Darwin's Sacred Imposter: Recognizing Missed Warning Signs
by Randy J. Guliuzza, P.E., M.D. *
In order for a human brain to â€śseeâ€ť something external, the data patterns captured by the eyes must be associated with related patterns stored in memory. When they match, the mind accurately perceives things. Thus, prior education greatly influences the correctness of what people seeâ€¦or are blind to.
Liberty University paleontologist Dr. Marcus Ross referenced this type of flawed knowledge-based blindness as affecting the failure among creation scientists to look for soft tissue in Flood-deposited fossils:
And honestly, no young-earth creationists expected soft tissue to be found in dinosaurs. Perhaps that expectation was an artifact of our training (which is often in evolution-dominated schools). Sometimes evolutionary assumptions are in places we havenâ€™t recognized.1
The lesson? Regularly evaluate all scientific ideas to ensure they are not rooted in unrecognized false assumptions and are instead fixed in reality. Case in point: â€śnatural selection.â€ť
Do the words â€śnaturalâ€ť and â€śselectionâ€ť in any verifiable way accurately describe observable interactions between an organism and its environment? Have the words â€śnaturalâ€ť and â€śselectionâ€ť been effectively employed to divert attention away from recognizing where the power to solve environmental problems really residesâ€”i.e., strictly within well-designed innate capabilities of organisms? Is there a fixation on the apparent self-evident â€śselectionâ€ť impacting a population of organisms, with disregard for the fact that the â€śselectorâ€ť is simply a mental perception and not grounded on reality?
Since no ideas are exempt from scrutiny, it does help that those ideas grounded on false conjectures are frequently surrounded by warning signs.
Warning 1: Natural Selection Mysteriously Defined
Warning signs are key to identifying flaws in concepts. Ask critical questions, such as: Is the concept too slippery to define? Does the idea have little empirical evidence? Is this concept so plastic that it could very well explain conflicting observations? These are some of the very problems with the concept of natural selection, prompting one leading authority to acknowledge:
Natural selection has always been the most contested part of evolutionary theory. Many people who have no problem with evolution bridle at the thought that itâ€™s all driven by a mindless and unguided natural processâ€¦.[N]atural selection wasnâ€™t widely accepted by biologists until about 1930. The main problem was, and still is, a paucity of evidenceâ€¦.Itâ€™s this difficulty that leads Dawkins to observe that natural selection is on wobblier legs than the other tenets of evolutionary theory.2
A survey of research documents reveals no consensus definition of natural selection. Darwin regularly called it a power.3 In a single paper, some sentences use natural selection as a cause and others as an effect.4 Some authorities say it is only a process,5 or a law, mechanism, or concept. A British expert on natural selection states the problem concisely:
A quite general issue has still received no canonical treatment: what kind of a thing is natural selection anyway? A law, a principle, a force, a cause, an agent, or all or some of these things? The view that natural selection is a law has been countered by the view that it is a principle, while that conclusion has been countered in turn by an insistence that it is neither.6
The ill-defined nature of selection contributes to fundamental, yet profoundly unanswered, questions by serious researchers. What does selection operate on? What exactly is natural selection doing at any moment to organisms? How does natural selection actually modify organisms via descent with modification? Is anything measurable at work? If selection is a process, do the conditions specified for its occurrence actually differ from the unfolding of abilities inherent to organisms themselves? Can this term be used ubiquitously in scientific literature and yet the term itself explain nothing? Something may certainly be real that dodges definition, has little evidence, or explains little, but those attributes are a stronger case against reality.
Yet another familiar warning that something may not be real is when â€śitâ€ť gets shrouded in ambiguous yet very emphatic statements of insistence, like â€śinformed people know itâ€™s real,â€ť â€śitâ€™s simply a phenomenon,â€ť or â€śitâ€™s just biblical.â€ť A good example is when a prominent atheist protested attributions of non-real abilities to selection by insisting, â€śSelective breeding is something that somebody does. But natural selection is not; it is something that just happens.â€ť7
Surprisingly, that common conclusion is echoed by creationists, such as one who contended, â€śNatural selection does not select anything; it simply happens.â€ť8 Is the conclusion â€śit happensâ€ť scientifically satisfying? Shouldnâ€™t that raise red flags about the validity of selection? And shouldnâ€™t researchers be prompted to look for better explanations?
Warning 2: Natural Selection Contradicts Biblical Truth
This warning is obscured due to confusion about what natural selection is expected to do for evolutionary theory. Darwin made natural selectionâ€™s importance clear in his seminal book, where he maintains that selection explains origins. Striking squarely at God the Designer, natural selection is the evolutionistâ€™s way to explain the origin of lifeâ€™s design without appealing to God. Natural selection isnâ€™t merely something to explain biological diversity. It plainly asserts that there is no intelligent design, that claims to such are lies, and what people see that looks like real design is all an illusion of design. Leading evolutionist Dr. Jerry Coyne boasts of selectionâ€™s power to dismiss intelligent design:
Everywhere we look in nature, we see animals that seem beautifully designed to fit their environment, whether that environment be the physical circumstances of life, like temperature and humidity, or the other organismsâ€”competitors, predators, and preyâ€”that every species must deal with. It is no surprise that early naturalists believed that animals were the product of celestial design, created by God to do their jobs.
Darwin dispelled this notion in The Origin. In a single chapter, he completely replaced centuries of certainty about divine design with the notion of a mindless, materialistic processâ€”natural selectionâ€”that could accomplish the same result. It is hard to overestimate the effect that this insight had not only on biology, but on peopleâ€™s world view. Many have not yet recovered from the shock, and the idea of natural selection still arouses fierce and irrational opposition.9
Coyne recognizes that the reach of natural selection into Christian theology is far deeper than just thoughts on diversity. He knows that â€ścertaintyâ€ť about divine design is crushed by a total substitute for the Divine Designer, a truth his colleague Douglas Futuyma correctly identifies:
Before Darwin, the adaptations and exquisite complexity were ascribed to creation by an omnipotent, beneficent designer, namely God, and indeed were among the major arguments for the existence of such a designer. Darwinâ€™s (and Wallaceâ€™s) concept of natural selection made this â€śargument from designâ€ť completely superfluous. It accomplished for biology what Newton and his successors had accomplished in physics: it provided a purely natural explanation for order and the appearance of design.10
In absolute contrast, Romans 1:19-20 teaches that people can knowâ€”and are accountable to knowâ€”that God is the originator of natureâ€™s design:
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
Key words are related to design, not biology. Everyone has seen that something that was created invariably had a creator, so the penetrating power of this biblical truth is that anybody in any culture at any time is capable of arriving at some true knowledge of Godâ€¦not just people with Ph.D.â€™s in biological sciences.
To arrive at the true conclusion about God based on His creation, 1) people must truly affirm the reality they â€śclearly seeâ€ťâ€”namely, His intricate designs; and 2) must not falsely affirm seeing something that is not realâ€”in this case, design abilities ascribed in times past to inanimate idols, or to present-day non-volitional things like Mother Nature, selfish genes, or natural selection. â€śNatural selectionâ€ť induces thinking that fails both truth tests.
Creation scientists study the claims of evolution very carefully, but have often missed the significant role natural selection has played in chipping away at biblical truth.
Warning 3: Ascribing Intelligence Where None Exists
Naturalists, as noted above, know the immense hurdle they face in selling evolution: People â€śbridle at the thought that itâ€™s all driven by a mindlessâ€ť process. Charles Darwinâ€™s extraordinarily difficult task was to find a source of intelligenceâ€”a substitute godâ€”to explain how all of life could display countless features that clearly look like they were chosen for specific purposes by intelligenceâ€”but not Godâ€™s intelligence. â€śNatural selectionâ€ť was his extraordinarily clever explanation.
People know that to â€śselectâ€ť something is presumptive evidence of volitionâ€”a special choice-making capacity implicit in intelligence. Therefore, the word â€śselectâ€ť is supremely important to Darwinism. By it, intelligence is appropriated from the living world and ascribed to non-thinking (but now selective) nature. His stroke of genius deflected attention away from an organismâ€™s God-given power to reproduce heritable and variable traits that happen to fit changing environments, and invalidly labeled that as a selection of â€śnature.â€ť
How could Darwin convince multitudes to accept a selection event without a real selector? By subtly flipping the attribution of power at the organism-environment interface from the proper place of the organismâ€™s DNA and reproductive mechanisms to the environment instead. He extrapolated the idea that nature could make choices, which allows the conclusion that nature possesses a sort of innate intelligence. Darwin had effectively injected the attribute of intelligence into non-volitional natureâ€”a feat many thought impossible.
Since the publication of The Origin of Species, the science literature from both evolutionists and creationists is rife with explanations that ascribe willful abilities to environments that not only â€śselectâ€ť organisms, but also â€śfavor,â€ť â€śweed out,â€ť â€śdeem beneficial,â€ť â€śpunish,â€ť and so on. Advocates of selection defend using these words as simply figures of speech or metaphors akin to how human breeders select for livestock traits.
However, two major problems oppose this thinking. First, â€śselectionâ€ť doesnâ€™t have a real mind analogous to a human breeder. Second, falsely ascribing choice-making ability to environments is the only believable way to promote the creative illusion that nature really does have a type of intelligence. And not just a simple intelligence, nature is portrayed as somehow thinkingâ€”a talented stand-in god that always â€śselectsâ€ť the best traits and â€śsavesâ€ť them to â€śbuildâ€ť things.
Warning 4: Metaphor Replaces Empirical Evidence
As Dr. Coyne noted, natural selection was resisted for decades by most scientists and is still not fully embraced due to an absence of empirical evidence. There is no evidence lacking that organisms generate traits that fit changing environments. But evidence is absent for a real â€śselectorâ€ť or real selecting actions, given that â€śselectâ€ť is the key word that gives natural selection its power. Lacking this evidence, evolutionary proponents of selection will, like Darwin, inevitably ease acceptance by appealing to the powerful analogy of artificial selection to natural selection. However, without evidence for a real selector, a continuous use of metaphors should be another warning for creation scientists to begin re-evaluation.
Darwinâ€™s 1859 articulation of this analogy (still being promoted) is possibly the best:
I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to manâ€™s power of selection. We have seen that man by selection can certainly produce great results, and can adapt organic beings to his own uses, through the accumulation of slight but useful variations, given to him by the hand of Nature. But Natural Selection, as we shall hereafter see, is a power incessantly ready for action, and is as immeasurably superior to manâ€™s feeble efforts.11
The difficulty with this analogy is the lack of anything in the environment that corresponds to the operation of a human mind. Nevertheless, taking the analogy as self-evident, Darwinâ€™s metaphor describes natural selectionâ€™s â€śoperationâ€ť with idealized god-like attributes:
It may be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinising, throughout the world, every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers.12
Evolutionary approaches to metaphor may be polar opposites. Some, like Darwin, may stretch metaphors to the breaking point. Others express sharp opposition that these metaphors may not be based on reality, as UCLA professor Dr. Greg Graffin recently complained:
The trick is: How do you talk about natural selection without implying the rigidity of law? We use it as almost an active participant, almost like a god. In fact, you could substitute the word â€śgodâ€ť for â€śnatural selectionâ€ť in a lot of evolutionary writings, and youâ€™d think you were listening to a theologian. Itâ€™s a routine we know doesnâ€™t exist, but we teach it anyway: genetic mutation and some active force choose the most favorable one.13
Warning 5: Admissions That Natural Selection Is Not Literally True
Illustrations by analogy and metaphor in scientific literature are commonly acceptedâ€”provided there are real, measurable properties of the things being likened. Since the publication of Origin, scientists have seen that the power of evolutionary scenarios to leap over any biological obstacle resides in how natural selection â€śactsâ€ť like a literal human agent. Discerning that it possesses nothing analogous to a human mind prompted early criticisms that â€śselectionâ€ť was not literally true.
In Darwinâ€™s 1872 edition of Origin, he responded to those calls for him to justify use of the word â€śselection.â€ť Darwin admitted, like all evolutionists will when challenged, that calling the process of how organisms fit environments â€śselectionâ€ť was not true. He confided, â€śIn a literal sense of the word, no doubt, natural selection is a false termâ€¦it has been said that I speak of natural selection as an active power or Deity; but who objects to an author speaking of the attraction of gravity as ruling the planets?â€ť14 No one objects to that metaphor, since attractive gravitational forces are real and measurable.
The same disconnect from reality is acknowledged in recent work focused on accurately describing evolution. For example, Harvardâ€™s leading evolutionary authority, Ernst Mayr, in What Evolution Is disclosed the same veiled truth, â€śThe conclusion that these favored individuals had been selected to survive requires an answer to the question, Who does the selecting? In the case of artificial selection, it is indeed the animal or plant breederâ€¦.But, strictly speaking, there is no such agent involved in natural selection.â€ť15 Then in 2009, Jerry Coyne wrote in Why Evolution Is True, â€śAnd while I said that natural selection acts, this is not really accurate. Selection is not a mechanism imposed on a population from outside.â€ť16
Though all of these authorities concede that tying â€śselectionâ€ť to some real agent is â€śfalseâ€ť and â€śnot really accurate,â€ť they still minimize the magnitude of this inaccuracy through persistent use of words describing natural selection as if it really is â€śa mechanism imposed on a population from outside.â€ť
A Better Approach
Continuing to argue against natural selection from within its false paradigm ignores the wise counsel of Proverbs 26:4: â€śAnswer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.â€ť Why? Given that â€śselectionâ€ť really is an inaccurate and false term, and since it is only a deceptive figure of speech that attributes selection ability where there is no selector, wouldnâ€™t it be wise to point these facts out? Isnâ€™t it wise to show that that use of the word â€śselectionâ€ť has never been justified, but is just the ruse to slip intelligence back into a design process after taking God out? Likewise, it is wise to show that organisms are programmed to fill environments; natural selection steals glory from God.
Since proponents of natural selection erroneously view the organism-environment interface from the environmentâ€™s side, the crippled explanation â€śit just happensâ€ť is the best they have. Knowing, however, that things really donâ€™t just happen should prompt a search for a real plan. Indeed, a â€śprocessâ€ť may be the best description of selection. Advocates of process always include three necessary conditions: 1) reproduction of traits 2) which differ in ability to solve environmental problems 3) and which are heritable.17 Immediately, a major disconnect should become evident in the minds of these believers. The conditions specified to be environmental â€śselectionâ€ť are in reality the unfolding of genetic abilities programmed into the organisms themselves. True realization comes when recognizing that the power to solve ecological challenges has always resided in the organism and not in the environment.
The Lordâ€™s purpose for programming capabilities into organisms to adapt to dynamic environments is clear. â€śAnd God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish [fill] the earthâ€ť (Genesis 1:22, 28; 8:17; 9:1, 7). He commanded organisms to fill all ecological niches. Adaptability is just a tool or stepping stone that enables the ultimate purpose of filling. As traits are expressed in a population of organisms, some will â€śfitâ€ť better to different environmental conditions. This means they are physiologically more suitable and better able to extract resources. Organisms with those traits fill, pioneer, or move into that environmentâ€”they are not â€śselected for.â€ť The organism has the power and is active to either succeed or fail.
Organisms express remarkable diversity of traits and at times quite rapidlyâ€”but always within the limits of their â€śkindâ€ť (Genesis 1:11-12.) An organism-based paradigm is biblical. This explains how the process of organisms programmed to fit environments and fill them is the outworking of an intelligent plan, and not the product of an imaginary environment-based selector that â€śjust happens.â€ť
But the power that selection has to captivate a mind must never be underestimatedâ€”as it is only in the mind that this kind of â€śselectionâ€ť actually takes place. Such a mind has been trained to see the environment as the primary mover in the organism-environment interface, in spite of the fact that there is no real â€śselectorâ€ť in any adaptive chain of events. In contrast to this, organisms possess traits they generate to solve the problems of a new environment, ones that enable their descendants to pioneer into new niches. But when people with the â€śnatural selectionâ€ť mindset see the descendants of these organisms in those niches, paradoxically their minds â€śseeâ€ť the environment â€śselect forâ€ť the organismâ€”a conclusion contrary to what is indicated by real external stimuli. As a result, they have ascribed intelligence to something inanimate, thereby raising serious scientific and theological implications.
After 150 years, Darwinâ€™s sacred imposterâ€”natural selectionâ€”still stands as the only accepted alternative to the design of God in nature. It is presented in most schools as absolutely true in spite of its ill-defined basis, its invisible operation, and the fact that there is no real â€śselectorâ€ťâ€”because attributes inherent to organisms actually do all the work. These warnings should influence creation scientists to step back and re-evaluate this convoluted evolutionary idea.
Those who extol the Creator must at some point reject any idea that robs God of His glory.
- Ross, M. 2010. Those Not-So-Dry Bones. Answers. 5 (1): 45.
- Coyne, J. A. The Improbability Pump: Why has natural selection always been the most contested part of evolutionary theory? The Nation, May 10, 2010.
- Darwin, C. 1859. On the origin of species by means of natural selection. London: John Murray, 61.
- Calsbeek, R. and R. M. Cox. 2010. Experimentally assessing the relative importance of predation and competition as agents of selection. Nature. 465 (7298): 613-616.
- Endler, J. 1992. Natural Selection: Current Usages. Keywords in Evolutionary Biology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 220.
- Hodge, M. J. S. 1992. Natural Selection: Historical Perspectives. Keywords in Evolutionary Biology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 218.
- Fodor, J. A. 2010. What Darwin Got Wrong. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 155.
- Lester, L. P. 1989. The Natural Limits to Biological Change. Dallas, TX: Probe Books, 71.
- Coyne, J. A. 2009. Why Evolution Is True. New York: Viking, 115.
- Futuyma, D. Natural Selection: How Evolution Works, an ActionBioscience.org original interview. American Institute of Biological Sciences. Posted on actionbioscience.org December 2004.
- Darwin, On the origin of species, 61.
- Darwin, On the origin of species, 84.
- Biello, D. 2010. Darwin Was a Punk. Scientific American. 303 (5): 28.
- Darwin, C. 1872. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, 6th ed. London: Senate, 63.
- Mayr, E. 2001. What Evolution Is. New York: Basic Books, 117.
- Coyne, Why Evolution Is True, 117.
- Endler, Keywords in Evolutionary Biology, 220.
* Dr. Guliuzza is ICRâ€™s National Representative.
Cite this article: Guliuzza, R. 2011. Darwinâ€™s Sacred Imposter: Recognizing Missed Warning Signs. Acts & Facts. 40 (5): 12-15.