Rampaging Radishes


© Br. Alfred Brousseau, Saint Mary’s College.

Wild radish

Raphanus sativus; Wild Radish

We have previously shown that it is great news for creationists when new species arise quickly—see Speedy Species Surprise. A less common, but still exciting way in which new species can arise quickly is when two previously separate species hybridize (breed together).

This is what happened, it seems, when the California wild radish (genus Raphanus) arose. Two pre-existing radish species, Raphanus raphanistrum (a weed known locally as jointed charlock) and R. sativus (cultivated radish), interbred to give rise to this important weed species.1 This was demonstrated by way of greenhouse breeding experiments and genetic comparisons.2,3,4

Such blending together, or merging, of two sets of genetic information, has nothing to do with creating new genetic information, of course, which is what evolution is supposed to be about. To use an encyclopedia analogy; if one takes a 1990 Encyclopedia Britannica and a 2000 edition, and blends the information in them to create an edition that has the information of both, or even contributions from both, one is not creating any new information that was not already in existence. Yet evolution requires masses of totally new information to arise; information (like that coding for wings, lungs, brains, etc.) which previously did not exist anywhere.

It appears that the new radish species has been so successful that it has in some regions of the state driven both of the parent species to exinction. Subray Hegde of the University of California, Riverside, and his colleagues say that it’s hard to see this sort of ‘swamping of existing species by new hybrids’ out in the field, precisely because ‘it happens within just a few generations’.2,3,4

Note, too, that the very fact that these radishes can interbreed suggests that they are descended from the same created kind, anyway.5 So what we are observing is the re-mingling into one gene pool of information that was previously unmingled. And this is information which was, before that, combined in a single gene pool at the beginning (though not necessarily in the same combination).

However, when research findings such as these are presented to the public, an evolutionary ‘spin’ is often put on the results, even by the researchers themselves, who are apparently unaware of (or deliberately ignore?) the true significance of what has been observed. And that is just what happened in this case, as the following two quotes show (my emphasis in bold font). The Evolution paper claims its analysis ‘demonstrates that California wild radish has now become an evolutionary entity separate from both of its parents’.2 And one of the paper’s co-authors, Norman Ellstrand, is reported as saying the hybrid radish ‘can serve as an excellent model organism for evolutionary studies.’4

But how can this be? The actual observations (as opposed to the evolutionists’ interpretation) show there’s been no new genetic information generated, but simply the rapid appearance of a ‘new’ form of Raphanus with a mixture of pre-existing genes, and this hybrid happens to be better-suited to the Californian environment than either of its parents. Such rapid changes have surprised evolutionists, but are exactly what creationists would expect.

In fact, these sorts of changes happen so quickly, that in the thousands of years since Creation there may well have been many cycles of mingling and unmingling (in various combinations) in a variety of creatures. The famous ‘Darwin’s finches’ have been shown to be able to hybridize to form new species that are better suited to certain environments than their parent species.

Incidentally, observations of natural selection in the same species, acting on beak lengths, have shown a definite change in response to environmental pressures. But a change in the environment back to the previous conditions will cause the populations to swing back again in regard to that parameter—in other words, a shifting back and forth, but no net directional change.6

Summary and conclusion

Once again, we see the difference between real biological changes and those postulated by evolution.

These real ones

a) do not add new information to the biosphere

b) do not require ‘millions of years’; in fact they happen astonishingly quickly.

Published: 10 October 2006

References and notes

  1. While cultivated radish (R. sativus) bears pink, purple and white flowers and has a swollen root, jointed charlock (R. raphanistrum) bears yellow flowers (occasionally also white) and has a slender root. The hybrid California wild radish bears a mixture of white, purple, pink, bronze and yellow flowers, and is uniformly intermediate between the cultivated radish and jointed charlock in root size and shape. Return to text.
  2. Hegde, S.G., Nason, J.D., Clegg, J.M., and Ellstrand, N., The evolution of California’s wild radish has resulted in the extinction of its progenitors, Evolution 60(6), 1187–1197, June 2006. Return to text.
  3. Evolution: Rise of the radish upstarts; (in ‘Research Highlights’) Nature 442(7100):226–227, 20 July 2006. Return to text.
  4. UCR researchers determine genetic origin of California Wild Radish, University of California News, 13 July 2006. Return to text.
  5. Plant breeders have been able to cross a radish (Raphanus) with a cabbage (Brassica), which again indicates descent from the same created kind. See Batten, D., Eat your Brussels sprouts!, Creation 28(3):36–40, 2006. Return to text.
  6. See my review of Jonathan Weiner’s The Beak of the Finch. Return to text.