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What is wrong with evolution?

Updated on February 4, 2013

What is wrong with evolution?

The short answer seems to be: Nothing. It fits together pretty well as an explanation of how we all got here. But the bone I have to pick is about the way we talk about it and teach it. Something is not right and it leads people to all kinds of wild ideas and beliefs. But then again, is there something underling what we teach and how we teach it which points to something we are not saying?

Perhaps we are not coming out and saying it because it is a difficult idea to get our heads around? Perhaps we don’t know how to explain it and perhaps most people don’t see the problem, including leading biologists.

I was watching a rather good documentary about the origin of plants the other night. The narrator was talking about how flowers developed in a world that originally was just green.

Early conifers etc lived near water he said because they spread their pollen in it. Without the water these trees had no way to get to each other for reproduction. In fact, the fern family was/is really amazing because it produces animal like sperm that actually swims in order to find and fertilize another plant.

These are great facts and interesting bits of information, so the documentary was A1 on that point.

The narrator went on to tell us how plants developed flowers and showed how they adopted specific strategies to allure sometimes very specific insects to do the pollinating for them.

Listen to the language used here. Plants developed strategies.

Surely he doesn’t mean they literally/consciously developed strategies? Natural selection is about mutations surviving only when they are beneficial to the organism or at least not detrimental to the general population until they successfully procreate.

The documentary explains that even getting insects to pollinate for you is not the most efficient way to ensure reproduction. After all, a bee might visit various flowers, spreading pollen to the wrong species and wasting it. One flower found a perfect solution to the problem. It twisted it’s tubes and does not give it’s pollen freely.

In fact, only one type of bee knows the trick. Only a certain frequency untwists the tubs and unlocks the pollen. Amazingly the bee knows what it is and only beats its wings at that frequency when it wants the pollen. It also only likes the pollen from this particular plant.

Wow. How did the bee find the secret note? (middle C, by the way. The plant will pop its pollen for a tuning fork) And how did the flower survive before the bee’s penny dropped?

The way we talk about it it seems like flowers can plan elaborate schemes to trick insects to do their bidding and decide to carry them out, then voluntary alter their structure to facilitate their plan. That would imply that plants are smarter than humans by a long shot, wouldn’t it? You or I couldn’t begin to do that. Yet we talk about plants or animals as if they can. They develop strategies.

It may look that way, but according to natural selection it doesn’t work that way; and talking about evolution in that way attracts the ID people.

The idea that the conifer was living by the water because that is the only place it could effectively drop its pollen is a prime example. It did not choose to live and develop by the water because it was the only way it could effectively reproduce. It developed near water and it survived partly because the water proved to be a good way to pollinate and reproduce.

No ID required here; just natural selection.

Ferns prove to be the same thing. Sponges were one of the first plants and some species of them produce animal like sperm. In the case of those particular sponges the tadpole finds a place to burrow into the ground where it then converts its small brain to food and becomes another sponge. Amazing, isn’t it?

The fern simply developed a variation of that method as it evolved. But it did so through natural selection, not by wanting to.

Bees developing eyes that can see specific colours which just happen to be the colours of the flowers they want for food seems again to be the popular but very wrong way to look at things. But this gets a bit trickier to explain. The flower doesn’t know what colour the bees can see and the bees have no way of knowing what colour cones to develop in order to see the flowers they want.

Scientists often tell us that the colour of flowers from the bee’s perspective provide guided runways for them. As if the plants meant for this to be so. But again, we know that’s not what is happening. However, how do we explain this by natural selection alone? Or in fact, how do we explain the complexity natural selection creates?

Evolution is not a random system. It is a chaotic system. I’ve spoken about chaos before and how it creates complexity from simplicity by following simple rules. It is not by accident that bees see the colours of flowers the way they do and it is not an accident that flowers produce specific colour. Flowers and insects have developed together and from the same basic rules. Those rules create patterns that intertwine. Where the patterns meet, so to speak, you have an overlap where two different species depend on each other and seem to use each other for their gain.

It’s all cause and effect rather than random chance or intelligent design. Nature simply keeps throwing out variations on a theme like creating small sperm to do the fertilization. Sponges have one version, ferns another, and animals yet other variations. But it is all the same pattern in different forms.

A human does not choose the food we like and that which we do not. We have no choice in the matter. We like a specific food or we do not. Many share the same tastes and many do not. But we all share the same overall taste. In other words, a certain percentage of humans like bread and certain percentage do not. But we are never alone in our likes and dislikes.

Plants do not develop specific colours because they want to survive, they survive with help from the fact that they have developed specific colour. The colour they produce is defined by their genetic structure. It is defined by their specific instruction set. How that instruction set changes depends on how they react to their changing environment.

How they react to their changing environment is determined by the instruction set itself.

The thing that we can take away from all this is that all things being made of the same substance and having evolved together are inter related and indeed: interconnected. Intimately so. All things together represent a system.

We must be careful how we teach evolution. We must refrain from teaching through implication that things like plants can develop survival strategies for example. While it is a beautiful warm and fuzzy metaphor, it is not reality.

To me, the reality is much more exciting and awe inspiring.

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    • phriot profile image

      phriot 

      5 years ago

      I can definitely see where you're coming from. The language used to describe science to the masses removes a lot of the complexity and opens certain principles/theories to inaccurate interpretations and attack.

      Science is described at a number of levels:

      "Popular" science: the purpose is to inform, but also to entertain.

      Elementary/Middle school science: to give a glimpse into scientific principles

      High School/Introductory College: to start to explain scientific principles as they "really are," and also to teach scientific vocabulary

      Upper Division College/Graduate School: wait, what we told you before wasn't entirely accurate, there is much more complexity here

      While I'm sure the description of science can be improved upon, the main issue is that people who make themselves opponents of science often get their information from the "popular" or "school age" descriptions. Although I wish we could, I think it's impossible to get most people to learn enough to defend their arguments at an expert level.

      Good Hub!

    • artblack01 profile image

      artblack01 

      5 years ago from New Mexico

      That's also why many people fail at physics, because when most people decide to study physics they say to themselves, "I'm going to study how the universe works and what it's made....etc" but then they realize how much math is involved in it and it blows their mind because it's almost 99% math.

    • Slarty O'Brian profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Hooft 

      5 years ago from Ottawa

      Great stuff. But there is another prime example of scientists confusing the public without trying. When a physicist says that the universe came from nothing they do not mean nothing. They mean potential. What they are usually talking about is quantum fluctuation. It is basically potential energy being actualized, creating particles apparently spontaneously, which usually cancel each other out. You can’t call potential nothing because for there to be potential there has to be something there. In this case, the thing that is there is space. Empty space.

      But space is not empty at all. It is full of quantum activity. This has been shown now to be true through experiment, and was an implication of the uncertainty principal according to Heisenberg. We could even say that Einstein predicted it when he talked about the cosmological constant. The blunder he thought he made seems to have turned out not to be such a blunder after all. All this also ties into his idea that there is a fabric to space, so to speak.

      This is not something from nothing in the true sense. But it gets reported as such and the confusing wording is used by scientists themselves, mostly for effect I would think. But by the admission of Lawrence Krawss, scientists use words in a different way than they are used in the general population.

      I’ve written various essays on different aspects of this difference in language usage between scientists and the masses. To me it is important to clarify this for people. Scientists themselves know this divide is there, but seem unwilling to do anything about it. A notable exception being how entropy is now being taught.

      Many professions and trades have their own insider language which the rest of us are not privy to. But when it comes to science I think it just causes a lot of confusion and even mistrust.

    • artblack01 profile image

      artblack01 

      5 years ago from New Mexico

      You should check out Curiosity with Stephen Hawking.

    • Slarty O'Brian profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Hooft 

      5 years ago from Ottawa

      artblack01

      I wish it was only the entertainers that cause the problem and not the scientists themselves. But I've heard Dawkins and many other scientists say the same sort of things.

      Let's hope they start thinking about what they are implying.

    • Slarty O'Brian profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Hooft 

      5 years ago from Ottawa

      That does seem to be the problem with people who support ID. They don’t seem to understand evolution and prefer to attack straw men. This is exactly why I wrote this article.

      For instance there are two major errors they make. The first is the idea that evolution suggests that mankind evolved from apes, and the second that evolution supports the idea of something from nothing, which is indeed a laughable idea.

      For the sake of all those ID supporters, let’s get it right once and for all: Evolution suggests that mankind and all primates had a common ancestor which was not man nor other primate, and not that mankind came from apes.

      What you could say is that mankind is a primate. And you can safely say mankind is a species or type of ape. But we did not come from apes.

      As for something from nothing, that seems to be a theist view: A god of some sort creates itself from nothing in some Christian circles. In others it always was and always will be and it created everything from either nothing or from itself depending on who you listen to.

      Most of us think something from nothing is a pretty funny concept. So logically something has always existed. The idea being that if ever there was absolutely nothing, there would be nothing right now.

      So theists and atheists have to agree on that point.

      So then there is the question of what it is that is eternal and creative. The theists answer is god or intelligent being that decided to design stuff having nothing better to do with eternity.

      The answer science is finding is somewhat different. There is but one substance which all things are made from. That being energy. Funny thing is energy cannot be destroyed. Not only that, it can’t be created. All it can do is transform from state to another through specific rules. From those rules comes all of this.

      The thing we call nature is the nature of energy.

      So we have another answer. Energy is a candidate for that which is eternal and always was in one form or other.

      We know nature exists and we can discover how it works. Call it god if you will, but it probably is not a conscious god that plans things. It’s just processes which follow rules according to the nature of energy. Those rules are part of its nature and didn’t have to be created.

      How much evidence do theists have for the existence of a conscious god? None at all.

      Looks like nature 1, ID nothing. And you can’t get something from nothing. Right?

      Worse still is the fact that evolution has nothing to do with how this all got started. A-biogenesis or biogenesis is irrelevant to what happened after it got started. That is where evolution comes in. Not at the beginning. Hence people supporting ID against evolution aren’t even fighting the right issue.

      Evolution is a fact. What ID tries to fight is the idea that the animate came from the inanimate, or that the intelligent came to be through a non-thinking process. That is not evolution even though the ID proponents try to lump it all together.

      If you are going to fight an idea, for goodness sake make sure you know what it is you are fighting. Study evolution first, then criticize it. Otherwise you look a bit foolish.

      But hey, I hope this cleared things up for you a bit.

    • artblack01 profile image

      artblack01 

      5 years ago from New Mexico

      I know this because I actually do research and study all the different points of view, the thing is with the whole intelligent design thing, There is NOTHING to it, there is like one real book on the subject while there are libraries on Evolution.

      You are a sheep you are the follower of an ancient fairy tale on spirits and God and heaven and hell and all these other fantasies that have been passed down from generation to generation, never thinking outside of your box, while people like most of us atheists and other science enthusiasts do actual research to prove or debunk all claims made to us. Including yours.

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 

      5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      and of course you know this because you're the pillar of enlightenment and wisdom?

      Feel free to live in your tiny sheltered view of the universe, it must be an interesting place however sheep are not my favorite animals . . .

      Baa, Baa!

    • artblack01 profile image

      artblack01 

      5 years ago from New Mexico

      Something blue, you are wrong on both accounts, early plants with no flowers came before modern flowers or even animals outside of the water, most life developed in the water first because it lends itself to being very suitable to organic material becoming attached. As creatures and plants evolve to the changing environment and the multitudes of animals that they co-habitate with either as food or as unintentional assistant to reproduction.

      There is no evidence, nothing in the universe, that suggests life was designed. However, there is plenty of evidence that shows life evolved No Ducks don't mutate into humans and neither do apes, but take any organism on earth including people and simplify it, we were ape-like and the apes came from the same animal we did, the "proto-ape-man" if you will, there is plenty of evidence for this as well, many fossils that show various stages of human evolution. The principles of evolution work and are used to help create antiviruses and help cure other diseases, if evolution was wrong then modern medicine would not exist. Another thing, there is no evidence for the soul, it doesn't exist. You can live in your fantasy world all you like but until you can prove anything you have to say in contrary to things we have to say to like minded people, I suggest you get an education. Intelligent design is ridiculous, unprovable, unpractical, fantasy nonsense used to counter evolution by pretending to be science even though it's BS. You can even take that to ANY court, which it did, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Evolution won. United States Supreme Court Edwards v. Aguillard ruling, which barred the teaching of "Creation Science" in public schools as breaching the separation of church and state. Intelligent Design is religious pseudoscientific Bullshit.

      Slarty, I think the main issue with people being presented with evolution in this kind of way is that it's being done by the entertainment industry. They aren't scientists and are presenting these sciences in a way that the average nonscience person will either go "WOW, they really do that?" or the opposite reaction we get from religious zealots who haven't got any kind of real education. I have watched many shows on this and everytime I hear the wording you mentioned I cringe.

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 

      5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      The obvious solution is that insects were specifically designed to pollenate plants, so of course the question it raises is what came first the insect or the plant?

      The obvious answer is that both were designed to work together and neither came first they both arrived on the planet at the same time.

      Everything on this planet was designed specifically for this environment, it was not a mutation that suddenly came to life out the primordial soup.

      Ducks don't mutate into humans over a billion years and humans didn't mutate from apes over a similar period of time, everything on this planet was designed to live here.

      The human body is a vessel for the soul, nothing more nothing less.

      It is interesting that you think plants and bees made themselves . . . I voted your article up because it made me laugh, thanks I needed that!

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