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Darwinism challenged as explanation for finch beaks

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  From ScienceDaily:

The observation that Galapagos finch species possessed different beak shapes to obtain different foods was central to the theory of evolution by natural selection, and it has been assumed that this form-function relationship holds true across all species of bird. (photo at right: puffin finds a use for sand eels,/Stef Bennett, Fotolia)

However, a new study published in the journal Evolution suggests the beaks of birds are not as adapted to the food types they feed on as it is generally believed.

An international team of scientists from the United Kingdom, Spain and the US used computational and mathematical techniques to better understand the connection between beak shapes and functions in living birds.

By measuring beak shape in a wide range of modern bird species from museum collections and looking at information about how the beak is used by different species to eat different foods, the team were able to assess the link between beak shape and feeding behaviour.

Professor Emily Rayfield, from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, and senior author of the study, said: “This is, to our knowledge, the first approach to test a long-standing principle in biology: that the beak shape and function of birds is tightly linked to their feeding ecologies.” Paper. (paywall) – Sam Van Wassenbergh, Simon Baeckens. Evolution of shape and leverage of bird beaks reflects feeding ecology, but not as strongly as expected. Evolution, 2019 DOI: 10.1111/evo.13686

Actually, it doesn’t matter what’s true about Darwin’s finches at all. They are a Textbook Icon of Evolution, demonstration natural selection (Darwinism). Now they have even been raised to the status of zombies in school systems:

Call: Evolution!

Response: Darwin’s finches!

Congratulations, you just PASSED the Evolution section in Biology class! 20% of your mark! Just think of all you don’t need to know now…

It may be worth keeping in mind that eating is central to an animal’s staying alive. We might expect that birds would adapt, to whatever extent they can, to foods not especially suited to their beaks when the alternative is starvation. A study of urban wildlife whose ecology revolves around dumpsters and bird feeders will likely provide much evidence for that. See “Can cities serve as cauldrons of evolution (speciation)?”

See also: Researchers: Darwin’s Finches Not Typical Example Of Evolution At All


Darwin’s finches not a good example of Darwinian evolution, but of hybridization

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BA77: Nice compilation! PaV
Related note: Researcher lets the "D" word slip, "The first time I saw feather barbules under the microscope I was in awe of their design: intricate, beautiful and functional,"
Feathers: Better than Velcro? Engineers detail bird feather properties that could lead to better adhesives (and aerospace materials) - January 16, 2019 Excerpt: You may have seen a kid play with a feather, or you may have played with one yourself: Running a hand along a feather's barbs and watching as the feather unzips and zips, seeming to miraculously pull itself back together. That "magical" zipping mechanism could provide a model for new adhesives and new aerospace materials, according to engineers at the University of California San Diego.,,, Researcher Tarah Sullivan,,, is the first in about two decades to take a detailed look at the general structure of bird feathers (without focusing on a specific species),,, Sullivan found that barbules -- the smaller, hook-like structures that connect feather barbs -- are spaced within 8 to 16 micrometers of one another in all birds, from the hummingbird to the condor.,,, "The first time I saw feather barbules under the microscope I was in awe of their design: intricate, beautiful and functional," she said. "As we studied feathers across many species it was amazing to find that despite the enormous differences in size of birds, barbules spacing was constant.",,, Sullivan believes studying the vane-barb-barbule structure further could lead to the development of new materials for aerospace applications, and to new adhesives -- think Velcro and its barbs. She built prototypes to prove her point,,, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190116150632.htm
I guess she did not get this memo:
The “Newspeak” of Evolutionary Biology Hopes to Banish the term “Design,” by Design - Casey Luskin - April 6, 2011 Excerpt: some ID critics today are so fearful of lending any credence towards intelligent design that they are recommending that biologists stop using the word “design” entirely. A recent article in the journal Bioessays by its editor Andrew Moore, titled “We need a new language for evolution. . . everywhere,” suggests that biologists should stop using the term “design.” According to Moore, under “Evolution old-speak” we would say, “Structure X is designed to perform…”,,, Moore isn’t the first person to suggest that biologists should stop using the word “design.” Last year zoologist John O. Reiss wrote an entire book titled “Not By Design” where he commands biologists to stop using the term.,,, https://evolutionnews.org/2011/04/the_newspeak_of_evolutionary_b/
The problem for Darwinists in trying to not use 'design language', i.e. teleological language, is that it is impossible to describe the complexities of molecular biology for any length of time without using language that avoids all implications of agency, cognition, and purposiveness.
The 'Mental Cell': Let’s Loosen Up Biological Thinking! - Stephen L. Talbott - September 9, 2014 Excerpt: Many biologists are content to dismiss the problem with hand-waving: “When we wield the language of agency, we are speaking metaphorically, and we could just as well, if less conveniently, abandon the metaphors”. Yet no scientist or philosopher has shown how this shift of language could be effected. And the fact of the matter is just obvious: the biologist who is not investigating how the organism achieves something in a well-directed way is not yet doing biology, as opposed to physics or chemistry. Is this in turn just hand-waving? Let the reader inclined to think so take up a challenge: pose a single topic for biological research, doing so in language that avoids all implication of agency, cognition, and purposiveness 1. One reason this cannot be done is clear enough: molecular biology — the discipline that was finally going to reduce life unreservedly to mindless mechanism — is now posing its own severe challenges. In this era of Big Data, the message from every side concerns previously unimagined complexity, incessant cross-talk and intertwining pathways, wildly unexpected genomic performances, dynamic conformational changes involving proteins and their cooperative or antagonistic binding partners, pervasive multifunctionality, intricately directed behavior somehow arising from the interaction of countless players in interpenetrating networks, and opposite effects by the same molecules in slightly different contexts. The picture at the molecular level begins to look as lively and organic — and thoughtful — as life itself. http://natureinstitute.org/txt/st/org/comm/ar/2014/mental_cell_23.htm
Denis Nobel himself stated, "it is virtually impossible to speak of living beings for any length of time without using teleological and normative language—words like “goal,” “purpose,” “meaning,” “correct/incorrect,” “success/failure,” etc.”
“the most striking thing about living things, in comparison with non-living systems, is their teleological organization—meaning the way in which all of the local physical and chemical interactions cohere in such a way as to maintain the overall system in existence. Moreover, it is virtually impossible to speak of living beings for any length of time without using teleological and normative language—words like “goal,” “purpose,” “meaning,” “correct/incorrect,” “success/failure,” etc.” - Denis Noble - Emeritus Professor of Cardiovascular Physiology in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy, and Genetics of the Medical Sciences Division of the University of Oxford. http://www.thebestschools.org/dialogues/evolution-denis-noble-interview/
This working biologist agrees with Talbott and Nobel’s assessment, "in our work, we biologists use words that imply intentionality, functionality, strategy, and design in biology--we simply cannot avoid them."
Life, Purpose, Mind: Where the Machine Metaphor Fails - Ann Gauger - June 2011 Excerpt: I'm a working biologist, on bacterial regulation (transcription and translation and protein stability) through signalling molecules, ,,, I can confirm the following points as realities: we lack adequate conceptual categories for what we are seeing in the biological world; with many additional genomes sequenced annually, we have much more data than we know what to do with (and making sense of it has become the current challenge); cells are staggeringly chock full of sophisticated technologies, which are exquisitely integrated; life is not dominated by a single technology, but rather a composite of many; and yet life is more than the sum of its parts; in our work, we biologists use words that imply intentionality, functionality, strategy, and design in biology--we simply cannot avoid them. Furthermore, I suggest that to maintain that all of biology is solely a product of selection and genetic decay and time requires a metaphysical conviction that isn't troubled by the evidence. Alternatively, it could be the view of someone who is unfamiliar with the evidence, for one reason or another. But for those who will consider the evidence that is so obvious throughout biology, I suggest it's high time we moved on. - Matthew http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/06/life_purpose_mind_where_the_ma046991.html#comment-8858161
And whereas teleological 'design language' is unavoidable, the 'evolutionary language' is a dispensable narrative gloss. As the late Phillip Skell noted, "Here, as elsewhere, I found that Darwin's theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss."
"In the peer-reviewed literature, the word "evolution" often occurs as a sort of coda to academic papers in experimental biology. Is the term integral or superfluous to the substance of these papers? To find out, I substituted for "evolution" some other word – "Buddhism," "Aztec cosmology," or even "creationism." I found that the substitution never touched the paper's core. This did not surprise me. From my conversations with leading researchers it had became clear that modern experimental biology gains its strength from the availability of new instruments and methodologies, not from an immersion in historical biology.,,, Darwinian evolution – whatever its other virtues – does not provide a fruitful heuristic in experimental biology." Philip S. Skell - (the late) Emeritus Evan Pugh Professor at Pennsylvania State University, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. - Why Do We Invoke Darwin? - 2005
At the 7:00 minute mark of this following video, Dr. Behe gives an example of how positive evidence is falsely attributed to evolution by using the word 'evolution' as a narrative gloss in peer-reviewed literature:
Michael Behe - Life Reeks Of Design – video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hdh-YcNYThY
Dr Wells and Dr Gauger both agree with Dr Behe that the narrative gloss of 'evolutionary language' is nonessential for the vast majority of scientific papers in biology.
Darwinian 'science' in a nutshell: Jonathan Wells on pop science boilerplate - April 20, 2015 Excerpt: Based on my reading of thousands of Peer-Reviewed Articles in the professional literature, I’ve distilled (the) template for writing scientific articles that deal with evolution: 1. (Presuppose that) Darwinian evolution is a fact. 2. We used [technique(s)] to study [feature(s)] in [name of species], and we unexpectedly found [results inconsistent with Darwinian evolution]. 3. We propose [clever speculations], which might explain why the results appear to conflict with evolutionary theory. 4. We conclude that Darwinian evolution is a fact. https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/darwinism/jon-wells-on-pop-science-boilerplate/ Rewriting Biology Without Spin By Ann Gauger - Jan. 12, 2014 Excerpt: It’s a funny thing—scientific papers often have evolutionary language layered on top of the data like icing on a cake. In most papers, the icing (evolutionary language) sits atop and separate from the cake (the actual experimental data). Even in papers where the evolutionary language is mixed in with the data like chocolate and vanilla in a marble cake, I can still tell one from the other. I have noticed that this dichotomy creates a kind of double vision. I know what the data underlying evolutionary arguments are. By setting aside the premise that evolution is true, I can read what’s on the page and at the same time see how that paper would read if neutral, fact-based language were substituted for evolutionary language. Let me give you an example.,,, http://www.biologicinstitute.org/post/107965814309/rewriting-biology-without-spin
Supplemental note:
FLIGHT: The Genius of Birds - Feathers - video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2yeNoDCcBg&index=7&list=PLO673u2zYHhmKlWOnzc6FCbGr42TCB71C
The Grants said 10 years ago that the Galapagos finches were all one species and that the differences were due to epigenetic factors. No natural selection in terms of genetic change but due to gene expression. This was in a video presentation at Stanford for the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. The audience at Stanford (I have a degree from Stanford) was so dumb that they didn't know that Darwin was being undermined. Song differences in the father isolated various populations but did not lead to different species. They also said it takes over 20 million years to form a new bird species. The Galapagos finches had only been there about 3 million years. So the recent study is guilty of ignorance. What else is new. The interesting thing about all these studies is that those who espouse evolution by natural selection are clueless. jerry
As to: "Darwinism Challenged As Explanation For Finch Beaks"
Darwin's Finches Show Rule-Constrained Variation in Beak Shape - June 10, 2014 Excerpt: A simple yet powerful mathematical rule controls beak development, Harvard scientists find, while simultaneously preventing beaks from evolving into something else.,,, We find in Darwin's finches (and all songbirds) an internal system, controlled by a non-random developmental process. It is flexible enough to allow for variation, but powerful enough to constrain the beak to its basic form (a conical shape modulated by scaling and shear) so that the rest of the bird's structures are not negatively affected. Beak development is controlled by a decay process that must operate at a particular rate. It's all very precise, so much so that it could be modeled mathematically.,,, The very birds that have long been used as iconic examples of natural selection become, on closer examination, paragons of intelligent design. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/06/darwins_finches086581.html
Further notes
Darwin’s finches not a good example of Darwinian evolution? - February 12, 2015 Excerpt: The most extensive genetic study ever conducted of Darwin’s finches, from the Galapagos Islands, has revealed a messy family tree with a surprising level of interbreeding between species. It also suggests that changes in one particular gene triggered the wide variation seen in their beak shapes … The study also revealed a surprisingly large amount of “gene flow” between the branches of the family. This indicates that the species have continued to interbreed or hybridise, after diversifying when they first arrived on the islands.… “It’s been observed that the species of Darwin’s finches sometimes hybridise – Peter and Rosemary Grant have seen that during their fieldwork,” Prof Andersson told the BBC. “But it’s difficult to say what the long-term evolutionary significance of that is. What does it contribute?” What it contributes is that one would be hard pressed to show that there is any evolution going on, in the face of this much hybridization.,,, https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/evolution/darwins-finches-not-a-good-example-of-darwinian-evolution/ Epigenetics and the Evolution of Darwin’s Finches - 2014 Excerpt: The prevailing theory for the molecular basis of evolution (Neo-Darwinism) involves genetic mutations that ultimately generate the heritable phenotypic variation on which natural selection acts. However, epigenetic (Non-Darwinian) transgenerational inheritance of phenotypic variation may also play an important role in evolutionary change.,,, Genome-wide alterations in genetic mutations using copy number variation (CNV) were compared with epigenetic alterations associated with differential DNA methylation regions (epimutations). Epimutations were more common than genetic CNV mutations among the five species; furthermore, the number of epimutations increased monotonically with phylogenetic distance. Interestingly, the number of genetic CNV mutations did not consistently increase with phylogenetic distance.,,, http://gbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/6/8/1972.full Darwin's Finches: Answers From Epigenetics by Jeffrey Tomkins, Ph.D. - August 29. 2014 Excerpt: Just one year prior to this 2014 study,1 the epigenetic basis of speciation was demonstrated in birds in which the progressive geographical spread and ecological patterns of adaptation for a newly introduced songbird species were characterized by differences in DNA methylation patterns, not variation in the actual DNA sequence.2 In contrast, traditional Darwinian evolution alleges that random changes in the DNA itself generate new and useful variants that are then selected by the environment. In reality, researchers are now discovering that organisms can robustly adapt to different ecological niches without major changes in their DNA sequence.,,, What underlies this variation in finch beaks? In studies attempting to determine the molecular basis for beak variability in finches, researchers have found that very similar developmental genetic pathways among species can produce markedly different beak shapes.5 So if the genes are essentially the same, then what seems to be the major source of variation? In this current effort, the researchers studied two different factors in the genome. The first were short sections of non-coding DNA sequence that varied in the number of copies—repeated units—called copy number variants or CNVs. In humans, differences in CNVs form the basis for studying forensics and paternity testing. The second factor studied was epigenetically-based, using an analysis of DNA methylation patterns around the genome. From these analyses, the researchers found that epigenetics correlated well with increased diversity among species while CNVs, based on actual DNA sequences, did not. In addition, they also undertook a more focused study of the epigenetic profiles of specific genes involved in the morphogenesis of beak shape, immune-system responses, and coloring of the birds. Once again, the epigenetic profiles of the different bird species for all of these gene groups were different while the DNA sequences were nearly identical. In addition, the amazing cellular machinery that reads, regulates, replicates, and modifies epigenetic states in the genome is so incredibly sophisticated and complex that it can only be attributed to the work of an Omnipotent Creator. http://www.icr.org/article/8338/ Epigenetics may explain how Darwin's finches respond to rapid environmental change - August 24, 2017 Excerpt: By studying rural and urban populations of two species of Darwin's finches on the Galapagos Islands, researchers were able to show that while there was very little genetic variation, there were substantial epigenetic differences that could be related to environmental differences resulting from urbanization. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170824093814.htm “… in a controlled study, finches were introduced to an island that previously had no finches (Conant 1988, Pimm 1988). In 1967, about 100 identical finches were removed from a U.S. Government Bird Reservation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and were taken about 300 miles away to a group of four small atolls lying within less than ten miles of each other, which had no native finches. The birds were released onto one of these islands, and they soon spread to all of them. Seventeen years later, when the birds were first checked, they were found to have a variety of bill shapes and to be adapted — both by their behavior and by their bill shapes and associated muscles — to various niches. This was a speeded- up form of the conventional scenario of Galapagos finch evolution. In seventeen years, and possibly less, the finches had diversified into various niches.” For the effect of Bmp4 on other birds see Wu, P., T.-X. Jiang, S. Suksaweang, R. B. Widelitz and C.-M. Chuong (2004) Molecular Shaping of the Beak. Science 305(5689): 1465–1466. Lee Spetner - The Evolution Revolution Darwin 'Wrong': Species Living Together Does Not Encourage Evolution - December 20, 2013 Excerpt: Charles Darwin's theory of evolution set out in the Origin of Species has been proven wrong by scientists studying ovenbirds. Researchers at Oxford University found that species living together do not evolve differently to avoid competing with one another for food and habitats – a theory put forward by Darwin 150 years ago. The ovenbird is one of the most diverse bird families in the world and researchers were looking to establish the processes causing them to evolve. Published in Nature, the research compared the beaks, legs and songs of 90% of ovenbird species. Findings showed that while the birds living together were consistently more different than those living apart, this was the result of age differences. Once the variation of age was accounted for, birds that live together were more similar than those living separately – directly contradicting Darwin's view. The species that lived together had beaks and legs no more different than those living apart,,, ,,,there is no shortage of evidence for competition driving divergent evolution in some very young lineages. But we found no evidence that this process explains differences across a much larger sample of species.,,, He said that the reasons why birds living together appear to evolve less are "difficult to explain",,, http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/darwin-wrong-species-living-together-does-not-encourage-evolution-1429927 "In four of the biggest climatic-vegetational events of the last 50 million years, the mammals and birds show no noticeable change in response to changing climates. No matter how many presentations I give where I show these data, no one (including myself) has a good explanation yet for such widespread stasis despite the obvious selective pressures of changing climate. Rather than answers, we have more questions— " Donald Prothero - American paleontologist, geologist, and author who specializes in mammalian paleontology.
Bob O'H at 1, doubtless, they are responding to the general idea. That's certainly the thrust of the textbook treatment. News
I've just checked the data, and none of Darwin's finches are in the data set that was used. The study is looking across all of the birds, so fine-scale variation within a family won't appear in this analysis. Bob O'H

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