I tried. I really did. I searched Google and Wikipedia for keywords – every variation I could think of – that could demonstrate how insect metamorphosis such as the life stages from caterpillar to butterfly does not disprove the theory of evolution. As a Creationist, it’s important that I understand the thinking behind opposing views before trying to write a counterargument. In this case, there wasn’t a lot to go on. Evolutionists have been strangely silent on this issue.
There were a handful of scientific explanations dating all the way back to to 17th century and as recently as last year that attempted to tackle the concept. Most were clear that they had holes in their own explanations. Some had already been completely debunked. A few had been removed from scientific journals because they couldn’t stand up to peer review.
As an credible biologist today would tell you, there’s no accepted explanation for the process of metamorphosis fitting into the theory of evolution. The closest thing to a universally accepted response is that 280 million years ago a chain reaction of mutations occurred that now account for 40%-60% of the species development processes around the world.
The reason that metamorphosis does not disprove evolution isn’t rock solid evidence. It isn’t from a lack of effort; scientists have been tackling the question for centuries and continue today to understand it. No, the real reason that metamorphosis does not disprove evolution is because it would cause a cataclysmic demolition of the most commonly accepted worldview. Today’s society isn’t ready to abandon evolutionary theory any faster than 16th century society trying to abandon the Ptolemaic model of geocentrism.
It’s common for Creationists to point to Charles Darwin’s own words and apply them to metamorphosis:
IF it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.
Evolutionary scientists have regretted these words for decades. They say that Darwin should not have made such an absolute statement because there is clear evidence that some organs and even species themselves developed without slight modifications but rather through holistic changes to their biology brought about by mutations that worked in their favor. In the case of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, the series of slight modifications that would have had to transpire would have had to occur simultaneously… literally thousands of them… across multiple species… and the accelerated evolutionary transitions would have had to stop abruptly… and…
The list goes on and on.
There is one theory floating around today that is the closest that scientists have come to offering a feasible explanation. According to Scientific American:
Perhaps 280 million years ago, through a chance mutation, some pro-nymphs failed to absorb all the yolk in their eggs, leaving a precious resource unused. In response to this unfavorable situation, some pro-nymphs gained a new talent: the ability to actively feed, to slurp up the extra yolk, while still inside the egg.
It is a wonderful theory, not because it might actually be true, but because it is just enough to suspend the disbelief of those who would start to question evolutionary theory if they weren’t blinded by the masses. Evolution simply doesn’t work to explain many of today’s most pressing questions. The more that biologists learn, the more they have to continue to patch holes in the theory. Unfortunately, they are blinded by precedence and the risk of their worldview crashing (not to mention nefarious outside forces at work) so they’re still, for the most part, following along the lines of “evolution works because it explains most of what we can observe in animals today.”
What you won’t read in any evolutionary science publication is that 40%-60% of the species known to man could not possibly have evolved under any circumstance. They can take the evolution of the eye, for example, through the various evolutionary steps from where we are today all the way back to the simple eyespot, but nobody can explain why the eyespot evolved in the first place. If there was no organ that was capable of detecting light, how did an ancient organ evolve in the first place? Was it a “speculative evolution” – in other words, did it evolve because the DNA thought that light might exist and therefore something needed to be built in order to detect it?
There is a more important component to Darwin’s Difficulties of the Theory that is often overlooked:
It is now known that some animals are capable of reproduction at a very early age, before they have acquired their perfect characters; and if this power became thoroughly well developed in a species, it seems probable that the adult stage of development would sooner or later be lost; and in this case, especially if the larva differed much from the mature form, the character of the species would be greatly changed and degraded.
In layman’s terms, what Darwin is correctly asserting is that the theory of evolution takes the path of least resistance to achieve the goal. If it is assumed that somehow larva emerged from eggs before they had developed into their “perfect character” (in this case, a butterfly) and were able to survive for sufficient amounts of time, they would have genetically abandoned the butterfly stage altogether over time. If the 280 million year assertion is utilized for the argument, then by now the larval stages would have evolved reproductive organs rather than the painstaking process of evolving the pupal stage of transition into their perfect character.
Darwin’s most correct statement is that most if not all butterflies would have become obsolete by now and would have been degraded. They would not exist, not after 280 million years. A reproducing larva is more sustainable from an evolutionary perspective than the complex process required to keep the species alive today.
Normally, time is the big equalizer when it comes to attacks on Creationism. Evolutionists have the perception that, given enough time that humans are unable to fully contemplate, anything is possible. In the case of the butterfly, time is not on their side. One might even argue that it acts as evidence for the young earth theory… but that’s a whole other topic.
(This article is part of the Compassion and Fear Series)