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The Lie: Evolution


Butterflies & Moths--Exquisitely Designed

by Anonymous

Lepidoptera--the butterflies and moths--comprise one of the most diverse orders of organisms on this planet. About 165,000 species have been named thus far (1), with perhaps as many again yet to be named. They are found on all continents of the world, from sea-level to high mountains, and in habitats ranging from the bitter cold of the Siberian steppes to the humid heat of tropical rainforests. Most species are terrestrial but some are largely aquatic, the larvae feeding on waterweeds and in at least one instance even the adult female dwelling underwater (2). Only in truly marine environments are the lepidoptera virtually absent.

Because of their beautiful and complex wing patterns, lepidoptera are perhaps the most familiar of all insects, and their lifecycle is well known. The ova (eggs) are usually laid on a plant which the hatching larvae (caterpillars) utilise as food. After continuing growth through a number ofmoults, the larva changes into a pupa (chrysalis). It then rests while its body is reorganised. The adult moth or butterfly emerges from the pupal shell, expands its soft crumpled wings and once it has dried and hardened, takes to the air to seek a mate and begin the cycle anew.

Changes necessarily designed

The larva is thus the stage of the life cycle dedicated to eating and growing, whereas the adult is the stage dedicated to dispersal and reproduction. The two stages have enormously different body plans to facilitate such different functions. The pupa is therefore remarkable, as, it "bridges the gap" between them. A larva will typically have a strong jawed capsule-like head, three pairs of true legs and a series of pseudo-legs, and may be camouflaged through various colour patterns and shapes or covered with protective tufts of hairs. All of these are lost when the larva changes into a fragile sedentary pupa, usually enclosed in a cocoon, whose internal tissues are then largely broken down into a liquid and formed anew. This astonishing transformation begs the question: how could it possibly have evolved? Evolution is supposed to proceed through tiny incremental mutations over very long periods of time. But for the larva to transform successfully into an adult, it must have a huge number of carefully controlled changes programmed into its genes and activated at the right time all in one generation. What advantage would it be for a larva to have evolved the ability to change into a pupa, but nothing further? Or for the pupa to have evolved the ability to break down its body into a "soup" but not have the genes to direct the formation of the adult? And how could it have hit upon such an extraordinarily different adult body plan by sheer chance? No, this highly complex array of changes and the genetic information that directs it speaks of deliberate design.

Nothing works unless everything works

The lepidoptera show many examples of ingenious design. Take the case of Cerura vinula, the puss moth, so called on account of its thick white scaling reminiscent of a cat's fur. Before the larva changes into a pupa it chews up fragments of bark and mixes them with silk to form an extremely hard, tough and well camouflaged cocoon. But it makes one end of the cocoon thinner than the other. Once it becomes a pupa inside the cocoon, its head bears a strong keel-like device. When the moth is ready to emerge from inside the pupal shell, this device is thrust against the thinner end of the cocoon to rupture it. The moth then emerges from the pupal shell and spits out a fluid which softens the weakened cocoon enough to permit it to escape (3). The abilities of the larva, pupa and adult--each of which is controlled by different sets of genes - thus work in unison to achieve an end that is vital to the continuation of the life-cycle. There is no time for millions of'years of supposed evolution: the puss moth must have all these faculties fully developed and available within one generation in order to survive.

Engineering skills

The larvae of many species of lepidoptera have an amazing ability to modify their immediate environment: they roll up a leaf of their food plant to form a tube and feed from within it, concealed from the view of predators. Within the tube the microclimate is not only more suitable for the larva, but the great reduction of light may impede the leaf cells from producing substances that are unpalatable to it (4). But how does a tiny larva manipulate a leaf hundreds of times larger than itself? It is roughly equivalent to a human manoeuvring a 100ft-long object weighing nearly 11 tons! The larva of Caloptilia serotinella, the cherry leaf roller moth, does so utilising the special properties of the silk it spins. Starting near the tip of a cherry leaf, it lays down hundreds of short lengths of silk, stretching each slightly as it does so. The elastic properties of these many lengths generate a combined force far greater than the larva alone could ever achieve. Furthermore, the larva periodically nibbles part of the midrib of the leaf, weakening it and facilitating the rolling process. The result obtained by the larva thus depends upon the combined action of a number of factors: the silk must have particular elastic properties; the process must be started from a particular point; the silk strands must be laid in a particular way so that they work in unison and not in competition; and the leaf must be weakened at particular points to uqrist the procesa. rhis process bears the hallmarks of a careful plan with a beneficial endpoint in view. but haw could an unintelligent larva possibly have developed it or have comprehended the endpoint?

Moth-eaten treasures

Not all Icpidoptera larvae feed on green plants. The family Tineidae includes the socalled clothes moths, such as Tinea hc//ionella and Tineola bisselliella. These species specialize in feeding upon soiled substances formed from keratin, such as wool, fur, hair, skin and horn. In order to digest these substances, the larvae have
enzymes that can break down the crosslinked polypeptide of keratin. These enzymes are not known to occur in the larvae of other families of lepidoptera, so how is it that these Tineidae do have them and how did they arise? An enzyme is an example of an irreducibly complex mechanism. It is highly specific in its chemical shape and action; a part-enzyme will not work and can confer no benefit on the larva. For the larva to feed on keratin successfully, it would have had to acquire the genes responsible for the manufacture of a complex, fully-formed enzyme all at once.

Killer caterpillars

The larva of the Australian butterfly Liphyra brassolis has an equally specialized diet: it feeds on the grubs of the green tree-ant, Oecophylla smaragdina. It is, however, an extremely unwelcome intruder in the nest of these ferocious ants, and for it to survive to complete its lifecycle it has to have some extraordinary defences against them. The larva is very flat and is armoured with a hard, tough, oval outer shell (5, 6). Unlike most lepidoptera, when the larva pupates it does not shed its larval skin; instead it pupates within it in order to retain the protective shell. When the butterfly emerges, it is covered with a dense layer of loose white scales which protect it from being damaged by the ants while it makes its way out of the nest. Any remaining scales are lost during flight. It is clear that these defences must all be in place, fully formed, for the butterfly to survive at all.

Icon of Evolution Theory

In the past, evolutionists have attempted to use the peppered moth, Biston betularia, as an example of evolution in action. The peppered moth is typically white with a few dark lines and a sprinkling of dark dots, but occasionally partially or wholly black forms occur. The black forms became much more frequent for a period in some areas in the UK where industrial pollution was blackening the tree trunks. It was claimed that the moths normally rest on tree trunks, where birds could easily spot the typical form against the dark background, whereas the black form had a selective advantage. In contrast, on unpolluted tree trunks the typical form would be well camouflaged against pale lichens and the black form would show up conspicuously. More recent studies have, however, shown this to be merely an alluring fable. For a start, the peppered moth does not normally rest on tree trunks. Furthermore, in the USA a change in the frequency of the different forms occurred in the - absence of perceptible changes in the local lichen floras (7). The changes in frequency of the forms of the moth appear instead to be correlated with changes in concentrations of atmospheric sulphur dioxide. To this day the peppered moth remains the peppered moth, capable of a degree of variation to cope with different environments, but still just a single species, biston betularia.

Moth proof treasures

It may come as a surprise to to learn that lepidoptera are mentioned in the Bible. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, taught his followers, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and Caterpillars steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" Matt 6:19-21. The egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to, butterfly to egg cycle, with the irreducible complexities of its bio-molecules,, could not evolve gradually. Everything about it from genes and gene switches to forms and behaviour shout design.

1. Robinson, G.S., et al., 1994, Small, Moths of South-East Asia, pp. 1-309. The Natural History Museum, London ISBN 983-9681-13-3.
2. Acentria ephemerella, the water veneer moth. Life history summarised in Goater, B., 1986, British Pyralid Malra - A Guide to their Identification, pp 1-175, Harley Books, Colchester England. ISBN 0946589 08 9.
3. South, R., 1972 (new edn), The Moths, of the British Isles, ser. I, pp 1-427- Warne & Co., London. ISBN 0 723200001 7
4. Fitzgerald, T.D., 1995, Caterpillar. Roll Their Own, Natural History 4: 30-37
5. D'Abrera, B., 1990, Butterflies of Australian Region, pp 1-416. Hill House, Melbourne & London.ISBN 0 947352 02 3
6. Murawski, D.A., 2003, Killer Caterpillars, National Geographic June 2003: 100-111
7. Grant, B.S., Owen, D.F. & Clarke, C.A., 1996, Parallel Rise and Fall Melanic
Peppered Moths in America and Britain, Journal of Heredity 87: 351-357.

Pamphlet 348 by R. Cambridge, FRES, Sept. 2003

Creation Science Movement PO