Evolution’s Serendipity Just Went Ballisticexplained that “we know very little about how they [evolutionary innovations] originate.” The origin of evolutionary innovations is largely unexplained and that gap is well known. No one would deny this. Even Wagner’s own press release begins with the same admission: “Exactly how new traits emerge is a question that has long puzzled evolutionary biologists.” But this admission, while uncontroversial, is not well advertised. It is not typically found in textbooks or popular books. Evolutionists do not often discuss this shortcoming in their class lectures or public talks. For this shortcoming is rather embarrassing. In order to be taken seriously evolution must be able to explain how life’s various and incredible innovations arose, and it hasn’t been able to do that. This raises two interesting tensions for evolutionists.
The most obvious tension raised by evolution’s inability to explain the origin of innovations is that it undercuts the evolutionist’s claim that evolution is a fact. The origin of innovations is one of those fundamental problems. It is not a minor side issue that can be delegated to future research or assigned to the student. If evolution cannot explain that, then it fails. So far evolution has not been able to explain this difficult problem. But how then can evolution be a fact?
The answer is that the “fact” of evolution does not derive from the scientific evidence. Evolution is assumed from the beginning. It is a given. It is the paradigm in which evolutionists work and not vulnerable to empirical science. How evolution is supposed to have worked is very much open to scientific research. But whether or not evolution actually created the entire biological world is not open to scientific research. It is not falsifiable, for it is taken to be true. Evolutionists are constantly questioning the various ideas of how evolution worked (because there are substantial problems with those ideas), but evolutionists never question the fact of evolution.
How evolution created all those innovations is largely unexplained, but evolutionists never question the fact of evolution. And they even claim it comes from science.
The second tension arises from how evolutionists have attempted to explain life’s incredible mechanisms and machines. Such machines are not likely to be created by blind natural laws--they require forward-looking thought. Assembly is required, and there is no payback until the final step. Evolution’s natural selection will not do the job because the machine does not help the organism until the machine is complete. Natural selection lacks the foresight required to construct such machines.
An unlikely way around this barrier is to have the different parts of the machine evolve independently, for their own purposes or perhaps for no purpose at all. Later, the parts come together to form a super machine. In other words, each part of the super machine evolves on its own, in a neutral fashion or to perform its own function. Then, serendipitously, the different machines just happen to fit together and perform a new function. Imagine a fuselage and a pair of wings uniting to form an aircraft.
This rather heroic explanation is called preadaptation or exaptation, and evolutionists have relied rather heavily on it to explain biology's complexities. But Wagner and coworkers are now raising this to a new level. They say these exaptations are the rule in evolution’s history of creating wonders. As Wagner explained this week, “Our work shows that exaptations exceed adaptations several-fold.”
Or as one headline succinctly put it, “Most Traits Emerge for No Crucial Reason, Scientists Find.”
When an investment goes bad sometimes it is best to take the loss and be done with it. No sense in throwing good money after bad. This exaptation explanation does not save the theory. No, Wagner and co-workers did not “find” that most traits emerge from exaptations, as the headline above states.
Not in a scientific way at least. You see they first assumed evolution is true. Only on the shoulders of that heroic assumption did they arrive at the exaptation explanation.
From a strictly scientific perspective, the exaptation explanation does not work. For it requires that evolution is constantly getting lucky as it constructs all kinds of biological subcomponents and machines which, as luck would have it, just happen to fit together to form completely new and different machines which work wonders.
So the second tension is that explanations that evolutionists do come up with to explain the origin of innovations just make matters worse. For they reveal how badly evolution fares in light of the evidence.