There are few animals as utterly charming as the giraffe, but the question of just how it got its neck (and internal systems to support such an adaptation) has been a vexing one. I’ve been planning to write something on giraffe evolution for some time now, but I didn’t have the impetus to do so until I popped over to UD today and saw Dembski had posted a screed proclaiming that the question of how the giraffe got its next must lead us to “alternatives” to evolution. The article is wrong from the onset, and (as seems to nearly always be the case) Stephen Jay Gould already addressed this issue years ago.
Unfortunately, I returned Gould’s collection of essays Leonardo’s Moutain of Clams and the Diet of Worms to the library so I can’t quote directly from the article, but in the latter part of the book there is an essay dealing specifically with giraffes. As Gould correctly notes, many have used giraffes as a symbol of false Lamarckian evolutionary principles, the classic textbook treatment stating that Lamarck thought over generations the giraffe stretched its neck further and further to reach delicious leaves, thus passing on this trait to its offspring, but this treatment is far from accurate. The book Tall Blondes chronicles how the giraffe was (and even still is) an enigma while other creatures become more well-known, and thus few scientists gave it detailed treatments in their writings or used it as an example; too little was known about giraffes to make such a tactic prudent. From what I remember of the Gould essay, Lamarck only mentioned the giraffe in passing and Darwin initially referred to it not about its neck, but about the use of its tail as a flyswatter. Indeed, giraffes tails are so wonderful as flyswatters that at times they were hunted for their tails, which made traditional wedding gifts, and Darwin considered how such an anti-pest adaptation may allow animals like giraffes to inhabit more infested landscapes. Again, if I remember correctly, Darwin did discuss the giraffe in more detail in later writings, but primarily in response to criticisms from another scientists and not as a triumphant proof of evolution.
The short preview suggests that evolutionists either have to figure out exactly how the giraffe got its neck and other essential internal organs (sounds like the flagellum argument all over again) or embrace saltation, which would certainly not work given the necessity for integrated systems to be in place to allow the giraffes head to be up so high. Thus, the writer procliams, the intelligent design “alternative” wins out, and I would not be surprised if the giraffes neck was the next attempted “Icon of IDiocy”. For my own part, I’ve still got plenty of reading to do on extinct and extant giraffes, but hopefully soon I’ll have something more substantial here for you all.