THE TRUE ROLE OF NATURAL SELECTION AND VARIATION
As evolutionists often see it, natural selection is the primary force behind evolution. It has great creative powers, the ability to test, experiment, augment and modify. Its decisions are genius, brilliant and powerful. This makes natural selection one of the most abused concepts in evolutionary thinking. Take a look at just a few examples of how it is treated from evolutionary sources.
“But if humans can make new varieties of plants and animals, must not nature do so also… If artificial selection can make such major changes in so short a time, what must natural selection, working over billions of years be capable of? The answer is all the beauty and diversity of the biological world. Evolution is a fact, not a theory”
Former Evolutionist Carl Sagan (Cosmos)
“Almost everybody has heard of natural selection -the process by which evolution takes place- but few are aware of it’s logic… Natural selection works by logic that is almost a tautology.”
Eugene S. Morton. (Animal Talk)
“We as engineers will coach the process (of selection). We’ll be the invisible hand of natural selection, winnowing out the losers, putting the winners through increasingly tougher trials. Our biggest challenge won’t be to create solutions, these will be generated randomly the way species adaptations are.”
Michael Conrad (Biomimicry)
“The single force primarily responsible for upsetting genetic equilibrium is natural selection. Natural selection at its simplest is the impact of any factor in the total environment of an organism that tends to produce systematic genetic change from one generation to the next”
Jay M. Savage (Evolution)
“It’s not chance, natural selection is the opposite of chance!”
Richard Dawkins (from the God Delusion Debate)
What’s wrong with the above quotes?
The first compares natural selection to intelligent selection, the second recognizes but denies that natural selection is a tautology, the next mistakes intelligent selection for natural selection, the next identifies it as a force that produces genetic change and the last denies the role of the random mutations necessary for natural selection to act on.
What is natural selection?
- Is it a law on the same level as the law of gravity or the laws of thermodynamics?
- Is it a theory on the same level as relativity or quantum physics?
- Is it a process, like combustion or decomposition?
- Does it create force like electricity?
- Does it have creative power?
Evolutionary scientists have repeatedly put natural selection into all these categories, but in actuality natural selection is not a power, force or law, it has no creative abilities, no measurable quantities, and no physical properties.
You can’t observe it directly. You can’t determine with certainty what will be selected. It is a compilation of after the fact observations. An extraordinary feature of natural selection is that it does not actually select anything. Selection, i.e. the ability to make a choice, is a function of intelligence. Natural selection makes no decisions, or choices. So how does something that can’t choose make a choice?
Basically any organism fit enough to survive and reproduce has been selected. Natural selection is considered to be the opposite of artificial selection, or intelligent selection. The prediction that natural selection makes is that the fittest will survive. This is a tautology, or truism, because a population that survives will contain the most fit. Natural selection however explains nothing about the cause of changes within an organisms genes. Even so it is used as a generic term to explain any and every structure, system or behavior of organisms. This is based on the structures perceived enhancement to its survival, even going so far as to assign it the power to initiate genetic changes.
Evolutionists have misused this term since the time of Darwin. He made the claim that “natural selection modifies” many times. At times evolutionists assign to it almost supernatural creative powers, giving it the attributes of genius and insight, the abilities to test, experiment and probe. It has been given the godlike powers of decision and creativity.
When a farmer selects the best sheep for breeding he is using intelligent, or artificial selection, the farmer has a goal and a reasoning process to hopefully reach that goal. The scientist trying to engineer new tools from living organisms also has a goal, by selecting only those organisms that fit his criteria he is making an intelligent selection. When they state that these things are comparable to natural selection they demonstrate a problematic logical error in evolutionary thinking. That is, evolutionists have not been able to deal with the true role of natural selection and on rare occasions admit that natural selection has no creative role. They do this because the true engines of genetic change cannot drive evolution forward.
The concept of natural selection was introduced by a Bible believing scientist, Edward Blythe, in the late 1830s. He correctly saw it as a process of conservation, not creation. In Darwin’s proposition that evolution was driven by a combination of both variation and natural selection. Variation, one of the actual change agents, was and still is given a secondary role. The cause of variation was not even understood at the time. Darwin, unable to uncover the cause of variation eventually returned to Lamarckian views of evolution through acquired characteristics. Mutation the only possible creative mechanism for evolution was unknown. Interestingly another Bible believing scientist, Gregor Mendel, discovered the true nature of variation several years before Darwin published “The Origin of the Species.” But his work, unfortunately, did not come to light until the early 20th century.
In order to define natural selection we need to ask a few questions. What is being selected, how is it being selected and when is it selected. None of these questions have a straightforward answer, which confirms the fact that natural selection is not what it is often claimed to be.
Consider these two definitions from Biology textbooks.
“Natural selection, however, can act on genetic variation only when it is expressed in the phenotype”
“A population is the smallest unit that can evolve. Natural selection involves interactions between individual organisms and their environment, but individuals do not evolve”
The gap between the definition of each organism in the DNA and the point where natural selection actually takes place, at the phenotypic level is enormous. Evolutionists often speak of natural selection acting at all levels of organization, even lower than the cellular level. This clearly disagrees with a basic understanding of biology.
First, what is being selected? Natural selection can be said to select the phenotype. The phenotype is the body of the organism containing all its cells, organs, systems and functions. The genotype, coded on the DNA, the actual instructions to build the phenotype is not affected or selected by natural selection. Natural selection does not affect the genetic makeup of an organism in any way. Now, natural selection can be said to change genetic percentages within of a population of organisms. The available genetic variation within a species is known as the gene pool. But again, it is not natural selection that made any of the genetic variation available nor does it control any circumstances that may give an organism an advantage.
Secondly, how does natural selection select? Selection is not a conscious choice, it is the result of survival, and survival is based on fitness. For Darwin Survival of the fittest and natural selection were synonymous. The term “fitness” lacks a straightforward definition and is not entirely based on the qualities of the organism. A gecko for instance is not going to be fit to survive in the Antarctic. The organism must be adapted to its environment. No organism can be prepared for every environmental change, natural disasters or other changes in the environment, such as the introduction of a new predator, can reduce the population of any organism that we would normally call fit.
It is always in a state of flux and generally degrading. Exposure to radiation and harsh chemicals can accelerate this. The genetic code is normally unaffected by environmental changes.
Thirdly, when is the selection made? Since selection is based on survival, and survival of a species is based on how effectively it passes on its genetic information. Selection then has to take place at the time of birth. When a new organism is born, the selection has been made; the genes have been passed on successfully. Its will be selected again if it successfully reproduces.
Does natural selection have a purpose?
Yes, it is to keep a species at the nearest optimum level, and slows the inevitable genetic loss in every species. But it does not work alone; variation is the key to the prevention of the loss of genetic information. Together, variation and selection work to keep each species from extinction, natural selection is a conservative process, not a creative one.
Variation is a random combination of heritable genetic traits. Variation occurs when two organisms pass on their genetic information to their mutual offspring. The father and mother both contribute a set of genes to the offspring. They get mixed and matched so that as subsequent generations reproduce, the genetic information gets distributed throughout the population. This way, if something goes wrong within the genes in one organism, there are plenty of good copies still available in the other organisms.
Variation is what gives us the variety of organisms within kinds. The things we most widely recognize are the various breeds of domestic animals, dogs, cats, horses, cattle, etc. Although these are the results of intelligent selection, the same types of divisions occur in the wild. The difference is dogs, cats, cows and horses are bred for based on the desires of man, whereas in the wild, breeding is undirected, and poor matches are eventually eliminated.
Variation is not a source of new genetic information; it is only the reshuffling of information that already existed. And it is designed to serve a purpose, to slow the degradation of the genetic information. As you study life you will find that there are many error correcting and error preventing systems in life, the immune system is one. At the level of the cell there are all sorts of error correcting systems and mechanisms. The fact that life is error correcting at all levels is more evidence for intelligent design. For systems designed to trap, reduce and correct errors, assume there is a standard to be maintained. It also shows that there is anticipation that error will occur. Awareness and recognition are built into thoughtless molecules. If life was designed by unconscious random rearrangements of molecules, by mistakes and errors, you would think that life would welcome error, or at least seem unconcerned with it. The presence of error correcting at all levels is evidence that life was designed.
Neither natural selection nor variation are a creative process. If that was all that life had to play with then it could never “evolve” from molecules to man. Now there is no question that if a better organism came along that natural selection would select it. That’s obvious and results in another mistake that evolutionists often make, that is, assuming that if a feature gives an organism an advantage, then it must have evolved, when in actuality, a selective advantage only decreases the chances of extinction.
What needs to happen for evolution to take place? It’s the writing of brand new genetic code. We call this mutation. Mutations are random errors in the code. Outside of the theory of evolution, mutation is a bad thing. This is why people like Richard Dawkins try to keep the focus on natural selection. But natural selection cannot act until a series of mutations creates something that can be selected. There are three directions a mutation can take. Most of the time a mutation will be neutral and have no immediate effect on the organism. In other cases mutations will harm the organism to some degree. And according to evolution, in some rare and as yet unobserved cases, it benefits the organism. This supposedly takes it down the road towards a brand new organ, structure or integrated system.
Beneficial mutations are rarely observed, they are so rare in fact that in desperation some evolutionists have resorted to calling sickle cell anemia, and other harmful mutations, beneficial because they have “beneficial” side effects. Such as sickle cell protecting against malaria. That’s pretty sad. Without beneficial mutations, however, evolution didn’t happen. Another place they try to find beneficial mutations is by claiming that numerous neutral mutations will build up over time to create a new functional and beneficial gene sequence. This is far from reality however.
Think about this, if you have a small error, one that doesn’t really deter from the code, what are the chances that another small error is going to combine with the first and create a new beneficial function, rather than bring it closer to the point where it is harmful. Population geneticists are fully aware that small neutral mutations occur with every passing generation. These mutations don’t increase function or begin to create new systems. Figuratively, they slowly add noise to the code and sooner or later a gene will cease to function. Although signal and noise is not a true comparison it helps to illustrate the effect. If we add noise to a signal it eventually becomes unintelligible, it doesn’t enhance the message. Mutations however can cause a cease of function with a single change. Mutations cause loss of information at a much higher rate than information gain.
Now think about this, if beneficial mutations are so rare that you can’t name any real ones and neutral mutations, that eventually add up to a harmful mutation occur with every generation, which is going to accumulate faster. By the time a beneficial mutation comes along, there are already thousands of neutral and harmful mutations already in the genetic code. The fact that the genetic code seems to be in fair working order is a testament to the recent creation. Life could not have survived millions of years with the mutation rates observed by scientists today.
When variation is not given a wide range of genes to work with evidence of the underlying harmful mutations begin to surface. These kinds of mutations are very prominent in purebred animals. All sorts of genetically based maladies crop up, such as deafness, bone and organ deformations. Most of us probably know someone with a genetically inherited disease or malformation. Common genetic diseases get passed on for two basic reasons, either the gene is recessive, waiting to be expressed or the disease is not lethal before reproductive age is reached. This allows harmful mutations to spread throughout populations.
The point is that mutation, variation, natural selection or any combination of the three are incapable of driving evolution. Natural selection only selects what is available, variation is made up of only what is available and mutations are in the end, always harmful.
So, Natural selection is a conservative process that preserves the genetic make up by selecting the best adapted organisms. Variation is the result of the intermixing of genes at reproduction, and is not an evolutionary force or mechanism, but the result of one of life’s many in-built error prevention mechanisms. They are a testimony to intelligent design, not engines of evolution.
A true understanding of the factors for change is actually devastating for any ideas of evolution beyond speciation, leaving only one viable alternative, intelligent design creation.
 William T. Keeton and James L. Gould, 1986, Biological Science forth Edition, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 846.
 Neil A. Campbell, Jane B. Reese and Lawrence G. Mitchell, Biology Fifth Edition, 1999, CA: Benjamin Cummings, 421.
The cartoon is incorrect. A generation of animals are all different. That comes mainly from a shuffling of genes. You don’t need mutations. You and your brother are just a different combination of your father and mother’s genes.
There does not need to be anything special in the way you each get your set of genes. Your cartoon implies it does.
I imagine that in the 2nd panel, where the character says “So natural selection depends on mutations…” is the problem. That statement would be incorrect if the cartoon were only talking about changes between parent and offspring per your example, but correct if it’s talking about macro-evolutionary changes like those that would need to occur to evolve a non-metamorphosing insect into a butterfly. No amount of genetic change of the kind between parent and offspring involving only the recombination of genes would ever produce macro-evolutionary change. You need mutations. The term “evolution” as used in the first panel of the cartoon doesn’t imply parent to offspring biological change.
Scientists have known for over 100 years that the kinds of changes between parent and offspring cannot drive macro-evolutionary change. And it’s been around 80 years since evolutionists decided that mutations had to be the raw material for evolution. So if you are going to talk about evolutionary change then mutations are not optional. Since natural selection needs new genetic material to drive macro-evolutionary changes you need mutations.