The evolution of turtles has always been a problem. First, there is no scientific explanation for how these fascinating creatures could have arisen via spontaneous events such as random mutations. And second, even if we make the heroic assumption that such an unlikely event occurred, somehow, there remains their rather awkward fit in the supposed evolutionary tree. It’s not an uncommon problem in evolutionary studies, and in the case of the turtle the paleontological, morphological and genetic data make for various contradictory results. As one writer explained:
Paleontological and morphological studies place turtles as either evolving from the ancestor of all reptiles or as evolving from the ancestor of snakes, lizards, and tuataras. Conflictingly, genetic studies place turtles as evolving from the ancestor of crocodilians and birds.
The new study purports to resolve the dilemma (they say the evidence is overwhelming that turtles evolved from a common ancestor of birds and crocodilians). And how did they solve the problem? They used the so-called UCEs (ultra conserved elements) and their flanking regions. But there is one problem: UCEs falsify evolution.
That is, at least, what one evolutionist told me years ago, before UCEs were discovered. Identical or nearly identical functionally unconstrained DNA sequences, conserved broadly across different species, would undoubtedly falsify evolution. That falsifier was discovered in the form of UCEs.
Indeed, another evolutionist exclaimed “I about fell off my chair” when seeing the UCE comparisons. Surely these absurdly conserved sequences must be utterly essential. But hundreds of tests failed to reveal their importance. In fact many of the sequences could be removed altogether with little effect.
But of course, as usual, that was Darwinian Doublespeak as we were told to move along yet again. No one so much as whispered a word of doubt about evolution and the scene returned to normal, just as in the Star Wars bar scene. Evolution is still a fact, UCEs or no UCEs.
So now, years later, UCEs not only are no longer a problem for the evolutionary mind, they may freely be used as evidence for evolution. The fact of evolution is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Evidence, no matter how contradictory, is interpreted according to evolution, and then recruited as yet more proof texts for evolution.
The turtle story is not merely another tale of contradictory data that make little sense on evolution. It is another example of the closing of the evolutionary mind.