I have been thinking a lot lately about natural selection. Those two words were made famous when Charles Darwin introduced them to the academic world in 1859 through his seminal book The Origin of Species.

What has pushed me to do this thinking is the recent secular and creationist research that points toward internal rather than external sources for organic adaptation in the world. There is a lot of research in process, and I won’t be able to discuss all the high points in one article so I will conduct this discussion in several parts, this being part #1.

Until recently I thought I knew what natural selection was, that is, I thought I had a valid definition for it. Here is the definition for natural selection that I printed in my books on biblical creation beginning in 2010: “The mechanism proposed by Darwin to explain his concept of evolution. It describes the adaptation of organisms to their environment and explains the resulting degrees of survival and reproductive success. Creationists would allow for natural selection (first proposed by a creationist) to affect variability within a kind limited by the information originally placed in the DNA. Natural selection would work to reject mutations for progressive evolutionary improvement of some sort. The description of the process as ‘natural selection’ is flawed in the sense that nature (or environment or ecology) is not intelligent and therefore is incapable of ‘selecting’ anything. The creationist would emphasize that adaptation of an organism to its environment is due to innate abilities of the organism, while the evolutionist must attribute intelligence to inanimate things like nature, environment, climate etc.”

Now I wonder how I could have correlated the last portion of my definition to the first part. Did Darwin really propose a valid Godless mechanism, and how do creationists allow for natural selection if it requires intelligent selection by inanimate objects? How can natural selection “work”? Can natural selection really do anything?

Here is one creationist definition that undoubtedly influenced me in the development of my definition: “As creationists were saying even before Darwin’s time, natural selection does not explain the origin of species or traits, but only their preservation.” [Morris, Henry & Parker, Gary, What is Creation Science? 1989, p. 82.]

This and numerous other creationist quotations seem to indicate that creationists believe (or believed) that natural selection is in some way a reality. In light of the research I mentioned above I now highly doubt that as being true. In this series of articles I hope to shine some light on natural selection by examining a series of quotations primarily by secular evolutionists.

Perhaps a good starting point would be to consider the subject of natural selection and cladistics, a topic I have often discussed in my talks and articles: “No one has ever produced a species by mechanisms of natural selection. No one has ever gotten near it…all one can learn about the history of life is learned from systematics, from groupings one finds in nature. The rest of it is storytelling of one sort or another.” [Patterson, Colin, “Cladistics,” Interview by Brian Leek, March 4, 1982.]

So, Patterson believed natural selection was a mechanism, but that it could not produce species. He does not make it clear what he thought the mechanism could accomplish, if anything. While Patterson seemed skeptical regarding the capability of natural selection, other evolutionists have a lot more confidence in it. Let’s look at what some of those in this category have written:

“The theory of natural selection has a big job—the biggest in biology. Its task is to explain how every adaptation evolved, step by step, from traits that preceded it.” [Coyne, J., Why Evolution is True, Viking, New York, 2009.]

“Natural Selection is a simple concept, but it is perhaps the most important idea in biology. It is also one of the most important ideas in the history of human thought…for it explains the apparent design of the living world without recourse to a supernatural, omnipotent designer.” [Futuyma, Douglas, Evolution, 3rd Edition, 2013, p. 281.]

“With Darwin’s discovery of natural selection, the origin and adaptations of organisms were brought into the realm of science. The adaptive features of organisms could now be explained, like the phenomena of the inanimate world, as the result of natural processes, without recourse to an Intelligent Designer…This was Darwin’s fundamental discovery, that there is a process that is creative, although not conscious.” [Ayala, Francis, “Darwin’s greatest discovery: Design without a designer,” PNAS, 104:8567-8573, 2007.]

And, there is the often-stated mantra “that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution where natural selection is evolution’s principal sense-maker.”

In all of these types of statements natural selection is placed on a mighty pedestal with the power to do the most amazing things. Do you wonder if natural selection is so powerful why it can only make things with “apparent design?”

Here is a list of questions I plan to tackle as we go through this multi-part evaluation of natural selection:

1. What did Darwin actually say about natural selection?

2. Was Darwin the first to invent an externalist account for adaptation and if so why was it so quickly accepted by others?

3. Can natural selection really act like a human breeder as Darwin proposed?

4. How did Malthus influence Darwin’s natural selection hypothesis?

5. Is natural selection really only a metaphor? If so, what is it a metaphor for?

6. Was Darwin’s purpose in writing The Origin of Species to replace the Creator with natural selection? How are theology and faith inserted into natural selection?

7. What is the association between natural selection and Eugenics?

8. In light of current science what can be concluded about natural selection?

Perhaps there will be other questions and sub-questions that come up in this series that can also be considered. Won’t you please hang in there? Let’s see what else we can find out!

J.D. Mitchell


Please feel free to share...Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn