Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest (continued)
PURSUE THE POINT FURTHER, let us focus our
gaze here upon the arctic habitat. The naturalist's understanding of physical
be put to test there with the characteristic study of polar bears and arctic
foxes. Polar bears differ in shape from brown and black bears. Their hindquarters
are set higher than their forequarters so that they can run faster in pursuit
of prey, while their elongated necks give them a more streamlined shape for
swimming. Other bears can also swim, but polar bears can swim comparatively
much faster and cover much longer distances, a competence direly needed for
their survival in the arctic environment.
Polar bears can weigh as much as 800 kilograms and measure 3.0 metres. Their size is both a protection against the cold and a necessary factor in their ability to hunt and kill. Incidentally, the cubs born to a mother bear are amazingly small, they weigh a mere 500 grams, just a fraction of the weight of a human baby. Their black skin is covered with thick white fur, thus nature provides them with a perfect camouflage throughout the year. Their coats take a yellowish tinge only briefly in summer, matching perfectly with the melting ice. The polar bear's dense fur and an exceptionally thick layer of fat under its skin protect it against the freezing temperatures of the habitat.3 The fat is particularly important when the bear is swimming, because the fur cannot retain the insulating air trapped in it. When dry, the white fur reflects the heat it receives from the sun's rays back to the body. The hairs are hollow, so that ultraviolet rays from the sun can pass through them and be absorbed by the black skin beneath.
Another striking feature of the polar bear is the relatively large size of its paws. They are very wide and armed with sharp claws for tearing its prey and for gripping the ice. The soles of its feet are covered with the same thick, creamy white fur as covers its body providing them a better grip on icy surfaces and much needed insulation. Amazingly, polar bears can run as fast on ice as the fastest dog on firm ground. During the exceptionally long spells of night in the polar winter, it is almost impossible for the polar bear to perceive and reach the open water pools where seals are found. Thanks to its extra sharp faculty of smell, darkness offers no hindrance, so it can smell seals, meat or carrion even from as far as 20 kilometres, according to naturalists. In sharpness, its eyesight matches its sense of smell, which is keener than that of most other bears. During daylight they can locate seals from a considerably long distance. Having spotted the seal, the patience with which they stalk them is amazing, they creep upon them with bodies flattened to the ice, forefeet doubled under them and only the hind feet providing propulsion. They possess the artifice for contriving excellent camouflage. Sometimes they push a small heap of ice in front of them to camouflage their dark muzzles, or cover their noses with their white paws to avoid detection.
Much of a polar bear's time is spent in water. It possesses some unique features to correspond to this situation. The usage of limbs in water is reversed in comparison to the bear's behaviour when it stalks seals on pack ice. Instead of hind legs, which are now used as rudders, it uses only its forequarters for propulsion. In addition to their exceptionally large size, the front paws have the added advantage of being partially webbed. Another exceptional feature which makes the polar bear perfectly adapted to the polar habitat, is its ability to swim under water with eyes fully open and nostrils closed.3 Although some scientists try to explain away these unique features of the polar bear by simply referring them to be a product of evolution, there are other naturalists however who remind them that it would take millions of years of evolution to create the specific features that separate polar bears from the bear family in general.
In adaptability to the polar climate, the arctic fox does not lag far behind the polar bear. In winter it grows a dense white fur to keep it warm and to provide it with camouflage. Little of its body heat is lost through its small, furry and rounded ears, so different from the ears of the foxes found elsewhere. Again in comparison to other foxes, the arctic fox has a short muzzle and legs, which also help it to conserve heat. Like the polar bear, the arctic fox also has thick fur under the soles of its paws, which provides it with excellent insulation against extreme cold. Surprisingly, the only other fox which shares the fur under the sole with the arctic fox is the desert fox. Obviously, there it needs this fur for insulation against heat. White arctic foxes are hard to see in the snow but their white fur could become a disadvantage in other habitats. For instance, in islands and in the coasts of the arctic ocean where there is less snow, they need a camouflage of a different colour. A bluish-grey colour seems to be ideally suited and it is exactly that which their coats turn into. 4
This leads us back to the all-important question of the role of natural selection in the origin of species. If it took some millions of years for the polar bear to be equipped with such exceptional features, as are essential for its survival in the arctic climate, the same time-scale would show no partiality to the fox either. The question arises as to how many thousands of generations of bears and foxes must have perished in vain before they could have evolved the changes in their anatomy, vitally essential for their survival.
Again, if they had survived as they must have survived for millions of years, even without the advantage of these exceptional features which make them perfectly adapted to the arctic climate, where was the need for any adaptation at all? Why all the fuss about genetic changes and chance mutations colluding for that long to provide the opportunity for natural selection to approve of a choice which, in fact, was imposed upon it.
Moreover, if ordinary bears and foxes as found elsewhere in the world were to be dumped into the arctic region today, while polar bears and artic foxes are removed from the arena, the question would arise as to whether they would have any chance of survival in that hostile climate, continuously, generation after generation, without becoming extinct. If they could do so with a fair guarantee for the survival of the species, the evolutionary exercise of the polar bears would be rendered superfluous and the characteristic changes brought about in features could no longer be considered as necessary.
Now we look at the same scenario from a slightly different angle. It is impossible for the extremely inhospitable environment, such as obtains in the arctic region, to work causatively for bringing about appropriate changes to the biochemistry of cells. Yet, without such profound changes in the character bearing genes, no gradual or mutative changes can be visualized. White fur upon black skin, taller hindquarters and shorter forequarters, tiny rounded ears, an exceptionally sharp sense of smell and vision, thick fur under the soles of their paws, change of coats in accordance with environmental dictates and layer upon layer of fat under the skin, cannot be made to order by the climatic conditions prevailing in the arctic habitat of the polar bears and foxes. Chance must continue to play its role separately and blindly in the cellular chemistry to add variety to characters and to bring about spontaneous changes in animal features, haphazardly in every direction.
Natural selection must wait for these painstakingly slow changes to provide a large variety of options for it to choose from. For instance, if random changes in the cellular chemistry can suddenly alter the colour of hair from black to white, with a thick layer of white fur added on top of that, why cannot they change the colour of the hair from black to blue or red or crimson or violet or green or deep yellow or saffron for that matter? How did cellular chemistry know that what was needed in the arctic climate was only white? Yet it failed to learn that the skin underneath the white fur would remain black. Why did the same cellular changes leave the skin alone and think only of changing the colour of the fur—a novel idea indeed to grow white fur on black skin! Hence, each of the specific features mentioned in relation to polar bears and foxes would evidently require a host of other options to have been created by chance.
According to the Darwinian theory of the origin of species, one should expect a wide variety of polar bears and foxes with a host of different features, to have been created by chance before natural selection could come into play. The fossil record of the arctic region should testify to the earlier chance creation of red bears, blue bears, saffron bears and pink bears. But evolution, in relation to its effect on polar bears, seems to be colour-blind, capable only of recognizing black or white. Moreover, the bears should also come in all shapes and sizes. There should be tiny polar bears, giant polar bears, heavyweights, middle weights, lightweights, flyweights, bantamweights and featherweights etc. Some should be born with taller forequarters and shorter hindquarters, some with dim vision and diminished sense of smell. Why should the creative factors, whatever they were, provide only single options in the polar habitat and let natural selection sit idly by? There was nothing for it to choose from.
Some polar bears should again, have been accidentally born with a sense of utter distaste for the flesh of seals, and abhor it to the degree that they would rather die of starvation than to venture upon a mouthful of it. The very sight of it should have made them vomit and retch miserably for hours. It should be of no surprise if some among them were shabby swimmers and tardy runners.
If so, the Darwinian naturalist would have some right to make us believe that it was only random creation which took care of the evolutionary processes in that specific region. Subsequently however, the inevitable law of the survival of the fittest and natural selection must have wiped out the unwanted and incompatible specimens of polar bears. All that was left to survive was the polar bear in its present form.
|Tropical Forest |
(click to enlarge)
But where did those polar bears, whom survival of the fittest had condemned to extinction, disappear? We are not talking of a tropical environment. What we are talking about is the extremely cold habitat of the arctic. In a climate such as this, some of the corpses of different polar bears which became extinct must have been perfectly preserved as fossil records. One should remember that some animals which existed hundreds of thousands of years ago have been found buried in the arctic deep freeze, so completely unchanged that their flesh was edible, as if they had been buried yesterday; such is the case of a mammoth elephant discovered in Siberia not so long ago.
The same random cellular changes resulting in the creation of a host of variants among animal species should also be found operative in non-polar climates and habitats. At least some of their fossil records should have been found in the archives of nature.
Let us travel now from the arctic to the non-arctic regions of the world. By comparison to the massive polar bears, the study of a tiny spider presents a fascinating contrast.
PIDERS are found virtually everywhere except in the arctic climate. In tropical forests, however, they abound and flourish like nowhere else. Rain forests are not their only habitat. Their ability to survive extreme climates is amazing. They survive on mountain tops as well as in deep canyons and caves.
There are at least thirty thousand known species of spiders, but some estimate the number to be twice as much.5 All spiders are not weavers of webs. About half of them weave webs and the other half, despite the fact that they also produce silky threads, hunt their prey by directly attacking it and leaping upon it with amazing speed and precision. The cobweb weavers invariably go for insects alone, while other spiders can attack and kill comparatively much bigger animals.
Incidentally, in the last century, one naturalist estimated that the number of insects devoured by spiders was more than the total weight of the human population.5 Returning to the main discussion, we should like to remind the reader that the greater the difference between the lifestyle of different species, the more challenging it becomes for the evolutionist to trace back the evolutionary history of each species. What natural factors guided their steps and how, over millions of years? Each of them seems to have accidentally reached the stage in which they are found today.
For the interest of the reader, we just quote a few examples of how vastly spiders vary from species to species. There are wolf spiders, which hunt with the ferocity of a wolf and there are huntsman spiders which move at amazingly fast speeds and there are bird-eating spiders, also known as tarantulas. They are exceptionally large in size by comparison to other spiders. Even small vertebrates appear diminutive by their side. Under extreme provocation they will not hesitate to attack humans. Their staple food consists of small roosting birds, reptiles, amphibians, beetles, moths, grasshoppers and also when needs be, they devour other spiders.
Again there are ant-eating spiders which are mere dwarfs as compared to the tarantulas. They are no bigger than the size of the ordinary ants they hunt. The Creator has provided them with such perfect camouflage as the ants never suspect the presence of these deadly aliens among them. They look like ants, they act like ants, they move like ants and the adage 'when in Rome do as the Romans do', applies to them most befittingly. Only, they do not think like ants. How could this amazing camouflage evolve by a mere collusion of blind chances and how long did it take for aimless mutative changes to perfect this wonder? These are some questions for the evolutionist to answer.
Of course one would also expect some explanation as to how natural selection might have worked in relation to the ant-hunters. How many millions of generations of imperfect hunters must have been created and wiped out before the most perfect hunter was finally evolved by the aimless meanderings of the so-called evolutionary factors!
Another mysterious species of spiders is known as Atypus. Ever since they were discovered by W.E. Leach in 1816, they have continued to arouse widespread interest amongst zoologists. Long before sealed room mysteries were invented by detective story writers, Nature had created a living model of the sealed room mystery by designing and perfecting a female species known as 'the trapdoor spider'. Naturalists had long been puzzled as to how she could keep herself alive closeted in a long silk tube sealed at both ends. It took F. Enoch to finally provide the solution to this baffling problem during his work between 1885 to 1892. The silken tube in which Atypus locks herself is usually eight to nine inches in length. Of this all but two to three inches pass steeply down into the ground while the remaining portion juts out of the ground like an inflated finger of a glove. In the middle, the tube is more spacious to provide the spider room to turn and manoeuvre. The mastermind of blind evolution takes care that during the winter, when the spiders hibernate, the aerial portion is collapsed. At other times they are easily mistaken for roots protruding from soil. The silk is intermixed with earth or sand grains by the spiders to make it appear inconspicuous. The way in which an insect is seized can be watched by tickling the tube with a grass stem. Suddenly two shining curved fangs are violently protruded through the web and it can be seen from their position that the spider strikes in a shark-like manner with its lower side uppermost. If a buzzing fly is held against the tube the fangs pierce its body and hold it like fish hooks. After a certain amount of tugging and jerking a slit appears in the tube wall through which the insect is pulled in. Before retiring to the inner chamber with the prey to enjoy the fruit of her labour, the spider returns to the upper portion of the tube to repair and reseal it.6
|The trapdoor spider waiting in its tube, about to seize its prey.. |
How the Darwinian principle of 'Survival of the Fittest', aided only by mutative changes, could conceive, design and execute the creative plan of trapdoor spiders, is a mystery which perhaps only the elite among the naturalists can understand to their satisfaction.
Finally, we conclude this discussion by taking up the case of weaver spiders which make almost half of all the spider species. So tiny, so fragile, so delicately built, they all the same possess the surprising faculty and know-how to build intricate contraptions for catching flying insects. It is an intriguing case study because as we move from one type of weavers to another, the whole complexion of their style, strategy and weaving skills change dramatically. Let us visualize how blind chance might have endowed the spider to turn his salivary glands into a highly efficient mill for spinning yarn.
Of course it could not have happened overnight by an explosion of mutative changes. If we reconstruct the entire process bit by bit and stage by stage, then perhaps we can visualize to some degree what aimless evolution could have done for the spider.
Perhaps the story began with the salivary glands of the spider suddenly becoming over-sensitised due to some accidental factors. Then, maybe during the next one or two million years, an interplay of a host of chances taught its saliva to harden into strands the moment it was ejected into the air. But these fine fragile looking threads were simultaneously bestowed with a tensile strength greater than that of steel for the same body weight.
These exasperatingly long unmanageable threads must have scattered all over the place, entwining the spider's legs, entrapping it itself as a sitting duck for its predators. How long this might have gone on perhaps the evolutionists could visualize better. But as a layman's guess, we suggest that after a million or two years, a mentally more advanced spider was basking in the sun, lamenting its sorry state. At that rare moment rushed to its aid at last, a configuration of mutative changes which endowed its tiny spot of a brain with the skill to turn its disadvantage to advantage. In that flash of a moment, a new era began in the lifestyle of spiders which has no parallel in the entire animal kingdom.
It set itself immediately to the task of learning the art of weaving cobwebs as snares. How long it might have taken it to bring this exercise to a successful conclusion is indeed hard to visualize. In keeping with the pace of evolution it should not be surprising if it took the spider another couple of million years to perfect this art.
The most intricate and fascinating patterns of different types of webs that the spider weaves are not only wonderful to look at but are also precision-made to serve a set purpose. They never obstruct the movement of the spider's feet which dances along, light-footed, like the most skilful ballet dancer, and puts to shame the proudest of tightrope walkers. Never taking a false step, never faltering, never needing a balancing rod, never hesitating in a state of indecision as to how and where it should fix the next string as it proceeds to complete the task of constructing its meticulously designed cobweb to the finish. Thus the story of a spider learning to manufacture yarn and weave it into such perfect traps comes to a happy ending. Even the most vicious of wasps which prey upon it would think twice before venturing to attack it as it sits safely entrenched in its spidery castle.
So far so good, but suddenly a disturbing thought passes one's mind as to what, after all, was the purpose of this exercise. Why was blind evolution driven towards this goal without a conscious pre-design and without a purpose? The only purpose one can think of is to provide the spider with the much needed food which was so essential for its survival.
The poor spider was only bestowed by nature with some twisted shabby looking legs. Before its skill to weave cobweb snares was perfected, it must have continued to survive on some food, generation after generation, for millions of years. Flies may be stupid, but they are not stupid enough to head straight for the spider's mouth without a cobweb to trap them. Yet, with or without this fly-meal, the spiders continued to survive over a long period of their existence. Where was the need for the entire exercise of spinning a yarn and weaving a web and all the evolutionary requirements concomitant upon them?
It is indeed difficult for the uninitiated to visualize the challenges of a tremendously long period of transition from one manner to another. How many generations of spiders must have aimlessly perished during these challenges one wonders!
When we suggested earlier that perhaps the spider was suddenly taught the art of weaving a web for procuring food, by a configuration of mutative changes, we only did it to highlight the absurdity of this idea. Mutative changes do not occur simultaneously in perfectly organized purpose-built packages. It would require hundreds of thousands of chances to manipulate a meaningful sequence of mutative changes to be encoded in the character bearing genes of life, to bring about such dramatic changes as these in the lifestyle of any animal species.
HE CASE OF the delicate carnivorous aqueous plants is no less wondrous by any means. The simplest of these is complex enough to defy human attempts to demonstrate how a procession of blind chances in the right order could, over millions of years, create such perfect trapping machines. We begin by presenting the case of the marsh pitcher which, according to experts, belongs to the simplest category of carnivorous plants. It comprises leaves about a foot in length, which are bonded together at the seam to make a funnel. Each of these funnels is visible in its entire length as it protrudes above the water surface. The funnel tops are hooded by conspicuous reddish rims which are generously studded with nectar producing glands. Abundant rains in the tropical regions where they grow, keep the funnels filled with water, yet they neither burst nor topple down under their weight. This is made possible in two ways:
- The leaves are bonded all the way, but for an inch or two at the top. They are left unjoined, leaving enough opening for the extra water to be drained out.
- A ring of small holes is provided at the right place just below the upper margin so that the right level of water is always maintained.
Insects are attracted by the colour as well as the sweet scent of the nectar exuding from the glands. As they hop around in search of more nectar, they slip down the funnel which is cropped with downward pointing slippery hairs which do not permit them to climb back up again. Down they go until they reach the lowest part of the funnel which has no hairs. In that enclosed pit they finally die and disintegrate enriching the water with proteins, salts etc. This food is assimilated by the plant for its survival. How many sightless attempts by nature must have been frustrated before it could finally perfect this well-coordinated trapping machine, is hard to estimate.
|The Trumpet Pitcher Plant |
(click to enlarge)
Now we present another example of how nature has turned the tables against the animal kingdom in favour of the vegetative life. The trumpet pitchers are provided with such waxy scales on the surface of their traps as would stick to the exploring animals' feet and loosen their hold. Having lost their balance, down they tumble into the water-filled pit. The vibration thus caused stimulates the digestive glands of the funnel which immediately begin to exude a strong digestive juice. By this the fallen midgets can be completely dissolved in a few hours time, while flies may last for a day or two. It is not merely these insects which are devoured by these carnivorous plants. The 'rajah' among the trumpets can even dissolve and devour scorpions and mice.
|Plate 3: The Venus's Fly-Trap |
(click to enlarge)
The case of the Venus's fly-trap (see plate 3) is even more complicated as it is electrically operated. The mystery of how this electric current is produced, and what governs the operation of this mechanism, has so far baffled all attempts by scientists.
We can only invite the attention of Darwinian evolutionists to these amazing contrivances and most humbly require that they should explain how they must have evolved. How many generations of unsuccessful attempts must have perished before the final successful experiments by evolution to create a carnivorous plant with all its necessary trapping gadgets and digestive enzymes? Until ordinary green plants were finally transformed into formidable hunting machines they simply could not have started this completely different phase of their lives. The difference between the two is immeasurable. To have started supplementing their diet with animal enzymes and proteins was impossible until this transformation was completed. How many millions of years were required for this through an ordinary course of evolution governed by the Darwinian principle of natural selection is inconceivable.
|Plate 4: Photosynethic Flora |
(click to enlarge)
It simply could not have happened, because no naturalist can even suggest a bit by bit transformation of ordinary green plants into carnivorous plants (see plate 4). The transformation has to be completed before they could start functioning.
We have yet to come across an attempt by naturalists to trace the evolutionary course of carnivorous plants bit by bit, organ by organ, back to their origin. Even the smallest insect eating plants pose extremely big problems when we examine them in depth and bring to the focus of our attention the intricacies of their coherent organic identity. Each part has to be purpose-built and specifically designed into a composite organic entity.
Last but not least, there was no impelling reason why they should have suddenly abandoned the most profitable lifestyle of their ancestors, who were well taken care of by photosynthesis, providing them with a glorious start in their struggle for existence. The Darwinian principle 'Survival of the Fittest' could not have played any role in their so-called evolution, adjudging them to be the fittest to survive. If it were so the entire dry land and all watery habitats should have become their prime territory. Evidently they were just made fit to survive without any history of evolution preceding that fitness.
Moreover, though it is understandable according to the evolutionary principles for any plant or animal to shift from a hostile environment to a hospitable one, the converse is never heard of. But, if the naturalists are to be taken seriously, their story runs counter to this phenomenon in the case of the Sundew and Venus's fly-trap.
Imagine a Sundew plant growing luxuriously by the side of a stagnant puddle, staring with abhorrence at what it observed in its middle. No plant could survive there because of most hostile environments. If the Sundew had an invisible brain while watching that puddle, with eyes that did not visibly exist, it should have been horrified at what it observed and leapt away from it were it not firmly rooted in the soil. But the naturalists have a completely different vision of what happened. According to them, it is the same Sundew—naturally and healthily growing by the side of that puddle—which got transformed into a fly-trap which we find flourishing undeterred in that hostile surrounding. It is inconceivable for it to survive there without having previously evolved to meet the new challenges. This could only happen if all the necessary changes had been brought about while it was still on dry land. Without having completed its transformation outside that environment, it could not have survived there for a single moment.
|The Sundew |
(click to enlarge)
This is the dilemma which the scientists confront and must explain in sensible and logical terms. Two vital points need to be registered here.
- The Sundew, which scientists believe to be the forefather of Venus's fly-trap is in itself an enigma. It has no traceable history of having evolved from ordinary green foliage
- Venus's fly-trap must have evolved to its final minutest detail on dry soil outside the puddle without any evolutionary compulsion.
We rest our case here and expect the naturalists to take over from this point. Their explanation is most eagerly sought for.
We have specially highlighted the case of the Venus's fly-trap because it possesses a highly sophisticated, intricately designed and electrically operated mechanism which even advanced scientists fail to understand. As has been described above, in its finished form Venus's fly-trap is completely different from the anatomical composition of its so-called ancestors. Hence, it should be possible for the naturalists to try to fill this vast gap by suggesting a countless number of small evolutionary steps, which could appropriately fill this immense blank. In the absence of this material, it is impossible to conceive natural selection to work on something which does not exist. To further highlight the absurdity of the naturalists' contention, they seem to believe in the birth of a child to a non-existent mother. Is this the picture of evolution which the survival of the fittest presents? What survival, what fitness? Where is the competition? If scientists have any professional ethics which they ordinarily do, let them apply their ethics to the case of all carnivorous plants which were already fully equipped with their hunting gears before entering the realm of natural selection! If this is 'Natural Selection', then what else is the mockery of common sense, one wonders!
- THEODOROU, R., TELFORD, C. (1996) Polar Bear & Grizzly Bear. Heinemann Publishers, Oxford.
- HARPER, D. (1995) Polar Animals. Ladybird Books Ltd., Leicestershire.
- O'TOOLE, C. (1986) The Encyclopaedia of Insects. George Allen & Unwin, London, p.134
- BRISTOWE, W.S. (1958) The World of Spiders. Collins, London, pp.70–75