Evolutionary Miracles

My last post was about how I had difficulty in the language used to describe evolution (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/the-language-of-evolutionists/).

This post is about items in nature that caused me the same issues.

There are some amazing things that happen in nature and sometimes they seem to defy any sense of logic. Trying to imagine how they could happen through chance mutation sends my head in a spin. Yet, somehow they did.

Balanites wilsoniana and the Elephant

Its not too much of a stretch to imagine and suggest that elephants eating fruit from trees, moving on and then eventually excreting the seeds of said fruit several miles away assists with the dispersal of those fruit trees. In fact there are several fruits that benefit from elephants this way and its been estimated that the African savannah elephants disperse a third of the fruit seeds that get germinated. This makes elephants extremely important to the ecology of the areas they roam. One can only image what the impact of their severely depleted numbers will have.

The Balanites wilsoniana are a bit more special though. These are large fruits, with large seeds and rely utterly on the elephant for dispersal. What’s more, the tough outer covering gets partially digested in the elephants gut and the result is the seeds germinate better having passed through. The same seems to be true of the Sclerocarva caffra. This goes beyond the elephant merely assisting in the dispersal of the seeds and makes the two species of fruit dependant on being eaten by elephants for the seeds to get the best chance of germinating and producing a new fruit tree. See http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1146609X11000154#sec5 and http://chapmanresearch.mcgill.ca/Pdf/46_Balanites.pdf

Why would evolution do that? Surely evolution seeks to make life easier and better; constraining a seed to such a specific germination requirement seems rather limiting.

Cardiochiles nigriceps parasitic wasp and the broad-leaved helleborine orchid

The parasitic wasp in question in quite well known, it paralyses a caterpillar and lays its eggs inside the body. The caterpillar is kept alive but immobile while the eggs incubate and hatch. On hating the caterpillar became the first meal for the grubs of the next generation of parasitic wasp.

What is more impressive is that the wasp knows where to find the caterpillars because of the scent given off by the plant leaves when they are eaten. Damaged leaves give off a scent, anyone who has mowed a lawn will know well the scent of freshly cut grass. All across the plant world, leaves give off scents when they are damaged.

The wasp is able to tell the difference between the scent from a damaged plant and the scent of a plant being eaten by the Heliothis virescen caterpillar, its preferred victim. Yes, the plant gives off a different scent when its being eaten by this caterpillar, well it could be any caterpillar I guess. The wasp knows this scent and comes in for its nasty business.

Rather than the plant specifically calling to the wasp for help, its far more likely that the wasp has learnt to recognise this specific scent as the indicator of the presence of its victim.

See http://depot.knaw.nl/56/1/13583.pdf.

So far, all reasonable from an evolutionary perspective, though its precisely the sort of thing I’d have brought up previously as something that can’t happen by mistake; especially the wasp laying its eggs in a caterpillar bit.

However, this is where we go a little surreal.

The broad-leaved helleborine orchid gives of the same scent, or at least one that’s close enough, that attracts the wasp. The wasp finds no caterpillar, but it gets a good mouthful of sweet nectar and helps the orchid along with its pollination in the process.

See http://scienceblogs.com/notrocketscience/2008/05/orchid_lures_in_pollinating_wasps_with_promise_of_fresh_meat.php

How utterly wonderfully bizzar! I love it!

The wonders of Chance

I am sure I could find many more examples if I tried a bit harder, but these two will have to suffice as I think they serve to make my point well enough.

They are exactly the sort of thing that would have had me crying out “See! Evolution could not possibly be true for things like this to exist. The chances of it happening by accident are just too small.”

The thing is, odd things and coincidences happen by chance all the time and when you have the meandering randomness that is evolution, then there will be some strange and hard to explain things that happen simply as a by product of that.

Oddities spread throughout nature are not at all evidence against evolution, quite the opposite. Yet, when I was in the mindset of not accepting evolution, this was exactly the sort of thing that set me back.

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13 thoughts on “Evolutionary Miracles

  1. The question is, when does a natural probability become so low that one must start looking for other answers. It is likely that two or three comets may form the shape of a triangle. It may even be that ten comets would form a circle. But what are the odds of several thousand comets forming an image of buzz lightyear in the sky three times in one week? See my point.

    Sherlock said that when you eliminate the possible then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

    There is no way that you will see thousands of meteorites form a picture of buzz light year three times in a single week. A highly unusual explanation would have to be sought.

  2. My point is that sometimes the possible becomes so improbable that almost anything with the same degree of improbability should be considered. You may find that a UFO might even be more probable than that the meteorites just happened to be in the right place.

  3. The question is, when does a natural probability become so low that one must start looking for other answers.

    Good question, and one that creationists and evolutionists will likely never agree on the answer to. You example of multiple comets creating an image in the sky is not something that is likely to happen. However, with all the stars that we do see in the sky, its hardly surprising that there are some shapes that we see. Its part of the human brains’ ability to see patterns.

    Its this pattern seeing that creates all the problems when seeking an answer for this question. We see patterns where sometimes they don’t truely exist.

    Anyway, to go back to your question. The answer, when looking at the world around us, is that there is nothing that we see that is only answerable through divine creation. There is much that is wonderful and amazing and, at first glance, seemingly impossible naturally. Yet, everytime we look for explanations as to why things that we see in nature are the way they are, we see there is an explanation that does not require a supreme being.

  4. That is a good point worth considering. I guess it takes some time to get used to the idea of really considering all possibilities. I have been so programed to jump to just one conclusion when there are really many possible answers.

    • I have been so programed to jump to just one conclusion when there are really many possible answers.

      At least you are man enough to admit it. It was a very long time before I was able to do that.

      The thing that is always obvious to me now (but was never before) is that when you look at creationist arguments, especially those that challenge accepted scientific theory, is that they accuse science (or scientists) of being dishonest because sometimes things turn out to be wrong yet the scientific community does not make a big thing about that.

      What the creationist fails to understand is that in science, being wrong is a good thing because it give something to work on. Science works by, making a prediction based on our current understanding and then testing that prediction. If the prediction is wrong it indicates our understand might be incomplete and so more work is required.

      The creationist criticism fails to comprehend that and confuses incomplete understanding as evidence for the divine. Its the logical equivalent of painting yourself into a corner.

      Another thing, when was the last time a creationist scientist made a prediction and published the results? I am not aware of any? The creationist makes the assumption they are correct and doesn’t test that conclusion. The scientist makes no such assumption and draws conclusions from testable and repeatable results.

      Which is the most intellectually honest?

      Its to my shame that I spent many years arrogantly proclaiming myth as though it was fact.

  5. hmmm. Was it really arrogance or just stubborness? I think it is at times difficult to define terms like arrogant. Is a person being arrogant merely by being stubborn? In that case mere belief can have an arrogant form. On the other hand if arrogance involves attitude then it could not be merely stubborn belief. I’m not really making a case one way or the other. I’m just wondering how you would define arrogance? I suppose failing to admit when one is wrong could be defined as arrogant in which case ignorance can be arrogant.

    • In my example I guess its arrogance because of the utter confidence in the view that creationism is correct and blanket refusal to entertain the idea of evolution.

  6. I guess I could say the same . . . that I have been arrogant in feeling so right and justified when arguing with others about what I believed. The Bible has . .. . greek mythology, superstition about devils, contradictions, gnostic teaching, . . . and dare I say it . . . . some . . . hypocrisy.

  7. I’m curious what you think about my comments on the Bible? You are a skeptic/agnostic right? Deist?

    • Right now, I call myself atheist.

      With regard to your comments on the bible. There was a time when I would have objected to them. These days I don’t consider my biblical knowledge to be sufficient to offer a qualified response. You might be right and I suspect you are, but I can’t explain why with authority so I feel its probably best I don’t try.

      Hows that for a cop out? 🙂

  8. Pingback: Acceptance of evolution in the world « Confessions Of A YEC

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