Sunday, 12 April 2015

Black Flamingo Poser for Creationists

Here are a few simple little questions for creationists to ignore in the hope they'll go away, like ignored facts do.

These pictures are of the only known all black flamingo. It was photographed in Cyprus in the last few days. There was one previous record of a black flamingo in Israel last year. This one from Cyprus may be a different one, but given that the Israeli one has disappeared and given that Cyprus is an easy flight for a flamingo from Israel, there is a strong possibility that this is the same one, and possibly the only one in the world.

Obviously, the mutation which gives rise to melanism (an overproduction of melanin) is a rare event. We know flamingos produce melanin because they have some black wing feather and some black on their beaks, so what is probably happening here is that the gene(s) controlling when and where the gene for making melanin is switched on (or off) has failed.

Whatever the precise mechanism, and assuming there is nothing preventing this bird breeding normally, these genes are going to be passed on to it's offspring. They may appear perfectly normal, of course, if the faulty gene is a recessive gene. However, genes for melanism will, all being well, pass into future generations, so the chances of two carriers mating and one or more of their chicks inheriting both recessive genes, and so being melanistic, are quite good, especially if this flock stays small.

Now, a few of questions for creationists:
  1. If black plumage gives an advantage to this flamingo, and any future melanistic flamingoes, would the genes for it increase, decrease or remain the same in the population?
  2. If the genes for melanism increase in the population, will the chances of more melanistic flamingoes appearing in future generations increase, decrease or remain the same?
  3. If black plumage is a disadvantage to flamingoes, so they produce fewer chicks than normal flamingoes, will the genes for melanism tend to increase, decrease or remain the same in the population?
  4. Given that we know that melanism in flamingoes is possible but very rare, is black plumage likely to be an advantage or a disadvantage to flamingoes in their present range?

The fact that all these questions have obvious answers (which is probably why you're trying not to answer them if you're a creationist) shows how evolution would be inevitable and how the direction of that evolution would be determined wholly by the environment. There is no change in the amount of information; nothing that is impossible and nothing that requires magic or conscious direction. No chemicals need to be prompted to do whatever it is they do; no laws of physics need to be broken or changed and and no piece of DNA needs to do something it wouldn't be expected to do anyway unless given a nudge.

Depending on the environment and to what degree it favours, disfavours or is neutral towards black flamingoes, the frequency of the alleles of the genes for controlling melanism are either going to increase, decrease, or remain at about the same very low level in the flamingo population.

Now tell me again why you don't believe in evolution.


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