Monday 12 November 2012

Creation or evolution?

Over the past two days, I’ve been part of a Facebook correspondence about water bears (tardigrades). It started after Susan England posted a scanning electron micrograph of one of these unusual, yet common, creatures. We can’t see them without a microscope, but they are found in almost all aquatic, and damp terrestrial, habitats. Some of them have the remarkable power of being able to dry out and then come back to life (a capacity shared with a few small worms, some minute animals call rotifers “wheel animalcules”, and one species of midge larva, Polypedilum vanderplanki [why only one species of this ubiquitous group of insects?]). It was clear from the responses in the Facebook correspondence, that there was a fascination with water bears and yet very few of us even know of their existence. Henry Gosse knew all about rotifers (he wrote a classic tome about these invertebrates) and he also knew about the power of the microscope in bringing new worlds to our attention. However, he never faced the question “How did that adaptation evolve?” because he believed fervently in Creation as described in the book of Genesis.

I believe in evolution and also in our lack of comprehension of geological time scales, and have written about this in “Walking with Gosse: Natural History, Creation and Religious Conflicts”. Despite our differences, is there a similarity between myself and Henry Gosse? Clearly, the answer is yes. We are (were) both amazed by what we see (saw) around us and are both left with a sense of wonder – he, with the power of God and me with the extraordinary powers of chance mutations and selection. Qualitatively, I suggest that our sense of wonder is identical, so why the hassle over explanations?

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