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

Response to TalkOrigins' "Observed Instances of Speciation" FAQ
Casey Luskin
Discovery Institute
January 25, 2012

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Executive Summary

The TalkOrigins Speciation FAQ, titled "Observed Instances of Speciation"1 (herein "FAQ"), claims it "discusses several instances where speciation has been observed." For years, this FAQ has been cited by pro-Darwin internet debaters as allegedly demonstrating that neo-Darwinian evolution is capable of producing significant biological change. However, an analysis of the technical literature regarding many of the examples discussed in the FAQ2 reveal that such claims are clearly incorrect. This assessment finds:

  • NOT ONE of the examples demonstrates 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 according to the standard definition of a "reproductively isolated population." Only one single example shows the production of a new species of plants 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--is given in the FAQ.

I should note from the outset that my purpose is not to deny that speciation can occur in nature, especially when speciation 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 if one is claiming to "discus[s] 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. The examples in the FAQ are ultimately used to make inaccurate claims, and the FAQ's title, "Observed Instances of Speciation," is unwarranted.

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References Cited:

[1.] See http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html (downloaded July 27, 2011).

[2.] This response responds to as many examples in the FAQ as possible where the original papers cited in the FAQ could be downloaded at a local university library. Some of the examples cited in the FAQ refer to very old papers that were not easily accessible. This rebuttal thus responds to 21 out of 30 total sections in the FAQ.