Answers in Genesis takes the easy (and unscientific) way out 

John Stear

Monarch caterpillar

Monarch pupae

Monarch butterfly on milkweed plant


Answers in Genesis (AiG), in their "weekly email newsletter" of 5 March 2005, have once more taken the easy way out when confronted with a difficult question.  In this case they claim that evolution couldn't have happened because the monarch butterfly has developed an immunity to the poison of the milk weed plant and science can't explain how.  Rather than exploring the scientific literature they, typically, look in the Bible and deduce that "God did it".

Science doesn't claim to have all the answers with regard to butterflies and milkweed or for some other seemingly perplexing questions, but, when confronted with such anomalies, scientists don't throw up their hands and call on the supernatural.  Instead they seek explanations based on scientific observations already made.  For instance, one explanation for butterflies and their tolerance of milk weed toxin might soon be found in what is referred to as "coevolution".  Broadly speaking, coevolution can be described as "a change in the genetic composition of one species (or group) in response to a genetic change in another". In the case of the monarch butterfly and the milkweed plant, coevolution currently describes but does not explain the ability of the monarch caterpillar to successfully use the milkweed plant as a food source. 

Another interesting phenomenon which might throw more light on the subject concerns another example of coevolution

The association between passionflower vines and the butterfly Heliconius is believed to be an example of coevolution. The vines produce toxic chemicals to reduce damage to young shoots and leaves by herbivorous insects. However butterfly larvae of Heliconius sp. can tolerate these chemicals due to digestive enzymes that break down the toxic chemicals (a counteradaptation).

These hypotheses are not definitive explanations of how the monarch butterfly evolved its immunity to the milkweed plant, but they are plausible scientific hypotheses based on known scientific knowledge. Because our knowledge is increasing every day, particularly in the field of genetics, an answer to the butterfly/milkweed question is surely not far off.  But no matter what advances are made in science AiG will continue to believe that revelation not research should determine the truth.  There are libraries and an Internet out there absolutely overflowing with information AiG could access.  Children with enquiring minds deserve better than the blithe conclusion, "it's too hard, God must have done it".