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Giraffe: A Pain in the Neck for Science?

ZooBig-49Did you know that the giraffe’s neck is proof of a god of some sort? Neither did I until a few years ago when I was becoming an atheist. I was surprised by how many times I saw information like the following from Project Creation:

“…when a giraffe lowers its head to get a drink of water it would, without its specially designed features, literally blow out its brain because of the sudden, massive increase in blood pressure. But the giraffe was engineered with reinforced artery walls, anti-pooling valves, a web of small blood vessels and pressure-sensing nerves that assure an adequate blood flow to the brain at just the right pressure. But that is not all of the engineering needed to make a giraffe possible…Giraffes have the most powerful heart among land animals because of the need to pump blood 12 feet up to its head. But with all that pressure inside giraffes, why don’t giraffes bleed to death whenever they are cut? Here we can see more of the engineering marvel that is the giraffe. The arteries and veins have a super tough membrane so that it doesn’t rip apart when cut. The capillaries and blood cells are only a third the size of those in humans, so there is less bleeding when cut…When we see a creature as well engineered as the giraffe, we see the amazing design in God’s Creation. For all of the features of the giraffe are necessary for it to function. Any of the unique characteristics of the giraffe would either be useless or harmful if they existed by themselves. Only when all the giraffe’s features are fully developed and in place are they beneficial to giraffe survival. In fact giraffes are so well designed that NASA scientists have studied giraffe skin in their development of gravity suits for astronauts.”

As a person who hasn’t studied the particular biology of giraffes, but is completely science-minded, coming to a page like Project Creation and coming up with a retort to their claims can be intimidating. I don’t just want to assume they’re wrong because I disagree with their main message.

But hey don’t stop at just listing some amazing, “intelligently-designed” engineering facts about giraffes, they attack evolution in particular:

Evolution, with its story of gradual, mindless change, can offer no rational explanation for how all of these specially and uniquely designed organs could have all come together simultaneously by blind chance…Evolutionists speculate that the giraffe adapted to a drier and more difficult environment by developing its long neck to eat leaves on the tall trees. What they can’t explain is how the younger, shorter giraffes managed to survive or why so many other vegetarian animals never developed long necks…Despite what the evolutionists would like people to believe, their speculation and storytelling is not science. What we see in the giraffe, as in other aspects of Creation, is the careful and deliberate design God put in His Creation.

See? Evolution is NOT science!

Wait, what?

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This is just a taste of the “evolution-debunking” that is online. Unfortunately, some websites have a particular agenda they’d like to push, even at the cost of factual information, and they will mislead others in order to attract more followers. Websites like this just promote outdated information and shroud it with a science-y name like “intelligent design” to keep their followers misinformed. All this is in order to give the appearance that science isn’t the answer and that God is, so people needn’t look any further; stay nice and comfy in your beliefs and don’t question them. (A little note here: I understand that not all religions or beliefs follow creationism or the particularly anti-science stance held by Project Creation.)

I found a pretty neat website called, Evolutionwiki.org. It pretty much sums up the perfect response to creationists’ claims:

  1. These ‘special’ organs are not particularly unique to giraffes:
    • All vertebrates feature a heart, and it is fairly easy to imagine one evolving in size as the demands upon it were increased in each generation (see Response 2).
    • The net of capillaries is termed the ‘intracranial carotid rete mirabile’, and not unique to the giraffe. All members of Artiodactyla (such as sheep, cattle, camels, pigs etc) have such a feature, and it is thought to function in cooling the blood.
    • Valves of the jugular vein are found in all mammals to prevent backflow of blood, as without them none could circulate blood to and from the head effectively. In fact, all veins, except for cranial veins, feature venous valves.
  2. Large changes that develop features in an organism, such as that of a long neck, do not happen all at once. The neck could have grown progressively longer through a series of small changes over many generations. This would, instead of making a large heart imperative immediately, gradually increase the usefulness and thus the need for a large heart, leaving a large amount of time for a larger heart and a better circulatory system to evolve along with that of a progressively longer and longer neck.
  3. “They could not have evolved gradually.” – They could have evolved just as gradually as the length of the neck did, from structures that have almost none of these special properties, through structures that have less-efficient grades of these properties, to become structures that have all of these special properties.

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So, how do you go about getting rid of this sort of nonsense? Anyone could claim anything as truth; it’s hard to know when it’s worth disproving and when it’s such a fringe idea that it’s not worth your time

The best thing is to fight the ignorance with education. The more information online that debunks this nonsense, the better.

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Gigi Chickee

Gigi Chickee

All photos are taken by me, Gigi Chickee, unless otherwise noted.

Photography Correspondent here at Mad Art Lab. Wife to my gorgeous husband, Rob. Mother to my four girls. Proud Secular Homeschooler. Photographer when the occasion arises. Seamstress in training. Skeptic always.

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2 Comments

  1. October 8, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Clearly, the intracranial carotid rete mirabile was included in other animals with the intent of giving them long necks too. The designers probably ran into cost overruns and opted for short-necked sheep and pigs to save money.

  2. October 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Giraffes also have a ridiculously long laryngeal nerve [1] that comes out of the cranium, down the neck, loops around cardiac arteries, and then goes back up to ennervate the larynx. It’s already a circuitous path in us short-necked animals as a result of our ancestor’s gills evolving haphazardly into our larynx (if I understand correctly), but it’s taken to ridiculous length (literally) in giraffes. Why didn’t they explore that, I wonder?

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recurrent_laryngeal_nerve (see especially the Evidence of Evolution section)

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