Consider the Flowers
Consider, for example, new research out of Brazil showing that many flowers don’t fall into the expected common descent pattern. And as is often the case, what is more interesting than the uncooperative findings are the theoretical adjustments made to accommodate. In this case the research found that the different traits, both molecular and morphological, of the flowers do not fall into an evolutionary tree pattern. If two species of flowers are similar in one trait, for instance, they may be very different in another trait.
The response was simple and predictable. Some traits, it was concluded, simply are not appropriate for measuring evolutionary relatedness. Perhaps, for instance, those stubborn traits were subject to “episodic” (aka, rapid) evolution. As the evolutionists explained in one report:
Despite their striking differences in flower shape, Luetzelburgia, Sweetia, Vatairea, and Vataireopsis turned out to be close relatives. Moreover, the two genera with papilionate flowers were not each other’s closest relatives. According to Cardoso, “We showed that similarity in floral morphology does not predict phylogenetic relatedness. Indeed, genera with very different flower shapes are often very closely related (Luetzelburgia and Vatairea), and genera with highly similar flowers share such similarity via convergent evolution (Vatairea and Vataireopsis).” For these plants, other morphological characteristics may indicate relationships more reliably. “Floral traits are apparently more prone to rapid evolutionary changes in response to local ecological conditions,” Cardoso said, “whereas vegetative and fruiting traits are more conserved and not readily shaped by local conditions.”
These evidential problems and theoretical adjustments are not rare skirmishes. They are not the occasional tweak of an otherwise reliable hypothesis. Instead, evolutionists are constantly surprised by their next encounter with the data and evolution is constantly in combat with these hostile threats.
The problem for evolution here is not so much that there is no way out. In fact it always seems that some adjustment is possible. The problem is that the theory rapidly loses credibility. Not only is its track record full of failed expectations, but the very fact that it is so easy to fix and malleable is alarming. Its predictions, it turns out, never really were predictions. At least not the hard kind of predictions that philosophers like to see theories make. Instead those predictions were, upon failure, simply reversed with little more than the wave of a hand. “Oh, we didn’t mean that, we meant this,” seems to be the consistent message.
Maybe evolution is true, maybe it is false, or maybe it is somewhere in between. In any case, we need to remove our preconceptions and allow the empirical scientific data to speak for itself. It will only be then that we can agree.