Why Evolution is Not True Post #1 of 10: Describing Evolution

In the very beginning of his book The Edge of Evolution Michael Behe states that evolution is a combination of three separate ideas, namely: random mutation, natural selection, and common descent.  I intend to begin by discussing the first two of these three ideas because they explain the “how” of evolution.  During these first few posts I will discuss how evolution is supposed to work and why it utterly fails. Later on I will focus more on the evidence related to the question of common descent such as the fossil records, the human genome, and homologous structures.  This evidence too will show that Darwinian evolution is not responsible for the development of modern species out of lower life forms.

            The mechanism for evolution is random mutation acted on by natural selection.  It is essential that one understand that both of these ingredients are necessary for evolution to occur.  Natural selection by itself is not evolution.  This is something that Charles Darwin missed when he wrote The Origin of Species. He can be forgiven for this mainly because very little was known about genetics at that time. Darwin’s focus on natural selection as the cause of biological variety left a lot of questions unanswered, but he had to begin somewhere, so he started with what he could observe in nature. Many of his conclusions about natural selection which seem extremely obvious and self-evident today were not studied much or acknowledged before he came along. There is no doubt that he must be credited for asking and even answering some very important questions that had been largely ignored before his time.

            But today, given the amazing advances of the study of genetics, natural selection should not be taught as “evolution” without an accompanying reference to random mutation. Natural selection teaches that nature will “choose” an organism for survival if it is better equipped to survive than its competition. Natural selection does not tell us where and how the different species obtained the genetic code that preserves their natural traits; it simply explains why some traits survived and others did not.  We now know that all organisms are given DNA from their parents which is how traits are passed down through generations. In order to even begin to discuss the question of origins we must include the changes made in this genetic code over time. These changes are called mutations, and they appear to be random occurrences. These changes by themselves only produce chaos.  Evolutionary theory, therefore, relies on natural selection to act as a guiding force for weeding out the “good” mutations from the bad.  It provides the “design” for their model.

            A classic illustration of natural selection is found in the gypsy moth, an insect that lives in England. It is particularly known for having two distinct variations: one that is light colored and another that is dark. Hundreds of years ago the light-colored version was the predominantly observed variation of the two, but then the species experienced a drastic change in its environment as a result of the industrial revolution.  Suddenly the white variation of the moth disappeared from industrialized areas and was replaced by the black variation. The smoke and soot from the factories polluted the environment and stained the trees black. As a result white moths became more conspicuous when perched on tree limbs and were quickly captured and eaten by birds, whereas the black moths were better camouflaged. Now able to hide better and survive in greater numbers, the black moths took over areas that were previously white moth territory.  Thus the black moths were “natural selected” and managed to survive in greater numbers in locations where previously they could not.

            The example above tells us a lot about natural selection, but nothing about whether or not these varieties were produced by “evolution.” The genetic differences were already present in the moths at the time of selection, but we do not know how they came to be there, whether the DNA coding for the dark moth mutated from the gene coding for the light colored moth, or vice versa, or developed independently.  If it can be proven that these genes were caused directly by a series of mutations from something else (not just slightly altered, but created from a gene with a completely different function or manifestation), then this is an example of evolution. If they were created directly by God, obviously it is not. The debate about origins hinges on this question: where did the code come from?

            At this juncture I consider it important to point out that the debate here is not about whether or not evolution happens: we know that it does. Evolution happens every time that an organism mutates and natural selection allows the new genotype to survive. The question is whether or not evolution happens frequently or rarely, and whether or not it can explain how life developed into its current complexity from some common ancestor. My thesis is that it cannot: random mutation guided by natural selection is inherently too weak a tool to even begin to foot the bill.  Real world examples that we see of evolution illustrate its utter inability to account for most features of biological diversity and complexity. I will begin to demonstrate this in my next post where I will talk specifically about a case of known evolution in humans.

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