I'm supposed to be a biologist and an adherent of the scientific method but I have a big problem with the theory of evolution. I find it extremely confusing. Here are some of my questions:
1. So species evolved over millions of years. But evolution is said to occur largely in response to sudden geologic changes. How would different species develop the incremental and often-complex changes needed considering all geologic upheavals are known to be cataclysmic, ensuring instant death to the various forms of interconnected life?
2. I have a big problem with the assumption of a trial-and-error mechanism in the evolutionary processes - as though plant or animal life-forms have the luxury of intellect needed to conduct a genetic experiment in the middle of a cataclysmic or even incremental change. I just cannot take the assumption that species have a mind of their own, that they have enough cognitive ability to decide which adaptive strategy is best taken in the face of a given environmental challenge.
3. So evolution happens in a span of millions of years, but what of it? Where is the single evidence that a species is in evolutionary flux or transition? So does this mean everything is evolving in increments too infinitesimal to be measurable? A joke puts the argument in a question: "If man evolved from apes, how come there are still apes?" I once posed this question to an intelligent person of science and she posited that some apes got the bright idea of turning bipeds full-time while some didn't buy the idea, hence, some apes became Homo sapiens and other apes remained as dumb apes.
Here, there is a presumption that some precursor apes either experimented with the idea of standing up like a man, or it occurred to them by chance, perhaps, to pick a wayward fruit. Over time, as the wayward-fruit-picking challenge became habitual, these apes developed the necessary musculature, physiology, and psychology for it, and presto…through natural selection (those who couldn’t pick enough food died), they became parents to the first human beings.
So, okay, there's the case of pathogenic bacteria mutating constantly into highly resistant strains. But these are bacteria – lower-order life-forms. Any scientist would want more evidence, something involving large, more complex species.
4. Surely, some apes have never changed their minds, and some of those in transition could at least have survived as is - as transitory ape-men, perhaps. Consider the Archeopteryx, the bird-form dinosaur. This is supposedly an evidence of the theory that birds are transitory life-forms, i.e., reptiles on their way to becoming mammals. If so, show me a bird that seems to be evolving into a mammal.
The duck-billed platypus, in glaring contrast, is a mammal that underwent the process of 'species radiation' in order to become a bird. Species radiation is the phenomenon where a species 'borrows' certain attributes foreign to its kind as an adaptive response to an abnormal habitat preference.. In the case of this species, it's like a mouse preferring to stay near the water, hence, over time it became like a duck (a bird), developing webbed feet, a more streamlined silhouette, waxy fur, etc.
The question is: Do transitory species always die out fast that they wouldn't leave a single evidence, not even fossils throughout the geologic ages?
5. If speciation, or the eventual formation of entirely new species (meaning, a new species that can no longer mate with the old species), were plausible at all, what an equally implausible coincidence it is that other factors - the microclimate , the food source, the species in symbiotic relationship, the associated food chain and food web - would follow suit as though an ecological engineer directed the whole thing to happen.
6. If the case is that (a) these ecological factors were there first, and (b) by chance, a species found the area hospitable, and (c) through the mechanism of long periods of isolation, it becomes a new, distinct species, where would this species get the wherewithal to adapt to its new, often-harsh environment when its IQ can hardly supply it?
7. So nature has an unbelievable "capacity for invention" and we can never underestimate that capacity. But could nature be so ingenious as to 'devise' such an elaborate scheme as the development of colorful feathers or a complex courtship dance or a thicker fur or the wonderful mimicking of a leaf or the grotesque elongation of a neck?
Besides, as I have already pointed out, many environmental changes are known to be as cataclysmic as a volcanic eruption and other geologic upheavals; where would the local flora and fauna gather the means to change accordingly?
How could an orchid flower-looking praying mantis, for instance, evolve such a feat as looking almost exactly like its food, the orchid flower? If the theory of evolution holds, then something like this presumably happened: (a) A normal-looking mantis, which looks just like all undifferentiated mantises, happens to stumble into an orchid flower, (b) discovers that it actually can eat the flower as food instead of preying on smaller insects. (c) Through the process of natural selection, the mantis finds that it becomes preyed upon less and less by predators around it as it gets to approximate the color and structure of the orchid flower more and more.
Corollary Questions: Granting that praying mantises were originally designed to be carnivores, preying upon smaller insects, how could such a carnivore with a carnivore's anatomy develop a vegetarian appetite while it approximates the appearance of an exotic flower, but still retain the bodily parts of a carnivore? At the same time, isn't it too much of a coincidence that a steady supply of bigger predators is there at the right place and at the right time who would catch the more conspicuous mantises and in the process spare the evolving individual as target food?
8. Granted that such a high level of specialization - in appearance, structure, forage and habitat - developed over millions of years, what would explain the high level of species formation in such a relatively young geo-biologic formation as the Philippine rainforest or the Galapagos Isles, both supposedly volcanic plus coralline in origin? Compare the situation in comparatively older land masses where far fewer living creatures thrive species-wise, at least acre per acre.
9. Perhaps, such a variety of species came there in droves and in waves of migration upon detecting the promise of new terrain or topography? If so, isn't it just plain incredible how each of them managed to comfortably settle in a specific niche under the harsh tropical sun and the likelihood of a terrible fight with existing predators, or at least among concurrent competitors? It's just so mind-boggling how all that ecological balance/equilibrium/homeostasis could happen in a comparatively shorter period of time.
This whole business of evolution, though not implausible, is just so confusing, if not altogether suspect. I guess that's why, until now, it remains a theory.
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Posted by R.O. at 6:11 PM