I put it off long enough, and last week I ordered the latest creationist video from Illustra Media. Somebody has to keep these guys in business. They really are the greatest comedy act going. Metamorphosis is supposed to convince us that butterfly evolution cannot be accomplished by Darwinian evolution. What it does accomplish is to demonstrate that the creationists are either liars or fools.
People, you have to get this video for your kids. It’s a beautiful visualization and explanation of the life cycle of butterflies, concentrating particularly on the chrysalis stage. For those of you who slept through biology class in high school, here is a short explanation of the process:
1. The female butterfly lays an egg on a host plant, carefully chosen, because the caterpillar that hatches is going to have to be able to eat the plant.
2. The egg does hatch, and the butterfly larva, the caterpillar, munches like mad for several days, becoming very large and ready for the next stage of its life, the chrysalis.
3. The caterpillar wraps itself within a chrysalis, where for all practical purposes its body dissolves, becoming food for an adult butterfly, which forms inside the chrysalis, replacing the caterpillar.
4. The adult butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, dries itself out, forms its proboscis from two other stringy things, and starts the whole process all over again.
In the video we see creationist Paul Nelson explaining what’s going on and why Darwinian evolution cannot explain all of this. But first a little background on Paul Nelson.
Nelson is a fellow of the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture. He is also a young-Earth creationist, remarkable in light of the CSC’s support for Intelligent Design and its insistence that Intelligent Design is not the same as young-Earth creationism.
In the video you will see Nelson explaining that random mutation coupled with natural selection could not have produced a process such as butterfly metamorphosis. Making the same claim is Ann Gauger of the CSC’s Biologic Institute. Both make the assertion (my interpretation) that, since the chrysalis phase of the butterfly’s life neither eats nor reproduces, there is no way for the evolution of the chrysalis to develop. They seem to be saying that the butterfly lineage would cease immediately with the development of the chrysalis phase, because there would then be no butterflies (or any other living animal) to produce the next generation.
My first reaction was to recall the phrase “breathtaking inanity” as it was applied to the actions of the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board when they set about to introduce religious creationism into the science curriculum and then lied about their actions under oath. There seems to be no bottom to the depth of creationists’ ignorance.
I made myself a promise that I would not look at the answer in the back of the book, but, absent any real training in biology, I would attempt to formulate a possible sequence of events in the evolutionary development of the butterfly’s metamorphosis. Here goes:
1. There was an animal that was the ancestor of modern butterflies, and this animal produced eggs that developed into adult animals of that type.
2. Evolutionary development of insects next involved a stage in which the development of the egg hatchlings went through a drawn out process before finally becoming adults like their parents. This stage in the hatchling’s development might or might not resemble the insect larvae with which we are all familiar.
3. The larval stage evolved to develop by a step-wise process an additional stage that ultimately became the chrysalis that is now a part of the modern insect’s life cycle.
4. At every step in the evolution of the butterfly there was always an adult animal that produced an egg and ultimately an adult offspring of the animal that laid the egg. At no time did the butterfly lineage cease because there was no next generation, and there was never the need for butterfly evolution to involve a great leap forward.
My explanation has no right to be correct, and there is no evidence that butterfly evolution proceeded in this manner. However my explanation, unlike that of Nelson and Gauger, does not involve the ridiculous assertion that there was once a butterfly precursor that laid eggs which developed into adult butterflies, and that from this life form there immediately developed another life form that incorporated a chrysalis stage. These creationists have proposed a ridiculous explanation and then used it to prop up their claim that Darwinian evolution cannot explain butterfly metamorphosis.
Here is a short preview from Illustra Media that will give you a flavor of the video. The video is well-produced, very instructive of the butterfly’s life cycle and includes the remarkable story of Monarch butterfly migration. It is also a blatant piece of creationist propaganda and a wonderful illustration of creationism’s breathtaking inanity.
I ordered my copy from Amazon. If you use this link Amazon will pay The North Texas Skeptics a sales commission.
As the same time I ordered the Metamorphosis video I ordered yet another copy of the creationist text Of Pandas and People. More on that in a later blog.