Click here to view CMI's position on climate change.
Also Available in:
This article is from
Creation 25(3):31, June 2003

Browse our latest digital issue Subscribe

Evolution revolution

Stick insect research upsets one of evolutionists’ long-held beliefs

by Philip Bell

Stick insect with wings

As a Christian university student, the lack of evidence for insect-flight evolution contributed to my rejection of evolution, in favour of biblical creation.

I was therefore recently intrigued to read that the latest research on this topic is causing evolutionists to ‘rewrite the rules’ of evolution.

Evolution is not meant to run in reverse—at least, this is a basic principle of evolution that is widely accepted. Evolutionists believe that complex genetic instructions, once encoded in a creature’s DNA (by natural selection of random mutations1), are unlikely to be undone,2 even less likely to be regained later on. A recent report on stick insects in the prestigious journal Nature is forcing evolutionists to rethink this fundamental belief.3 

Today’s stick insects (or phasmids, as scientists call them) show great variety; e.g. some have wings and some do not. The conventional idea holds that a winged insect ancestor gave rise to different groups of winged stick insects, with many of these later evolving to a wingless condition.4 From their studies of DNA in 59 stick insect species, the authors of this latest research came to a completely different conclusion: wings were lost in a ‘primitive’ ancestor of stick insects, reappeared at least four times (independently), then were lost yet again on two or more occasions!

So, these exquisitely complex structures we call wings (not to mention the associated muscles, ligaments and nervous control systems) are now said to have evolved, devolved and ‘re-evolved’ several times.

Moreover, these ups and downs in the evolution of insect flight allegedly spanned 300 million years, with periods of winglessness lasting up to 100 million years. No wonder that this ‘re-evolution’ in evolutionary thinking is being described as a ‘revolution’!5 Genetic information for wings, no longer serving any selective purpose, should be lost and/or should degenerate through disuse by virtue of mutations.6 Aware of this, the authors speculate that the instructions for wings were somehow linked to those for legs, so they could be switched on again later. Shoe-horned by their unquestioning belief in evolution, they fail to question whether these non-functioning genes could really have existed for so long!


Of course, this demonstrates just how ‘plastic’ evolutionary theory is, as contradictory data are turned into evidence for the theory! As we have repeatedly stated before, loss of information (wings in this case) is not evolution, which would require new information.7 Switching on existing information (even if this had occurred) would not explain where those instructions for making wings came from in the first place.

References and notes

  1. Mutations are rare genetic mistakes that may occur when cells divide or when DNA is damaged by something harmful in the environment, such as radiation or toxic chemicals. Return to text.
  2. This principle was first formulated by Belgian biologist Louis Dollo and thus called ‘Dollo’s Law’. See: Dollo’s Principle: Irreversability [sic] of evolution, in Milner, R. (Ed.), The encyclopedia of evolution, Facts on File, Oxford, p. 143, 1990. Return to text.
  3. Whiting, M.F., Bradler, S. and Maxwell, T., Loss and recovery of wings in stick insects, Nature 421: 264–267, 2003. Return to text.
  4. Approximately 60% of living species of stick insects lack wings. Return to text.
  5. One commentator quotes the lead author of the Nature article as follows: ‘I remember sitting down with entomologists [insect experts] and hearing them say “impossible, impossible, impossible”? … [but] re-evolution is probably more common than we thought.’ See Jones, N., Stick insect forces evolutionary rethink, newscientist.com, 16 January 2003. Return to text.
  6. As there would be no selection against mutations in unused genes (for wings), mutations would accumulate in these genes so that they would become completely scrambled and no longer able to specify how to make wings. With such a long period proposed (100 million years), this would be inevitable. Return to text.
  7. CMI has repeatedly pointed this out—see, for example:  Wieland, C.Beetle bloopers, Creation 19(3):30, 1997; Wieland C., Muddy waters, Creation 23(3):26–29, 2001. See also the fascinating video: From a Frog to a PrinceReturn to text.

Readers’ comments

Philip R.
In response to James H. and Philip Bell, "loss of information is not evolution" is not a case of misstating the theory, but of the author stating facts, even if those facts are not recognised or accepted by evolutionists. As such, it is not a straw-man argument, because it's not attributed to the evolutionists.
However, I'd suggest that it IS correct to say that evolutionists do say "that structures can be gained or lost, and complexity can go up or down", and that claiming that this is incorrect on the basis of it being "a very blatant claim of 'heads I win, tails you lose' " is not a rebuttal, because that is very much one of the problems with evolution—that it explains opposite outcomes equally as well (and therefore explains nothing). They DO have a "heads I win, tails you lose" mentality. See Darwinian explanations are too flexible to be useful (Skell);
The day after this article was posted here, the next article was posted, Rails derail evolution, in which it is reported that evolutionists claim that the loss of flight of rails is evidence of evolution. And of course there are many other such examples.
James H.
"loss of information is not evolution"

You are misstating the theory, as it says that structures can be gained or lost, and complexity can go up or down, if it helps the organism to survive. It doesn't help our cause to make strawman arguments, which is the same thing they do against us.
Philip Bell
Not so. With respect, what you have written is not advocated by any major evolutionary theorist, for it would be a very blatant claim of "heads I win, tails you lose"; i.e. whatever the evidence, it supports evolution. Evolution does not entail multiple increases and decreases in genetic information specifying for de novo structures.
Please read this review of Lee Spetner's book Not by chance! in which it is stated: In a memorable turn of phrase, [Spetner] says that anyone who thinks that an accumulation of mutations (information-losing processes) can lead to macroevolution (a massive net gain of information) ‘is like the merchant who lost a little money on every sale but thought he could make it up on volume.’
Philippus S.
Evolution revolution? Not even a revolution can save them, only Jesus Christ can.
Edmond C.
Casting evolutionary thought aside, as we know it is impossible at this point, this discovery actually gives us some insight into God. That is, God anticipated and foresaw what challenges these creatures would have and built in the instructions for mechanisms that would adapt to environmental challenges. This, is much more exciting than billions of years of trial and error. It also tells us how much we can trust our creator's knowledge. God not only foresaw what creatures would need for their survival, he also foresaw what humans would need for forgiveness. And so this discovery can help us to trust God when he said in Ephesians 1:4 that "he chose us in him before the foundation of the world". Our God's knowledge is beyond our comprehension, but his creation shouts to us, even in its broken state, that he is completely trustworthy and good.

Comments are automatically closed 14 days after publication.