Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Wildlife Perspectives

Mammals in South Africa? Birds in the US Midwest? We highlight two geographic regions almost half a world apart for a brief wildlife discussion on animal diversity and origins. 

The television was tuned to a PBS special: The White Lions. The gripping subject matter filmed in South Africa won out over our favorite baseball team’s broadcast. White lions are a rare color mutation short of albinism. The unique beauty and capabilities of the lion families, including their youthful ability to frolic and later learn to hunt prey, was an entertainment draw in the comfort of our living room. The story line of the white lion family and their efforts to survive was gripping. Other highlights were shots of famous South African animals—leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, giraffes, elephants, wildebeests, bushbuck, buffalo, hippos, and zebras among others.  The behavioral abilities of these animals pairs with their physical attractiveness. Each animal is a work of designer art as well as an example of unique adaptive function.

Our wide screen TV brought South Africa’s stunning mammalian wildlife to our living room in living color with advanced telescopic technology. Earth’s mammals number close to 6000. African mammals are beloved by young children for their diversity and uniqueness. They help children sharpen recognition and identification skills. Many children’s picture books tell the story. 

We hope children will broaden their interest to the wondrously diverse creatures in their home neighborhood. Our northern Illinois region is 14000 km from South Africa. We continue our perspective by highlighting a different class of animals from our community: Phylum Chordata; Sub-phylum Vertebrata; Class Aves (Birds). Earth’s bird species number close to 10,000. One of our grandchildren's favorite “coffee table” volumes when they visit is “Bird Songs,” 250 North American Birds in Song. This volume enables them to access pictures and songs of birds in our locality.

And what are the most spectacular birds in our neighborhood? We admire modestly colored cowbirds, catbirds, sparrows, crows, wrens, phoebes, sparrows, tufted titmice, and many others, but pure spectral joy accompanies our perception of bluebirds, indigo buntings, blue jays, red-headed woodpeckers, cardinals, scarlet tanagers, baltimore orioles, and goldfinches. Their unique vocalizations and intelligent behavior enhances visual identification. Song identification is a prime identifier. We have named only a few resident birds. One neighbor has identified 153 species over the years.

As I recently experienced the PBS special and observed our region’s birds, I reflected on how these animals came to exist. Do we subscribe to the secular pronouncement that evolution is responsible for the production of over 1,700,000 fully distinct species of animals and plants, including the PBS highlights of South African mammals and Northern Illinois birds we have sighted?

Darwinian evolution attempts to account for the “mass production” of 1,700,000 fully distinct species of animals and plants on Planet Earth. That includes only species already catalogued, not to mention uncatalogued species, perhaps four times that number! Mutation and natural selection, together with lots of time, is a theoretical mechanism to produce the magnificent diversity of Earth life in our day. Newer theoretical explanations for the evolution of Earth’s species are still being offered to a willing audience as mutation and natural selection lose explanatory power among evolutionary biologists.

An event of incredible scope occurred approximately 540 million years ago. It is termed the Cambrian Explosion. Virtually every animal phylum appeared abruptly on Earth in a narrow window of geologic time. In the millions of years since that event, other radiations (sudden appearances) of new species occurred following extinction events on this planet. These appearances have the attributes of supernatural creation events.

We suggest our readers review the television series by Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, interviewed by Dr. John Ankerberg on the current Daystar broadcast series on The John Ankerberg Show. Website: www.jashow.org. The sudden origins of living phyla are presented as events of supernatural creation. The programs are archived for replay at any time.