27. Natural Selection
“Let us choose what is right; let us know among ourselves what is good.” - Job 34:4 (ESV)
The theory of evolution, as articulated by Darwin, is built on a principle called natural selection. Darwin believed that natural selection was the mechanism by which certain random beneficial mutations are retained resulting in diversity of descending species. The idea is both simple and elegant.
The components of Darwin’s theory were not really new. The idea that life arose and spread and spontaneously increased in complexity and diversity by some purely natural means dates back thousands of years. The principle of natural selection was introduced in the early 19th century, just a few years before Darwin’s now famous trip. Ironically, the principle of natural selection was first proposed by a Christian who was also an outspoken Creationist. Darwin’s theory was unique in that he combined the previously pantheistic or animist belief in evolution with a scientific principle. He successfully sold his idea because he was able to legitimize a previously pagan belief with the guise of scientific enlightenment.
Evolutionary theory cannot be rejected out of hand simply because its underlying philosophy has pagan origins. It also should not be accepted as fact just because it relies on another scientific principle, natural selection. Both the philosophical underpinning and the scientific principles involved need to be examined. Simple and elegant do not automatically make it true.
Evolutionary theory requires descent with modification. Modification means mutation. Mutation is when a cell or some part of a cell does not replicate itself accurately. In nature, mutations that are “beneficial” to the living creature are extremely rare. Mutations that increase net genetic complexity or information have never been observed in nature. Almost all mutations reduce the net order to some degree and damage the creature. Such mutations often make the animal susceptible to sterility or death. Oddballs in nature are generally shunned or targeted for death.
Natural selection is often thought to mean survival of the fittest. A much more accurate description would be survival of the conformist. Survival of the “fittest” is really only true in the sense that the norm is considered fit and the nonconformist is less fit. For example, when a tiger and lion mate the resulting liger is always sterile. When a donkey and a horse mate the mule is always sterile. Albinos of almost any animal species are another abhorration of nature that are usually killed soon after birth in the wild. Conjoined twins, like two-headed snakes, almost never survive in the wild. Natural selection actually protects nature from evolution by preventing abnormality whether by mutation or by interbreeding.
Natural selection is often credited with explaining genetic variation within a “kind.” For example, new dog breeds appear all over the world. Generating new breeds is better explained with Mendel's principles of dominant and recessive genes than with natural selection. A large dog and a small dog may produce offspring which are large with short legs, long with large legs, or some other combination of features of its parents. Continued breeding may produce more of the same features and some with other features. By mating offspring of similar features, the information needed to produce either of the original parents is eventually bred out completely. Although later generations of the new breed have a more limited gene pool, they are still dogs and can still mate with other breeds of dog. Natural selection comes into play only if an offspring is actually defective or sterile.
Adaptation to environmental factors may be considered a form of natural selection. When the environment changes, genetic characteristics better suited to the changed environment tend to become the most desirable for mating. For example, animals with white fur like polar bears prefer to breed with others of the same limited genetic stock to preserve their environmentally advantageous fur color. Although polar bears and grizzly bears can and do on rare occasion mate, they generally prefer to avoid mating because their offspring will have some mixture of traits less desirable in either of their natural habitats.
Diversity within a given animal kind is the result of breeding out one or another genetic quality, usually involving geographical segregation for a period of time. Random natural mutations are very rarely beneficial and have never been observed to add complexity to the genetic information of the organism. Natural selection rejects offspring with substantial mutations or flaws (albinos, conjoined twins, etc.) or descent from parents of similar yet sufficiently different DNA (donkey and horse, tiger and lion, etc.). Entropy dictates that order and organization will naturally degrade over time. Natural selection, rather than an instrument of change, is a well documented natural phenomena whereby living things in nature overcome the effects of entropy by rejecting mutation and interbreeding of different kinds of organisms. The fact is that natural selection is a counter-agent to Evolution in every way.
Related Topics: Creation