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Specious Speciation: The Myth of Observed Large-Scale Evolutionary Change

Specious Speciation: Response to the TalkOrigins “Speciation FAQ”

Part 1 (This Article): 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: Does the Evidence for Speciation Come from Nature or Groupthink?

Download the Full Response as a PDF

For years, Internet Darwin activists have cited the TalkOrigins Speciation FAQ, titled “Observed Instances of Speciation,” citing its claim that it “discusses several instances where speciation has been observed.” This Speciation FAQ (for “Frequently Asked Questions”) has long been a cornerstone citation for many pro-Darwin internet debaters, who claim it demonstrates that Darwinian evolution is capable of producing significant biological change.

Jonathan Wells responded to part of the FAQ in his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, but unfortunately a wholesale (and freely accessible) response has not been posted on the Internet — until now.

Over the last few months, I’ve received a few of inquiries about this FAQ and decided to write a response (the full response can be found here). After analyzing a large portion of the technical literature cited in the FAQ, this review finds that the FAQ’s claims are incorrect. For example:

  • NOT ONE of the examples studied documents the origin of large-scale biological change.
  • The vast majority of the examples do NOT even show the production of new species, where a “species” is defined by the standard definition of a “reproductively isolated population.”
  • Only one single example in the FAQ shows the production of a new plant species via hybridization and polyploidy, but this example does not entail significant biological change.
  • Only one of the examples purports to document the production of a reproductively isolated population of animals — however this example is overturned by a later study not mentioned in the FAQ.
  • Thus, not a single bona fide example of speciation in animals — e.g. the establishment of a completely reproductively isolated population — was found.

I should note from the outset that my purpose is not to deny that speciation can occur in nature, especially when it is defined merely as a reproductively isolated population. When trying to assess the creative power of the Darwinian mechanism, that definition is trivial. 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 [of speciation] in the literature,” then an analysis of the literature cited in the FAQ suggests those researchers are wrong.

While most of the FAQ’s discussions of the papers it cites are reasonably accurate, these papers amount to citation bluffs when one is claiming to provide “several instances where speciation has been observed.” People who believe this FAQ demonstrates that Darwinian processes can produce large-scale biological change have been badly misled. As we’ll see in some subsequent articles, the examples in the FAQ are ultimately used to make inaccurate claims, and the FAQ’s title, “Observed Instances of Speciation,” is unwarranted.

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


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.



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