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The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe — A Preview

Granville Sewell asked me to post this:

“The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe”
A Preview of W.E.Loennig’s Part II
By Granville Sewell

Darwin’s story of how the giraffe got its long neck is perhaps the most popular and widely-told story of evolution. It is popular because it seems plausible: giraffes with slightly longer necks enjoyed a slight selective advantage in reaching the higher leaves of trees, and so over the ages these slight neck elongations accumulated, resulting in the modern giraffe. In fact, I used the giraffe story myself in my Mathematical Intelligencer article (at www.discovery.org/csc) as an example of purely quantitative change, that natural selection possibly could explain, as opposed to the origins of new organs and new systems of organs.

Biologist and geneticist W.E.Loennig has written a detailed, thoroughly-researched study, “The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe”, which shows that almost everything about this popular story is either false or unsubstantiated. In Part I (my English translation is linked from www.discovery.org/csc) Loennig shows that there is no fossil evidence to support the idea of a gradual elongation of the neck from the giraffe’s Okapi-like ancestors, and that the elongation required much more than simple quantitative changes: new features were required, for example, to handle the much higher blood pressure required by the long neck.

Loennig has now completed the second and final part of this detailed study, and I have made a first-draft English translation (actually, his English is better than my German, but I had more time on my hands!). The German version is already available (www.weloennig.de…), the English translation will be linked from www.discovery.org/csc in a few weeks. In Part II, Loennig looks at many other details of this widely-told story and finds them also not supported by the facts. He discusses the alternative of intelligent design, and answers the charge that it is not falsifiable, and in fact concludes:

“…the scientific data that are available to date on the question of the origin of the giraffe make both gradual as well as saltational evolution by mutations and natural selection so extremely improbable that in any other area of life such improbability would strongly motivate us to look for a feasible alternative. For biologists committed to a materialistic world view, however, an alternative is simply not considered. For them, any valid and even the most convincing objections against the synthetic theory of evolution are nothing but open problems that must be solved in the future entirely within the confines of the theory. This is still true even when the trend is clearly running against them, that is, when the problems for the theory become greater and greater with new scientific data. This essential unfalsifiability, by the way, places today’s evolutionary theory outside of science, one of whose defining characteristics is that theories can only be considered scientific if they are falsifiable, and can list clear criteria by which they could potentially be falsified.”

I have found many other mathematicians, engineers and physicists who, like me, find the idea that the struggle for survival could explain everything in the living world to be manifestly preposterous. Yet most are reluctant to criticize this idea openly, because they see entire libraries full of scientific books and journals supporting the idea, and they wonder, is it really possible to write so much in support of an idea that is false? For these people I recommend reading every page of this 100-page work; when they are finished, they will understand that, yes, it is possible.

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22 Responses to The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe — A Preview

  1. Here is a pictorial slide show of the problems confronting giraffe evolution:

    evolutionfairytale

  2. Great post. In reading this, it’s just come to mind that I haven’t seen any “missing link x found” or typical Darwin-worship stories lately. Are they running out of material?

    scordova, I’ve seen that site you link to before – hilarious! I’ve sent it to all my friends. My favorite is the pic of the wolf-like creature, pondering a return to the sea.

  3. I have found many other mathematicians, engineers and physicists who, like me, find the idea that the struggle for survival could explain everything in the living world to be manifestly preposterous.

    It is preposterous, and self-evidently ludicrous in light of what is now known about the complexity, information content, and functionally-integrated machinery of life. ID proponents are often accused of not knowing enough about evolutionary theory. The problem is that they know too much about it, and a whole lot more about how stuff in the real world works.

  4. Do you not feel the giraffe is related (common descent wise) to the okapi?

    If design is the reasonable explanation, are there more details to offer? (like where, when, etc)

  5. “Do you not feel the giraffe is related (common descent wise) to the okapi?”

    Sure it’s possible, but it takes a lot more than a feeling to demonstrate it. Is there a clear transitionary link between the two? What are the key differences that would have to be implemented to get from okapi to giraffe?

  6. The giraffe’s neck is an apparatus that can exist only if many other apparatuses
    of the giraffe’s body are proportioned.

    The giraffe’s heart must pump the blood to the head staying near 3 meters
    above. For this reason it is big and powerful, in fact its weight is near 11 Kg.

    To keep constant the blood pressure in the head, either when he is browsing at
    six meters high, or when he is drinking at the ground level, giraffe is endowed
    with a sophisticated system. He has got an arterial net named “rete mirabilis” that
    absorbs the blood in excess when giraffe lowers the head (for example when he
    is drinking) and avoid it retuning too quickly to the heart when he gets on.
    Moreover the jugular vein, passing trough the neck, is endowed of special valves
    making the blood to return smoothly toward the heart.

    The giraffe’s neck is long more than 2 meters and weights near 100 Kg. To
    balance such apparatus the entire body and the four legs (skeleton and muscles)
    must be aptly dimensioned to warrant the necessary static and dynamic
    equilibrium.

    It is absurd to think of such a neck (or any other apparatus) without considering
    the entire organism as a whole. Hence the giraffe’s neck as obtained by the simple
    random trigger of some genes is a non-sense explanation.

  7. Fross:

    “If design is the reasonable explanation, are there more details to offer? (like where, when, etc)”

    The irony in your asking the question is this: Darwinism presupposes the existence of all sorts of transition species leading from the Okapi to the Giraffe. So it says that, yes, we ought to find all these intermediate forms in the fossil record. That’s what it predicts, but nothing of the sort is found. Now according to ID, it is fairly unlikely that “intermediate” forms would be found. So—here’s the irony—you’re asking ID to produce exactly that which your theory predicts and fails to produce. ID would predict a *genetic* change, that, in the absence of DNA, can only be inferred.

  8. Those who support the idea of Darwinian gradualism and then point to one or two meager examples of fossils they feel represent transitional forms between species almost entirely miss the point: If gradualism were true, not only would the fossil record be abundant with transitional forms, it would consist of almost nothing BUT transitional forms, since a species is not the end product of something which nature had in mind, but is simply one member of a long evolutionary continuum which has been evolving and continues to evolve even now.

    The long-necked giraffe has been a favorite Darwinian just-so story, and I for one am glad to the reality-check which the Loennig paper seems to bring.

  9. Fross:
    Do you not feel the giraffe is related (common descent wise) to the okapi?

    Are you suggesting that science is done by having a feeling?

    Well I would feel empty just by saying the giraffe and okapi share a common ancestor without knowing if any mechanism can account for the observed physiological and anatomical differences.

    Fross:
    If design is the reasonable explanation, are there more details to offer?

    The 8-ball says “It is a possibility”. And I say it is a possibility worth exploring. I find that exciting!

  10. Fross wrote @ 4

    Do you not feel the giraffe is related (common descent wise) to the okapi?

    Do you feel that snakes are more closely related to crocodiles than to chickens?

  11. so I take that as a “no” to both my questions?

    Thanks

    BTW, I once went to Fossil Rim in TX and they had free roaming giraffes there. We were in a tiny Miata with the top down and those poor giraffes had to do the splits to get to the food we were offering them. Good times.

  12. Fross:
    so I take that as a “no” to both my questions?

    Only if you can’t read.

    No, I do not have a feeling about the giraffe & okapi sharing a common ancestor.

    Yes, there is a very distinct possibility that there will be more details as the research unfolds.

  13. The problem with orthodox darwinism, as shown by the adaptive evolution of the horse, is that rather than there being a single short direct line in which the intermediates fit, the procession is tree-like in that it contains collateral branches, vastly increasing the numbers of transitionals.

    What’s interesting here is that adaptive evolution is so clearly seen in the fossil record, yet constructive evolution where it’s needed in the case of the giraffes is totally absent. What peculiar rules of probability would leave the record absent in this way?

  14. If design is the reasonable explanation, are there more details to offer? (like where, when, etc)

    First, let’s assume front-loading and common ancestry leading from the Okapi to the Giraffe.

    Where. Africa, likely. I doubt that’s going to change due to an ID perspective.

    When. Assuming we can identify the front-loading mechanism it’s possible there might be an internal clock by which we may derive a closer estimate.

    How. Via front-loading gradualism is not required and a saltation event via the sudden introduction of latent CSI would result in the fossil record we have now.

    Why. With further understanding of the front-loading mechanism we might discover what triggers such saltation events–possibly an internal mechanism combined with environmental pressures.

    Of course, if we assume multiple LUCA’s and partial front-loading perhaps we might posit that something like the Giraffe was closer to the original form and the Okapi a later result?

    Yet, with front-loading it’s also possible that both creatures came from divergent lines yet the same type of genetic information was loaded, resulting in similar morphological features. Like whales and land mammals.

    So with design more lines of research are opened up.

    EDIT: Is it just me or do Darwinists have some sort of playbook they’re referencing? The latest trend seems to be “ID is a science stopper; they just say ‘it’s designed’ and nothing more can be done”. That’s obviously nonsense as can be seen from this one example where detecting design is just the starting point.

  15. With this front-loaded evolution, are you suggesting that the genetic information for each basic type of organism resides in bacteria, or in the bacteria that was living before the introduction of new forms?

    Also, when a new type appears does the genetic information for the previous get erased? If not, how could we tell whether it’s front loaded or vestiges of a long darwinian history?

    Also, in sexual types are you suggesting that both sexes happened to be triggered into existance at the same time. In other words, are you suggesting front-loaded evolution is also time released?

    And finally, would you assume therefore that natural selection has no role in constructive or intertype evolution apart from perhaps its conservative nature during the dry spells (stasis)?

  16. Hi,

    I have a question about the Okapi I was not able to find anywhere on the Internet.

    It seems the Okapi is part of the Giraffidae family. And it indeed shares similar features, like the tongue, the face, and the walk.

    BUt now I am thinking whether the Giraffe and the Okapi shared a common ancestor.

    So my question was does the Okapi have the same adaptation that would prevent the brain to blow up when it bents to drink water.
    The Giraffe has such a complex system to prevent it from hemorrhaging.

    If the Okapi doesn’t have such adaptations it would mean either, that the Okapi lost it, or it is not related to the Giraffe.

    I would be glad to have some insights on this.
    I already read the papers from this German scientist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig. But I didn’t find this info i was looking for.

    Thanks!

  17. [...] Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig of the Max-Planck Institute in Germany in the book entitled “The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe” (2011) that – Giraffes do not remain in a definite, narrowly bounded region and stretch their [...]

  18. [...] Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig of the Max-Planck Institute in Germany in the book entitled “The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe” (2011) estimates that of the expected “10,000 or more transitional links” between the okapi [...]

  19. [...] Geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig of the Max-Planck Institute in Germany in the book entitled “The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe” (2011) points out the problems with Dawkins illustration – From Dawkins’ portrayal one gets [...]

  20. [...] Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig of the Max-Planck Institute in Germany in the book entitled “The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe” (2011) points out the problems  with Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection: [...]

  21. [...] Geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig of the Max-Planck Institute in Germany in the book entitled The Evolution of the Long-Necked Giraffe, like Dawkins, candidly points to the fact that a “gradual series of intermediates in Darwin’s [...]

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