Evolutionary theory leads to some fantastic tales. Since evolution is often presumed to be a fact that explains everything in biology, and is itself not subject to testing or doubt, everything in biology must be viewed through an evolutionary lens. This hard-core stance on evolution often leads to assertions and explanations that appear contrived, if not preposterous, to Darwin doubters. Here are some recent examples of weird evolution stories that made it past the logic inspectors simply because evolution is unquestioned.
1. The incredible shrinking brain:
On the BBC News, readers were told, “Old age…has evolved to help meet the demands of raising smarter babies.” As if to pre-empt puzzled looks and questions by some readers, the article added, “And it is not such a stretch, Dr [Chet] Sherwood [George Washington U] suggests, to conclude that grandparents’ extended lives are in an evolutionary sense there to relieve mothers from being solely responsible for raising their big-brained, energetically costly infants.” The Scientist also bought this idea uncritically.
2. The early brain gets the IQ:
Live Science told its readers, “It took at least 3.5 billion years for intelligent life to evolve on Earth, and the only reason we’re able to contemplate the likelihood of life today is that its evolution happened to get started early.”
3. The arctic brain gets the eye size:
Judith Burns at the BBC News told readers, “Dark winters ‘led to bigger human brains and eyeballs’.” A team publishing in the Royal Society Biology Letters “found a positive relationship between absolute latitude and both eye socket size and cranial capacity.” But don’t think that means Eskimos make better philosophers: “The Oxford University team said bigger brains did not make people smarter.” It just means the bigger eyes need more visual neurons; “It’s just they need bigger eyes and brains to be able to see well where they live.”
Wasn’t cranial capacity, though, the sine qua non of human evolution? “The work indicates that humans are subject to the same evolutionary trends that give relatively large eyes to birds that sing first during the dawn chorus, or species such as owls that forage at night.”
Astonishing as it may seem, these adaptations occurred rapidly in the tens of thousands of years since humans first migrated into the arctic; Robin Dunbar commented, “they seem to have adapted their visual systems surprisingly rapidly to the cloudy skies, dull weather and long winters we experience at these latitudes.” New Scientist and the BBC News gave this theory a wink and an approving smile. But did the big-eyed people evolve a resistance to snow blindness?
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