Tibetan snow lotus
A prized flower suffers ‘tall poppy’ syndrome1
The Tibetan Snow Lotus, Saussurea laniceps, is highly prized for its use in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine for the treatment of headaches, high blood pressure, and various other ailments. Every year at flowering time, Himalayan locals climb above altitudes of 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) to scour the rocky mountain slopes for it, harvesting the whole plant.
Increasingly locals have had to compete with other medicine-seekers, too, given the growing worldwide interest in alternative remedies. Tourists are also eager to souvenir rare plants from exotic locations.
Now because it’s the tallest plants that are harvested, being both easier to find and considered more potent, only the smaller plants are being left behind to produce seed. Therefore, only the smaller plants’ genes are making it through to the next generation. The result? Researchers have reported that the height of the snow lotus has nearly halved over the past century.2,3
This dramatic shrinking of the Tibetan Snow Lotus is being widely heralded as an ‘evolutionary change’.4 One agency has even ranked it as #2 in their “Seven signs of evolution in action”.5 In their preamble, they wrote: “British naturalist Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking 1859 book, The Origin of Species, proposed the theory that species evolve over time through the process of natural selection.” But the Tibetan Snow Lotus6 is most certainly not an example of ‘evolution in action’, as the observed change in the lotus population is not something that can ever have turned primordial ooze into plants and zoos. That’s because here, as always, natural selection7 can only remove existing genes; it cannot create new ones. And now that the Tibetan Snow Lotus population is losing the genes for taller plants (which likely set more seed than dwarf plants), its very existence is said to be under threat.8 All of this is very bad news for those who claim to see ‘evolution in action’, as the removal of genes by natural selection and extinction in no way explains how those genes arose in the first place. The Bible, however, explains exactly who we should thank for the snow lotus’s existence—and ours.9
References and notes
- The tall poppy metaphor is said to derive from a demonstration by the semi-legendary last Roman king Tarquin the Proud in response to a question from his youngest son Sextus Tarquinius who was looking to cement his power in Gabii. Tarquin wordlessly went into his garden, took a stick, and symbolically swept it across his flowers, thus cutting off the heads of the tallest poppies that were growing there. Sextus realised that his father wished him to put to death all of the most eminent people of Gabii, which he then did. Return to text.
- Law, W. and Salick, J., Human-induced dwarfing of Himalayan snow lotus, Saussurea laniceps (Asteraceae), PNAS 102(29):10218–10220, 2005. Return to text.
- Gorman, J., The case of the shrinking lotus, nytimes.com, 5 July 2005. Return to text.
- Le Page, M., Unnatural selection—Humans have become the biggest force in evolution, New Scientist 210(2810):32–37, 30 April 2011. Return to text.
- 7 signs of evolution in action—indications that species evolve through a process of natural selection, nbcnews.com, acc. 9 October 2014. (For a rebuttal see: Walker, T., MSNBC’s seven signs of evolution all point to creation, creation.com/nbc-7signs, 28 May 2009.) Return to text.
- Along with all other claimed examples of ‘evolutionary’ changes in living things—see creation.com/selection. Return to text.
- The snow lotus case study is an example of ‘conscious or unconscious human-induced natural selection’. Return to text.
- That phenomenon has been observed in fish populations, too. The smaller fish that escape fishermen’s nets have fewer, weaker offspring than their larger counterparts—see creation.com/smaller-fish. Return to text.
- For example, Genesis 1:11–13, 26–28. Return to text.