Reflections on Natural Selection
or Survival of the Fittest

When something is confidently asserted to be true by those in authority, most people accept it as true, usually without serious examination. "Natural Selection" is just such a dogma, hardly questioned by many in the scientific world, and reluctantly accepted even by some Christians who wish it weren't so. But is it as obviously true as it seems?

Natural Selection is that process whereby in the struggle for the limited resources for life on this planet the strong or better adapted tend to survive by crowding out the weak. As a general principle this obviously works, within limits. Predators look for the easier prey first, and so the weak and sickly are eliminated. Also in the struggle for domination by the males within a species the stronger prevail. Thus in these two ways the species is purified and kept strong.

The process also works to preserve a species when climate or other environmental conditions change. Those best suited survive and produce offspring while the others perish. When bacteria become resistant to antibiotics it is not necessarily true that entirely new varieties are "evolved." Rather those already able to resist prevail and the others perish.

Breeders use this principle to breed "new" kinds of plants and animals by taking advantage of the rich potential already existing in all living things. They bring together plants or animals that might never have bred in nature. Desirable characteristics are preserved as they occur, and varieties never seen before can be bred. But nothing really new is produced. The potential was always there.

Much of our modern technology is based on the principle of taking things that already exist "on the shelf," and combining them in desirable ways. Our resources are so rich and varied that clever men can come up with some wonderful products.

Darwin saw Natural Selection as "a power incessantly ready for action...." (Origin of Species, page 74). It would unerringly lead to the improvement of all species. When evidence led to conclusions opposed to his theory he speculated about unknown laws and processes which eventually would explain everything. But all that natural selection really does is to assure the unchanging stability of each species.

Variability Is Limited

Experience in animal and plant breeding shows that variability is limited. Species can change and adapt. But a limit is reached, and extreme variations tend toward extinction or reversion to the original type. Also the fossil record shows no remains of the intermediate forms which should logically exist in abundance if life has evolved as evolutionists contend. The "Missing Link" doesn't exist!

Charles Darwin was puzzled and dismayed by the lack of evidence in the fossil record to support his theory. But he persisted in believing that there are no limits to the possibilities of change. He endowed Natural Selection with godlike power such that any species can and does continue to improve indefinitely, or develop into something that never existed before. "Owing to this struggle," he wrote, "variations, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if they be in any degree profitable..., will tend to the preservation of such individuals, and will generally be inherited by the offspring." (Origin of Species, page 74). Thus it was easy to believe that apes might evolve into man.

For a theory to be valid it must have some "predictive value." It should be possible to say, "Since A is true, then B must follow." As we will see, however, evolution as commonly taught is consistently in clear opposition to hard empirical evidence. It is not supported by experience, or by the geological record. Its advocates must constantly seek for ways to explain its failure to agree with the facts.

Darwin did not know what sources of change fed the process of Natural Selection as he saw it. Mutations are generally harmful to a species. Some believe they are always harmful since they arise from damage to the genetic material. As a rule they are recessive or sterile, and often disappear completely in the progeny as time goes by. Mutations that are preserved are generally inferior, as might be expected. But Darwin saw these as possible sources for the changes which in time would produce superior creatures.

In the famous experiment, where fruit flies were bombarded with radiation in hope of creating new life forms through mutation, nothing really new was created. Twisted crippled creatures of all kinds were formed. But they were all fruit flies!

Short Term vs Long Term Survival

Assuming that desirable qualities, however produced, could be passed on, they would have to be only those that were of immediate benefit in the struggle for survival. A variation which is only potentially valuable would not be preserved, for natural selection is blind. It cannot look ahead.

Thus immediate utility and nothing else would be the criterion for selection. On this view, how could any of the parts of an advanced creature develop? Any change, however wonderfully useful it might be later, would either be a handicap in the short term, or would be of no use, and thus would be eliminated. Imagine what would have happened if a time machine had placed a modern military weapon in the hands of Alexander the Great, or a telephone on the desk of George Washington. Without knowledge of the technology involved they would have been meaningless mysteries.

It is quite conceivable that variations temporarily useful would prove a handicap in the long run. In fact it would be just as likely as not that blind Natural Selection would lead life down a dead-end street. A variation which destroys the ecological foundation upon which a species must survive would destroy the species and possibly damage related species. A variation which upsets the delicate balance of nature would also be self-destructive. Variations advantageous in one particular might be nullified by deterioration in other parts of an organism. Stronger muscles, for example, might be offset by shorter legs. No one species could evolve in a vacuum, independent of other species. And it is inconceivable that the sum total of changes produced by blind chance would be beneficial to the whole system.

Evolution in human society demonstrates how evolution can lead to a dead-end as well as to overall improvement. The communists believe in the deceptively simple idea that might makes right. Thus military might seems advantageous, while the production and transportation of food and consumer goods seems unimportant or secondary. Lying, cheating and stealing, all seem advantageous in the short term. In fact, such a system can exist only so long as there are those it can plunder, either its own people or neighboring countries. In general man's technological advances have given great control over nature, but have also brought almost insoluble environmental and social problems.

It is useful to reflect on what didn't happen if Darwinian evolution is true. For example, why didn't the deer develop flesh not so tasty to the lion or tiger? And how do the lions and tigers know not to destroy all the creatures in their food supply? Why didn't birds develop eggs which their enemies wouldn't like to eat? And what advantage is it to a cow that its milk is healthful for man? How is it in the interest of fruit trees to produce tasty apples, oranges, etc.? As the giraffe evolved a longer neck to reach the leaves higher up on the tree, why didn't the tree evolve higher branches?

How was it that some animals fine-tuned their hunting skills while those they hunted never made much progress in self defense? In all these things there seems to be a benevolent intelligence which made one species to serve another, and does not permit change to defeat that purpose.

Long Term Survival

In order for complex organs to come into existence it was necessary that many things happen at the same time. Take the heart for example. How could a creature with no heart, no blood, no veins or arteries, no resources for maintenance and repair, and no control mechanism, even start to produce a beating functioning heart? And forget about associated organs, the stomach, digestive system, lungs, etc. How did its descendants live while all this was developing? Generations of such creatures, all with non-functioning circulatory systems, had to be born. None knew that it was in the process of developing a heart.

As complexity increased in this still useless organ, its interference in the survivability of the species would also increase. Natural selection would most certainly end the experiment. Until it became functional in some degree, any of a billion things could have stopped the development cold. It would be like trying to stack children's blocks a mile high. The slightest breeze or quiver would bring the whole unstable system crashing down. The real question is not "survival of the fittest" but "arrival of the fittest"!

Darwin recognized the problem. "Although all the individuals of the same species differ in some slight degree from each other, it would often be long before differences of the right nature in various parts of the organization might occur. The result would often be greatly retarded by free intercrossing. Many will exclaim that these several causes are amply sufficient to neutralize the power of natural selection. I do not believe so." (Origin of Species, 109.)

Darwin admitted that "to suppose that the eye ... could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree." It is "insuperable by our imagination" he said but, "it is indispensable that the reason should conquer the imagination." (Origin of Species, pp 168-172). It seems clear that his imagination conquered his reason. "We should be extremely cautious in concluding that an organ could not have been formed by transitional gradations of some kind." Of course we should be just as cautious in concluding that it could. Darwin consistently tried to place on his opponents the burden of proving the negative of those things he could not prove.

He went so far as to conjecture that the eye could have been independently formed in different species. "As two men have sometimes independently hit on the same invention, so ... natural selection has produced similar organs, as far as function is concerned, in distinct organic beings, which owe none of their structure in common to inheritance from a common progenitor." (page 177). Though eyes in widely separated species appear alike, "no part of this resemblance can be due to inheritance from a common progenitor." page 176).

Darwinism requires that a useless appendage be passed on from generation to generation until a working organ developed or that an organ as complex as the eye just accidently formed. Not only so, but he thought it could happen more than once. To the staggering objections against such a possibility his only answer was, "I don't believe so."

When an organ is no longer of use to a species it is called vestigial. Darwin thought that such organs would disappear in time. Blind fish, which live in total darkness in caves, have non- functioning eyes. But what is the difference between a vestigial organ and an incipient one? How do you tell if it is coming or going? Why would the body preserve one and get rid of the other, since both are useless? It seems obvious that each species had to be created fully functional and fitted to its place in the scheme of things.

Symbiosis

Symbiosis is "the consorting together or partnership of dissimilar organisms, as of the algae and fungi in lichens. The term ordinarily connotes an association which is mutually advantageous."

There are thousands of examples of this phenomena. Some plants produce complete habitats for ants, including living quarters, protection, and food specifically tailored to the needs of the ants. From the ants they derive fertilizer, protection from other insects, removal of debris from leaves, etc.

In many cases each species in such a relationship is absolutely dependent upon the other. Termites, for example, cannot digest wood. But they have parasites within their digestive tracts which can. Since neither can exist without the other, both species had to possess this mutually beneficial relationship at the same time.

Even on a grand scale, symbiosis appears to be the rule rather than the exception in nature. Animals breath in oxygen and breath out carbon dioxide. Plants take in the carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Jungles and forests, especially the jungles of South America, have been called the lungs of the world. Plants produce food for animals and man, and in turn are nourished by animal waste. Not only so, but this mutually beneficial relationship is absolutely necessary to the control of the average temperature on earth. Without it all life would perish. Is it likely that this developed after one or the other had evolved?

We speak of the chain of life, of the fact that each of the estimated 90,000,000 species of life on this earth receives what it needs from nature and in turn contributes its part back. We now believe that this chain can be easily upset by destroying even one species.

The real world is not as Darwin envisioned it, "red in tooth and claw." Animals take what they need from nature, and each leaves something to replenish what it takes. No creature completely destroys that upon which it must depend for life.

The prophet Daniel in a prophetic vision saw a beast "terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left...." Of course this was symbolic of a nation that was yet to rise. But it illustrates how that only man of all God's creatures, in destroying his enemies, sometimes destroys that upon which he himself must survive.

Man's attempts to outwit nature by introducing foreign species into an environment are frequently spectacularly disastrous. The Chinese once attempted to cut down on the sparrow population by banging on pans to scare them into flying until they dropped from exhaustion. It seems to have worked. But shortly thereafter destructive caterpillars which the sparrows had been eating, increased and consumed their crops.

In the same way Australia introduced a species of frog which was supposed to eat a particular pest they had. Not only did the frogs not eat the pests, but lacking natural enemies they multiplied and became pests themselves. Their flesh contained a poison which destroyed other animals and even men. The Australians would be glad now to find some way to get rid of their frog population.

Darwin envisioned each species as free to change in any part of its structure, and thus over a long period of time, produce new and improved varieties and even new species. We now realize that such changes could not take place in isolation. Any change is like a stone dropped in a pond which sends ripples everywhere, and could bring about the downfall of the whole system.

Beauty and Natural Selection

Although beauty is characteristic of all God's creation, it had no place in Darwin's scheme. "Nature, if I may be allowed to personify the natural preservation or survival of the fittest, cares nothing for appearances, except in so far as they are useful to any being" (Origin of Species, page 90).

Darwin ridiculed the idea that things were created beautiful for man's sake. "Were the beautiful volute and cone shells of the Eocene epoch, and the gracefully sculptured ammonites of the Secondary period, created that man might ages afterwards admire them in his cabinet?" (Origin of Species, page 185)

Even so, he had no idea of how beauty came to be. Female song birds, he supposed, might have selected those males which sang most beautifully. He did not conjecture how they came to have this sense of beauty in the first place, but vaguely suggested that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. He based this on the idea that different peoples have had different ideas of what constitutes beauty in women. Of course, there are mathematical patterns, proportions and balance in those things we call beautiful. And there is sufficient room for differences of opinion based on taste and culture. Ultimately Darwin had to admit he did not know how the sense of beauty developed under his theory.

Summary

Natural Selection is a process whereby the purity and strength of a species is preserved. The weak and deformed are removed and the strongest tend to proliferate. Possibilities for variation are built in to all God's creatures to enable them to adapt to changing demands. Man also takes advantage of these variations to produce what he needs or wants, different kinds of flowers, fruits and vegetables, etc. also different breeds of horses, cows, dogs, cats, etc.

All creatures fit into the chain of life on this planet, taking what they need and returning something to maintain the balance. Usually, when man does not interfere, this process has assured the preservation of the natural world. Life and death go on, but the environment continues to exist.

If Natural Selection worked as Darwin supposed, it still could only preserve those variations which are of immediate use to a creature. It could not preserve variations of only potential value. Such would be useless appendages which would burden the creature and in one way or another cause its destruction. Arrival of the fittest, nor survival of the fittest is the real question.

Survival of the fittest requires not only survival of the individual but survival of the species and survival of the environment. No man is an island, and no species exists in a vacuum. Blind chance could never account for the existence of life.

It is more consistent with fact and reason to believe that God made the world and that he preserves it. "For in him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) "I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all." (Eccl. 9:11)


Bill Carrell 3693 Vanderwood Drive Memphis, TN 38128 (901) 372-8089