Justice at last, for the majestic Monarch. A new Illustra film chronicles North America’s remarkable butterfly in defense of the design of life. Preview here. David Klinghoffer notes from preview (ENV, May 18, 2011):
In Act II, we follow a particular butterfly, the Monarch, on its journey to a volcanic mountain lodging site in Mexico for the winter, accomplished each year despite the fact that no single, living Monarch was among the cohort that made the trip the year before. Only distant relations — grandparents, great-grandparents — did so. Given the brief life cycle of the insect, those elders are all dead. The Monarch follows the lead of an ingenious internal mapping and guidance system dependent on making calculations of the angle of the rising sun and on magnetic tugs from ferrous metal in the target mountain range.
Experts explain and comment, including CSC fellow and philosopher of biology Paul Nelson, Biologic Institute developmental biologist Ann Gauger, and University of Florida zoologist Thomas Emmel. The film argues that neither metamorphosis nor migration is the kind of feature with which blindly groping Darwinian natural selection could ever equip a creature. How could an unguided step-by-step process build metamorphosis, inherently an all-or-nothing proposition? As Dr. Gauger points, once the caterpillar has entered the chrysalis, there’s no going back. It must emerge either as a fully formed butterfly or the soupy remains of a dead caterpillar.
Alfred Russel Wallace was hardly the last person to dismiss Darwinism as an explanation for butterflies.
(Note: There is a subplot about the striking resemblance between the Monarch (Danaus) and the Viceroy (Limenitis archippus), from a different genus, interbreeding with a cluster of similars that don’t look like Monarchs at all: “All of our [Canadian] species hybridize to some extent because they are so closely related. Some of these hybrid forms have been given varietal names.” So long, Darwin.