June 5, 2012
to be posted on nobabies.net and SilentNursery.com

Russell Garwood
Department of Materials
Harwell Complex
University of Manchester, UK

Dear Russell Garwood:
This is a friendly letter addressing you as a hero of the evolution-creation battle.  Evolution is due for a refinement, and as a significant voice (Russell Garwood Reach of to Defend Evolution NATURE vol. 485 no. 7398 May 17, 2012 page 281) I thought you might be interested.

A randomly mating population of animals cannot survive if the size is indefinitely large, environmental issues aside. If it were to get to be too big, speciation effects would drive it to extinction.  The argument (using chromosomes, but parts of chromosomes follow the same logic) has been dramatized by some good looking women at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVMGS44Bk3Y and I encourage you to look at it.  It should only take about seven pleasant minutes. 

There are two obvious ways to avoid the inevitable extinction this logic implies: evolution must limit population sizes or give up speciation.

I have never understood why evolution has been subjected to doubt.  When I was a third grade child my teacher, Mrs. Thompson, left lying about in the classroom a little book that simply laid out the fossil record.  I think it was not legal to teach evolution in that place and time, but when I poured over the pamphlet, it was quite clear that age had succeeded age and that the only evident driving force was natural selection. 

Decades later I learned that there were people who were quite serious about their problems with the idea of evolution.  I learned to treat their opinions with respect; it was a lot harder than figuring out evolution itself.  At last a friend with whom I had broached the topic remarked, “AFM.” 


“It’s a f_____g miracle.” 

I can live with that.  Life will always be mysterious.  There is more than one way to look at things, and one approach may be more appropriate for one person at one time than for another at another.  So there is no need to wonder whether the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden had tree rings.  The issue is just not evidence based.  Science is based on evidence.

When I studied Mrs. Thompson’s rather subversive publication there were obviously two success stories.  The first was the trilobites.  You know the joke about the Harvard professor who was giving a public lecture about the solar system.  An old lady said, “Professor, why do you say things that you know are not true?”

“What do you say is true?”

“The world is on the back of a big turtle.”

“And what is the turtle on?”

“It’s on the back of another turtle.”

“And what …”

“It’s no use, professor.  It’s turtles all the way down.”

Decades later I was on the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  I looked at a brochure describing the geology of the far wall.  I had always had the notion of seeing the great adventure of evolution laid out in a single panorama; there would be the Permian age with those animals represented in shadowed guise by fossils I could not see from a mile away.  There would be a large band where dinosaurs romped.  To my dismay, it was trilobites all the way down.  All right, if you craned your neck you could see the dark, lifeless Vishnu Schist right down at the river’s edge.  But pretty much is was a billion years, a mile thick layer, of trilobite history.  More recent eons had been long since eroded away.

The other success was the dinosaurs.  Comparable in durability with the trilobites, they had endured beyond imagination.  But they were very different.  The trilobites were interesting, but a bit boring.  They didn’t have much more going for them than roaches, if that much.  On the other had the dinosaurs had evolved into many spectacular forms.  It was not just their armor and size.  They munched plants and each other.  They ran, walked, waded, jumped, flew, swam and did battle.  They were exciting. 

All right, there were two extremes.  There were boring trilobites (personally I don’t think of them as boring, but there are not a lot of movies of the Godzilla persuasion about them) and there were the thrilling dinosaurs.  Yet they both had record smashing successes. 

So I am thinking, “Trilobites lasted so long because they did not have speciation turned on.  They could mate at random throughout the sea, sparing them any need for sophisticated mate recognition.  They varied from time to time, but they hardly evolved at all.”  And I am thinking, “Dinosaurs flourished because they were based on a very adaptable basic terrestrial frame.  You could tweak it any number of ways and it would still be able to function.  It’s sort of like hot rods.  Some cars simply lend themselves to being modified better than others do.”

I don’t know how you would test the idea that trilobites had essentially no tendency to undergo speciation.  There might be a way with sufficient data, but it isn’t going to happen soon.

On the other hand, there is ample evidence that modern animals do limit their population size.  They do it by lowering their fertility when they are insufficiently kin.  (On the Regulation of Populations of Mammals, Birds, Fish and Insects, Richard M. Sibly, Daniel Barker, Michael C. Denham, Jim Hope and Mark Pagel SCIENCE vol. 309 July 22, 2005 page 609)  And the same holds true, of course, for people.  (An Association between Kinship and Fertility of Human Couples Agnar Helgason et al. SCIENCE vol. 329 no. 5864 February 8, 2008 page 813 – 816 plus Human Fertility Increases with marital radius. Rodrigo Labourian and Antonio Amorim.  GENETICS volume 178 January 2008 page 603 along with Comment on “An Association Between the Kinship and Fertility of Human Couples,” Rodrigo Labouriau and António Amorim SCIENCE vol. 322, page 1634b December 12, 2008)

You suggest that scientists like paradigm shifts.  They certainly do, but only when the paradigm shift is safely in the past.  When it impends, they don’t just hate it.  They can’t wrap their minds around it.  I have not seen one run away screaming and wetting himself yet, but I have certainly watched them go pale.  (Well, yes, the run away screaming thing has happened, but I am gratified to say sphincter control has not been lost in my presence.) 

If you are still reading, you now know something that is in extreme contrast with the current paradigm of, “The bigger and more diverse the gene pool the better.”  And the new paradigm is supported by evidence.

So in your travels you must some day come to grips with this.  Brace yourself for the snide jibe, “Survival of the fittest, snigger, snigger, it would actually be extinction of the fittest.”

Let me know how you feel about this.


M. Linton Herbert MD 

There have been 56.499 visitors so far.

Home page.