Extinction, Darwin Wrong Again

Great Auk

Extinction, Darwin Wrong Again

In The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin envisioned that “extinction and natural selection go hand in hand.” Extinction, however, was relatively new concept only emerging in revolutionary France following the publication of Essay on the Theory of the Earth in 1813 by French naturalist Georges Cuvier.

“All these facts, consistent among themselves,” Cuvier argued, “seem to me to prove the existence of a world previous to ours… And what revolution was able to wipe it out [extinction]?” Cuvier was an iconic French scientist who established extinction as a field of inquiry. When completed in time for the 1889 World’s Fair, his name was one of the only seventy-two names inscribed onto the Eiffel Tower. The discovery of extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert explains in book The Sixth Extinction (2014), made evolution seem “as unlikely as levitation” – an issue Darwin conveniently overlooked.

Great Auk

While pigeon-holed in his library after the HMS Beagle voyage, Darwin conveniently overlooked one of the largest extinction events of the nineteenth century − the extinction of the Great Auk (pictured). Conservation efforts started in 1553 that escalated in 1794 with Great Britain banning any killing or use of their down feathers in pillows − to no avail.

Along with its increasing rarity, the collection of Great Auk feathers and eggs increasingly became highly prized by the Europeans.  Their disappearance from the Great Auk habitat of the North Atlantic islands continued. By July 1844, on the islet of Stac an Armin, St Kilda, Scotland, the last of the Great Auk was seen, caught, and killed. Not to be seen of again since then.

Darwin conveniently overlooked the Great Auk extinction along with the more important issue–the rapid rate of extinction. “There is reason to believe that the extinction of a whole group of species is generally a slower process than their production,” Darwin declared despite the widely known evidence.

Darwin’s paralyzing dilemma is too big to go unnoticed. “No had ever seen a new species produced, nor, according to Darwin, should they expect to,” Kolbert points out.

“Speciation was so drawn out as to be, for all intents and purposes, unobservable. ‘We see nothing of these slow changes in progress,’ he [Darwin] wrote. It stood to reason that extinction should have been that much more difficult to witness. And yet it wasn’t. In fact, during the years Darwin spent holed up at Down House, developing his ideas about evolution, the very last individuals of one of Europe’s most celebrated species, the Great Auk, disappeared. What’s more, the event was painstakingly chronicled by British ornithologists. Here Darwin’s theory was directly contradicted by the facts, with potentially profound implications.”

Darwin’s Frog

The Great Auk extinction was the cost paid for the elite European’s feather-bedding quest.  The extinction of species, however, is insidiously stems from far greater natural forces. The frog Darwin discovered in Chiloe Archipelago in South America named Rhinoderma darwinii in his honor was finally declared extinct late last year after decades of efforts to save it.

In June 2013, researchers found R. darwinii at only 16% of the 223 sites previously known to be inhabited. Just a few months later in November, scientists from the Zoological Society of London and the Universidad Andrés Bello in Chile found none and declared R. darwinii extinct. The extinction has been attributable to Chytridiomycosis; an amphibian disease caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Extinction was rapid – not through “slow changes.”

In Central America, the Panamanian Golden Frog is following in the steps of R. darwinii. Belonging to the genus Atelopus, the Golden Frog is now on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list as critically endangered. The Golden Frog has a long been a national symbol. Emerging as part of local mythology, the frog is ironically printed on state lottery tickets for good luck.

The species was filmed for the last time in the wild in 2007 by the BBC Natural History Unit for the series Life in Cold Blood by David Attenborough. Since then, extensive conservation measures have been undertaken.

This tiny golden amphibian, named Atelopus zeteki, excretes a potent neurotoxin on the skin. While the toxin protects them from predators, it is not saving them from extinction. As science writer John Platt notes in Scientific America the now hard-core reality,

“They haven’t been seen in the wild in seven years.”

The same fungus, B.dendrobatidis-credited with the extinction of R. darwinii, has been linked to the dramatic population decline in A. zeteki populations. The fungus blocks the frog’s ability to absorb critical electrolytes through their skin leading to cardiac arrest. As Kolbert explains,

“Today, amphibians enjoy the dubious distinction of being the world’s most endangered class of animals; it’s been calculated that the groups extinction rate could be a much as forty-five thousand times higher than the background rate.”

Most critically, extinction is a spreading epidemic without evidence for the production of new species through evolution – scientific evidence contradicting Darwin’s theory. As of 2010, the IUCN red list, which incorporates the Global Amphibian Assessment and subsequent updates, lists 486 amphibian species as critically endangered.

Along with the fungus B.dendrobatidis, the bacteria Aeromonas hydrophila, the virus Ranavirus, and the fungi Anuraperkinsus are thought to be related to mass die-offs. Why these microbes have suddenly begun to affect amphibian populations increasingly perplexes and frustrates scientists.

Global Extinction

Even worse, frogs are not going alone. “Extinction rates among many other groups are approaching amphibian levels,” Kolbert continues to opine:

“It is estimated that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all fresh water mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion.”

This explosive rate of extinction fundamentally undermines Darwin’s theory of evolution. Extinction is light-years faster than the production of any new kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, or even new species. “Therefore the utter extinction of a group is generally,” Darwin had argued, “as we have seen, a slower process than its production.” After 150 years of investigation since the publication of The Origin of Species, the scientific evidence overwhelmingly contradicts Darwin’s naive theory of evolution.

Since January 2000, more than 500,000 species are estimated to have gone extinct. Conservation International estimates “some 5 to 50% of species are predicted to face extinction… between 2000 and 2050.”

The Center for Biological Diversity, estimates

“we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day.”

Darwin was wrong−again. The evidence in nature stands in stark contrast to Darwin’s antiquated theory, then & now. It is now increasingly obvious,

• Evolution, while once a theory in crisis, is now in crisis without a theory.

• Biological evolution exists only as a philosophy, not as a scientific fact.

9 Responses to “Extinction, Darwin Wrong Again”

  • I believe you are attributing a quote from “The Sixth Extinction” to Darwin. It was Elizabeth Kolbert who said, “…had to proceed at roughly the same rate. If anything, extinction had to occur more gradually” (p55), not Darwin.

    Darwin DID say, ““There is reason to believe that the extinction of a whole group of species is generally a slower process than their production.” He said it in the chapter on Extinction in On the Origin of Species, 6th ed. But note that he is talking about the extinction of “whole groups of species”, not individual species like the Great Auk. Besides, a few sentences later, he states that, “In some cases, however, the extermination of whole groups, as of ammonites, towards the close of the secondary period, has been wonderfully sudden.”

    Presumably, since Darwin acknowledged that sometimes a group of species (roughly a genus) could suddenly go extinct, he would agree that sometimes an individual species, like the Great Auk could suddenly go extinct.

    For a more modern take on evolution and extinction, see “How the Red Queen Drives Terrestrial Mammals to Extinction” at http://bit.ly/1rPN3Wm .

  • Greetings!

    Appreciate your comments. Of the quote from Kolbert, that was her comment on what Darwin was theorizing. The statement has been removed to avoid confusion on who said what. While he did see the sudden “extermination” of ammonities – once, there are no references to the sudden extermination of the Great Auk – or any other species.

    According to Darwin’s principle of Natura non facit saltum, production of new species must be a slow process with extinction envisioned as an even slower process. Unfortunately for Darwin, if the rate of elimination is faster than the rate of production, a net gain of species is mathematically impossible. That is why he was forced to argue the way he did.

  • David Denton:

    I enjoyed reading this. As a lay person interested in origins, I read your post with interest. However, it is hard for me to consider the facts themselves as credible when there are so many careless typos and grammatical errors in the writing. I gently suggest cleaning these up if you want to be taken seriously. That sounds really arrogant, and I don’t mean it to, but I can’t think of any other way to phrase it that sounds better.

  • Appreciate your kind comment and your frank criticism – on the other. My formal training focused on science – not grammar. Since Microsoft “Spelling & Grammar” did not identify any typos and grammar errors, any of your suggestions have would be appreciated.

  • Ruben:

    Typos? Grammatical errors? What part of “Darwin wrong again” is so hard to figure out?

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Darwin, Then and Now is a journey through the most amazing story in the history of science - the history of evolution. The book encapsulates who Darwin was, what he said, and what scientists have discovered since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859.

With over 1,000 references, Darwin Then and Now is a historical chronicle of the rise and fall of the once popular theory of biological evolution.