Natural selection, also known as the survival of the fittest, is the process seen by Darwin as the driving force of biological evolution. It was not Darwin himself who first formulated it though. Edward Blyth, a chemist/zoologist, had already written about it in 1835, before Darwin.
Natural selection is the process in which organisms with inheritable traits better suited to their environment tend to have more offspring than the other members of their population. These organisms therefore have a greater chance of passing on their genes to the next generation than the others. The favourable genes increase in frequency from generation to generation, while the less favourable ones virtually disappear. Through this process, the subsequent generations of that population will be more and more viable and adapted to their environment, but their gene pool will be more limited.
Darwin thought that natural selection is a creative process which could continue indefinitely, giving rise to new traits, and in the long run to even totally new creatures. This is not true, as natural selection only weeds out the less adapted creatures, deleting their genes. It can only select among pre-existing traits, it cannot create new ones. It is a process that only deletes genetic information, it cannot create new information required by the evolutionary theory.
As we will see, neither natural selection, nor any other process has ever been seen to produce new kinds of organisms.
NOTE: We will refer to the original created kinds of animals and plants as species. Due to human errors in classification, sometimes the true species are at the level of genera, or even higher in the man-made classification system.
Problems with the Classical Examples for Evolution
Whenever creationists ask for examples of evolution happening, the evolutionists give the same handful of examples, which all show only variations within species. Let us see their most frequent examples:
One of the most cited proofs of evolution is the “evolution” of the peppered moth, Biston betularia, in England. This moth species has a light, speckled, and a dark, coal-black coloured variety. Before 1850, most peppered moths were of the light coloured variety. In 1848, a black “melanic” moth was found near Manchester, England, and by 1950, the melanic variety became dominant in England. This process became known as “industrial melanism.” As anti-pollution laws began to be enforced in later years, the light variety became predominant again.
The explanation goes like this: Before the Industrial Revolution, the trees were covered with light-coloured lichen, therefore the birds mostly ate the more conspicuous darker variety. As the Industrial Revolution came, the lichen on the trees near industrial cities died, and the dark tree barks were darkened even more by soot. As a result, the dark peppered moth was now better camouflaged against the dark background, so the birds mostly ate the light coloured ones.
This process was pointed to as a great proof of evolution, when it is nothing more than changes back and forth in superficial characteristics within a species. The moth had never evolved into a new species! This is nothing more than a good example of natural selection.
In recent years, it has come to light that even this story was not as the evolutionists told it. The peppered moths don’t even rest on tree trunks during the day! H.B. Kettlewell, who had performed most of the experiments with the peppered moths, captured them at night, since moths only fly at night. We don’t know where they spend the day. To show that they do rest on tree trunks, and the birds do eat them there, laboratory bred moths were placed onto tree trunks, and were filmed as birds ate them. Also, all the photos showing moths on tree trunks were taken of dead moths glued to the trees!1 There have been other studies of the peppered moths since, and they do not show correlation between the lichens and soot on the trees, and the ratio of light/dark moth varieties.
During his voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle, Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos islands, where he found a group of finches. He noticed that there were about 13 varieties of these finches, having different sizes and beak types. The finches had adapted to different niches in their environment. Darwin later thought that this would be a great proof of his theory. Yet the only thing this showed was that variations can and do occur within a created kind. No new genetic information had been added, no new traits or characteristics had appeared, only the existing traits (shape of the beak, etc.) became more adapted to the surroundings.
Resistant Flies and Bacteria
Some evolutionists point to flies and bacteria that are resistant to DDT and antibiotics as a proof of “evolution in action”. Once again, we only witness microevolution, not the upwards changes needed for macroevolution. Even before the antibiotics were first applied, there were some bacteria resistant to these compounds. These survived, whereas those vulnerable to the specific antibiotic perished. The resistant bacteria had no competition, so they could multiply. As in the previous cases, no new information was added, only the genes of the non-resistant bacteria were deleted. And they remained bacteria, and didn’t turn into cucumbers, cats or cows.
For centuries man has been breeding many animals and plants. Evolutionists have tried in vain to find even one new species that had evolved through breeding. Consider the dogs, a favourite of breeders. This is one of the animal species with the most varieties. Dogs can differ in size, shape, colour, fur type and other superficial characteristics, yet all of them remain dogs.
Artificial breeding is a form of artificial selection. It is different from natural selection, since it is not a random process. It is guided by an intelligence working toward a given goal. If not even artificial breeding can produce new species, then how could random natural processes?
Let’s see the results of these breeding experiments:
- In each and every instance, breeding could only make improvements within a species, it has never produced new species—breeding never crosses the species barrier.
- There are limits to breeding, beyond which no improvements can be made. Take the example of the sugar beet:
“For example, from 1800, plant breeders sought to increase the sugar content of the sugar beet. And they were very successful. Over some 75 years of selective breeding it was possible to increase the sugar content from 6% to 17%. But there the improvement stopped, and further selection did not increase the sugar content. Why? Because all of the genes for sugar production had been gathered into a single variety and no further increase was possible.”2
- The improved varieties have some improved traits (larger size, higher yielding crops, etc.), but they are generally weaker than their “wild” relatives. This is especially a problem with domesticated crops, as they lack genetic variety and therefore are weak and susceptible to diseases. This problem has been recognized, and recently so-called gene banks were established, where the seeds of thousands of wild, undomesticated crops are held, to provide fresh seeds, should the overdomesticated crops fail.
- When left to themselves, the improved varieties tend to return to the normal. This is also referred to as “regression toward the mean”—basically, natural selection takes care to cull out the extremes.
Why Evolution by Natural Selection Cannot Occur
Some of the reasons why natural selection will never produce (macro)evolution:
- Natural selection “selects” only pre-existing traits. It cannot produce the new genetic information needed for new organs, species, therefore it cannot lead to the apparition of new species.
- The DNA barrier: The different species are separated by a DNA barrier, because there is much difference in their genetic make-up. Each creature is born like its parents, it inherits their DNA. Reshuffling of the genes can occur to produce variations within a species. To cross the species gap, this naturally occurring reshuffling is not enough, new DNA structures are needed.
- There are some traits that are neutral, that is they give no benefit to their owner. How could they have evolved by natural selection, if they offered no selective advantage?
- Natural selection would actually eliminate evolution. It has been observed that in the wild, animals and plants tend to return to the normal. Natural selection eliminates all extremes, whether they are produced by mutations or accidents. If a creature is born with features that are too far from the norm, it will not be fit, and it will therefore die. Natural selection is therefore a conserving force, assuring the fixity of the species.
- In fact, if evolution were true, we would not expect to find distinct species at all. There should be complete intergradation between all the forms of life. The very existence of species contradicts evolution and points to creation.
- We see purpose and design in everything. A process that is by definition random, could never produce all the intricate structures we see in nature, which all point to an intelligent Designer. (see Evidence of God’s Design in Nature)
Variations within organisms do occur due to a reshuffling of existing genetic information. Yet all of these variations occur within a species, they can’t produce completely new species with features that had never existed before.
Natural selection is a process that conserves the species, ensuring their adaptation even if the environment changes. It works against evolution by eliminating the extremes, creatures that deviate too far from the average.
Around the beginning of the 20th century, evolutionists recognized that natural selection does not produce new information required by evolution. So they came up with the idea that mutations—random genetic copying mistakes— provide the new genetic information and natural selection guides the evolutionary process. These evolutionists are called neo-Darwinists. See our next article: Mutations for a discussion on this topic.
|1.||Carl Wieland, Goodbye, peppered moths: A classic evolutionary story comes unstuck, 1999.|
|2.||Lane Lester, Genetics: No Friend of Evolution. A highly qualified biologist tells it like it is, 1998.|
|Second Thoughts about Peppered Moths|
|Natural Selection Questions and Answers|
|Anthrax and antibiotics: Is evolution relevant?|