Tuesday, August 05, 2008


See Who Salutes

Lizzie Buchen has a cute article at MSNBC, "Pandas: Evolution's big fat (adorable) mistake?" The trope is that:

... the giant panda a favorite animal of creationists, who argue that the panda's survival proves the existence of God. How is it, they ask, that such a species could have "evolved" to be so poorly suited for survival and could have lasted these "alleged" tens of thousands of years without a little help from a higher power?

Among the supposed failings of the panda is their inefficient diet, given their short, carnivore-suited intestines, requiring them to eat almost a fourth of their weight in bamboo every day; and their poor mating success, due to the male's penis being disproportionately small, the rarity with which females go into heat, and the fact that males do not instinctively know how to mate.

I'm not so sure that creationists are actually falling all over the panda. After an exhaustive search (I get exhausted after about 10 minutes, so judge for yourself how thorough it was), I found one creationist site that floated one of the arguments and another one that denied it was true.

Needless to say, the conditions the pandas "suffer from" are not what they seem. Indeed, the impression only comes because most peoples' familiarity with pandas comes solely from zoo specimens and news reports about them:

So it's true: Pandas did not evolve … in zoos. They evolved to find their own food and seek out their mates in dense bamboo forests after being raised by their real mothers, not by zookeepers. The panda's weaknesses in today's world—from its failure to reproduce in captivity to its yawn-inspiring lifestyle — is a product of its natural history, not a malicious joke of an intelligent designer.

I'll let you discover the explanations with Ms. Buchen. But there's one I can't resist giving -- about the panda's penis:

[Conservationist Megan] Owen says it's not a big deal. "They get the job done ... It's definitely a struggle to get correct positioning, but if they're motivated, they do what they need to do."

Words of hope and inspiration for millions!

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