Science in Christ6ian Perspective


Insect Mouths

Alan McCarrick
The Christian Academy, Media, PA

From: PSCF 49 (December 1997): 216.

The fossil record of complex insect mouthparts seem to show that they adapted to nectar producing plants long before flowers appeared. Piattelli-Palmarini states that this flies in the  face of conventional evolutionary principles that predict a series of small steps between flowers and insects adapting to each other.1 He refers to an earlier article on insect fossils, "Insect Diversity in the Fossil Record" by C. Lababdeira and J. Sepkoski. They state:

The more startling interpretation that can be drawn from the data is that the appearance and expansion of angiosperms had no influence on insect families The fact remains that the post-Paleozoic radiation of insect families commenced more than 100 million years before angiosperms appeared in the fossil record.2 we have examined a few synoptic aspects of the fossil record of insects, and the results contradict several notions about what macroevolutionary patterns can be seen among fossil insects 3

Another step in this awkward direction is found in a Science review entitled "Mutual Satisfaction." These authors studied the obligate mutualism of the yucca moth by looking at the DNA of the yucca and several related moths. They concluded, based on the hypothetical ancestry, that "chance and pro-existing conditions may be more important than a long history of togetherness [and] that co-opting existing functions is the key to the evolution of novelty."4

Even if over-designed, those insects had to feed efficiently on something. Another review in Science entitled, "Permian Pollen Eaters,"describes fossilized pollen in the gut of a Permian insect found in the Ural Mountains.5 The pollen is assumed to have been eaten as food. This insect died well before the appearance of flowers in the early Cretaceous. The authors identified the pollen as an air dispersal type suggesting that the insects were exploiting pollen as food before the plants exploited the insects for dispersal.

For the Christian, this evidence raises a couple of questions. Could God have used pro-existing adaptation of insects as evidence of his creative agency, or even as an evidence of a young earth and short creation days? Possibly (I prefer the former). Does the fossil evidence unquestionably demonstrate that coevolution doesn't happen (in this case) and that evolutionists must conclude again that useful trait suddenly "just fits" another function? Possibly. The jury is still out, and we must not rush to make too much of this yet.6

1997

Notes

1Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, Inevitable Illusions; How Mistakes of Reason Rule Our Minds (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1994), 195.

2C. Lababdeira, J. Sepkoski, "Insect Diversity in the Fossil Record," Science 261 (July 1993): 313.

3Ibid., 314.

4E. Culotta,"Mutual Satisfaction," Science 269 (25 Aug 95): 1046.

5C. Holden, Ed.,"Permian Pollen Eaters," Science 276 (16 May 97): 1035.

6I am indebted to the writers on the Evolution listserve (evolution@calvin.edu) who discussed the fossil record of insects and angiosperms.