May 10, 2011

Problem #4: Evolution in Neutral or Reverse

One of the things I am struck by when looking at the fossil record is that some creatures have not changed significantly.  Dragonflies, for instance, have been found in the fossil record dating back to 325 Ma.  They look almost identical to modern dragonflies but just much bigger (up to 30-inch wingspan).  More and more examples of "living fossils" are uncovered by the year, it seems.  Here are some of the animals and insects and plants that have remained relatively "unevolved" from hundreds of millions of years ago: sponges, liverworts (470 Ma), cockroaches (350 Ma), horsetails (~200 Ma), hagfish (550 Ma), and nautilus (~200 Ma).  There are other examples.  How can standard evolution explain this stasis of certain kinds of organisms?  They seem to be random flukes, but the problem is that there are numerous examples of organisms that have remained mostly unchanged for many million years during periods of time when other animals were apparently greatly evolving.  There's no solid answer for why these animals and plants should have remained unevolved for so long in the standard view of evolution.

Those are examples of evolution going nowhere, but there are also examples of evolution working backwards, removing useful information.  Here are some possible examples: birds lost their teeth, some kind of frog lost its teeth (then regained them later), dolphins lost rear fins, and snakes lost functional legs.  There are countless examples, actually.  Based on the evidence, evolution seems to rather quickly remove unused body parts.  This does not mean, however, that the information doesn't remain within the genomes.

Mutation, which is considered one of the drivers of evolution, is almost always deleterious to organisms—especially more complex organisms.  Bacteria and simple life forms can sometimes stumble upon mutations that help them survive better, but larger organisms usually find mutations to be harmful.  Mutations cannot easily account for complex designs, and small genetic changes cannot account for typical evolution according to some scientists[1].

Humanistic evolution should work for all animals, not selectively.  The cockroaches should have evolved further by now.  Why do they and many other organisms seem perpetually stuck with their particular body design.  They have somehow managed to largely opt-out of the evolutionary game.  The reason behind these unevolved creatures is simple for me: they more quickly ditched the unused genetic information that was latent within their genomes, thus preventing them from ever changing to new complex designs.  Once they lost genetic information, they couldn't get it back, and so they've been unable to manifest new concepts.  Naturalistic evolution can't so easily explain these unevolved creatures.

Designed evolution intentionally allowed good genetic code to normally be preserved in case it was needed later—like in the case of the frog that lost its teeth and then about 200 million years later re-grew them[2].  That was a design feature of evolution.


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