Feature Article - February 2008
by Do-While Jones

Valentine Flowers

Valentine’s Day is our favorite holiday because it conjures up thoughts of unselfish love and romance. These are things evolutionists would rather not talk about.

In recent years it has become our custom to begin the February newsletter with an article about love or sex, and the problems they pose for the theory of evolution. You might think that after a few years we would run out of things to write about in February. But the February feature article is always one of the easiest to write because the evolutionary problems presented by love and sex are endless.

This month we are going to consider the specific problems flowers present to the theory of evolution; but to put the problem in context we will briefly review the general problem that evolutionists have with love and sex.

The Problem of Sex

Evolutionists believe that “simple” life forms evolved first, and gradually changed into more complex forms. Modern scientists know that simple life forms aren’t very simple, but the terminology has stuck for lack of a better term. Simple life forms reproduced asexually (without a partner) “simply” by dividing in half. Of course, we now know that cell division isn’t as simple as scientists in Darwin’s day thought; but compared to sexual reproduction, it really is simpler.

There is no question that sexual reproduction is superior to asexual reproduction. Since offspring only inherit half of their genes from each parent, bad genes can be eliminated rather rapidly from the population. If one individual suffers a mutation that damages a gene, only half his children will inherit it. Then only one quarter of his grandchildren will inherit it, and one eighth of his great-grandchildren, etc. will inherit it. So, with each generation it affects a smaller and smaller percentage of the population. If the mutation hinders survival, and times are tough, then natural selection will tend to weed the bad mutation out of the small fraction of the population that has it.

So, there certainly is a long-term advantage to sexual reproduction. The problem for evolutionists is that the theory of evolution demands a short-term advantage to propagate a good mutation. Otherwise the good mutation will be diluted by half each generation, just like bad mutations are, and won’t become wide-spread.

Supposedly there was a time before sexual reproduction evolved. Then, somehow, someway, a mutant species evolved that needed a partner to reproduce. That is a serious short-term disadvantage. It can be hard to find a mate. That’s why we need eHarmony.com.

Animals need to find a mate. They need to know what to do with the mate. Therefore, sexual instincts and emotions need to evolve along with the sexual differences. But we’ve written about animals before, so we won’t go there again. This month we want to talk about flowers.

Romantic Flowers

Right down at the base of the evolutionists’ Tree of Life, there is an immediate split between plants and animals. The Plant Kingdom and Animal Kingdom don’t have any living things in common (other than the mythical common ancestor). The plants and animals both supposedly evolved separately. Therefore both, at some point in their evolutionary history, evolved sexual reproduction independently. Despite the short-term disadvantage, sex had to evolve at least twice.

Here’s what a popular college biology textbook says about sexual and asexual reproduction in flowers.

In Chapter 23, you encountered several methods of asexual reproduction, including the spreading of runners by strawberries, bulb production by daffodils, and the sprouting of rhizomes by irises. Asexual reproduction is often highly effective, allowing plants to colonize an entire area where the original parent found optimal conditions.

However, if an offspring is genetically identical to its parent, then the offspring is only as well adapted to the environment as its parent was. What if the environment changes? Most sexually produced offspring combine genes from both parents, and therefore they may be endowed with traits that differ from those of either parent. The new combinations of traits may help the offspring cope with changing environments or survive in slightly different habitats. 1

So, what is true of animals is true of plants, too. Asexual reproduction is efficient and has short-term advantages, but sexual reproduction has long-term advantages that make a population more adaptable.

Evolutionists have to explain how this radical change in reproduction methodology happened in two entirely unrelated kingdoms, despite the short-term disadvantages of sexual reproduction.

Here is the flower fable, straight out of a college biology textbook. This is the entire explanation.

How Did Flowers Evolve?

The flower is actually a sexual display that enhances a plant’s reproductive success. By enticing animals to transfer pollen from one plant to another, flowers enable stationary plants to “court” distant members of their own species. This critical advantage has allowed flowering plants to become the dominant plants on land.

The earliest seed plants were the gymnosperms, represented today mainly by conifers, a group that includes pines, firs, and spruces. As we described in Chapter 21, conifers do not produce flowers; instead, they bear male and female gametophytes on separate cones. During early spring, the small, male cones release millions of pollen grains that float about on breezes (Fig 24-3). So many grains are floating around that some enter the pollen chambers located on the scales of the female cones, where they are captured by sticky coatings of sugars and resins. The pollen grains germinate and tunnel to the female gametophytes at the base of each scale. Sperm are liberated and fertilize the eggs within a female gametophyte, and a new generation begins.

Clearly, wind pollination is an inefficient operation, because most of the pollen grains are lost. In a world of stationary plants and mobile animals, if a gymnosperm could entice an animal to carry its pollen from male to female cone, it would greatly enhance its reproductive rate and hence its evolutionary success. As it happens, gymnosperms and insects were poised to establish just such a relationship about 150 million years ago.

Insects, especially beetles, are among the most abundant animals on Earth. They exploit nearly every possible food resource on land, including the reproductive parts of gymnosperms. About 150 million years ago, some beetles fed on both the protein-rich pollen of male cones and the sugar-rich secretions of female cones. Beetles can make quite a mess when they feed, and pollen feeders often wind up with pollen dusted all over their bodies. If the same beetle were to visit one plant, eat pollen, and then wander over to another plant of the same species to dine on the sugary secretions of a female cone, some of the loose pollen would quite likely rub off on the female cone.

The stage was set for the evolution of flowering plants. Efficient pollination by insects requires that a given insect visit several plants of the same species, pollinating them along the way. For the plants, two key adaptations were necessary. First, enough pollen or nectar (the sugary secretions) must be produced within the reproductive structures so that insects will regularly visit them to feed. Second, the location and richness of these storehouses of pollen and nectar must be advertised to the insects, both to show them where to go and to entice them to specialize on that particular plant species. Any mutation that contributed to these adaptations would enhance the reproductive success of the plant that carried the mutation and would be favored by natural selection. By about 130 million years ago, flowers had evolved with exactly these adaptations. The advantages of flowers are so great that in today’s temperate and tropical zones, flowering plants are overwhelmingly dominant, and numerous animals, including bees, moths, butterflies, hummingbirds, and even some mammals, feed at and pollinate flowers. 2

The textbook then goes on to describe the intricate design (but they don’t use that word!) of flower anatomy.

The Assumption of Evolution

Let’s look at the fable piece in detail, separating truth from fiction.

“The flower is actually a sexual display that enhances a plant’s reproductive success. … This critical advantage has allowed flowering plants to become the dominant plants on land.” Certainly this is true. But the real question is, “How did plants obtain this sexual display that enhances reproductive success.” The typical mindless, knee-jerk reaction of evolutionists is, “It exists; therefore it must have evolved.” Where is the evidence that it evolved, rather than the result of a conscious design? There isn’t any.

The Motivation for Pollination

They say, “By enticing animals to transfer pollen from one plant to another, flowers enable stationary plants to 'court' distant members of their own species. … Clearly, wind pollination is an inefficient operation, because most of the pollen grains are lost. In a world of stationary plants and mobile animals, if a gymnosperm could entice an animal to carry its pollen from male to female cone, it would greatly enhance its reproductive rate and hence its evolutionary success.” Audesirk & Audesirk don’t really believe plants consciously entice animals and court members of their own species. They are just using figures of speech. But we have to wonder, why did they use these figures of speech? Subconsciously, at least, they must recognize some purposeful intent somewhere in the process. Something has to make the animals pollinate the plants. If there is nothing intentionally causing the animals to pollinate plants, the only alternative is random chance. They think it was just dumb luck that caused animals to pollinate flowers. But there had to be a series of fortunate accidents to make them do it.

Inefficiency

They are correct when they say, “wind pollination is an inefficient operation.” Since that is true, why did it evolve in the first place? They have no answer for that. Their assumption is simply that since wind pollination does exist today, it must have evolved.

Even though it is inefficient, wind pollination does work now. There are enough pine trees in the world now that sooner or later some pollen is going to wind up in the right place. But that would not have been the case when pollen supposedly evolved.

We have “endangered species lists" today in recognition of the fact that when a population becomes very small, it is in danger of going extinct. The fewer individuals there are, the fewer chances there are to find a mate. The same would have been true when pinecones first evolved. If there weren’t very many pinecones, and not much pollen, the probability that wind would blow pollen onto a pinecone is small. Natural selection would work against pine trees that depended upon wind pollination for survival.

A Baseless Assumption

They say, “The earliest seed plants were the gymnosperms, represented today mainly by conifers, a group that includes pines, firs, and spruces.” Why do they believe this? They believe this because gymnosperms are simpler than flowering plants, so they must have evolved first. This will lead them to think that rock layers having traces of flowers in them are younger than rock layers containing just cones.

Unanswered Questions

“During early spring, male cones release millions of pollen grains that float about on breezes (Fig 24-3). So many grains are floating around that some enter the pollen chambers located on the scales of the female cones, where they are captured by sticky coatings of sugars and resins. The pollen grains germinate and tunnel to the female gametophytes at the base of each scale. Sperm are liberated and fertilize the eggs within a female gametophyte, and a new generation begins.” It sounds so logical, if you don’t think about it. But when you start to think about it, there are almost as many questions as there are pollen grains.

It all seems so purposeful and coordinated, but evolutionists believe it was just dumb luck.

Storytelling

Now comes the really fanciful part. “Insects, especially beetles, are among the most abundant animals on Earth. They exploit nearly every possible food resource on land, including the reproductive parts of gymnosperms. About 150 million years ago, some beetles fed on both the protein-rich pollen of male cones and the sugar-rich secretions of female cones. Beetles can make quite a mess when they feed, and pollen feeders often wind up with pollen dusted all over their bodies. If the same beetle were to visit one plant, eat pollen, and then wander over to another plant of the same species to dine on the sugary secretions of a female cone, some of the loose pollen would quite likely rub off on the female cone.” It all is because of the messiness of beetles! If beetles had just cleaned their plates better when eating the pollen, none of this would have happened. But no! Rather than feeding off just one cone, eating all the pollen set in front of it, the beetle stopped feeding and wandered off (with a pollen mustache) to a female cone of the same species for dessert, smearing pollen all over it.

“The stage was set for the evolution of flowering plants. Efficient pollination by insects requires that a given insect visit several plants of the same species, pollinating them along the way. For the plants, two key adaptations were necessary. First, enough pollen or nectar (the sugary secretions) must be produced within the reproductive structures so that insects will regularly visit them to feed. Second, the location and richness of these storehouses of pollen and nectar must be advertised to the insects, both to show them where to go and to entice them to specialize on that particular plant species. Any mutation that contributed to these adaptations would enhance the reproductive success of the plant that carried the mutation and would be favored by natural selection. By about 130 million years ago, flowers had evolved with exactly these adaptations.” Well, aren’t we just lucky! Plants just happened to produce pollen and nectar and brightly colored flowers that dumb insects would realize contained delicious food.

How can any biology teacher tell this story with a straight face? How did we ever get to the point that we accept fanciful storytelling as science?

Real Science

Certainly some of the things the biology textbook says are correct. “The advantages of flowers are so great that in today’s temperate and tropical zones, flowering plants are overwhelmingly dominant, and numerous animals, including bees, moths, butterflies, hummingbirds, and even some mammals, feed at and pollinate flowers.” That is absolutely correct. Their explanation of how cone-bearing and flowering plants reproduce is right on. That’s real science. You can do experiments in the classroom with flowering plants, allowing some to pollinate and preventing others from pollinating.

But this story about what beetles supposedly did 150 million years ago is not science! It is baseless conjecture. Mixing the truth about plant reproduction with a fantasy about the amazing series of lucky accidents that caused plants to reproduce this way is not helpful. It confuses students about what science is, and makes them doubt real science.

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Footnotes:

1 Audesirk & Audesirk, Biology, Fifth edition, pages 483-484.
2 ibid., pages 485-6.