Which would you choose, wings or stronger claws? 8

I was watching the Discovery Channel’s “Wild Pacific” tonight with my son and they featured “the world’s heaviest parrot” (this is the parrot whose amorous adventures were noted here before). The narrator is Mike Rowe, but I am sure he did not write the script. At one point we were told that because of the kakapo’s great weight and small wings “it evolved strong claws in order to climb trees” in order to reach their only source of food, berries at the top of a certain tree.

Now I have said before that I have no quarrel with evolution, but I find the suppositions of evolutionary development put forward often terribly amusing, not to mention facile (like Michael Polin’s personification of corn in Omnivore’s Dilemma). In this case I have to wonder why evolution, which is supposed to move along the lines of least resistance, chose to ignore the wings that the bird already possessed. Hmmm. Too fat and small wings….nah, let’s go with the claws!

I have my doubts…


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8 thoughts on “Which would you choose, wings or stronger claws?

  • Ken Brown

    I think the key is that evolution does not choose; it simply looks that way in hindsight (though this doesn’t seem to stop evolutionists from routinely speaking as though it did, as in the above quote’s use of “in order to”). Presumably, this is shorthand for something like this:

    The parrots had (for whatever reasons) lost the use of their wings, so when one parrot was born with longer claws (via random genetic mutation, etc.), it had an evolutionary advantage over its fellow parrots that had shorter claws, enabling it to climb higher, eat better, and have little parrot babies with the same genetic trait, etc., etc.

    Sure, it would make better sense to us to just develop better wings, but evolution doesn’t have any sense; it just reflects the genetic or behavioral changes that have actually produced results, which are sometimes quite counterintuitive.

    • Chris Brady Post author

      Thanks Ken. And it is the way evolution/plants/animals are often personified in these descriptions that irk me (see my link to the Polin discussion in the post above).

      Going farther back in the timeline I wonder, however, why the parrots lost the use of their wings in the first place. The argument is usually, as you suggest, that evolution “produces” positive results that benefit the species and that is why it sticks. Why would loss of flight stick in this case since it also led to their potential demise because the only food they eat is located high up in the trees? What benefit is there to the loss of flight in this case?

  • Ken Brown

    Oh I’m sure they’d probably say the birds lost their wings because there was (at some earlier stage) abundant food available on the ground, or something of that sort.

    That’s just the trouble, though, isn’t it? “Evolution” can explain anything if you are creative enough! 😉

    • Chris Brady Post author

      Yes, reminds me of dating attempts in the Documentary Hypothesis. “This passage of Leviticus ONLY makes sense if they were living in exile, under these circumstances, and thus it must be a 6th century date, at the earliest.”