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Does the Evidence for Speciation Come from Nature or Groupthink?

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Specious Speciation: Response to the TalkOrigins “Speciation FAQ”


Part 1: Specious Speciation: The Myth of Observed Large-Scale Evolutionary Change
Part 2: “Speciation”? It’s all in the Definition
Part 3: Plants, Polyploidy, and Evolutionary Dead Ends
Part 4: Uncooperative Fruit Flies Refuse to Speciate in Laboratory Experiments
Part 5: Speciation Fail: Single Bona Fide Example of Animal Speciation is Later Retracted
Part 6 (This Article): Does the Evidence for Speciation Come from Nature or Groupthink?

Download the Full Response as a PDF


The TalkOrigins Speciation FAQ claims “the biological community considers [speciation] a settled question. Many researchers feel that there are already ample reports in the literature.” Some of my recent articles about the FAQ (see here, here, or here) have documented specific examples cited by the FAQ where not only did speciation not take place, but significant biological change did not arise. (For a more complete analysis, see the full response.)

Additionally, the FAQ’s very claim “there are already ample reports in the literature” is contradicted by the literature cited by the FAQ:

  • For example one paper cited by the FAQ (Weinberg et al., 1992) admits that “the entire process of speciation has rarely been observed.”1
  • Another paper cited by the FAQ (Thoday and Gibson, 1962) states: “Though speciation is one of the more striking features of evolution, direct experimental evidence concerning the origin of species is limited.”2
  • Yet another paper cited by the FAQ (Dobzhansky and Pavlovsky, 1971) provides the striking admission that: “we are in a situation today similar to that experienced by Darwin more than a century ago: differentiation of species is inferred from copious indirect evidence, but has not actually been observed.”3

As noted, my purpose has not been to deny that speciation can occur in nature, especially when speciation is defined trivially as a mere reproductively isolated population. Rather, my purpose is to test the FAQ’s claims. In that regard, if the FAQ is correct that “Many researchers feel that there are already ample reports in the literature,” then the quotes above suggest those researchers are wrong.

Perhaps many Darwinian biologists take speciation on faith, an assumption that needs no proof. It’s always someone else who has explained speciation. Ironically, the FAQ’s author reports an informal survey that seems to document such groupthink regarding the evidence for speciation:

I asked about two dozen graduate students and faculty members in the department where I’m a student whether there were examples where speciation had been observed in the literature. Everyone said that they were sure that there were. Next I asked them for citings or descriptions. Only eight of the people I talked to could give an example, only three could give more than one. But everyone was sure that there were papers in the literature.

In other words, “everyone was sure” that the literature contained documented examples of speciation, but only 1/3 could provide an example of such, and only 1/8 could provide more than one example.

In his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, Jonathan Wells also analyzed some of the examples in the FAQ. His analysis states:

“Anyone who takes the time to plow through the references cited in these essays finds that most of the alleged instances of ‘observed’ speciation are actually analyses of already existing species that are used to defend one or another hypothesis of how speciation occurs.”4

After taking that time and plowing through the references, I believe that Dr. Wells is correct. As we have seen, at most only “reproductive isolation” was observed–but that is very different from observing significant biological change. In fact, in most instances: (1) complete reproductive isolation was not even observed so the examples fail to meet the biological species concept definition of “species.” And (2) even when reproductive isolation was observed, only very small amounts of biological change were observed, trivializing the importance of the example.

Those examples which fit into category (2) show that the claims of “speciation” often sound impressive, but in reality evolutionists are hiding behind impressive-sounding terminology in order to make it sound like significant biological change has evolved, when in reality virtually nothing of interest happened.

For additional details, please see the full response to the TalkOrigins Speciation FAQ.

References Cited:
[1.] James R. Weinberg, Victoria R. Starczak, Daniele Jörg, “Evidence for Rapid Speciation Following a Founder Event in the Laboratory,” Evolution, Vol. 46(4):1214-1220 (August, 1992). Note: while this paper purported to document the establishment of a reproductively isolated population, those claims were overturned by later discoveries. See: Francisco Rodriquez-Trelles, James R. Weinberg, and Francisco J. Ayala, “Presumptive Rapid Speciation After a Founder Event in a Laboratory Population of Nereis: Allozyme Electrophoretic Evidence Does Not Support the Hypothesis,” Evolution, Vol. 50 (1996): 457-461 (emphasis added).
[2.] J.M. Thoday and J.B. Gibson, “Isolation by Disruptive Selection,” Nature, Vol. 193:1164-1166 (March 24, 1962).
[3.] Theodosius Dobzhansky and Olga Pavlovsky, “Experimentally Created Incipient Species of Drosophila,” Nature, Vol. 230:289-292 (April 2, 1971).
[4.] Jonathan Wells, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, p. 53 (Regnery, 2006).

Photo credit: Anirudh Koul.

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.