This is not a truck commercial.  It’s not about a Dodge as an innovation, but innovation as a dodge.  It’s about how a word, innovation, is used as a euphemism in evolution articles.  The word seems to mean, “we have no clue how this evolved, but it must have for evolution to be true.”  It’s a handy rhetorical trick, because without it, a reader might be tempted to think the evidence supports creation.  Some recent articles show how the trick is employed.

Proton pump:  An article on PhysOrg describes cytochrome oxidase, a sophisticated “proton pump” in aerobic organisms, as an “evolutionary innovation.”  Researchers in Japan found a molecular machine of comparable complexity in an anaerobic organism, leaving it unclear how they could call it an evolutionary ancestor: “The finding thus establishes first-ever evidence for a proton pump in anaerobic organisms, shedding light onto the mysterious mechanisms governing the production of nitrogen oxide and the evolutionary path that led to their emergence.”

Katydid song:  An international team of researchers claims to have reproduced the song of 165-million-year-old katydids (see PNAS, February 6, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1118372109).  The abstract states, “Contrary to previous scenarios, musical songs were an early innovation, preceding the broad-bandwidth songs of extant katydids.”  This statement leaves begging the question of whether broadband or narrowband sound production is more advanced in evolutionary terms.  It also overlooks the fact that ears are required to hear sound.  To hear the reconstructed sound of Jurassic katydids, view the video clip on New Scientist.  The write-up on Live Science claims that sound production by insects may go back to the Triassic – again failing to state how evolution invented ears and “sound-making structures.”

Feathery fluff:  A double euphemism is evident in the opening sentence of a story on PhysOrg about birds: “powered flight might be the innovation that drove the feather’s evolution from that point forward.”  It would be hard to think of anything in the animal kingdom more difficult to explain by evolution than powered flight.  Feathers are only one aspect of coordinated systems in a bird that make flight possible, but that’s what scientists at the University of South Carolina focused on.  They studied fossil feathers and believe they found differences between them in creatures that evolutionary theory claims came before flying birds.  All they actually found were differences in the composition of beta-keratin, a molecule in feathers.  But then they claimed flight evolved to put pressure on feather evolution, presupposing two innovations: feathers and powered flight.  “The conclusion is tentative, but compelling: powered flight may well have been the innovation that evolutionary pressure subsequently began to refine,” the article claimed….

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