Jonathan Wells has an article about it at Evolution News.
When Charles Darwin visited the Galápagos Islands in 1835, he collected specimens of the local wildlife. These included some finches that he threw into bags, many of them mislabeled. Although the Galápagos finches had little impact on Darwin’s thinking (he doesn’t even mention them in The Origin of Species), biologists who studied them a century later called them “Darwin’s finches” and invented the myth that Darwin had correlated differences in the finches’ beaks with different food sources (he hadn’t). According to the myth, Darwin was inspired by the finches to formulate his theory of evolution, thoughaccording to historian of science Frank Sulloway “nothing could be further from the truth.”
In the 1970s, biologists studied a population of medium ground finches on one of the islands in great detail. When a severe drought left only large, hard-to-crack seeds, 85 percent of the birds perished. The survivors had beaks that were about 5 percent larger than the average beak size in the original population. The biologists estimated that if similar droughts occurred once every ten years, the population could become a new species in only 200 years. In a 1999 booklet defending evolution, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences called the finches “a particularly compelling example” of the origin of species.
But after the drought, birds with smaller beaks flourished again, and the average beak size of the population returned to normal. No net evolution had occurred. No matter; Darwin’s finches became an icon of evolution that is still featured in most biology textbooks.
In the 1980s, a population of large ground finches, with larger beaks than the medium ground finches, migrated to the island. When a drought in 2004-2005 again reduced the food supply, the medium and large ground finch populations both declined. But since even the largest beaks among the medium ground finches were no match for the beaks of the large ground finches, the latter pretty much monopolized the larger seeds and the former had to make do with smaller seeds. This time, the medium ground finches that survived the drought had beaks that were smaller than the average size in the original population. Biologists studying the finches argued that birds with smaller beaks were better able to eat the tiny seeds that were left after the large ground finches ate the big ones, and they concluded that this was again an example of “evolutionary change.”
[…]Wait a minute. Average beak size increased slightly during one drought, only to return to normal after the rains return. Then average beak size decreased slightly during another drought. A region of DNA is correlated with beak size. And somehow that tells us how finches evolved in the first place?
There is an important distinction to make between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. Changes within a type is micro-evolution. Evolving a new organ type or body plan is macro-evolution. There is plenty of evidence for micro-evolution, but no evidence for macro-evolution.
What needs to be proven by the Darwinists is that the same process that results in different average beak size in a population of finches after a drought can create the finches in the first place. I think that Darwinists are credulous – they believe what they want to believe because they want to believe it, even if the evidence is incredibly weak. Darwinists must demonstrate that heritable variations can result in the generation of new organ types and body plans. Changes in average beak size is not interesting. What is needed is to show how the beaks, much less the wings, evolved in the first place.
Icons of Evolution
Jonathan has actually written about a number of misleading things that you may mind in Biology textbooks.
Here are the sections in his book “Icons of Evolution“:
- The Miller-Urey Experiment
- Darwin’s Tree of Life
- Homology in Vertebrate Limbs
- Haeckel’s Embroys
- Archaeopteryx–The Missing Link
- Peppered Moths
- Darwin’s Finches
- Four-Winged Fruit Flies
- Fossil Horses and Directed Evolution
- From Ape to Human: The Ultimate Icon
Dr. Wells holds a Ph.D in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley.
12 thoughts on “Are the Galapagos finch beaks evidence of Darwinian evolution?”
Yep, I fell for this too. How I missed it is a good example of what it is like to be in darkness.
Interestingly, I knew the difference between “within variation” or interpolation and “across variation” or extrapolation, but I STILL missed this.
Not only did the finches remain birds as their beaks changed, but the finches remained finches! This is NOT macro-evolution, so right out of the gate, Darwin was off completely.
But, yeah, the beaks changed, so we humans CLEARLY evolved from slime. (sarc)
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(Clarification: “no evidence for macro-evolution” should be qualified by “being due to a neo-Darwinian process of natural selection operating on random mutations of the genome”.)
Once, I corrected someone who spoke about “the last ice age that ended about 10,000 years”, by pointing out what ended then was period of glaciation and the beginning of the current interglacial – ice ages being typically several alternations between glaciations and interglacials – and hence we were still in an ice age. That elicited a response: “so you don’t believe in global warming, then !?” An example of a quantitative being mapped into a simplistic binary-choice qualititative, usually with a political connotation. Similarly, when I have made the micro-evolution/macro-evolution distinction, I have got responses, especially so when the responding party is aware of my religiosity, that refer to an alleged (poorly-defined) “creationism” and alleged “science vs. religion” dichotomy.
My conclusion is that one should choose one’s battles.
According to a recent podcast by William Lane Craig, “although the belief in common descent remains, the neo-Darwinian paradigm of natural selection by random mutation has collapsed, and they are scrambling to find a replacement.”
Just think: in a hundred years or so, this will be in every high-school biology textbook in the country!
I can hardly wait.
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I think William Craig is wrong about this.
Aren’t the finches still finches?
IMHO everyone who believes that the macro-evolution narrative is, in fact, true thereby warrants the ‘illustrious’ award of the kangaroo award for jumping to conclusions. Logicians call this the Fallacy of Hasty Generalization.
This is 100% true, but don’t forget that a lot of us were brainwashed into this line of thinking. And, if you send your kids to government schools, the brainwashing continues. It is subtle, but certain.
Darwinists gave yet to discover the mechanism that generates useful and understood novel sections of information.
All Darwin could prove is that Ina bunch of slightly varying species if you have a famine for example you will have more of those that survive a famine in the population
It was not even new information that farmers and breeders had known for thousands of years intuitively through their experience.
He just spun some tales of how it my work to create more, but all evidence only compounds his problems instead of helping to solve them
Mutations generate new information. Sometimes this is helpful. If so, natural selection (which is not random) tends to preserve the new mutations.
Genetic drift may also move that information out of the genome if there is no strong need for it. Only heritable mutations needed today will be preserved. The rest will be lost
Yes, it is possible for new organ types of evolve. Evolution typically alters existing structures into having new or expanded functions.
Here is an interesting example of the evolution of cecal valves in lizards in a very short time frame:
There is strong evidence that birds evolved from reptilian ancestors. For example chickens still have the genes for growing reptile teeth- but these genes are switched off. Rare mutations turn these genes on again, resulting in chicks with teeth: