“If birds developed wings to fly away from predators, then why didn’t cats develop wings to catch birds?”
Most conversations about the subject of evolution versus creation “science” or “intelligent design“ begin with questions or statements from a creationist that reflect their ignorance on the subject, being based upon false premises.
This happens, not only because one does not understand what evolution says, but also because of a general misunderstanding about science, the scientific method, and the difference between facts, proof, hypothesis, theory and laws.
Let’s look at what scientists say, and what creationists say to see if we can answer the question about winged birds.
Science is a way of compiling, categorizing and testing our knowledge. Science is an explanation of things. Science asks is there another explanation? Science is a way of viewing the material world. Science tests itself against the world.
The Scientific method is how we do this. Scientific method is observation, logic, reason, and experimentation. One makes an observation, reasons about that observation (hypothesis) and experiments to see if the reason, logic and observation lines up with the results of the experimentation. Then there is more observation, logic, reason, and experimentation. If there is a convergence of data then the hypothesis (plus experimental data) is submitted to the peer process. Now repeat again and again building a better and better explanation. The ideas, like species evolve slowly over a great deal of time into accepted theory. Scientific method requires that a theory be falsifiable.
Theory is better described as an explanation. Nothing in science is ever really “proven.” There is always the searching for a better, or alternative explanation. Science rewards anyone that disproves a theory, and is therefore self-correcting.
Evolution is the fact that species gradually change over time and explains the history of life on earth more completely than anything else. Evolution is an inference that descent with modification occurred and there is a common ancestry. It is so well supported scientifically, it is considered fact. Darwin in his book On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection described the mechanisms by which species change. It boils down to heritability, adaptability (natural selection) and mutation plus time….a lot of time.
A good theory explains how it may be disproved. Darwin listed five ways to disprove his theory of evolution in Origins. Here are three of them: the origin of complexity, the source of variability, and the lack of mixing. No one, including creationists have disproved any of them. However, evolution by common descent has been clearly seen through geological, fossil, behavioral,
and genetic evidence. Evolution is the foundation of all biology.
Evidence for evolution is found in comparative genomics, the fossil record, phylogenic reconstruction, and in comparative anatomy. Evolution can be observed in antibiotic and pesticide resistance, speciation, and hybrids.
Evolution theory(s) make accurate predictions which are seen in all of the biological sciences.
Creation Science or Intelligent Design offers no testable method. It offers no theory or way to disprove the theory. There are multiple creation scenarios. There are flat Earth creationists, geocentrists, galactocentrists, young Earth and old Earth (gap-theorists or progressive theorists) creationists, theistic evolutionists, and material evolutionists. So it is not a dichotomy as suggested by creation proponents, but a progression of ideas that evolved as science revealed more and more about the material world we live in.
Many statements by creationists are fallacious. Arguments from incredulity, arguments from ignorance, begging the question, and appeals to emotion, to name a few. Often a question or statement is a strawman and simply irrelevant. We’ll cover just a few examples.
Creationism asks, “How can something come from nothing?” implying the necessity of a creator. This is an argument from incredulity. It also has nothing to do with evolution. It falls in the domain of cosmogony. Besides, science doesn’t say the universe came from “nothing“ but even if it did, a legitimate response might be, “Who created the creator.” This leads to the problem of infinite regress.
Creationism asks, “How did life (on earth) begin?” This is irrelevant as it has nothing to do with evolution. It has to do with abiogenesis, a different scientific discipline, altogether.
Creationists ask, “Where are the transitional fossils?” Science answers in general, “They are all transitional.” As one looks at the fossil record one sees a progression from older, simpler organisms to newer, more complex ones. The younger the strata they are found in, the more complex the fossil. There are specific examples such as that seen in the horse, reptile to mammal, ape to human and thousands more “transitional“ fossils.
Creationists may say how they see such beauty and order in the universe, and to them that shows an intelligent design, and therefore an intelligent designer. What they fail to understand is that the majority of species had a flawed “design“ were unable to adapt, and became extinct. Successful or not, all are a product of heritability, natural selection and mutation.
How can randomness result in successful species? While mutations are random they are guided by natural selection, which is the opposite of random.
How can order arise from disorder? This is a reference a the law of thermodynamics, and indicates a misunderstanding about both the law and about evolution. Evolution does not violate the second law of thermodynamics. The 2nd law of thermodynamics does not say that things progress from order to disorder. It says, "The entropy of a closed system cannot decrease." The earth is not a closed system (think sun), therefore life is not a closed system and life is irrelevant to the second law. Besides, non living things also progress from disorder to order requiring no intelligence.
Where is the evidence for macroevolution? Microevolution is change in gene frequency within a population and macroevolution deals with separate gene pools (above species level). The creationist’s argument may come in the form of, “You might see big dogs become small dogs, but a dog never becomes a cat.” Interesting this, as animal breeding is a great example of how evolution works, but with man’s assistance. However, one does not see a dat or a cog. Why is that? Dog and cat DNA sequences differ substantially, however, dogs and cats both descended from a common ancestor.
Microevolution implies macroevolution. Look at pictures of a child taken every day for a year. The differences are barely noticeable on a day to day basis, but look at the first and last picture, it is difficult to see how that change took place. In other words, it is difficult to imagine millions and millions of years going by and then to visualize the changes that can take place within that time. Consider heritability, natural selection and mutation and a long, long time, that is about 3.8 billion years, then the bigger picture of earth history will begin to come into focus.
Now, might be a good time to look up the phylogenic tree, The Tree of Life.
Scientists look at general patterns on the phylogenic tree of life, because these are easier to see. They observe stasis which means no change in a particular lineage for a long time; Character changes, which can happen slowly or quickly, in one lineage or across several lineages; Speciation or lineage splitting, happening slowly, or rapidly, or multiple lineages splitting concurrently; and Extinction, which can be frequent or infrequent along a particular lineage or may occur across many lineages (mass extinction). 99% of all species have gone extinct. All these things give scientists important information to reconstruct the history of life on our planet.
Oxygen levels, ocean chemistry changes, predation, meteor strikes, weather changes, genetic factors, ecological niches and habitat changes all contributed to the direction a lineage follows along the tree of life. Sometimes it was safer to live in the sea and other times on land. Some times and or some places it was advantageous to be a reptile and other times and or places more advantageous to be a mammal. Other times or places it was advantageous to be a large animal and still other times and places a small one.
So why didn’t cats develop wings?
The answer is found within the information contained in this post. With a little effort and independent research, I am confident that anyone can answer this for themselves.