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MSNBC Promotes Darwinian Just-So Stories that are For The Birds

Casey Luskin

Question: What do you do when a theory logically predicts both (a) and not (a)?

Answer: Apparently you heavily promote it.

MSNBC recently published two articles promoting Darwinian just-so stories to the public. The first article about the evolution of Waterfowl genitalia contends, “Scientists had speculated that male waterfowl evolved longer phalluses to give them a competitive edge over those not as well-endowed when it came to successfully fertilizing females.” That makes sense, I suppose. But the article makes one admission that strikingly contradicts that little just-so hypothesis: “Most birds lack phalluses, organs like human penises. Waterfowl are among the just 3 percent of all living bird species that retain the grooved phallus…” If long phalluses are so advantageous for reproduction, why did so many birds supposedly lose them? Darwinists will look back retroactively and claim that under the environmental conditions or sexual selection pressures experienced by most bird species, long phalluses weren’t advantageous. The problem in so doing is that they now have a theory which can explain both (a) long phalluses, and also not (a).

The second article, “Why we quit aping around, began walking,” hypothesizes that humans began walking upright because “[t]raveling upright takes a quarter the energy of ‘knuckle-walking’.” It’s a nice anthropocentric story, but if falls into the same predicament as the first article. Our upright-walking species, Homo sapiens comprises one out of about 7 species of the species of the family Hominidae. This means that only 14% of living species of Hominidae were naturally selected to walk upright. So think about this from the apes’ perspective: If upright walking is so energetically favorable, why do apes still “knuckle-walk”? I’m sure that some armchair Darwinian paleoanthropologist would be happy to oblige us with a just-so story as to why living ape species did not evolve bipedal locomotion and instead found knuckle-walking more advantageous for survival. We would then have a theory which can explain both (a) complete bipedal locomotion, and also not (a). In cases like these, one cannot help observe that Neo-Darwinism is like a theory which can explain anything, and therefore actually explains nothing.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.