"Word Salad" - Evolution News & Views

Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

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"Word Salad"

DebatingDDsmall.jpegStephen Meyer in Darwin's Doubt calls it "word salad": when Darwinian evolutionists need to explain something that runs contrary to their preferred narrative they put it into a salad spinner, mixing up their listeners and probably themselves with a lot of jargon that conceals the serious problem. The reality of the matter gets lost -- usually; that's the idea. But sometimes the difficulty is so severe that it can't be veiled completely and the truth peeks out through precisely the words that were chosen to keep it hidden.

So the headline in an article at Phys.org: "Scientific study turns understanding about evolution on its head." This is in reference to an article in PNAS that our colleague ENV wrote about last week, "Darwinian Magic: Another Question-Begging Darwinian Explanation of the Cambrian Explosion." The key point is that pulses of innovation in the forms of life, as we see in the Cambrian explosion, don't follow the Darwinian expectation of gradual diversification. They just happen: boom, and the bulk of the heavy lifting is already done.

Note the comments of the researchers. They

looked at nearly one hundred fossil groups to test the notion that it takes groups of animals many millions of years to reach their maximum diversity of form.

Contrary to popular belief, not all animal groups continued to evolve fundamentally new morphologies through time. The majority actually achieved their greatest diversity of form (disparity) relatively early in their histories.

Lead researcher from the Department of Biology & Biochemistry, Dr Matthew Wills said: "This pattern, known as 'early high disparity', turns the traditional V-shaped cone model of evolution on its head. What is equally surprising in our findings is that groups of animals are likely to show early-high disparity regardless of when they originated over the last half a billion years. This isn't a phenomenon particularly associated with the first radiation of animals, or periods in the immediate wake of mass extinctions."

His co-author, Sylvain Gerber, adds:

"Our results hint that this may hinge upon the evolution of new 'key innovations' that enable groups to exploit new resources or habitats, for example dinosaurs growing feathers and evolving wings or fish evolving legs and moving onto land to claim new territory."

"Early high disparity": this is pure word salad. In what we're accustomed to think of as Darwinian evolution, such things build very, very gradually, with no purpose or end in mind. Now they just burst upon the scene, with groups of animals wielding "innovations," "growing" or "evolving" them as needed to "exploit new resources or habitats." It's still "evolution," but turned "on its head."

In a story like this where the normal understanding of a phenomenon, A, is so totally reversed, when does it stop being A and starting being B, something new and unsuited to the old, outdated label? When do we stop calling it "evolution," and start calling it...design?