Feature Article - March 2018
by Do-While Jones

Hummingbirds

Evolutionists made some obvious observations, missed the most important point, and failed to find what they were really looking for.

The cover of a recent issue of Science might lead you to believe that scientists have discovered how agility evolved in hummingbirds; but [spoiler alert] they didn’t. Instead, they showed how belief in the theory of evolution is detrimental to science.

In the introductory arti­cle, Peter C. Wainwright shared his perspective on a recent study about the agility of hummingbirds.

Maneuverability in­volves rapid inte­gration of sensory in­formation by the cen­tral nervous system, as well as the physical ability of the animal to elude obstacles as it moves through its en­vironment, often at breakneck speed. Both the complexity and diversity of these maneuvers is [sic] difficult to study. 1

Wainwright thinks “the complexity and diversity of these maneuvers [are] difficult to study.” That’s true; but has he considered how more difficult it would have been for these complex and diverse maneuvers to have evolved by chance? What is the scientific basis for believing that a central nervous system that could rapidly integrate sensory allowing it to elude obstacles as a hummingbird moves at breakneck speed was just a lucky accident?

The Method

The purpose of the study was to learn how hummingbirds evolved the ability to perform such maneuvers. How did they try to do that?

… they [Dakin and his team] used video re­corders to document the diversity and perform­ance of specific maneuvers used by birds housed in an enclosure as they flew about, perched, and fed from a source of artificial nectar. The research team included more than 200 birds from 25 species in the survey, which yielded flight behavior profiles for each species under study. These profiles proved to be largely diagnostic of species: Different species preferred to use some maneuvers more than others and tended to be particularly good at their favored maneuvers. 2

We would have thought that birds would tend to prefer to use maneuvers they aren’t very good at, and would not be very good at the maneuvers they practice most often. We must not be as smart as evolutionists.

Excessive Evolution

Given that the birds in this study were not being challenged to perform maneuvers at the limits of their abilities, it is remarkable that a handful of underlying traits accounted for 25 to 40% of the evolution in most performance metrics. This could indicate that hummingbirds operate near their limits even when not severely challenged, or that even flying around enclosures in relaxed conditions they show tendencies and abilities that parallel their maximum flight capacity. 3

So, hummingbirds evolved abilities which far exceed what they really need. Why would natural selection cause that to happen? The study didn’t answer that question.

Imaginary Science

Given the importance of flight to the hummingbird lifestyle, one could easily imagine that flight performance has diversified in response to different ecological conditions encountered by species. However, the species included in Dakin et al.'s study showed very strong phylogenetic conservation of flight behavior and performance. This finding suggests that ecological diversity in the major hummingbird lineages must have another functional basis. Future studies should aim to identify the role of flight ability evolution in hummingbird diversification. With more than 330 species, there is much ecological diversity to account for. 4

Real science is based on experiments and measured observations, not imagination. Since the theory of evolution is based on imagination, it logically follows that the theory of evolution isn’t real science.

Wainwright admits Dakin’s study does not confirm Wainwright’s imagination. He imagined that ecological conditions caused different flight characteristics to evolve, but since the data doesn’t back up his imagination, there must be “another functional basis.” That other basis wasn’t discovered by this study, so how agility evolved remains a mystery. The reason for their failure to find how natural selection caused hummingbirds’ remarkable acrobatic flight abilities is that natural selection didn’t do it.

More Money is Needed

Of course, as every scientific article says, “future studies” need to be funded to explore these imaginary ideas. If you don’t want to fund studies of imaginary flights of fancy, you will be accused of being “anti-science.”

… characterizing locomotion in wild birds will require the development of tiny data loggers that can be affixed to these tiny birds but do not interfere with flight. With such devices, researchers would be able to determine the flight tendencies and performance of birds in the course of their everyday life. 5

That’s your cue to apply for a government grant to build tiny data loggers. (Be sure to make it a “cost plus” contract, so you can take as long as you like, spending as much as you want.)

Diversity of Performance

One may wonder why there is diversity in flight performance at all. 6

Yes, if all hummingbirds evolved from a close common ancestor, one certainly might wonder why there is any diversity in flight performance. It is almost as if they were created to have individual characteristics. But that’s unthinkable!

The Actual Study

So far, we’ve just quoted the introductory perspective by Wainwright. That perspective is what the editors of Science want you to think about Dakin’s study. Please make up your own mind about what Dakin actually wrote. Here’s the abstract of the article:

Abstract
How does agility evolve? This question is challenging because natural movement has many degrees of freedom and can be influenced by multiple traits. We used computer vision to record thousands of translations, rotations, and turns from more than 200 hummingbirds from 25 species, revealing that distinct performance metrics are correlated and that species diverge in their maneuvering style. Our analysis demonstrates that the enhanced maneuverability of larger species is explained by their proportionately greater muscle capacity and lower wing loading. Fast acceleration maneuvers evolve by recruiting changes in muscle capacity, whereas fast rotations and sharp turns evolve by recruiting changes in wing morphology. Both species and individuals use turns that play to their strengths. These results demonstrate how both skill and biomechanical traits shape maneuvering behavior. 7

In the paragraph above, Dakin and his three equally brilliant co-authors came to these four conclusions:

  1. Bigger birds have stronger muscles.
  2. Stronger birds can accelerate faster.
  3. Wing shape affects how sharply a bird can change direction.
  4. Skill and natural ability determine flight performance.

What amazing insight! We are awe-struck! As Dilbert once said to Wally, “I admire your ability to get paid for that!

But these observations say nothing about how these traits evolved.

The Question of Evolution

Exactly how did muscle capacity, wing shape, and skill evolve?

Selection on these behaviors is predicted to recruit a variety of underlying physiological and morphological traits. However, understanding how animals achieve high performance is challenging because of the sheer diversity of behaviors and the versatility with which any given maneuver, such as a banked turn, is used. … Thus, it remains a challenge to link maneuvering performance to its underlying traits. 8

Darwin predicted that natural selection would cause these traits to evolve, but it is “challenging” to understand how it happened because there isn’t any real science to back up Darwin’s prediction. They are even having a hard time linking traits to performance. They may not have the answers—but they have plenty of excuses.

A key problem in evolutionary physiology is how to measure meaningful variation in noisy behavioral phenotypes. 9

Thus, the analysis does not focus on a single maximal performance value, owing to the constraint of testing performance in a chamber and because it is not possible to unequivocally determine individual variation in maxima for voluntary behaviors. 10

The Obvious Conclusions

The study failed to find anything other than obvious conclusions. They failed to prove evolution. The closest they came to really addressing evolution came when they asked this question and gave the obvious answer:

What mechanisms determine these evolved differences? … We found that hummingbird species with greater body mass perform faster translations, centripetal accelerations, and rotations. However, within a species, heavier individuals tend to perform slower translations and centripetal accelerations. 11

In other words, hummingbirds are just like children. On the playground at a local elementary school, we observed 6th graders can run faster than 1st graders. We also noticed fat 6th graders are slower than skinny 6th graders. That’s no different than what they learned about hummingbirds.

Finally, Dakin concludes the study by saying,

An important next step is to determine how translations, rotations, and turns are used in other behavioral contexts and how suites of maneuvering behaviors are used by other flying animals. 12

Evolution Blinds Scientists

The real scientific tragedy, and our main point, is that because Dakin, et al., were so blinded by their obsession with evolution, they failed to see the value of their own research and data. They missed the opportunity of producing a really useful document.

Evolutionists claim that there is danger that creationism in education is damaging to science. Dakin’s study is actual evidence that it is evolutionism that really does damage science.

First, the study shows that the theory of evolution substitutes imagination for evidence. Evolutionists believe that if a scientist imagines something, it must be true even if there isn’t any evidence for it. They have been doing this ever since Darwin could not find the transitional fossils his theory demands. The excuse never changes. They admit they haven’t found the evidence—but that doesn’t mean the evidence doesn’t exist. Just be patient, they say, and someday the evidence will be found. It has been over 150 years that they have been looking for that evidence. How long do we have to wait before they admit there isn’t any evidence? They have faith the evidence will be found—but faith is not science.

Although the study determined the actual characteristics of the flights of various hummingbirds, it did not determine how those characteristics originated—nor could a reasonable person expect it to. Evolutionists have come to believe (erroneously) that they can infer how something that has never been observed to happen, really did happen.

So, the first reason why the theory of evolution is detrimental to science is that it confuses people about what science really is. Real science is a reliable means of determining the truth by experimentation, measurement, and observations which result in an unequivocal conclusion. Evolution is merely a consensus of opinion based on data which has multiple interpretations. It isn’t real science.

The second reason why the theory of evolution is damaging to science is that it diverts attention away from important discoveries.

Most of Dakin’s article explained how they took videos of the flight paths of different individuals and different species of hummingbirds, and examined them frame-by-frame to measure acceleration, deceleration, turning radius, and so on. They measured how such things as wing size, shape, flexibility, and weight-to-power ratios affect flight. That is real science which has real value. Unfortunately, because of their evolutionary obsession, they failed to realize the importance of what they learned.

A creationist would not have wasted time trying to figure out how the remarkable agility of hummingbirds evolved. A creationist would have taken the attitude that hummingbirds were designed by an intelligence far exceeding his own, and would have humbly tried to learn as much as possible about the principles of flight from the video data and analysis.

Admittedly, a creationist might have mentioned his belief in God; but how is that different from an evolutionist mentioning his belief in evolution? At least the creationist would have presented the data in a meaningful way relating form to function, and would not have cluttered up the report with all kinds of conjecture about how those functions could have evolved by chance.

The Value of Science

Like it or not, savvy engineers working in the defense industry will probably access the raw data from Dakin’s study and put it to practical use in the design of the next generation of fighter aircraft. Anyone who has ever watched an aerial dogfight between hummingbirds defending their territory can’t help but admire their agility and realize how valuable that ability would be in a combat situation. Money will be spent to give military aircraft that agility.

Then, once we have learned how to mimic that agility in military aircraft, that technology will be transferred to the civilian sector where it will be used to design more fuel-efficient personal aircraft which will have the ability to fly at low levels in an urban environment. Those science fiction movie scenes with all those airplanes flying in formation between buildings will become a reality.

Dakin’s study would have been much more helpful if it had presented the data in a more useful format, organized by specific parameters rather than biological species; but their futile attempt to use the data to prove evolution prevented them from presenting the data in the most valuable way. Their measurements are valuable; despite the fact their conclusions about evolution are worthless.

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Footnotes:

1 Peter C. Wainwright, Science, 09 Feb 2018, “How hummingbirds stay nimble on the wing”, pp. 636-637, http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6376/636.full
2 ibid.
3 ibid.
4 ibid.
5 ibid.
6 ibid.
7 Dakin, et al., Science, 09 Feb 2018, “Morphology, muscle capacity, skill, and maneuvering ability in hummingbirds”, pp. 653-657, http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6376/653.full
8 ibid.
9 ibid.
10 ibid.
11 ibid.
12 ibid.