Intelligent Design: Woodpecker tongue

The woodpecker’s tongue is even more amazing than the headache-proof crash helmet it wears.

Evolutionists call it an “adaptation” which means it just happened that way because woodpeckers wanted to eat beetle larvae way inside trees–and were willing to wait a million years or so for their tongues to grow long enough to reach them.

They say what proves it is an adaptation is that woodpecker tongues are just like other bird tongues, only longer (at least three to five times the length of its beak in some species)–as if two objects that are similar in some way have to be descended from a common ancestor rather than having been molded by a common Artist.

Actually, unlike other birds, the tongue of a woodpecker is not attached to the rear of its mouth. And, unlike any other tongues, it apparently doesn’t stay attached in one place.

To get a meal, the woodpecker buttresses its tail against a tree trunk, forming a tripod with its toes (two in front, two in back) and listens. Once it has determined that beetles are scuttling around inside and has drilled a hole with its beak, the base of its tongue disengages from under the jaw and re-attaches between its eyes as it plays out.

The tongue is sensitive enough to feel the softness of a larval insect, yet stiff and sharp enough to pierce it (other studies indicate it is flexible and actually wraps around its prey) and sticky, with reverse barbs to keep the grub on the tongue as it retracts.

There’s the problem. You’re a woodpecker and you have a tongue three to five times as long as your beak. When you retract it, where does it go? Where can you store it? Can you wrap it around your brain or something?

As a matter of fact, yes. When not in use, the European Green Woodpecker’s tongue goes “. . . around the back of the skull beneath the skin, and over the top between the eyes, terminating usually just below the eye socket.” Lane P. Lester and Raymond G. Bohlin, The Natural Limits to Biological Change (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), p. 25, quoted in

“In the case of the Red-bellied Woodpecker. . . the tongue forks in the throat, goes below the base of the jaw, and wraps behind and over the top of the head, where the forks rejoin and insert in the bird’s right nostril or around the eye socket.”

(Scientifically, “when the woodpecker wants to stick out its tongue, it contracts branchiomandibularis muscles near the base of the hyoid apparatus. This forces the hyoid bones forward within their sheath and propels the tongue out of the bill. Relaxing the muscles allows the tongue to shorten and brings it back inside.” Ibid.)

I would have loved to watch Blind Chance sittin’ there on the ground fumbling with woodpecker tongues (and butterfly wings and weeds and clam shells, whatever, since it can’t tell one from another), dropping one skull and picking up another and poking some things at other things, starting over with every single attempt (because it is too dumb to remember what it did last time and too dumb to know whether it worked or not so it can improve on it), suddenly coming up with something so creative even the biologists have to keep cautioning each other to “constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed” (Francis Crick, Ph.D.).

When Thomas Edison tried to find a filament that would work in a light bulb, he had the advantage of a brain and opposable thumbs and eyesight–not to mention foresight. It took him from 3,000-10,000 tries, depending on who you read.

Can you imagine how many tries it took for Natural Selection to cobble together something so intricate and complicated? With maybe a fortunate mutation and a dab of genetic drift along the way, one random stab after another after another after another after another after another. . .

after another. . .

after another. . .

after another. . .

after another. . .


About Jessica Renshaw
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4 Responses to Intelligent Design: Woodpecker tongue

  1. When I tutor science from the public school textbooks, they try to simply say, well, this developed because they had a need. . . and the survival of the fittest junk. I shake my head and say, Do you really think this can be? Most of the time they have just accepted the junk without question. They are children. They don’t think for themselves on such stuff yet. I warn parents all the time to leaf through the text books to see what their children are being taught. You are right about Edison. I have been working my way through a 1910 biography written by one of the men who worked with Edison. He sent exploration tems all over the world looking for the perfect filament. In all of his inventions and seeing the wonders of creation, it saddens me that he never seemed to give God any time or credit. If you don’t mind, I am going to copy and print this piece out for the next time I tutor a science student from the public education system. Your research certainly is credible. Thank you for citing/

  2. anevidomsky says:

    This is called “straw man argument”. Taking an example you don’t understand, and then calling “those scientists” stupid – allegedly they could not explain it to you.

    Evolutionary ornithologists are rare, and text books for children do not have space for every example. So the choice of topic is nearly perfect. But you see, this one is quite easy to explain. The Blind Chance did not create the bird as you see it now, all at once. When some ancient birds, pretty “normal” ones, tried to pick insects from hard wood, some of them had the base of their tongues connected to the jaw a little bit deeper than others. Just a little bit, not much. But they had an advantage already. They procreated, and passed the advantage to their children. Some of which had the base of the tongue even deeper, and they had an even bigger advantage. That’s how the “tinkering” went: the base of the tongue moved deeper, deeper, to the back of the head, and eventually to the place where you can see it now. In the process, there were thousands of generations of “birds with slightly longer tongue”, and “almost woodpeckers, but not quite”. Most of them are long gone now, you don’t see the intermediate states around anymore.

    You need a qualified person spending a lot of time to show you the complete evidence: archeological and genetic. The evidence that no jury can reject. And then? Unlike science, when the “straw man” fails it’s usually “ah, whatever, I don’t believe you anyway”.

  3. Jessica says:

    >you don’t see the intermediate states around anymore.They procreated, and passed the advantage to their children.< Hmm, how could they do this, when undirected processes by definition cannot get the same result twice except by accident, cannot build on what they have already–every single generation is a new roll of the dice, unaffected by any previous change. The only explanation is that there is must be memory and some kind of blueprint in the genes themselves, something we now know as DNA. Genesis puts it this way, speaking in this case of lower forms of life, "The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind. . ." How? Because the Designer programmed them to reproduce themselves. I imagine the very first woodpecker had a tongue that wrapped around his brain.

    I checked and I did not use the term "stupid." Attempting to discredit an argument by attributing emotional, derogatory words to the person offering it and then tearing them down with an attack against the person is not only a good example of a "straw man" but of "ad hominem."

    I can tell you are intelligent, capable of reason and of logic as well as emotion. All those qualities are qualities you share with your Maker because he made you like Himself. I would guess if you have children, they probably have those qualities, too.

  4. anevidomsky says:

    Sorry, I did not mean to attribute the word “stupid” to you. I used it rhetorically, and I agree that I shouldn’t have.

    In your definition of “undirected process” you are mixing the concepts of “random” and “evenly random”. Suppose, we both came to a casino where the dice is skewed. You bet on six and I bet on one repeatedly, and slowly you become a millionaire and I go broke. It’s still random, but not evenly random. Is it a directed process, and was there a “blueprint” for that in me or you? Every new generation of woodpeckers is a roll of dice, but those with longer tongues are already winning, and their lucky children are also “betting on the lucky number”. They are not “yielding after their kind”, they are all of slightly different kind, you see. It is directed, except for only the environment is giving the direction.

    Imagine an experiment: you open a jar with a weird mix of chemicals. Within a year, you have a new sort of yeast living in it, a sort that never existed before. Did you direct the selection process? Did you design them to thrive on this mix of proteins? Not really, they evolved on their own.

    According to the explanation that I find more consistent with the evidence around me, the “very first woodpecker” did not exist, like there was no first chihuahua. We haven’t seen all the intermediate steps. But they can probably be found if you spend enough time in historical archives. With natural selection, the “archives” are million years old. It would take a lot of digging, literally, to present the intermediate steps to woodpecker, there might be gaps, but it can be done.

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