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New Scientist’s “Evolution With Climate” Error

The February 22, 2003, edition of New Scientist magazine carried an article called “Squirrels evolve as the world heats up.” The story maintains that a mammal species has for the first time been observed to evolve in order to adapt to climate changes. It is described in New Scientist how some living things migrate to cold, polar regions in order to avoid the effects of global warming. The claim is then made that instead of migrating, squirrels have genetically adapted to climate changes. Yet New Scientist is in error: there is no evolution in the changes of which it speaks.

The species of squirrel used in the study is the red squirrel, which lives in Canada. The Alberta University biologist Andrew McAdam and his colleagues spent 10 years studying at which period of the year squirrels gave birth and recorded their findings. The researchers observed three to four squirrel generations during the 10-year period, and stated that present day squirrels gave birth 18 days earlier than their great, great-grandmothers. In this way, squirrels react to climatic warming by giving birth an average of six days earlier a year.

Evolutionists regard this change as “evolution” and maintain that that this can be seen not just in the squirrels’ behaviour, but also in their genetic material. Yet this claim is not a valid one, because the researchers have not directly observed any genetic change. The basis of this claim is an analytical method based on statistics. The New Scientist article says:

The researchers used a statistical technique to work out how much of the change is down to evolution and how much is due to individual flexibility. They calculated the normal variation in birth dates for each generation and then identified squirrels that were giving birth much earlier than average. If the parents had the same trait, it was likely to have been inherited. The technique, which is commonly used in agriculture, attributes about 15 percent of the shift towards early birth to evolution.

These statistical analyses provide no evidence of evolution. The theory of evolution rests its claim that species evolve on mutations which take place in their genes. For this reason, if it is suggested that 15% percent of the change in squirrels’ behaviour is based on genetic alteration, then it is essential to show which genes this genetic change came about in, and by means of which mutations. Whereas researchers have not identified any particular gene concerned with time of birth. Demonstrating that an early born female squirrel also gave birth to an early born pup is not enough to demonstrate that this came about my mutation and that it is a change handed on from generation to generation. In short, these analyses do not demonstrate any “evolution,” and merely prove that the people carrying out the research are trying to come up with an evolutionary result, even if only a forced and imaginary one.

The researchers also ascribe an imaginary propulsive force to this imaginary evolution. In the article Stan Boutin, one of McAdam’s team, describes the so-called propulsive force of this so-called evolution in these terms:

The driving force for the squirrels” evolution is that climate change has led to a steady increase in the amount of food available in spring. So females that can give birth earlier than others are more likely to have babies that survive. These early borns have a head start on their young peers, making them bigger and more independent when autumn comes…

A constant increase in food quantities may give rise to increasingly large squirrels as autumn approaches. Yet this cannot be a propulsive force of evolution because there have been no findings to show that the squirrels that this force is alleged to influence have undergone a mutation that has provided them with an advantage. There can be no talk of genetic change in the absence of mutation, and no talk of evolution without genetic change. If it is suggested that there is a propulsive force bringing about evolution in this example, then it must be shown which mutations apply. Yet as we have made clear above, these mutations exist only in the minds of the researchers themselves.


This change seen in squirrels is not an example of evolution. Living things possess the ability to adapt to climatic conditions. This is well known, and it has been proven many times that it cannot bring about evolution. The statistical analyses put forward for the claim that climatic changes led to genetic change in squirrels have no evolutionary significance. Until the gene which controls this behaviour alteration and the mutations that took place in it during this 10-year period are identified, the claim can go no further than being a fairy tale.

It remains to say that even if there were a mutation which alters the time squirrels give birth, that would still not constitute proof of evolution. The theory requires mutations to produce new genetic information, new organs, and new biochemical structures. In other words, mutations must bring about “vertical development.” Even if it were to do with a mutation, a change in when squirrels give birth, on the other hand, would not mean the emergence of a new organ, a new system or a new biochemical structure. It would only be a “horizontal variation,” for which reason it cannot be described as “evolution.”

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