Table of Contents
Part III: Convergence and the Origin
The Meaning of
CONVERGENCE IS a phenomenon
in Nature which according to some of the best authorities, is
to be found in all living things, whether plant or animal. It
is exactly the opposite of Divergence, which is really
only another name for evolution. By convergence is meant the
observed tendency of living forms, which are quite unrelated
phylogenetically, to respond to similar contingencies of life
by developing similar structures. These "structures"
include not merely features of the skeleton itself but internal
organs, organs of sense, body fluids, and even (in birds at least)
such things as calls, colouration, and habits of nest building.
It is as though there were in Nature some built-in mechanism
whereby any animal or plant, faced with a problem that must be
solved if it is to survive, can develop a structure, using this
word in the wide sense indicated above, which solves that problem
in a most economical and efficient way. But we may go further
than this and say that such solutions have a remarkable tendency
to conform so closely to a pattern, depending upon the nature
of the challenge, that widely different types of animals (placentals
and marsupials, for instance), which have no linear relationship
as far as current evolutionary thinking is concerned, develop
independently along lines so similar that if we did not have
other information to the contrary they would be erroneously assumed
to be very closely related.
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two diagrams in Fig.3 illustrate the fundamental difference between
divergence and convergence.
Because of the tremendous emphasis placed by evolutionists
upon the importance of structural similarity (morphology) to
establish lines of derivation, the fact that similarities can
arise by entirely non-evolutionary means offers a serious challenge
to current theory since, in the very nature of the case, evolutionists
have no other convincing way of building their "trees"
than by studying
These two diagrams are intended to illustrate the fundamental
difference between divergence and convergence. The former is
merely another word for evolution and makes the assumption that
starting with a single animal form A one may observe that in
succeeding generations descendants differ somewhat until at B
and at C they are found to be quite different in form. In convergence,
by contrast, after a period of time the descendants of quite
different and quite unrelated forms P and X will be observed
to have come to be quite alike so that R and Z would be assumed
to be derived from some common ancestor . . . which in fact is
not the case.
morphology (at least, as far
as the fossil record is concerned), the challenge of convergence
is a very embarrassing one. As a consequence, in spite of a tremendous
amount of research into the fact itself, the phenomenon of convergence
has in recent years been soft-pedalled. In many textbooks it
is, in fact, entirely ignored. In the 1950 edition of Chambers'
Encyclopedia, although evolution is treated with the usual
thoroughness, biological convergence is not even listed in the
general index. The thirteen-volume Oxford
English Dictionary does not mention convergence with a biological
meaning as occurring in the English language. In the 1964 edition
of the Encyclopedia Britannica which has pages and pages
of text on the theory of evolution, (1) convergence
is covered (under morphology) by a single paragraph of eighteen
lines, of which one third are actually given to
1. Encyclopedia Britannica,
1964 edition, vol.15, under "Morphology," p.819.
of divergence which, as the author notes, is simply another word
for evolution. We are told that convergence is not only rare,
but involves only superficial resemblances, whereas divergence
is, of course, said to be everywhere pervasive in Nature.
we can easily show, however, the truth is precisely the opposite.
On the one hand, convergence is, as a well-known authority on
evolution has said, almost universal. This is an established
fact. Animals which can be shown to be unrelated have developed
precisely similar structures or mechanisms which are so complex
that the possibility of their having emerged purely by accident
is quite inconceivable Nor are such convergences in any way superficial.
They frequently are of such a nature as to involve the whole
the other hand, divergence (or evolution) is in no sense a demonstrable
fact. If by "evolution" we mean merely the variations
which may be observable between animals known to belong to the
same species (varieties of dogs, for example) and still capable
under proper conditions of interbreeding and produce fertile
offspring, then we are dealing with a fact. But this kind of
evolution throws no light upon the origin of species in the broader
sense. To this extent, where convergence is an established fact,
evolution is merely an "attractive theory."
no theory based on such tenuous grounds has even been promoted
with such fervour, argued so dogmatically, and accorded such
universal recognition on such slender grounds as the theory of
evolution. One suspects that the fundamental weaknesses in current
theory, which are already being admitted in many quarters, account
for the increasing hostility on the part of its chief proponents
towards every serious attempt made to re-examine its basic assumptions.
In one of his latest works, G. G. Simpson, (2) like a
man whistling in the dark, found it necessary to assure his readers
again and again that evolution is true, is a fact, is unchallengeable.
In This View of Life, Simpson repeats his "variations
on a theme" ad nauseam, on pages vii, 10,
12, 40, 51, 62, 63, 151, and on page 193 five times within the
space of fourteen lines!
Gerard some years ago made this significant statement which is
particularly appropriate in the present context: (3)
When we find ourselves entertaining an opinion
about the basis of which there is a quality of feeling which
tells us that to enquire into it would be
2. Simpson, G. G, This
View of Life, Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, 1964.
3. Gerard, Ralph, "The Biological Basis of Imagination,"
Scientific Monthly, June, 1947, p.499.
unnecessary, unprofitable, bad form, or even perverse, we may
know that that opinion is a nonrational one and probably therefore
founded upon inadequate evidence.
is a comment upon the extent to which the plublic has been hoodwinked
by evolutionists that librarians are in the habit of filing books
on evolution under the heading of Science, Biology, or some such
thing, whereas books which are a serious attempt to show the
fallacies or weaknesses of current evolutionary thinking are
apt to be filed under the heading of Religion.
is widely agreed among those engaged in research that the uniqueness
of the scientific method lies in the fact that it is fundamentally
a search for error rather than truth. (4) Twenty-five
years ago we were commonly led in the university to believe that
the proper method of research was first of all to accumulate
all the data possible and then, having done this, the truth would
become self-evident. (5) By this means one was supposed to
introduce strict objectivity. No one could challenge the truth
thus arrived at. What has since become increasingly apparent
is that no scientist ever operates in this way. There is no mere
"collecting of data." We look at Nature with blinders
on guided by preconceptions of what we expect to find. And our
extraction of the data is, whether we like it or not, always
a selective process, we end up with capta ("takens")
not data ("givens"). There are no "givens"
‹ or it would be more truthful to say, everything is
"given," and consequently we are forced to select,
because we are not capable of seeing the whole. So the method
of science, as we understand it now, is not to act as a kind
of empty box into which we invite Nature to pour its substance,
but to act as a filter. This filter is structured by our preconceptions,
our bias, by the set of our minds which is, in fact, the motivating
force which gives us the energy for research in the first place.
Nature abhors a vacuum and will not usefully inform the mind
that is itself a vacuum. So the evidence we find in Nature is
always "for" or "against" some
4. Rudolph Flesch wrote: "For
the layman, the most important thing about science is this: that
it isn't a search for truth but a search for error. The scientist
lives in a world where (the whole) truth is unattainable, but
where it is always possible to find errors in the long-settled
or the obvious. . . . So-called scientific books that are supposed
to contain final answers are never scientific. Science is forever
self-correcting and changing; what is put forth as gospel truth
cannot be science!" Quoted by Hillier Kreighbaum in Scientific
Monthly, April, 1952, p.240, from Flesch's The Art of
Clear Thinking, Harper, New York, 1951.
5. Evans-Pritchard, E. E., wrote: "The whole history of
scholarship whether in the natural sciences or in the humanities
tells us that the mere collection of what are called facts, unguided
by theory in observation and selection, is of little value."
Social Anthropology, Cohen and West, London, 1951, p.64.
idea which consciously or unconsciously prompts us to make the
research is therefore such a biased process, how is objectivity
achieved at all? The built-in safety device which forms an essential
part of the scientific method is the determination, if it is
at all possible, to discover the error in an hypothesis. We make
an assumption that we know what the "truth" is, and
then we search with all the sincerity and honesty of purpose
of which we are capable to find contrary evidence. The scientific
method is in this sense a search for error, not a search for
truth. And any hypothesis which does not encourage its proponents
to conduct this honest search for error must be classified as
philosophical rather than scientific. The stern refusal of the
evolutionary Establishment to encourage its membership to challenge
its own assumptions disqualifies it as a valid scientific undertaking.
is why convergence is so neglected a topic. It presents a challenge
in two ways, It is inimical on the one hand, as we have already
noted, to the current dependence on morphology for the drawing
up of evolutionary lines of descent by paleontologists in the
form of phylogenetic trees, without which no textbook on the
subject would be considered suitably dressed. And it is inimical,
on the other hand, to the current abhorrence which most naturalists
have towards the slightest admission of any kind of vitalism
in living organisms, which would encourage the belief that Nature
"knows what it is about" in a purposeful sort of way.
That unrelated forms should assume structural parallelisms when
they are forced to meet a similar challenge in their environment,
implies that the process of change is not a haphazard one resulting
from the play of natural selection on chance mutations, but is
governed in some quite precise way by an in-built mechanism which
is not merely opportunistic (to use a term favoured by Simpson)
but is clearly purposeful. And the idea of purposeful behaviour
in the sense which vitalists have seen it, is to be avoided at
all costs, because purpose suggests a Purposer and we are at
once introduced to the possibility of forces acting independently
of, or outside of, the strictly causal framework of physics and
chemistry. Such a Force is quite beyond science to deal with
and therefore challenges its implied claim to omnicompetence.
the implications of convergence began to be understood
6. Cf. Washburn, S. L., "The
Strategy of Physical Anthropology," in Anthropology Today,
edited by A. L. Kroeber, University of Chicago Press, 1953,
p.718: "The realization has been growing for some years
that facts alone will not settle problems and that even the collection
of the 'facts' is guided by a complex body of unstated assumptions."
philosophers, it was quietly dropped as a subject for research
and for discussion, even though at first when the evidence for
it began to accumulate extensively it had been given wide recognition.
Had the fact become better known prior to the publication of
Darwin's Origin of Species, the course of events in the
life sciences might have been very different. Prior to 1858 when
The Origin first appeared, a great deal of attention was
paid to the relation between form and function. It was the glory
of many of the mid-nineteenth century natural scientists that
they had carried their studies so far along these lines that
they were genuinely able to reconstruct with remarkable precision
whole animals on the basis of only a few bones, simply because
they understood very clearly that form is closely related to
function, so that if they once knew what function a structure
performed, they could re-create the whole of it on the basis
of a comparatively small fragment. Virchow was a master at this.
Their influence survived the emergence of Darwinism in people
like Wood Jones who continued the tradition of nature study in
this sense. But their works suffered neglect by the Establishment
which was increasingly influenced by Darwin's obsession with
morphology as the key to evolutionary relationships. It is a
happy thing that some of these older works, which challenged
the basic premises upon which the theory of evolution was built,
have begun to appear once more as reprints. Thus Prince Petr
Kropotkin's Mutual Aid has been reprinted, in which the
concept of Nature as red in tooth and claw is severely challenged.
(7) More importantly in the present context, Leo Berg's
(8) Nomogenesis: or Evolution Determined by
Law has now been re-issued as a fresh challenge to these
basic assumptions by showing the extent to which the phenomenon
of convergence is found in Nature at every level of life and
in the development of structures which are absolutely essential
for the continuance of the organism. Berg is quite aware of the
implications and underscores them.
the next chapter, we shall examine the facts of the case as Berg,
and many others, have elucidated them. And in the final chapter
we shall see to what extent convergence provides an alternative
explanation for the skeletal features of pre-human fossil remains
and early fossil man, features which have been almost universally
presented as proof of man's animal origin.
7. Kropotkin, Prince Petr,
Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution, Extending Horizon Books,
Boston, reprint, 1955, xix and 362 pp.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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8. Berg, Leo, Nomogenesis: or Evolution Determined by Law
(original Russian 1922 edition , entitled Nomogenez ili na
osnove zakonomernostei), translated by J. N. Rostovtsov,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reprint, 1969.