Metamorphosis: A Challenge for Neo-Darwinism

During graduate school, I had the privilege of attending lectures by one of the scientists featured in the most recent Illustra Media documentary, Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies. During his lectures, Dr. Paul Nelson explained how the science behind butterfly and moth metamorphosis lends support to intelligent design theory.

The Illustra film does an outstanding job of outlining the enormous problem that metamorphosis poses for a Neo-Darwinian explanation of moth and butterfly evolution. In plain language, Neo-Darwinism claims that random genetic mutations coupled with natural selection acting over greats spans of time are responsible for a caterpillar’s physical ability to transform into a butterfly. However, there’s an insurmountable obstacle for this alleged process.Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies

When it enters the pupa phase, in which it forms a hard chrysalis around itself, the caterpillar’s body breaks down. All but a few cells are liquefied. Subsequently, an entirely new body plan is constructed from this chemical soup, and what emerges from the chrysalis is absolutely nothing like what went in. Now, according to neo-Darwinism, mutations that equip an organism for such a spectacular metamorphosis are cumulative over time. The mutations that dictate chrysalis formation would come first. Next would come mutations that cause the caterpillar’s body to dissolve. Generations later would come—uh-oh—do you see the problem here? If a caterpillar acquires the mutation that causes the pupa stage without the necessary genetic information to ALSO build the new body structure and GET OUT OF the pupa stage (an “escape plan,” if you will), it would simply die inside the chrysalis, never to emerge. Thus, there would be NO ADVANTAGE for natural selection to act upon, and the process of metamorphosis could never evolve past the beginning of the pupa stage.

What would be needed here is for the caterpillar to acquire ALL the mutations necessary for the pupa phase AND all of the many mutations necessary for the architecture of a survivable adult body plan AT THE SAME TIME. Based on what evolutionary biology teaches about how mutations accumulate over time, this simply isn’t going to happen. This is a case of all-or-nothing that argues strongly for intentional intelligent design.

Now, of course evolutionary theorists have conjured up several different just-so stories about how they think this problem could have been circumvented, but suffice it to say, none of them are more than implausible thought experiments that fall short scientifically.

So, if you don’t have one already, I encourage you to get a copy of Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies.

Here is a preview of the film: