The Odds: Egg, Caterpillar, Cocoon, Butterfly

In the complete metamorphosis of a butterfly, a larva (caterpillar) hatches from an egg and goes through several molts before becoming a pupa (cocoon in moths), which develops into an adult butterfly.  Neither the larva nor the pupa resemble the adult.

To say that gradual evolution’s explanation for complete metamorphosis has never been provided is an understatement.  One type of fully functional organism is broken down into what amounts to a nutrient broth from which an utterly different type of organism emerges. Not even the vaguest attempts have been made to provide hypothetical scenarios explaining how such an astonishing sequence of transformations could have come about gradually as a result of a succession of small, beneficial mutations.  As I pointed out in my last paper, geneticists using saturation mutagenesis have not turned up a single mutation that would benefit organisms in the wild.

It is common for evolutionary biologists to depreciate the tendency to discuss the inadequacies of natural selection working on random mutations with reference to special cases such as metamorphosis.  As ultra Darwinist Julian Huxley complained, “It is perhaps unfortunate that the study of adaptions has been so closely associated with highly specialized and striking cases of the “wonder of nature” type.”

However, these “highly specialized” cases take place in bees, wasps, ants, mosquitoes, flies, gnats, butterflies, moths, Dobson flies, lacewings, ant lions, fleas, and many other organisms.  Moreover, botany offers hundreds of examples of complex adaptions which have never been explained convincingly in gradualistic terms.  The adaptions by which certain carnivorous plants, such as the Venus fly trap or the pitcher plant, first lure, then trap and digest their insect prey have never been explained.

A classic example from botany is the pollination mechanism of the orchid coryanthes described by Darwin as being: “effected in a manner that perhaps have been inferred from their structure, but would have appeared utterly incredible had it not been repeatedly observed by a careful observer.”  The pollination method of the coryanthes is too involved to be explained in full detail here, since it involves a special bucket, fluids secreted by more than one gland, and the capture and release of a bee that is forced to brush against its stigma and then against the viscid discs of pollen.  As scientist C. W. Wardlaw confesses:

“Special adaptive features such as those exemplified by the plants of special habitats, climbing plants, insectivorous plants, the numerous cunning floral arrangements that ensure cross-pollination, seem to the writer to be difficult to account for adequately in terms of a sequence of small random variations, and natural selection.   …It is an inescapable fact that there are indeed very large numbers of these special cases both in the Plant and Animal Kingdoms which are not satisfactorily accommodated in the omnibus of evolutionary doctrine.”

In the complete metamorphosis of the monarch butterfly, a wormlike larva, commonly called a caterpillar, hatches from the egg.  The caterpillar has three pairs of jointed legs on the thorax and several pairs of nonsegmented  legs on the abdomen.  The caterpillar eats almost constantly, growing large and thus it is the caterpillar (larval) stage of most insects that causes the most damage to plants.

The monarch larva molts several times as it grows.  In the last larval stage, it develops bands of black, white, and yellow and looks quite attractive as a caterpillar.  It finds a sheltered spot and hangs upside down.  Its exoskeleton splits down the side and falls off, revealing a green pupa (cocoon).  Inside the pupa, the larval tissue breaks down, and groups of cells called imaginal disks develop into the wings and other tissues of the adult.  When metamorphosis is complete, the pupa molts into a sexually mature, winged butterfly.  Ultra Darwinist Richard Dawkins confesses in his book The Ancestor’s Tale, “I don’t know what embryologic hurdles would need to be surmounted in order to persuade a butterfly to metamorphose into a caterpillar.  No doubt is would be very difficult.”

A honey bee colony consists of three types of individuals: worker bees, queen bee, and drones.  Worker bees are sterile females that make up the vast majority of the hive population, which may reach more than 80,000 bees.  The workers perform all the duties of the hive except reproduction.  The queen bee is the only fertile female in the hive, and her only function is to reproduce.  Drones are males that develop from unfertilized eggs.  Their sole function is to deliver sperm to the queen and are killed by the workers when the honey supply begins to run low.

Bees also undergo complete metamorphosis.  The queen bee develops from an egg and pupa that look identical to those of the workers.  The difference between the queen and the workers results from a continuous diet of royal jelly that the queen is fed through the larval development.  Charles Darwin was amazed by the exquisite structure of the honey bee comb in which each cell was an exact hexagonal prism.  Darwin writes in chapter 8 of The Origin of the Species;

“We hear from mathematicians that bees have practically solved a recondrite problem, and have made their cells of the proper shape to hold the greatest possible amount of honey, with the least possible consumption of precious wax in their construction … it seems at first quite inconceivable how they make all the necessary angles and planes, or even perceive when they are correctly made … each cell, as it is well known, is a hexagonal prism, with the basal edges of its six sides beveled so as to join an inverted pyramid.”

Superorganisms – colonies of individuals tightly knit by altruistic cooperation, complex communication, and division of labor, find their highest expression in the insect world.  This is especially true of ants who in the tropical rain forest collectively weigh more than all the mammals and other land vertebrates.

Especially memorable are the leaf cutter ants, Earth’s “ultimated superorganism”, who possess sophisticated communication systems, a most elaborate caste system, air conditioned nest architecture, and a population in the millions.

The annual cycle of metamorphosis in a mature ant colony is even more complex than found in bee colonies because it may involve two different life cycles – a fast brood life cycle and a slow brood life cycle.  The mother queen continues to lay eggs through the spring and summer.  Many of the larvae may form into pupae and then hatch early in the season to be able to complete development by the end of the summer and become workers (fast brood).  Others persist as larvae and pupae through the winter and become workers or queens the following spring (slow brood).  The full development of fast brood requires about three months, that of slow brood requires almost a year.

Darwin was amazed by the Eciton ant species with its physical subcasts that comprise combinations of minor workers, majors (also called solders), and super majors (also called super soldiers).  As a rule, the soldiers are specialized for defense or other restricted functions.  Darwin writes in chapter 8 of The Origin of the Species:

“But we have not as yet touched on the acme of the difficulty; namely, the fact that neuters of several ants differ, not only from fertile females and males, but from each other, sometimes to an almost incredible degree, and are thus divided into two and even three castes.  The castes, moreover, do not commonly graduate into each other, but are perfectly well defined; being as distinct from each other as are any two species of the same genus … there are working and soldier neuters with jaws and instincts remarkably different … yet they are absolutely sterile.”

Darwin continues in chapter 8 of The Origin of the Species:

“It will indeed be thought that I have an overweening confidence in the principle of natural selection, when I do not admit that such wonderful and well-established facts once annihilate the theory.”

At this point one may wonder about hybridization.  After all, the mule is the product of the horse and the donkey.  Isn’t this natural selection?  This is anything but natural and is a product of human breeding.  It is a dead end for evolution because the female mule is sterile.  Hybrids between different animal species are usually sterile, as is the liger, a cross between two big cats – the lion and the tiger.  The liger is larger and slower than the lion or the tiger and could not exist in the wild because it is too ponderous.  Darwinian evolution requires that one population diverge in a branching fashion; the opposite (hybridization) would be for the two closely related species to merge into one.  Unchecked hybridization could produce the opposite of speciation.  Since all paleontologists have always observed the abrupt appearance of species and then stasis in the rocks, the question of speciation becomes moot.

Speciation by metamorphosis is a nightmare for Darwinists.  Darwin wrote in chapter 8 of The Origin of the Species that “no complex instinct can possibly be produced through natural selection, except by slow and gradual accumulation of numerous slight, yet profitable, variations.”  Yet metamorphosis is an integrated circuit of irreducible complexity.  In his book, Darwin’s Black Box, Michael J. Behe, a professor of biochemistry, explains a system that is irreducibly complex.

“By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively stop functioning.”

Thus within the butterfly; the egg, the larva (caterpillar), the pupa (cocoon), and the butterfly must all arise in one fell swoop.  One stage cannot exist without the other three stages.  Since natural selection can only choose organisms that are fit to survive and already working, how can it gradually select individual stages that cannot work without their precursors?

A novice looking at a caterpillar might have no idea that it would turn into a cocoon and then become a butterfly which produces the egg.  Each of these stages must make a living.  They must be fully fit to survive – one crawling like a caterpillar, the second hanging from a branch, and the third flying to select nectar and produce eggs.  These different stages would require different body parts, different muscular systems, different circulatory systems, different respiratory systems, different defense and immune systems,different digestive systems, different urinary systems, different central nervous systems, different peripheral nervous systems, different sensory systems, and different endocrine systems.  Because just about all insect have different sexes, the very complex male and female reproductive systems must also be addressed.  Each one of those systems is infinitely complex and far from being understated and yet each must be different at each stage of metamorphosis.

This constitutes a really baffling circle: a vicious circle it seems, for any attempt to form a model, or a theory, of the genesis of metamorphosis.  If the butterfly is needed to make the egg, and the egg is needed to make the larva (caterpillar), and the larva is needed to make the pupa (cocoon), and the pupa is needed to make the butterfly, how did the whole thing get started?  The butterfly, the end result of butterfly synthesis, is required before it can begin.

Three key features of metamorphosis are not addressed by Darwinists.  First, they must explain the origin of the system for storing and encoding all the information for each fully functional stage to break down into a nutrient broth from which an utterly different type of organism emerges.  Second, they must explain the origin of the master plan that allows each stage, in turn, to transform into the next stage at just the right time and place.

Thirdly, they must explain how this master plan, which must be in place to provide all the information for all four stages, could have developed gradually by natural selection working on random mutations.  Remember, that Darwinists claim that natural selection can only select organisms that are fit and functional.  However, it is obvious in metamorphosis that one stage cannot be fit and functional unless made by its predecessor.  One stage cannot gradually form unless the other three stages are there at the beginning.

Details, details, details – science is worthless without them.  Belief in natural selection becomes a theology.  A scientific scenario explaining the astonishing sequence of transformation in metamorphosis is not attempted by Darwinists.  Trillions of cells in each of these stages must change their function along with the countless proteins, RNA molecules, and DNA molecules that reside in each cell.  The integrated complexity of this processing system would make the space shuttle, the most complex machine ever made by man, look like child’s play.  The trillions of biological components of each stage of metamorphosis must shuffle to exactly the right place as each stage progresses in the journey of life.  As with the space shuttle, there is no room for error in that every atom must be in exactly the right place at the appointed time.

It would take a small library of blueprints to detail all the components of the space shuttle.  Constructing such a model for the monarch butterfly would take a much larger library and would be incomplete because many of the unique functions of the elegant control systems regulating the assembly of parts at each stage are not fully understood.

When doing a statistical analysis of the possibility of metamorphosis happening by chance, it would be wise to start with proteins.  Scientists today know that protein molecules perform most of the critical functions in the cell.  Proteins build cellular machines and structures; they carry and deliver cellular materials; and they catalyze chemical reactions that the cell needs to stay alive.  Proteins also process genetic information found in DNA.  To accomplish this work, a typical cell uses one hundred thousand different kinds of proteins.  And each protein has a distinct three dimensional shape related to its function, just as the different tools in the carpenter’s tool box have different shapes related to their functions.

Proteins also display specificity of arrangement.  Proteins are built from amino acid building blocks and their various functions depend crucially on the specific arrangement of those building blocks.  Therefore, a cascade of proteins working inside trillions of cells are able to change the entire structure and habits of the monarch butterfly as it proceeds from one stage to another stage.

Yet, making one small protein by chance is beyond the probabilistic resources of the universe.  As I noted in my second paper, Francis Crick was the co-discoverer of the double helicle structure of DNA and a Nobel Prize winner.  As with most Darwinists, who actually do a statistical analysis of the probability of getting the first-in-time primitive proto-cell by chance, he approached an intellectual crisis.  Crick knew that twenty unique amino acids are used in the sequence of all proteins in the cell of every plant and animal.

I will quote directly from Crick’s book, Life Itself in which he mathematically visualizes forming a small protein containing a chain of 200 amino acids by blind chance.  Crick writes:

“To produce this miracle of molecular construction all the cell needs to do is to string together the amino acids.  This is an easy exercise in combinatorials.  Suppose the chain is 200 acids long; this is, if anything, rather less than the average length of proteins of all types.  Since we have just twenty possibilities at each place, the number of possibilities is twenty multiplied by itself, some 200 times.  This is conveniently written as 20200 and is approximately equal to 10260, that is a 1 followed by 260 zero’s!  This number is quite beyond comprehension.  For comparison, consider the number of fundamental particles (atoms) in the entire visible universe, not just our own galaxy with 1011 stars, but in all the billions of galaxies, out to the limits of observable space.  This number which is estimated to be 1080, is quite paltry by comparison to 10260.”

If 1080 is the number of atoms in the universe, then 1081 would be the number of atoms in 10 universes (remember, that when 1 is added to an exponent of base 10, the value is increased 10 times).  1092 would then be the number of atoms in a trillion universes.  10260 would then be the number of atoms in a trillion, trillion, trillion universes.  Given such odds, the time and space to the ends of the universe would make no difference at all.

At this point it is wise to ask the following questions.  If there is “1” chance in 10260 to form one protein, can luck prevail?  If luck prevails for one protein, can luck prevail to form the thousands of even larger proteins needed to make the first life in the form of a cell?  Can luck prevail to form the billions of cells needed to form one organ?  Can luck prevail to make the large number of organs to make one butterfly?  Can luck prevail to form the astonishing sequence of transformations needed for metamorphosis?  If one thinks that luck could form a Beethoven sonata or the space shuttle, one’s answer to these questions might be yes.

When a friend tells you that the primordial ooze, or the pre-biotic soup could have formed life by chance, take that friend by the hand and then ask him what this primordial ooze consists of.   If he gives a vague answer such as brimstone or hot mud, kindly explain to him that this is just matter.  Matter is anything that has mass and volume.  Matter is composed of atoms.  Scientists tell us that atoms are the same everywhere in the universe and that they are the same atoms that Francis Crick had to deal with in his experiment.  These atoms are dancing around and bouncing into each other at high speed, especially when warm.  These atoms cannot and will not form the large molecules of life (proteins, RNA, DNA) by chance alone.  Scientists report that DNA and RNA molecules contain more atoms and are more complicated than their very complex protein counterparts.

Biologist Dr. Carl Werner sums up the problem, when he writes:

“Living organisms are structurally different from inert chemical compounds in at least three ways.  All living beings are made up of DNA proteins, and have a cell membrane.  Chemical compounds do not, will not, could not coalesce into DNA naturally, under any conditions, because the property of atoms prevent this.  Even if you change the conditions such as temperature, the PH, the barometric pressure, the ratio of chemicals, add electricity, remove oxygen, condense the solution, etc., DNA never forms.  The second problem is the protein problem.  Chemical compounds do not form into proteins naturally under any conditions.  The third problem is the cell membrane problem.  Within the cell membrane are thousands of complex protein gates which do not form naturally.”

As I wrote in a previous paper, atheist Fred Hoyle is considered by some as the greatest British scientist since Newton.  When Hoyle calculated the odds of getting the set of proteins to sustain the first primal cell as 1 in 1040000 he said, “Belief in chemical evolution of the cell from lifeless atoms is equivalent to believing that a tornado could sweep through a junkyard and form a Boeing 747.”

Finally, the state of analysis of the possibility of metamorphosis happening by chance can be summed up by Stephen Jay Gould who is viewed as the greatest American Darwinist and Richard Dawkins who is viewed as the greatest British Darwinist.

Stephen Jay Gould’s book, Structure of Evolutionary Theory, is his masterpiece and runs over 1300 pages.  In this book, the Harvard professor says nothing about metamorphosis, even though a majority of animal species manage their life stories through some type of structural transformations.  The silence is deafening.

Richard Dawkins is honest and admits his complete ignorance as to the cause of metamorphosis.  As I reported previously in this paper, Dawkins says, “I don’t know what embryological hurdles would need to be surmounted to persuade a butterfly to metamorphose.”  Later on in the same book Dawkins writes;

“Tadpoles are larvae of frogs or salamander.  Aquatic tadpoles change radically, in the process called metamorphosis, into terrestrial adult frogs or salamanders.  A tadpole makes it’s living as a small fish, swimming with its tail, breathing underwater with gills, and eating vegetable matter.  A frog makes its living on land, hopping rather than swimming, breathing air rather than water and hunting prey.”

I must give Gould and Dawkins credit for not trying to devise a phony statistical analysis.  Gould ignores the subject and Dawkins expresses his wonder.

Francis Crick, Fred Hoyle, Harold Morowitz and other scientists were deeply skeptical about the chance hypothesis.  When these scientists performed their own calculations they lost their own Darwinian virginity.  They found that the exquisite fire of life cannot ignite from matter by chance. An atom is an atom is an atom.  Each atom is the same as any other, and there is no way to track any one atom as they careen around near the speed of light.

One tiny protein, containing 200 amino acids and 4000 atoms, can only be seen with the most powerful microscope.  On the microscopic scale, this miracle of biological construction is more powerful than any computer chip.  Forming this protein by chance is well beyond the probabilistic resources of the earth with its 1051 lifeless atoms.  When one expands the probabilistic resources to the whole universe, one again falls far short.  10260 (Cricks number) dwarfs the total number of atoms in the universe and makes the odds of getting one protein by chance, hopeless.  Yet we need at least a thousand proteins to keep the smallest cell functioning and alive.  If getting one cell with its large number of proteins is hopeless by chance, how can we expect tissues and organs and whole plants and animals to form by chance?  They contain trillions of cells that all must be in exactly the right place at to function properly.

The odds for the egg, the caterpillar, the cocoon, and the butterfly to form and then change their structures and habits from lifeless atoms by chance are even more hopeless.  It then becomes reasonable to assume, as with the formation of a harmonious sonata, that something other than chance has been at work.

 

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