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Do Plant Galls Falsify Darwinism?

Photo: Agamous generation of red-pea gall of gall wasp Cynips divisa on oak leaf, by Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig.

On a new episode of ID The Future, host Casey Luskin welcomes Dr. Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig to discuss the phenomenon of plant galls and what they mean for the validity of the selection/mutation mechanism. Dr. Lönnig is a retired geneticist who studied mutations for 25 years as a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Köln, Germany. Call him old-school, but Dr. Lönnig believes evidence matters when it comes to questions of biological origins. He has offered a number of examples from the plant world that defy gradualist explanations. Most recently, he has pointed to plant galls, growths of various colors, shapes, and sizes that can occur on plants. These atypical, highly specialized structures are induced by the activity of an insect or other parasite. Galls appear to exclusively benefit the intruding organism and confer no advantage to the plants. Most galls are tolerated by the plant, though some can prove lethal to it. 

Charles Darwin was profoundly interested in plant galls, and Darwin himself proposed the challenge these and other forms may pose to his ideas: “If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory for such could not have been produced through natural selection.” In his conversation with Dr. Luskin, Dr. Lönnig explains why plant galls challenge Darwin’s theory. Download the podcast or listen to it here. For further study, read Dr. Lönnig’s papers linked below.