Insect Taxonomy and Evolution
Carolos Linnaeus (1707-1778) originated one of the most long lasting classification systems in the world of science. Linnaeus developed binomial nomenclature for living things. He had an early fascination with botany, but his two term Latin scheme for classification of both plants and animals has earned him the title of Father of Taxonomy. He became one of the most acclaimed scientists of his time. He wrote the first edition of Systema Naturae in 1735, a major work which perfected the Linnaean system of taxonomy for the world of science. It was written in Latin, customary for scientific literature of his day. Many revisions and perfections followed during and after his lifetime. The Latin double name classification system persists to this day. He believed his classification system reflected the glory of God’s creation.
When Linnaeus developed the taxonomic system, the prevailing theory was that each species represented an independent act of creation by God. He stated, “The Earth’s creation is the glory of God as seen from the works of nature by Man alone. The study of nature would reveal the Divine Order of God’s creation, and it was the naturalist’s task to construct a natural Classification that would reveal this Order in the universe.” Linnaeus himself claimed, “God created, Linnaeus organized.”
In the 1735 Systema Naturae, Linnaeus listed only 10,000 species of organisms. As a botanist, we may understand why he included 6000 plants but only about 4000 specimens from the animal kingdom. Even in 1753 he believed the number of plants in the world would only reach 10,000. He classified 7700 plants during his lifetime. Two and one half centuries later, we now have 950,000 classified insects, with many more unclassified and undiscovered.
As we examine some of the 950,000 insect species classified under the Linnaean system, several insights come to mind. Each insect has its own design features, its own beauty, its own adaptations, and its own ability to reproduce. The reproduction process inspires reverent awe at the creative ingenuity necessary for the existence of each and every extant species on earth. It is understandable that the wonder of human reproduction garners substantially more attention. The reproductive process of the many diverse species on earth, insects included, is also worthy of our study. Zoologists know far more about such wonders than they do about the speculative and inferential processes supposedly driving the evolution of living species.
Concerning the inferential character of evolution, scientists must develop new and different apologetics for evolutionary theory on a continuing basis. Rumblings within the evolutionary camp are becoming louder that natural selection and mutation as a cornerstone of evolutionary theory may be eroding. Examples are evolutionary scientist Masatoshi Nei, winner of the prestigious Kyoto Prize, cognitive scientist Jerry Fodor, and the Altenberg 16. The latter group met in 2008 to discuss alternatives to natural selection. Lynn Margulis, wife of Carl Sagan stated, “Mutations create impaired offspring.” These few examples illustrate the necessity of “Modern Evolutionary Synthesis” supporters to acquire reinforcements in their battle against creationist and intelligent design theorists.
One need not be a student of the complete history of the development of the evolutionary paradigm to understand that evolutionists and creation/design proponents are locked in a very intense struggle. Contemporary evolutionists have transitioned to topics like gene flow, developmental plasticity, genetic accommodation, phenotypic innovation, and epigenetic inheritance to bolster their confidence, even as they admit that natural selection and mutation are inadequate to support the belief in the “Modern Evolutionary Synthesis,” today’s widely accepted account of the theory of evolution.
How does this discussion relate to our announced post topic of “Insect Evolution?” An extensive and helpful Wikipedia entry on “Insect Evolution” may give us clues that the evolutionists and creationist/ID proponents are far from being on the same page in their discussions. Numerous insect orders have appeared suddenly in the geologic record ever since the first insects appeared on this Earth in the later half of the Paleozic. Thereafter, the term “major radiation” occurs frequently. Major radiation means a sudden appearance and profusion of new forms. The term applies to the sudden appearance and profusion not only of insects, but also of virtually all living things in the fossil record of life on earth. In the case of sudden appearances, the term major radiation applies to the appearance of fish, reptiles, land plants, birds, and mammals.
Hundreds of book-length treatises on these topics exist. Most biological authors are evolutionists. They are untroubled by (1) sudden appearances, (2) lack of legitimate antecedents, (3) missing transitional species, and (4) stasis (unchangeableness) of existing species. All of the experts quoted above are evolutionists, some avowed atheists. Their commitment to the paradigm of evolution impels them to justify their evolutionary beliefs by revising or modifying the mainstays of evolutionary theory.
Intelligent Design, creationism, and evolution are not compatible belief systems. Evolutionary creationism, the chic moniker now used by theistic evolutionists to describe their brand of evolutionism, really does not differ from naturalistic evolution in any significant way. Naturalistic evolutionary processes, however, now seem inadequate to explain the incredible design complexity and functionality of earth life. Even more difficult to explain is the process of speciation (the appearance of new species) without the timely interventions of a Creator.