Field of Science

Biologists counter creationist movie

On today's eSkeptic, there's an interesting review of the newest creationist “documentary", Distorting Darwin (that's the title of the review - movie title is Darwin: The Voyage that Shook the World).

It's particularly interesting because the author of the review, Jonathan Lowe, has interview three evolutionary biologists about some of the creationist claims in the film. For example:
Claim: The genomes of plants and animals show much redundancy. This goes against the idea of randomness. There is an abundance of information that is utilized for adaptation, and this is unexplained by any selective mechanism.

Hutchinson: “This is a total non sequitur. Some redundancy is understood as gene duplication, which is a rather random event. Some makes sense as building safety factors against the loss of critical genes by genetic damage or error. It is not unexplained. It is completely reasonable in a modern evolutionary sense. Things that can be ‘utilized for adaptation’ cannot be ‘unexplained by any selective mechanism’ because the very process of adaptation involves selection.”
And the peacock's tail, again (again):
Claim: The beauty of the peacock’s tail worried Darwin because it serves no function as camouflage, and a huge amount of genetic information went into creating the tail’s intricate structure. Darwin created the theory of sexual selection to explain why the tail feathers are so beautiful, but experiments have shown that females cannot detect some of the features, and none have any real effect on selection.

Hutchinson: “This is misconstruing a large body of research on sexual selection. As in any field of science some ideas have changed over two centuries, but sexual selection is still heavily favored as a major evolutionary mechanism. In some cases the targets of selection are counterintuitive, and females may choose traits that are not obvious or are indirectly correlated with obvious traits. But that is not a fatal flaw for sexual selection. It has just modified it. That evolutionary biologists and not creationists have discovered this information is rather telling. Creationists have contributed nothing to this area.”

Charlesworth: “There is indeed a large body of research confirming that female animals do favour males with ornaments such as the peacock’s tail, just as Darwin postulated. Sexual selection is one of the best documented phenomena in evolutionary biology.”
As I have mentioned once twice before, I think the peacock's tail works to scare off predators.

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