Icons of Evolution Home of Biologist and Iconoclast Jonathan Wells


Zebra Finch Bird Animal Sitting Fink f/pixabay

Misrepresenting the Galapagos Finches

According to the online critique of Explore Evolution by the National Center for Science Education: (A) EE claims that natural selection produced only oscillations in beak size in Galápagos finches, but “in the course of a few years, the size changes within species were large enough to explain the differences among the various species of Galápagos finches,” and “the size and shape of finch beaks did change over the course of the 30 years that biologists have been studying the populations.” [1] (B) EE claims that Galápagos finch species are merging rather than diversifying, but “the hybridization observed in the finches is not enough to merge two species, and observations in the field have actually shown substantial evidence of incipient Read More ›

Just 22 hours after fertilization, this zebrafish embryo is already taking shape. By 36 hours, all of the major organs will have started to form. The zebrafish's rapid growth and see-through embryo make it ideal for scientists studying how organs develop. Image courtesy of Philipp Keller, Bill Lemon, Yinan Wan and Kristin Branson, Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, Va. Part of the exhibit Life:Magnified by ASCB and NIGMS.
"Zebrafish embryo" by ZEISS Microscopy @flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Haeckel, Darwin, and Textbooks

According to the online critique of Explore Evolution by the National Center for Science Education (NCSE): (A) EE falsely claims that Darwin accepted Ernst Haeckel’s Biogenetic Law that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” In particular, the claim in EE that “Darwin thought that the observable similarities in different embryos revealed what the ancestors to these organisms would have looked like” [p. 66 of EE] “contradicts the majority view of prominent Darwin scholars (including Ernst Mayr, Stephen Jay Gould, David Hull, and Peter Bowler).” [1] (B) EE “falsely asserts Darwin thought the similarities between embryos were greater at the earliest stages of development,” and falsely suggests “that common descent and Haeckel’s Biogenetic Law require that the earliest stages of animal development are most Read More ›

"Flying Bat" by Piefke La Belle @flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Darwin’s Straw God Argument

Charles Darwin called The Origin of Species “one long argument.” The whole point of it was to show that living things are not special creations, but modified descendants of common ancestors. Although The Origin of Species listed many facts from nature, Darwin’s argument was basically theological, and it took this general form: The facts of nature are “inexplicable on the theory of creation,” but make sense on the theory of descent with modification. By “the theory of creation,” Darwin did not mean “creation within the past few thousand years.” Young-earth creationism was not the issue. The issue was whether a creator was necessary — after the origin of life itself — to explain the features we see in living things. Read More ›

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a UFO — well, the UFO Galaxy, to be precise. NGC 2683 is a spiral galaxy seen almost edge-on, giving it the shape of a classic science fiction spaceship. This is why the astronomers at the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory gave it this attention-grabbing nickname. While a bird’s eye view lets us see the detailed structure of a galaxy (such as this Hubble image of a barred spiral), a side-on view has its own perks. In particular, it gives astronomers a great opportunity to see the delicate dusty lanes of the spiral arms silhouetted against the golden haze of the galaxy’s core. In addition, brilliant clusters of young blue stars shine scattered throughout the disc, mapping the galaxy’s star-forming regions. Perhaps surprisingly, side-on views of galaxies like this one do not prevent astronomers from deducing their structures. Studies of the properties of the light coming from NGC 2683 suggest that this is a barred spiral galaxy, even though the angle we see it at does not let us see this directly. NGC 2683, discovered on 5 February 1788 by the famous astronomer William Herschel, lies in the Northern constellation of Lynx. A constellation named not because of its resemblance to the feline animal, but because it is fairly faint, requiring the “sensitive eyes of a cat” to discern it. And when you manage to get a look at it, you’ll find treasures like this, making it well worth the effort. This image is produced from two adjacent fields observed in visible and infrared light by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. A narrow strip which appears slightly blurred and crosses most the image horizontally is a result of a gap between Hubble’s detectors. This strip has been patched using images from observations of the galaxy made by ground-based telescopes, which show significantly less detail. The field of view is approximately 6.5 by 3.3 arcminutes.
"Hubble Spies a UFO" by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center @flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Is the “Science” of Richard Dawkins Science Fiction?

Atheist Richard Dawkins is hopping mad at the makers of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Dawkins accuses the filmmakers of “lying for Jesus” because they make it seem that he believes in intelligent design and space aliens. Dawkins is an outspoken critic of intelligent design (ID). In his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins defined biology as “the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Design is only an appearance, because (as the subtitle of the book indicated) “the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design.” According to Dawkins, evolution shows that the universe and everything in it can be explained by undirected natural processes such as random mutation and survival of Read More ›