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Wednesday, August 20, 2003
The ghost in the machine?
The Ghost of Competition Past
Guest blog by Stephen E. Jones
Last year in an ecology unit the lecturer briefly (and sardonically) mentioned
'the ghost of competition past' as an explanation of why there are not many
example of current competition between species as Darwin's theory requires.
"...looking not to any one time, but to all time, if my theory be true,(Darwin C.R., "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection,"
, Everyman's Library, J.M. Dent & Sons: London, 6th Edition, 1928,
Yesterday in another ecology unit the senior lecturer, a zoologist, said
quite deliberately, in the context of Gauss' Law of Competitive Exclusion
(i.e. that "no two species in an ecological community can occupy the same
niche"), that "it is impossible to find examples of competition in nature",
and this is referred to as `the ghost of competition past'...
...here are quotes from two of my ecology textbooks that
also mention "the ghost of competition past".
First, that "clear-cut examples of morphological character displacement"
(i.e. competition driving natural selection of morphological change) are ...
"Is There Evidence That Evolution Based on Reduction of(Brewer R., "The Science of Ecology," , Saunders College Publishing: Ft.
Worth TX, Second Edition, 1994, p.290).
"Differences in resource use, size, and shape between coexisting species
... have been attributed to the 'ghost of competition past' ... [but they]
may have arisen from other causes, including chance, making it difficult to
confirm the hand of the ghost":
"Given that competition is an energy-costly process that has a(Attiwill P. & Wilson B., eds., "Ecology: An Australian
Perspective," Oxford University Press: South Melbourne Vic,
Australia, 2003, pp.145-146)
Has anyone heard of this? It sounds like the "trade-secret of ecology"!
It quite clearly is another major problem for Darwinism, because
competition is supposed to be the engine that drives Darwinian natural
selection. If there is little or no observable competition today, then
Darwin's theory has correspondingly little or no experimental support.
And if there is little or no evidence of competition occurring today, then
why should it be assumed that things were markedly different in the past?
Or to put it another way, if Darwinian evolution is supposed to be a
falsifiable scientific theory, then if evidence of competition occurring today
would be evidence for the theory, then why is not lack of evidence of
competition occurring today not counted as evidence against the theory?
Stephen E. Jones