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The evolution of cotton

Let there be Q-Tips!
Let there be Q-Tips!
courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

In our travels throughout southern Georgia for the Christmas holidays, I couldn’t help but notice thousands of acres of cotton fields as my wife drove past them.

There is no doubt that cotton is an extremely useful plant.

But it also stands to reason that cotton has not always existed.

If you believe in the Big Bang theory and in the evolution of the world, and I believe in both, then you and I must accept that cotton had a beginning. It wasn’t always here.

There once was a time that cotton did not exist.

The question is: how did it come to exist? Why did it evolve?

Was it for the benefit of cotton rats around the Pliocene or Pleistocene eras?

Did some altruistic, unusually generous shrub decide the world needed a nice fluffy bit of organic material to use for nests and clothing and happily oblige?

Did cotton emerge victorious in a fair competition with the nylon and rayon plants?

Sorry for the sarcasm—well, not really.

Another chicken-or-the-egg dilemma – which came first, the cotton plant or the cotton rat?

Evolutionary scientists typically argue (when they have no idea about a real explanation) that an “organism” evolved after it somehow recognized that an environmental niche existed.

At least that’s what Dr. Michael Ruse argued in our phone conversation a while ago.

Somehow the animal or plant in question knew to “evolve” by developing sight, flight, and in the case of our little plant friend, little tufts of organic matter than conveniently benefit lots of animals that were smart enough to use it.

Let them make fabric!

The whole idea of secular evolution seems patently absurd -- that presumably, at some time in the very distant past, a rather ordinary plant recognized the mundane banality of its current existence and decided to improve its lot in life.

Like Harold the flying sheep of Monty Python fame, the ancestor to cotton innately realized that it needed to develop a useful contribution to nature in order to perpetuate its species.

A cognitive species of plant!

Cotton bolls simply must have "evolved" to ensnare the cotton seed so it would be carried to the four corners of the earth.

Any birds, humans or rats that wanted the new fluffy stuff would have to take the seed with it, spreading cotton's genetic material all over the world….until humans came along, recognized the total usefulness of our botanic cousins, and actively cultivated the bolls for harvest.

Men are obsessed with their bolls, generally speaking.

Now, my evolution-minded friends would like us to believe that it is more plausible that the plant had an innate intelligence coded into its DNA to make these useful decisions, but there was no designer or super-intelligent programmer its genome.

The secular theory of evolution holds that cotton just worked itself out as yet another happy accident. In truth, it really doesn’t bother me if that’s what you want to believe.

What bugs me is when someone tries to insist a secular explanation is the only possibility.

Quite frankly, it makes much more sense to believe the cotton genome came to exist for the very specific purpose for which we use it, by some form of super-intelligent design.


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