Why do some people invest so much time & money to travel to China, including a 2-hour ride to the panda center outside Chengdu, plus additional payments for the entrance fee ($9) & actually cuddling a panda ($307)?
Much has been researched & written about the panda's "cute" factor.
But upon discovering how the panda's existence stumps scientists because it defies evolution, I realized our real affection & fascination for pandas emanates from the panda as living proof of Divine creation—and nature's most adorable argument against evolution.
Argument #1: Pandas are Carnivores Through & Through
For evolutionists, no possibility is too far out.
For example, the panda bear could theoretically continue to evolve within bamboo forests of the mountains of southwestern China until it reaches this stage of evolution (or devolution, as the case may be):
In fact, the panda's current manifestation could never occur via evolution.
The panda bear is an anti-evolution phenomenon.
First of all, the panda's entire digestive system (including its teeth) is set up to eat meat.
Yes, biologically speaking, panda bears are absolute carnivores.
In the wild, giant pandas supplement their bamboo diet by hunting small rodents—but even then, meat comprises less than 1% of their diet.
In captivity, a panda will eat meat when given it (and digest it just fine!), but rarely seeks out meat on its own.
Not only that, the panda stomach is not built to digest bamboo.
The panda possesses a classic carnivore stomach.
Experts describe how the high-bamboo diet harms pandas by slowing its metabolism, making the panda bear sluggish, and causing pregnant pandas a harmfully short gestation, which thus produces an underdeveloped cub—even at full-term.
Scientifically speaking, all the challenges pandas suffer stem from its carnivore biology subsisting on a herbivore diet, which evolved over time and for some reason, cannot evolve back to its natural eating habits of meat (of which there is no lack in the bamboo forests in the mountains of China).
So the panda is stuck with a completely unnatural & unhealthy diet because of evolution & cannot "evolve" back into a meat-based diet, even though it is built to digest meat, meat would be healthier for it, and plenty of meat is available for the taking in its immediate environment.
Instead, the giant panda continues to feast inefficiently on bamboo.
That makes no logical sense.
(BTW, all this alleged regression leaves evolutionists scrambling to reframe it all as the progress of evolutionary adaptation over millions of years. We'll see the truth below.)
Argument #2: The Bamboo Paradox
However, the giant panda gut holds 20 different bacteria that helps break down the plant fibers. Panda bears share 13 of those bacteria with herbivores (even though, as stated, panda pears are NOT biologically herbivores) while 7 of those bacteria are unique to pandas.
How did pandas "evolve" to create something that exists nowhere else (especially since, as you'll see below, pandas are actually devolving)?
How did it manage to "evolve" 7 of them?
Perhaps genetic adaptation accounts for it (after all, the bacteria already exist).
But even more problematic: Out of the massive amounts of bamboo a panda eats (around 20-40 pounds daily), it digests only 17% percent of any bamboo it consumes.
It takes the panda 14 hours each day to consume that much bamboo.
Furthermore, the bamboo cannot provide the panda with the nutrients it needs.
Even more bizarrely, bamboo contains a toxin that produces cyanide (yes, the deadly poison) in any mammal gut.
In other words, it's impossible for a panda to live on a diet of 99% bamboo.
Yet it does.
Argument #3: Panda Reproduction Resists Population Growth
Furthermore, pandas only get pregnant around every 2 years.
Six cubs remain the absolute most a panda mother might birth in her lifetime.
But most female pandas produce around 4 cubs throughout her lifetime.
But even those 4-6 cubs don't represent true panda reproduction.
Panda cubs often don't survive.
In contrast to their lovable cuteness, pandas make really awful mothers.
I know, I know.
It hurts me as much to write this as it does for you to read this.
I'm also fond of pandas.
But the truth must be told.
First of all, half of panda births result in twins.
When that happens, the panda mother abandons the weaker twin & invests all her nurturing in the stronger twin, leaving the weaker twin to die.
(Researchers insist this results from the mommy panda's lack of milk & energy to care for more than one cub at a time—however, as you'll see below, that's not true. So panda mothers are bad guesstimators, in addition to everything else.)
Furthermore, panda newborns are tiny and panda mothers are gargantuan.
In fact, at around 200 pounds, the panda mother weighs around 900 times as much as her 3-5 ounce newborn.
That's a rare outlier as far as mammals go. (A whale weighs 50 times as much her newborn, for example, while a polar bear mother weighs 400 times the weight of her cub.)
So it's pretty common for a panda mother to accidentally crush her cub by sitting or rolling over on it.
In fact, mother pandas have even unintentionally crushed their cubs while nursing.
And why are panda cubs born so small?
They're actually born as preemies.
Meaning, even a full-term panda cub enters the world with the characteristics & deficiencies of a premature cub.
The very bones of a full-term panda cub are underdeveloped, making them even more vulnerable than previously thought.
One article went so far as to state one reason for the low survival rate of baby pandas is because "they don't have the right habitat."
Wait a minute—baby pandas evolved in a habitat all wrong for them?
Evolutionarily speaking, how on earth could that happen?
Combine the above factors with the threat of predators (snow leopard, jackals, martens) who all live in the same mountains as pandas & prey on panda cubs...you see how it takes a miracle for each individual cub to make it to adulthood.
Interestingly, caretakers manage twins by alternating them between their mother & their incubator.
In this way, the twins are both fed & protected. (Though not always. There was that 2006 nursing incident mentioned above...)
If necessary, the caretakers supplement the mother's milk with special formulas, but generally, the mothers seem capable of producing enough milk for two.
So panda mothers DO have the energy & milk to care for two—they just FEEL they don't.
What Does the Science Say?
Pandas suffer derogatory labels like "evolutionary cul-de-sac" and "one of evolution's less successful products" and "evolutionary dead-end" and "evolutionary mistake" and so on.
Yet at the same time, scientists focus on research that contradict their personal views on the giant panda's own contradictions.
(If pandas really do prove to be evolutionary dead-ends or mistakes—and they do—then that actually provides evidence against evolution. Scientists do not want that.)
Pandas remain full of contradictions, yet scientists continue to put out seemingly explanatory statements that, when pondered for a whole minute, actually make no sense.
So here we go:
- Pandas as Evidence of Devolution
For example, scientists crown the suicidally small size & weak bone structure of newborn pandas as "a brilliant breeding strategy" and "definitely the result of millions of years of evolution."
However, between the newborn vulnerabilities & the lethally poor parenting common in mother pandas (not to mention deadly forest predators), baby pandas are barely viable.
As mentioned above, one article explained part of the reason for the low survivability of baby pandas results from not being born in "the right habitat."
So how could they have survived so long?
It helps to understand why scientists deem the incredibly weak panda cub as "a breeding strategy."
Animal biologists theorize panda cubs experience a shorter gestation & "undercooked" development in order to conserve the mother's energy & resources (because she is undernourished by eating bamboo all day, rather than the meat she is innately designed to eat).
But this doesn't even make sense according to their own theories & evidence.
In this case, their evolution produced a weaker being, not a stronger one.
Pandas are less viable.
It's a case of "survival of the most sluggish and least fittest."
Furthermore, scientists postulate that pandas only switched to bamboo LESS than 5000 years ago—so where are the "millions of years of evolution" supposedly resulting in a "breeding strategy"?
(And remember, we don't even know if THAT is accurate because scientists derived evidence from what they claimed were ancient panda fossils dating back 5-7000 years. Are those actual panda fossils—scientists have fudged or erred in these things before—and is that dating remotely accurate?)
Scientists say this bamboo diet slowed the metabolism of pandas—which again, shows devolution.
Scientists claim that the metabolism of pandas slowed down to accommodate their poisonous herbivore intake.
To conserve energy, pandas hardly move in the wild.
(But maybe pandas were always like this. Maybe they were born this contradictory way. How can we know?)
Also, why are giant pandas "giant"? You would think part of their adaptation would lead to pandas the size of poodles. That would conserve a lot more energy AND bamboo.
We see how nutrition affects human beings & mammals; poor nutrition produces a smaller body.
So why does the giant panda simply get stuck with a slow metabolism rather than shrinking like everyone else?
Additionally, scientists go on about how pandas switched to bamboo as an adaption when faced with a dearth of meat.
But this lacks logic too.
While evolutionists would have you believe that pandas introduced bamboo into their diets gradually (over millions of years!) until it comprised 99% percent of their intake, the truth is, again, scientists declare that pandas only switched to bamboo a few thousand years ago (or less).
Furthermore, bamboo is both mostly indigestible & cannot meet the panda's nutritional needs.
Even more vexing, bamboo is actually poisonous.
Again, fossil studies reported in the year 2019 indicate pandas switched to a bamboo-only diet LESS than 5000 years ago.
At some point, all pandas should have died of digestion issues, poison, and malnutrition.
Yet somehow, the panda lives on.
- The panda's miraculous metabolization of fatal amounts of cyanide-spiked bamboo
Source from the prestigious Nature magazine (link at end of post): Huang, H. et al. Dietary resources shape the adaptive changes of cyanide detoxification function in giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Sci. Rep. 6, 34700; doi: 10.1038/srep34700 (2016)
For example, giant pandas possess cyanide-neutralizing powers, which enable them to absorb more than 65% of the cyanide produced by bamboo.
How did that happen?
(The panda excretes the remaining 35%—somehow without harming the panda as it passes through the panda's digestive system.)
Herbivores (like rabbits) naturally possess the rhodanese pathway necessary for cyanide detoxification.
But pandas, despite their actual diet, remain pure carnivores with regard to their entire biological system.
So how did they develop a cyanide detoxification system found only in herbivores?
Scientists will tell you, "Why, that's because pandas became herbivores over time! Evolutionary processes!"
But pandas NEVER became herbivores. Yes, they eat herbs (primarily bamboo).
But physically & biologically, pandas remain 100% pure unadulterated CARNIVORES.
In fact, out of all the species in the world, panda bears are phylogenetically most closely related to the decidedly carnivorous POLAR bear!
So where did this herbivore-only rhodanese pathway for cyanide detoxification come from?
Just to drive home the point:
Adult pandas weigh about the same as a fully grown male. The amount of cyanide (55-66 mg) they consume in their daily intake of bamboo is nearly enough to kill a human—and should kill a panda bear...especially when consumed DAILY.
Molecular mechanisms need to jump into play for this cyanide detoxification to work.
So simply increasing their bamboo intake transformed panda bears at the molecular level WITHOUT interfering with anything else?
Scientists discovered a mutation in the T1R1 gene in pandas. This basically wipes out the umami (savory, meaty) taste in pandas, which they use to explain why pandas stopped eating meat—it simply no longer tastes "umami" to them.
(Though the tastes of sweet & salty remain.)
This can make sense within what we know of epigenetics, in which behaviors & thoughts can activate or deactivate different genes.
Could it be that eating bamboo almost exclusively blocked the expression of that gene?
But that doesn't explain why pandas conversely DO continue to eat meat.
As stated earlier, pandas hunt & eat rodents in the wild, plus they eat meat given to them by their keepers in captivity.
They eat meat despite this genetic mutation that supposedly repels them from eating meat.
- The mystery of the panda's thumb
Going through scientific articles with all their unscientific terms (speculate, claim, assume, theorize, etc.) and their contradictory arguments & claims (strangely reminiscent of the "twisters" common among narcissists & other manipulators), along with the need to familiarize myself with unfamiliar terminology (phylogenetic! rhodanese!)...well, it's making my brain sag.
But suffice to say that the panda's thumb—perfect for grasping bamboo stalks—intrigues scientists.
And now that the 2019 study of panda fossils indicates a penchant for bamboo LESS than 5000 years ago, is that enough time for evolution to come up with a handy-dandy thumb?
Genetic adaptation to one's environment is no big deal & famously mentioned in the Gemara as the ever-tranquil Hillel answers questions about egg-headed Babylonians, flat-footed Africans, and narrow-eyed Tadmorians (Shabbat 31a).
But does that include thumbs? Don't know.
That's all I have to say about it for now.
- Wait a minute—HOW did pandas turn from meat & to bamboo again?
No one knows.
But as always, scientists are happy to dream up intriguing stories—I mean, develop theories.
(Similar to how the ancient Greek geniuses invented mythologies to explain their scientific quandaries.)
So the story goes that human habitation pushed pandas into the mountains, where pandas turned to bamboo so as not to compete with the existing carnivorous population.
(Between its submission to a pushy human population & its reluctance to compete with other carnivores—even to its own detriment—pandas come off as very co-dependent.)
Also, this does not fit with the scientists' own theory of evolution.
According to all the principles of evolution, a panda's instincts should cause it to fight for survival, not just acquiesce and be like, "Well, the bamboo is poisonous, lacking in essential nutrients, and indigestible, plus it causes me to produce underdeveloped not-so-viable offspring, AND it makes me lethargic...but what can you do? C'est la vie."
(Especially since pandas don't even speak English or French, but just Chinese, of course.)
And why did pandas not return to eating meat?
After all, they do eat rodents a bit in the wild.
The bamboo forests host meat: rodents, insects, squirrels, monkeys, jackals, feral dogs, Asian black bears, martens, red pandas (who are not real panda bears, but more like raccoons, weasels, and skunks), snow leopards...many regular bears also even eat their own young—why would a panda bear pass on eating the weaker twin it abandons?
I'm not saying I'd be happy if panda bears ate red pandas or snow leopards or their own offspring. I don't like the idea at all.
I mean, just look at THIS gorgeous masterpiece of Hashem!:
(Though I prefer pandas stick to less appealing mammals, like rodents, feral dogs, and jackals.)
I also wonder why panda caretakers continue to feed them bamboo? Why not increase their intake of meat to re-activate their umami taste & get their metabolism back on track?
Let's jumpstart the sluggish, noshing panda bear & its preemie cubs!
Furthermore, all this worry plaguing conservationists about the amount of bamboo in forests needed to sustain pandas?
If pandas started eating meat (according to their innate biology), that would solve a lot of the bamboo conservation issues.
As pandas "devolved," don't forget that humans once hunted pandas both for food (though panda meat reportedly does not taste good) and for its coat.
Also, people once considered pandas monsters and tried to kill them in self-defense (also for their pelt's medicinal & superstitious properties).
All in all, it cannot be emphasized enough:
According to all science & logic, pandas should not be here.
Pandas are everything evolution isn't.
Our Affection for Pandas Emanates from Its Ability to Reveal Hashem in the World
Hashem even guides each individual baby panda into adulthood. (How else could its preemie body survive in the wrong habitat with a mother like that?)
Pandas melt our hearts due to their ability to vex evolutionists & reveal Hashem in the world.
Every panda is a ambling, chewing, roly-poly miracle.
For details about the panda's miraculous cyanide metabolation:
A 2019 study indicating pandas subsisted on bamboo LESS than 5000 years ago: