Gems? or Shames?

At the beginning of 2009, Nature, a top scientific journal in biology, published an article entitled “15 Evolutionary Gems” written by Henry Gee, Rory Howlett, and Phillip Campbell (

The purpose of the Nature articles was to provide evidence to support the current evolutionary paradigm that natural selection (NS) plays a leading role in evolution or speciation, which is the Darwin's theory of evolution. The authors discussed fifteen cases published in the journal during the last decade, which provide the best support for the theory according to them.

 “Evolution” has different meanings in different settings. It could mean that a species adapts to new environments, or generation of a new species. Currently, a majority of the public, including devout creationists and biologists agree that evolution occurs. For example, not all organisms populated the world at the same time, new species evolved from their predecessors, and natural selection eliminates weak and unfit members. There is little reason to continue research to prove evolution because it is a well known fact. The unsettled argument is the role of NS in generation of new biological species. In other words, what is it the mechanism of speciation?

The 15 cited articles attempt to answer the question. However, after reviewing them, it appears that the gems are irrelevant, and to cite them as evidence is misleading. First, the article begins with “Fossils offer crucial clues for evolution.” Does evolution here mean the generation of new species according to Darwin’s theory? If yes, then how do fossils provide crucial clues for the theory? The hybrid creatures in the case 1 (Ambulocetus and Pakicetus) could have been generated by any evolutionary mechanism, including pathogenesis or polyploidy, in which new species are generated in one generation without prior NS. Animals in the fossil records just show an organism occurs in evolution, but not how they were generated.

Similarly, discovery of a fossil of an elpistostegid known as "Tiktaalik does not mean it evolved under NS (case 2). The existence of feathered dinosaurs vindicated the idea of transitional forms that are not related to how it evolved (case 3). The pattern of gene expression in mouselike rodent species with various diets does not provide an example of ecologically driven evolution. Instead, it could be explained that random mutation generated the pattern of dentition in the mouse that found out ecological-friendly environment to proliferate (case 4). With new techniques, skeletal similarities that result from a shared evolutionary history can be identified from muscle attachments, but those findings do not explain the mechanism (case 5).

In the case 6, the authors discussed a quoted research that revealed migratory fish populations in the study had larger bodies on average than did the non-migratory ones. Individuals with a larger body tended to mate with fish of a similar size, which accounts well for the reproductive isolation. However, the mating pattern does not mean a new species forms. If the assumption were valid, then members of the National Basketball Association (NBA) suffer from reproductive isolation, because they would be likely to mate with taller women who are above the average sized women, and they is in a process to become non-human species. Persons with this kind non-sense would be most likely considered to be insane by most psychiatrists. 

The presence of larger predators could select for longer-legged male A. sagrei lizards that can run faster. However, these larger lizards are still the same species as smaller ones who run slower. Therefore, NS only favors certain individuals within the same species, and it does not create a new one at all (case 7).  Water fleas Daphnia and the parasites in the co-evolution study did not support the idea that they became different biological species (case 8). The researchers found that the amount and type of genetic variation in nestling weight of a songbird differs from one part of the woods to another; however they only show the songbirds adaptation at a genetic level and did not demonstrate an event of speciation (case 9). The rare variants have much higher survival rates than do more common ones. Are the rare variants the same species as more common ones? If yes, the case cannot support Darwin's theory (case 10).

A vertebrate using a second set of jaws to both restrain and transport prey did not mean that anatomy and function were the outcome of natural selection (case 11). It could be the consequence of one generation speciation. So is strong Calmodulin expression in cactus finches with the long and pointed beaks, the authors did not state why strong Calmodulin could only be achieved over long time under NS. They just assume it as a fact. The same argument also applies to case 13, in which the authors claimed that a “regulatory element has, over time, acquired binding sites for transcription factors that are ancient components of wing development."  In case 14, the authors reported neither toxin-resistant softshell clams nor garter snakes as a new species. Numerical simulations of complex gene networks cannot sustain Darwin's theory. The idea of such ‘evolutionary capacitance’ is based on validity of the theory that can not provide proof for the theory (case 15).

Nature is one of the top scientific journals in biological science and these papers represent the best research in the field. Nonetheless, falsehoods do not become the truth just because Nature publishes them. Publishing and citing such non-relevant studies as gems to support the theory only shows desperation among these authors and editors.

One ponders why researchers with such solid academic credentials made such low level mistakes. The answer is simple: the authors and editors like many other biologists “take for granted that the idea that new species evolved by natural selection over billions of years.” With that mindset, they lost the basic ability to reason logically and critically; and turned away from all known speciation that is uncontroversial, such as pathogenesis or virgin births (Schlupp, 2005) and polyploidy (Gregory, 2005). To many people these papers are not gems, but shameful discourse to show to the public from scientists and editors that are spreading toxic ideology.

Jianyi Zhang

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Gregory TR. 2005. The evolution of the genome. Burlington: Elsevier Academic.

Schlupp I. 2005. The evolutionary ecology of gynogenesis. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 36:399-417.