Thursday, 25 May 2017

Naturalis Historia: Was The Young-Earth Perfect Prelapsarian Paradise a Maladapted World?

Naturalis Historia: Was The Young-Earth Perfect Prelapsarian Paradise a Maladapted World?

"Would such adaptations—or designs if you prefer that terminology—be found in the world before Adam sinned—the prelapsarian world? Claws, sharp teeth, thick hides, cryptic coloration patterns, exceptional hearing and eyesight, the ability to run very fast, etc. are all traits that serve an obvious function: to allow an animal to capture another or to avoid being captured. But in the perfect paradise model of the original creation that many young earth creationist espouse, these characteristics could not serve those functions and would be useless since no animal died or could be responsible for the death of another animal. In such a perfect paradise, the majority of morphological and behavioral traits that we observe in animals today would be characterized as maladaptations (Footnote 1) to their environment.

What is a maladaptation? It is a trait that is more harmful than helpful. In contrast, an adaptation is a trait that is more helpful than harmful for an individual’s survival and reproduction (i.e. their fitness in a particular environment). Usually maladaptive traits began as traits that were adaptations to their environments but over time became less suitable and even problematic for an organism. For example, Moa birds in New Zealand were very large birds. Their lack of flight and increased size were adaptations that improved their survival on an island with no predators. When predators—humans—arrived, the very traits that were at one time beneficial became a liability. They became maladaptations. Nearly every trait has the capacity to become a maladaptation if the environmental conditions change over time.

Put in the context of a perfect paradise as conceived of by YEC where animals had no fear of one another, what would be the features we would expect to find in animals? We would expect to have animals with no innate fears of humans or other animals, they would have no need of being very fast, they would need no weapons to defend themselves and they would need to traits we associate with sexual selection because they would not have to compete for mates. Fitness to this perfect environment would either result from characters adapted to life without fear of death or all characters would simply be non-adaptive or random because they were of no consequence for survival."

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