“If Evolution Is True, Where Are The Unfit Animals?”

Where are the mutants? The losers? The freaks?
Intermediate forms, half-completed?
“Selected against”, as biology speaks,
The ones whom the “fit” ones defeated?

There ought to be millions, just wasting away;
Evolution requires variation!
But look at the creatures around us today—
A healthy and hale population!

Where are the creatures that didn’t last long,
Who will never enjoy reproduction?
If they’re not here to see, evolution is wrong!
It’s the obvious, simple deduction.

The inspiration for this one came from a comment somewhere, which I have not been able to locate again. The commenter wanted to know where two things were–all the intermediate forms, and all the variability from which nature selects. Where are the mottled (that is, not all white) polar bears, being seen by seals and thus ineffective hunters, starving to death? We ought to see all sorts of less-fit animals all around us if evolution is right!

And I want to reply to that commenter in two ways. The first, of course, is at the population level, to point out that this commenter has the situation completely backward. The reason those examples are few and far between is simply that the engine of selection has been at work culling them. The situation that this commenter claims disproves evolution is a direct consequence of evolution.

But at another level… Natural selection is (or can be) brutal. I myself am a mutant, though my differences are either neutral or useful; I have successfully passed on my genes. So, does the variability that natural selection works with exist in our world? Of course! I also, though, remember a little girl, the daughter of a friend of mine. She was also part of the variability in our population, and the reason you don’t see her around is that she died before you got the chance to see her. She was beautiful, and fatally flawed, and did not see her second month. Her particular mutation is precisely the sort of thing the commenter is saying is not seen. And really, it isn’t, unless you actually look for it.

Sometimes, you have to look quickly.


  1. weatherwax says

    And the old intermediate/ transitional forms question. What, exactly, do you think one looks like? All species are technically intermediate forms, evolving as the environment changes. All species were the standard form in their own time. They didn’t/ don’t exist for the purpose of evolving into a “higher” form.

  2. HFM says

    And of course, much of the variation isn’t obvious. A cheetah that’s a fraction slower than its brethren won’t be distinguishable to the untrained eye, but it will be more likely to starve nonetheless.

    I too am a mutant, though you wouldn’t know to look at me. My birth mother lasted just long enough to earn the title…and she passed it on. (Celiac. I was caught in time; she wasn’t.) My pissed-off immune system might even be an advantage in some contexts, but in a world with good sanitation and piles of cheap wheat to put in damn near everything, I’ve got a Darwinian target on my head.

  3. csrster says

    Of course what would be really cool would be if some scientists went out into the field and actually studied and measured stuff like variation and reproductive success in different species. Wait, you mean they already do? But, like, who knew?

  4. brucegee1962 says

    What’s inside the tummies of all the predators — the spiders, the hawks, the feral cats? Could it be that they’re lined with the slow, the weak, and the stupid?

  5. says

    “…piles of cheap wheat to put in damn near everything…”

    That’s the truth. I’ve got some minor digestive issues, and one of the things my doctor had me try early on was going gluten free to see if it was a gluten sensitivity (it wasn’t). But man, was it hard to find gluten free foods – even in stuff I would have never guessed had wheat. My standard lunch at work is Lean Cuisine (easy and healthier than running to Wendy’s every day). Every single Lean Cuisine except one had wheat in some form or another. Even the beef & broccoli had wheat in the form of soy sauce. After those couple months, I can definitely sympathize with the people that have to avoid gluten.

  6. Kate Jones says

    Each critter is interim, endlessly linked
    Twixt those still around, the rest all extinct.
    And that’s evolution, by definition.
    Ingenious trick in life’s competition.

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