Do penguins and people share an evolutionary trait?

I read an article the other day that, if true, isn’t good news for penguins. Or for us people. It suggests that penguins and people share an evolutionary trait. Well, actually, it’s not a suggestion. It’s pretty much a statement of fact. But like everything science, and let’s be honest about it, facts change. That begs the question, is the statement, and its conclusion, true?

Do penguins and people share an evolutionary trait?

There’s one statement in the article that I maybe half agree with.

Penguins are evolution’s most entertaining product.

I just need to make one slight change to it.

Penguins are evolution’s a most entertaining product.

Penguins certainly are entertaining. Lots of other animals are too. But there’s something about the way they look (like they’re going black tie tuxedo all the time), the way they walk, and the way they act. Penguins have a very tough life/. But they’re also very comical.

An evolutionary trait of penguins

The article we’re going to look at is from National Geographic. It’s titled, Penguins are slow to evolve, making them vulnerable to climate change. The link’s probably going to ask you to subscribe, but there is an option for three free articles each month.

Let’s see how it starts.

Sliding down snowy Antarctic slopes and zipping through frigid waters, penguins seem perfectly suited to their environment. But the charismatic birds weren’t always flightless aquatic acrobats: Evolving from flying to swimming demanded an almost entirely new set of skills, body shapes, and functions.

Evolving from flying to swimming. And let’s not forget that Charlie Chaplin kind of walking. It sounds like one heck of a lot of evolving.

Now, new research uses an unprecedented combination of fossil records and genomic data to chart that evolution as never seen before—and to examine how climate shaped penguins’ destinies.

And now we’re beginning to get into the science stuff. Genomic data and evolution charts.

“Penguins are evolution’s most entertaining product,” says study co-author Daniel Ksepka, an avian paleontologist at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut. “They’ve adapted an entirely different body plan and lifestyle than their ancestors.

This is where we came in.

That’s all well and good. Except for the reality that it’s not complete. And except that not all scientists agree. While doing the research for this, I found various sites that disagree on whether the speed of this evolution was faster or slower than what was generally accepted as different research projects were done.

I also found disagreements over which species the modern penguin evolved from. That matters to this discussion, because some of the alleged predecessors could fly, while others couldn’t. And some came from warm environments, while others didn’t. They don’t even agree on how many species of penguins there are.

But let’s keep going.

The study, published today in the journal Nature Communications, shows early penguins were surprisingly quick to adapt to newly created environmental niches throughout the Southern Hemisphere in the wake of the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction around 66 million years ago. After dinosaurs disappeared, there was more room for other animals to spread, and penguins filled in different climates and biomes around the southern half of the world.

But the research also reveals that penguins exhibit the slowest known rate of evolution among all birds, meaning their rate of genetic mutations has slowed significantly since their switch to marine life following the mass extinction. That throws into question their ability to rapidly adapt to the breakneck pace of modern climate change, the study authors say.

Over half of the about 18 living penguin species, which dwell in places as diverse as Brazil, New Zealand, and South Africa, are already recognized as endangered or vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“Modern penguins seem to be less well equipped to survive these rapid environmental changes than ancient penguins because of this decrease in evolutionary rate,” says Vanesa De Pietri, an avian paleontologist at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury who was not involved in the study. (Read about seven species hit hard by climate change.)
“Have they specialized themselves into a corner?” she asks. “Yeah, probably.”

I think it sounds like the bottom line is that we just don’t know. Sometimes people talk like individual species, like penguins, have the ability to evolve as if it’s because of their own will or capabilities. But other times, it’s like they can’t evolve. Or can’t evolve fast enough.

Do penguins and people share an evolutionary trait?

After all we’ve read, why does it matter if penguins and people share an evolutionary trait? For one thing, the trait we seem to share, at least in some scientists’ view, is our ability to evolve fast enough. That’s especially critical for the penguins, given one of the conclusions in the article.

“I think the fate of penguins is tied up in the fate of humanity, really.”

Given that we humans can’t even on the existence of global warming, I think we and the penguins are in one heck of a lot of trouble.

If, and that’s a big if, evolution is real, how can we even begin to evolve when we can’t even get a real sense that such evolution is necessary?

Will Democrats who believe climate change is a clear and present danger evolve to be able to live with increased temperatures? And meanwhile, will climate change denying Republicans fail to evolve because they don’t believe their very existence depends on it?

And what of the penguins? Do they know they have to come up with a party affiliation? And then can they learn the intricacies of towing the party line? And in believing whatever either party says, even when their words make no sense?

No, I think penguins are doomed. Humanity and evolution will be sure of that.


I did write earlier that evolution was a big if. What if evolution itself isn’t true?

I had this idea last night to do a series of articles along the lines of – What if the Bible is correct? Who knows, this may be the first one. Only time will tell.

What if the Bible is correct?

But what if the Bible really is correct?

What if evolution really is what it was before Darwin? Maybe you don’t remember, or maybe never knew, evolution used to be a Christian term. It was used by people like C.S. Lewis.

I’ve written often about the problem with the so-called six days of creation.
For more on that and evolution, please see Is evolution a concept from Satan?

In any case, evolution, before Darwin, was a term used by Christians who, like me, believe that the six days of creation were now six literal days. That means the earth is very, very old, not a mere five thousand years old.

The only significant difference between the previously Christian word evolution and the post-Darwin word evolution is this: who gets the credit?

These days, science says it’s some vague concept of evolution. Why species can evolve, but can’t always seem to evolve fast enough, or in a good enough fashion, well, maybe God only knows?

But in Christianity, the credit for evolution goes to God. That’s also described further in the previously referenced article.

I don’t understand how so many Christians get so hung up on six literal days. It doesn’t make sense, given the order of creation in the Bible itself. Plus, the Bible wasn’t written in English. Genesis was written in Hebrew. And there is a Jewish concept of a creation day, which is not 24 hours long. Its definition is more like our English words epoch or era.

Therefore, “evolution”, in what’s called “old earth” Christianity, is guided by God. Does that mean the fate of every species is totally and completely up to God? Sadly, no.

The fate of every species was left, to various degrees, in our hands. That is, if the Bible is correct.

The Beginning

Yeah – remember, The Beginning? This is what happened after the sun and the moon came into existence.

Ge 1:20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

Ge 1:24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Ge 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Ge 1:27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Ge 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Ge 1:29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

Do you see that the evolution of the penguins, and everything else, fits in with the narrative if we remove the requirement for six 24-hour days to accomplish everything?

And, do you also see that we, humans, are responsible for what happens to every species God created? That’s in verse 28. The catch is that rule over doesn’t mean destroy.

The problem of Darwinian evolution as opposed to God’s divine guidance evolution

Wow – that sounds like a good title for a full article. The problem of Darwinian evolution as opposed to God’s divine guidance evolution.

Anyway. If Darwin’s evolution is correct, then we have no real responsibility for the extinction of any species. Maybe it’s better to say, there’s no one we have to answer to when we cause the extinction of a species. Not even for our own demise. After all, we’re all just a matter of pure chance. Along with, somehow, an ability to evolve, to some degree or another.

But if the Bible is correct, then we have to answer to God for every one of His creations that we bring to an end. Even for our own end.

Oh. That brings a whole new meaning to the conclusion – “I think the fate of penguins is tied up in the fate of humanity, really.”

Conclusion – Do penguins and people share an evolutionary trait?

Yeah. New meaning. On multiple counts.

Do we have to account to someone for our destruction of various species? Or is everything just chance, luck, and somehow a bit of self-guided evolution?

Are we really left to ponder our own demise, watch it happen, knowing full well it’s all blind chance, a bit of luck, an inadequate speed of evolution because we’re just not good enough to speed it up? And all the while, we know there’s no hope for us?

Or, if the Bible is correct, is there a choice we can make about our future? And yet, a choice that many of us will refuse to make. And we’ll refuse to make the choice because we’re bent on sticking with the science that says we’re doomed.

Mind-blowing. Totally mind-blowing. But then, this is exactly what the Bible, if it’s correct, says will happen.


What do you think? Have you looked in the mirror to talk to yourself about this stuff lately?

Image by Norbert Pietsch from Pixabay

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