists dispute that dogs could have been bred from wolves in under 4000 years (though they in fact think that it happened longer ago than that). But the "created kinds" idea involves not just wolves becoming dogs (still fully interfertile), but a single pair of ur-equines becoming horses and zebras and donkeys (with roughly the same amount of DNA sequence differences as humans and chimps, and greater differences in chromosome count), or a single pair of proto-elephants giving rise to Indian elephants, African elephants, and maybe wooly mammoths in the same 45 centuries or so.

And really, since house cats and lions (again, at the genetic level as distinct as humans and chimps, and much, much more so than any two breeds of dogs) are already distinct and modern-looking by the time they appear in ancient Egyptian art, the supposed "cat kind" (again, starting with a single pair of ur-kitties aboard the Ark) must have diverged much faster than that -- presumably in a few centuries. That's not something that can be shown to be reasonable just by pointing out that poodles and mastiffs were derived from a common ancestor over a couple of thousand years, or even that a new species of finch has arisen by hybridization.

Evolution is routinely defined as "change in the frequency of gene variants in a population over time." You can dislike that definition but I do not think it will prevent scientists from using it.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

I can't figure out which way evolutionists want to play it. Does speciation happen rapidly or does it take tens of thousands of years? I read articles like those cited above and they can see changes happening rapidly – sometimes in a few months. But then I read articles like from the Tierny Lab Blog published in the NY Times, “By most any measure, dogs and foxes are different species and yet here in the Creation Museum, it was stated that foxes had diversified from dogs, with major changes in appearance and genetic make-up, in an incredibly short time of less than 4,500 years — far, far faster than an evolutionary biologist would claim.” If they have examples of rapid change, why do they continue with the canard that 4500 years isn't long enough?

If an environment doesn't change, I wouldn't expect to see rapid changes in species that occupy that environment. But when we have observed examples of incredibly rapid change, I tend to believe thousands of years is plenty of time for a few thousand terrestrial species to give birth to a few tens of thousands of modern species. Now, there is some debate among creationists about cats. Some only include cats in the genus Panthera as a single kind and cats in the genus Felis as another kind. I'm not sure I agree. But given the rate of change we know is possible, I believe a cat and lion could descend from a common ancestor in just centuries.

Thanks for your comments. God bless!!


Steven J. said...

Foxes (Vulpes spp.) and dogs (Canis lupus)are not merely separate species, but separate genera, and roughly as genetically distinct as lions and house cats. If you're not sure that a tiger and a lynx are the same "kind," then you oughtn't be sure that dogs and foxes are -- and ought to be a bit uncomfortable with the Creation Museum asserting (as it does) that Tony the Tiger and Garfield the cat shared a common ancestor 4500 years ago, as did Lassie and Reynard the fox.

Genetic differences and morphological differences are not rigidly correlated, and even speciation (or lack of it) and genetic change are not that strongly tied to one another. A small genetic change can produce large changes in appearance (cf, as long as we're talking about dogs, St. Bernards and chihuahuas), while sometimes a single species will contain more genetic differences within itself than exists between some pairs of species.

The underlying problem is not merely producing speciation, or visible differences in populations (again, not quite the same thing). It's producing, as well, the underlying genetic differences. Dogs aren't very different from one another, or from grey wolves, genetically. Horses and zebras (considered a single "kind" by virtually all young-Earth creationists) are much more different from one another genetically, and even in chromosome count (that's a lot of genetic fusions and fissions to cram into under 5000 years!).

Moderately fun fact: all that genetic and karyotypic diversity had to arise, on your version of events, from a single pair of animals living, again, less than 5000 years ago. On a related note, humans show notoriously less genetic variety than chimpanzees (even if our outward differences are more conspicuous to us), which is moderately hard to explain if we started from three pairs of ancestors and they started from one aboard Noah's Ark.