How Do They Know That?reporting that those fantastic gears discovered in the planthopper nymph are “the first known example of working gears that evolved in a living being.” The Times does not explain how they know the gears evolved, nor does it explain how the gears evolved. It is an interesting question because, as anyone who has worked with gears knows, the design space is huge and it contains only a relatively few workable designs. For instance, imagine if the gears were just slightly farther apart. The gears would not mesh and the whole design would not work. On the other hand, if the gears were just slightly closer together, the gears would collide and freeze up. If the spacing between the cogs was too thin or the cogs were too wide, again the gears would collide and freeze up. If the cogs were too thin or if their material not sufficiently strong, then the cogs would break under the load they carry.
The list goes on and on. The design is fine-tuned. Any number of changes renders it non functional, and there is no sign of a gradual path of increasing functionality leading from the absence of this gearing system to the design that we observe.
Even the researchers who discovered this gearing system admitted to its complexity when they concluded that it is not wise to underestimate evolution. That seems to be a good caution, but as Karl Popper would say, it demonstrates how difficult it is to falsify evolution if fantastic, unexpected, designs are simply labeled as products of evolution with no supporting evidence.