Darwin’s Tree Infestation
Insects fascinated Charles Darwin. “No pursuit at Cambridge [University] was followed with nearly so much eagerness,” Darwin notes, “or gave me so much pleasure as collecting beetles.” His fascination continued while sailing aboard the HMS Beagle, collecting the only known specimen of Darwinius Sedaris (pictured) in 1832 while in Argentina.
Insects are the most species-rich group of organisms on Earth wielding immense ecological, economic and health power. Along with pollinating crops and vectoring infestations, a new insect genetics study has become a new infestation undermining Darwin’s once popular, yet perpetually elusive, tree of life.
The study investigated the molecular evidence for insect evolution – the largest of its kind ever undertaken – was published earlier this month in the journal Science through the collaborative endeavor of more than 100 scientists from 10 countries.
These scientists examined the phylogenetics of 144 insect species for the purpose of deciphering the yet unknown pattern of insect evolution.
As part of the 1KITE project, otherwise known as the “1,000 Insect Transcriptome Evolution,” was launched in 2012. The purpose of the study was to trace the “secretes of the evolutionary history if insects” in just 144 species of a total estimated number of 800,000 to 1.2 million insect species.
“Two-thirds of all known animal species are insects,” said leading author and professor Bernhard Misof of the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Germany, one of the leaders of the study, in an interview with Will Dunham writing for Rutgers.
Launched by the German government, the purpose of the project was for “clarification of the phylogenetic tree and correct classification of the large insect groups are important prerequisites for being able to answer elementary questions related to evolutionary biology, ecology and biodiversity research.” Before the project, no tree of life consensus existed for insects.
Misof led the team to conduct “a phylogenomic study on 1478 single-copy nuclear genes obtained from genomes and transcriptomes representing [presumably] key taxa from all extant insect orders and other arthropods.”
The team sought to use genome sequence similarities between the 144 species to construct an insect tree of life by attempting to identify Darwin’s anticipated sequences of “innumerable” transitional forms.
The study was no small task, however. As Michael Wink of the University of Heidelberg explains: “The sequences of 50 species can theoretically produce 2.8 x 10 [to the power of ] 74 phylogenetic trees, a number which is much more than the number of atoms found in the universe.” To unravel these genetic complexities, super computers were used to sort and analyze the sequences.
“The scale of the project is amazing, not only in terms of the number of collaborators and the kind of scientists that were brought together, but also the data. It was just enormous,” says Michelle Trautwein, assistant curator and Schlinger Chair of Dipterology at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco in an interview with PRI science writer Adam Wernick.
“The results of this work are immense and will be broadly adopted in general and systematic entomology books and textbooks,” wrote Jakub Prokop, an entomologist at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.
Rather than finding evidence for Darwin’s “slight, successive changes, the study unexpectantly upended the underlying theory of evolution key assumptions. In the final analysis, Misof concedes uncovering
“sequence misalignment, and deviations from the underlying assumptions of applied evolutionary models.”
The research team was forced “address these obstacles by removing confounding factors in our analysis.” In the end, only 144 species were included in the study – not the original 1000 species, as planned.
Phylogenetic evidence from the study, paradoxically, points to stasis – not evolution. “If you had a time machine and you went back to the Jurassic, we entomologists would recognize all of the insects and we could [classify] them into their proper order,” Karl Kjer of Rutgers University, one of the investigator, told Live Science.
“Many of them would look very similar to what we see today.”
“Scientists have been working to uncover the insect tree of life for a century,” Wernick opined in an interview with Trautwein. “The new study didn’t so much ‘provide shockingly new results — although that certainly is the case in some parts of the tree — but it did provide a huge, comprehensive amount of data.’”
What the massive data does demonstrate, however, is one paralyzing factor – the complete lack of any transitional links. Misof’s team of scientists only identified species at the tips of the branches without any species at the branch knobs. As depicted in the published tree (pictured), no common ancestor identified either. The infestation of scientific evidence from insect genetics decimates the evolution industry’s once popular tree of life theory.
Without “numerous, successive, slight modifications” transitional links, Darwin argued in The Origin of Species that the fossil record would become “the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against my theory.”
The lack of transitional forms has continued to plague the modern evolution industry for decades. Stephen J Gould (1977) of Harvard University noted the long-standing pesky problem in the fossil record in the article entitled “Evolution’s Erratic Pace” published in the journal Natural History –
“The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.”
Evolutionary scientist Geir Hestmark of the University of Oslo comments in the journal Nature (2000) remain relevant –
“Phylogenetic trees are common in today’s scientific journals, but there it is seldom realized how speculative they are because they look so real. This rhetorical power was significant in the popularization and triumph of evolutionary theory. Yet phylogenies are only sketches of historical hypotheses.”
Decimation of Tree of Life
The cumulative fossil record and molecular evidence, contrary to the once high expectations of the evolution industry, continues an infestation decimating Darwin’s tree. Eugene V Koonin (2011), Senior Investigator National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) National Library of Medicine (NLM) National, in his book entitled the “Logic of Chance” concedes to the now unavoidable conclusion –
“The genomic revolution [has] effectively overturned the central metaphor of evolutionary biology, the Tree of Life.”
“The tree of life [concept] has come upon hard times,” laments evolution advocate John Archibald (2014) in his book entitled “One Plus One Equals One.” “The overall picture emerging is one of mosaicism” – not evolution through Darwin’s “slight, successive changes.”
The extinction Darwin’s theoretical tree is further undermined following an infestation of new scientific evidence.
While the scientific evidence overwhelmingly continues undermine biological evolution, the scientific evidence supports a mosaic pattern of nature compatible with the Genesis account of creation.
Evolution was once a theory in crisis, now evolution is in crisis without even a cohesive theory.
Biological evolution exists only as a philosophical fact, not as a scientific fact.