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  • Rob Stadler

Getting to the Bottom of Evolution’s Explanatory Power

Evolutionists claim strong, conclusive, even overwhelming scientific evidence in support of grand evolution (i.e., the theory that all life proceeded from a common ancestor through slow accumulation of changes as a result of random mutations and natural selection). However, as explained in The Scientific Approach to Evolution, the commonly cited evidence for macroevolution offers only very low confidence. If the evidence were as powerful as the evolutionists claim, there would be no debate and no need for evolutionists to resort to overcompensation or hyperbole to bolster their position.

Because macroevolution is only supported by very-low-confidence evidence, scientists have grown accustomed to fantastical evolutionary explanations for any observation in biology. As long as the explanation supports evolution, it will receive widespread support. A powerful and humorous example of this was published by the journal PLOS ONE in November 2016: “Getting to the Bottom of Face Processing. Species-Specific Inversion Effects for Faces and Behinds in Humans and Chimpanzees (Pan Troglodytes)” by Mariska E. Kret and Masaki Tomonaga.

The authors refer to the well-known finding that humans recognize faces by processing the face as a whole (or based on the relationship between features, so called “configural” processing), rather than processing the individual facial features separately. This is demonstrated by reduced recognition of faces when they are inverted, whereas other body parts are equally recognized when inverted or not inverted. They also noted that chimpanzees, in contrast to humans, recognize each other from the appearance of their behinds (i.e., anogenital regions) more than from the appearance of their faces. They hypothesized that chimpanzees would recognize behinds, not faces, configurally, whereas humans recognize faces, not behinds, configurally. The data that they collected supported their hypothesis.

I’m not concerned with the validity of the data that they collected. My concern is with their subsequent evolutionary interpretation, where the authors somehow felt compelled to explain their findings according to an evolutionary framework. Their abstract concludes:

The findings suggest an evolutionary shift in socio-sexual signaling function from behinds to faces, two hairless, symmetrical and attractive body parts, which might have attuned the human brain to process faces, and the human face to become more behind-like.

And elsewhere in the paper, they state:

The findings of our study suggest that over human evolution the face took over important properties shared with the primate behind and largely replaced its socio-sexual signaling function, making our species attuned to faces.

With no supportive data, driven simply because the authors felt compelled to support human evolution from chimps, they speculate that facial recognition in humans must have evolved from the chimp’s recognition of behinds. But, how could this occur slowly with successive small steps over millions of years? Thankfully, the evolutionists have the answer - the transition could only occur if the appearance of the human face progressively approximated the appearance of a chimpanzee’s behind.

It is quite subjective (and rather insulting) to suggest that the human face resembles a chimpanzee’s behind. Claiming that this occurred via an evolutionary process (slow accumulation of random mutations preferred by natural selection) is truly incredible.

In contrast, I would propose that very few prom dates are selected because their face best resembles a chimpanzee’s behind. Personally, I’ve always tried to avoid interacting with buttheads, so why would humans be expected to favor them, even to preferentially reproduce with them? If the authors’ proposal has merit, one should wonder if there was a period in our distant past when it was difficult to tell if someone was coming or going? When war broke out, some would think the opposing army was charging while others thought they were retreating?

Theodosius Dobzhansky famously said, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” The publication of such fantastical evolutionary tales in scientific journals leads me to question the ability of evolution to cast any light, especially in areas where the sun doesn’t shine.