Speedy evolution and extreme fast falsification

Plagiomnium affine, Laminazellen, Rostock

Often creationists try to show that predictions of evolution don’t come true and in most cases they state that it fits perfectly well with a creationist perspective. When reality finally sinks down in the brain of creationists they will acknowledge that it is not thát easy..

A recent article by David Catchpoole and Carl Wieland tries to imply that another prediction of evolution is falsified. Based on research in guppies (Poecilia reticulata) which was published in 1997 in Nature (Morell 1997).

The researchers in question did transfer guppies from their natural environment with a lot of predators, to pools in which only one predator was found. It was found that guppies adapted themselves at a high speed, which caused the scientists in question to conclude that:

The guppies adapted to their new environment in a mere four years—a rate of change some 10,000 to 10 million times faster than the average rates determined from the fossil record.

For non-believers in the ‘punctuated equilibrium’ theory that Stephen Jay Gould proposed some decades ago, this would be indeed a shocking observation. But even in evolutionary theory, competing hypotheses are normal. That’s indeed normal for science in general.

The punctuated equilibrium theory states that most species will not exhibit a gradual change during their geological history, but after a period of time changes will occur rapidly and that speciation will occur rapidly.

This is in fact what is seen in nature around us. For example Richard Lenski showed in his long-term E. coli experiment that after some time an evolutionary stasis is reached, and that increases in fitness, because of coordinated mutations occur abruptly (Cooper and Lenski, 2000). In such an experiment the only source of variation comes from mutation.

Such a rapid diversification fits directly in a Biblical world-view, which is precisely the thing that the authors concluded in this article. But they should have stopped there. Rapid evolution does not disprove evolution, it merely illustrates that evolution occurs with different speeds.

Catchpoole and Wieland also write about the punctuated equilibrium theory. They say:

“However, not only is this still a minority view among evolutionists, it begs the question of why, if fast change is everywhere, has not a vastly greater number of new species been generated over ‘geologic time’? I.e. the observed changes are still too fast for comfort.”

This quote illustrates that the authors (no personal feelings there of course!) don’t understand this theory at all. Why more species? Because of the abrupt changes? Didn’t they notice that there are about 5-10 million different bacteria species, 1.5 million fungi species, 1 million mites, around 30 million insects, and 1.6 million eukaryotic species are estimated to be living and running around?

So not evolutionists need to account for the vast number of species (they have 3.5 billion years), but creationists do need to account for that and for most of the families they have around 6000 years to account for the extreme diversification. 

Of course there are models being developed to account for such a enormous diversification (Wood, 2003),  but that does not imply that creationists can justify saying that rapid evolution disproves evolution.

Any thoughts? Let me know in a comment!

Wood. 2003. Perspectives on AGEing: a young-earth creation diversification model.ICC5, pp. 479-489.

Morell, V., Predator-free guppies take an evolutionary leap forward, Science 275(5308):1880, 1997

Cooper, V. S., and R. E. Lenski. 2000. The population genetics of ecological specialization in evolving E. coli populations. Nature 407:736-739.

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