Plucked to Extinction
In The Origin of Species, “extinction and natural selection,” Charles Darwin argued, “go hand in hand.” Extinction, however, was a relatively new concept – only emerging in revolutionary France in the early nineteenth century.
While pigeon-holed in his library after the HMS Beagle voyage, Darwin conveniently overlooked one of the largest extinction events of the nineteenth century − the extinction of the Great Auk. The first conservation efforts started in 1553 with killing banned by Great Britain in 1794 – but to no avail.
Along with its increasing rarity, the collection of Great Auk feathers and eggs increasingly became highly prized by the Europeans. Their disappearance continued. By July 1844, on the islet of Stac an Armin, St Kilda, Scotland, the last of the Great Auk was seen, caught, and killed. Not to be seen of again since then.
Darwin conveniently overlooked the Great Auk extinction along with the more important issue–the rapid rate of extinction. “There is reason to believe that the extinction of a whole group of species is generally a slower process than their production,” Darwin declared despite the widely known evidence.
Darwin’s paralyzing dilemma, now, stands too big to go unnoticed. “No one had ever seen a new species produced, nor, according to Darwin, should they expect to,” science writer Elizabeth Kolbert points out in her new book The Sixth Extinction (2014):
Speciation was so drawn out as to be, for all intents and purposes, unobservable. ‘We see nothing of these slow changes in progress,’ he [Darwin] wrote. It stood to reason that extinction should have been that much more difficult to witness. And yet it wasn’t. In fact, during the years Darwin spent holed up at Down House, developing his ideas about evolution, the very last individuals of one of Europe’s most celebrated species, the Great Auk, disappeared. What’s more, the event was painstakingly chronicled by British ornithologists. Here Darwin’s theory was directly contradicted by the facts, with potentially profound implications.
The Great Auk extinction was the cost paid for the elite European’s feather-bedding quest. The extinction of species, however, insidiously stems from far greater natural forces. The frog Darwin discovered in Chiloe Archipelago in South America named Rhinoderma darwinii in his honor was finally declared extinct late last year after decades of efforts to save it.
In June 2013, researchers found R. darwinii at only 16% of the sites previously known to be inhabited. Just a few months later in November, scientists from the Zoological Society of London and the Universidad Andrés Bello in Chile found none and declared R. darwinii extinct. The extinction has been attributable to Chytridiomycosis; an amphibian disease caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Extinction was rapid – not through “slow changes.”
Extinction Rate vs Speciation Rate
Most critically, extinction is a spreading epidemic without any evidence for the production of new species through evolution. As of 2010, the IUCN red list, which incorporates the Global Amphibian Assessment and subsequent updates, lists 486 amphibian species as critically endangered. Why these microbes have suddenly begun to affect amphibian populations increasingly perplexes and frustrates scientists.
Even worse, frogs are not going alone. “Extinction rates among many other groups are approaching amphibian levels,” Kolbert continues to opine:
It is estimated that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all fresh water mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion.
This explosive rate of extinction fundamentally undermines Darwin’s theory of evolution. Since January 2000, more than 500,000 species are estimated to have gone extinct. Conservation International estimates “some 5 to 50% of species are predicted to face extinction… between 2000 and 2050.”
The Center for Biological Diversity estimates, “we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day.”
Darwin missed the obvious−again. The evidence in nature stands in stark contrast to Darwin’s antiquated theory, then & now. It is now obvious.
- Evolution, while once a theory in crisis, is now in crisis without a theory.
- Biological evolution exists only as a philosophy, not as a scientific fact.
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Written by Dr. Richard Nelson
Dr. Nelson is the author of Darwin Then and Now, a journey through the most amazing story in the history of science – the history of evolution; encapsulating who Darwin was, what he said, and what scientists have discovered since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859.
With over 1,000 references, Darwin’s life, climaxing with the search for a natural law of evolution, is investigated in the context of the scientific evidence since discovered in the fossil record, embryology, molecular biology and genetics. Darwin The and Now is a historical chronicle of the rise and fall of biological evolution.
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