Survival of the Fitted: God's Providential Programming
by James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. *
Birds display God’s providential programming. That means God carefully planned them before He created their original ancestors on Day Five of the creation week. He planned their genetics, their bio-diversity potentials and limits, their developmental biologies, and the bioengineering needed to accomplish all the details, and He has been actively participating in and regulating their world ever since.
Providential Programming, Displayed in Bird Migration
Imagine how inconvenient it would be for a bird to arrive at the South Pole during May or June, when the weather is freezing cold and food is scarce. Or imagine a similar scenario at the North Pole during November or December, when the weather there is harshest. Thankfully, arctic terns follow the opposite schedule, synchronizing with temperature and seasonal food availability. Why? These birds are purposefully preprogrammed to operate by these schedules; God fitted them to do so. This programming is critical for these migratory birds to travel over the Atlantic Ocean from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and vice versa, every year. At more than 40,000 miles round trip, they are the ultimate frequent fliers! A recent study pointed out:
The study of long-distance migration provides insights into the habits and performance of organisms at the limit of their physical abilities. The Arctic tern Sterna paradisaea is the epitome of such behavior; despite its small size (<125 g), banding recoveries and at-sea surveys suggest that its annual migration from boreal and high Arctic breeding grounds to the Southern Ocean may be the longest seasonal movement of any animal. Our tracking of 11 Arctic terns fitted with miniature (1.4-g) geolocators revealed that these birds do indeed travel huge distances (more than 80,000 km [>50,000 miles] annually for some individuals).…Arctic terns clearly target regions of high marine productivity both as stopover and wintering areas, and exploit prevailing global wind systems to reduce flight costs on long-distance commutes.1
Ecologically speaking, it’s all a demonstration of “survival of the fitted.” Arctic terns, like all birds, survive because they are divinely fitted to survive all of the interactive factors in their diverse and geographically extensive environments.
Providentially, the arctic terns select season-synched flight times that repeatedly avoid the harsh winter months at both the North and South Poles. Likewise, the terns select flight plans that take advantage of global wind patterns and incorporate helpful stopovers for rest and refueling. Timing factors are interactive throughout this cyclical migration: the seasonal weather cycle, wind patterns influenced by daily rotation of the earth, food availability influenced by annual seasons, and the reproductive cycle of the terns themselves. In all of this, providential programming is both complicated and critical!
Providential Programming, Displayed in Bird Reproduction
All birds reproduce, or their kinds would not be here. Yet reproduction itself depends on purposeful, preprogrammed timing. Consider the baby chick, hatching from an “ordinary” chicken egg:
By the nineteenth day, the chick is too big to get enough oxygen through the pores in the shell. It must do something or die. How does it know what to do next? By this time, a small tooth called the “egg-tooth” has grown onto its beak. It uses this little tooth to peck a hole into the air sack at the flat end of the egg.…The air sack provides only six hours of air for the chick to breathe. Instead of relaxing and breathing deeply, with this new-found supply of air, the chick keeps pecking until it breaks a small hole through the shell to gain access to outside air in adequate amounts. On the twenty-first day, the chick breaks out of the shell. If one step in the development of the chick is missing or out of order, the chick dies. Timing is absolutely crucial!2
Providential Programming Displayed in Other Life Forms
Providential programming is not limited to birds. Among mammals, one example of God’s purposeful programming is the delayed implantation of embryos in the wombs of some cold-climate mustelid mammals (like mink, martens, longtail weasels, fishers, and river otters) so that birth occurs in spring (April or May) when food availability is optimal.3
Purposeful programming is also found in other forms of life. Among plants, one example is the vanilla bean, which has a short flowering cycle (less than one day!) during which the pollinating Melipona bees must act or else vanilla reproduction fails.4 The list of nature’s illustrations of purposeful programming is endless.
Indeed, God’s providential care is not just for plants and animals. He providentially cares for the needs of His favorite creature, mankind. This is proven by His providentially provided “fruitful seasons” that bless humans with the food production needed to prolong their mortal lives, a “clearly seen” proof of God’s creatorship. The apostle Paul once argued this proof of providence to a group of Lycaonians:
Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness. (Acts 14:17)
In the world of nature, creation itself universally testifies to God the Creator’s intelligence. Yet it reveals so much more! Nature, even in its fallen state,5 demonstrates that God’s creative intelligence is universally blended with His good and purposeful providence. God is infinitely smart, yet He also genuinely cares for His creation, and He prepares for His creatures in ways that show His goodness.
Providential Programming Produces “Survival of the Fitted”
Providential programming is a very important reality that has all too often been obscured by the phrase “natural selection.” What scientific literature has labeled “natural selection” (or “selective pressure”) is actually a pattern of providentially orchestrated biodiversity. In the real world (putting evolutionary imaginations aside), plants and animals implement God-designed biosoftware as they seek to inhabit various geophysical environments, and the interaction results in “survival of the fitted.”
God has providentially preprogrammed plants, animals, and humans with built-in traits, providing the potential for interactively pioneering new habitats, as well as for defending old habitats. Some built-in (i.e., divinely preprogrammed) traits fare better or worse than others, depending on which geophysical habitat is being pioneered or defended. The ecological complexity of all this interaction skyrockets as each life form employs its built-in traits to interact with all of its neighbors in any particular habitat. And, as birds illustrate, some creatures migrate from one geophysical habitat to another as a programmed solution for successfully dealing with habitual habitat inhospitality problems (such as winter cold).
Biodiversity Displays Creatures “Fitted to Fill,” Not “Natural Selection”
As Dr. Randy Guliuzza has recently analyzed, Charles Darwin cleverly coined his phrase “natural selection” to foist a misleading label, switching “nature” for God the Creator.6 The phrase “natural selection” routinely promotes confusion and deceit (and has for 150 years), as it is primarily used as a “bait and switch” ploy in evolutionary storytelling. However, God’s providentially purposeful programming is responsible for whether a creature can survive (much less thrive) in a given habitat, so a more accurate phrase (as Dr. Guliuzza has shown) is “survival of the fitted.”7 God Himself commanded His original creatures to “fill” the earth with their kind of progeny, so He obviously fitted them with the needed genetic software and hardware to do what He decreed so that they can fill the earth:
And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. (Genesis 1:22)
So, how does the Bible explain biodiversity? Life forms were fitted to fill the earth. It was all a wonderful work of God’s providential programming, aptly enabling “survival of the fitted.” Surely earth’s huge inventory of creatures amply display that they are skillfully fit to fill diverse habitats, demonstrating (for those “with eyes to see”) how well the divine Tailor has “suited” His creatures.
- Egevang, C. et al. 2010. Tracking of Arctic terns Sterna paradisaea reveals longest animal migration. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107 (5): 2078-2081. Some arctic terns fly >50,000 miles in their pole-to-pole migration.
- Martin, J. 2004. The Evolution of a Creationist, rev. Rockwall, TX: Biblical Discipleship Publishers, 210, emphasis added.
- Burt, W. H. and R. P. Grossenheider. 1980. A Field Guide to the Mammals. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 53-68.
- Martin, J. 2004. Melipona Bees. In Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution, vol. 3, chapter XII. DVD. Reel Productions.
- Johnson, J. J. S. 2010. Misreading Earth’s Groanings: Why Evolutionists and Intelligent Design Proponents Fail Ecology 101. Acts & Facts. 39 (8): 8-9.
- Guliuzza, R. 2010. Natural Selection Is Not “Nature’s Intelligence.” Acts & Facts. 39 (5): 10-11.
- “It is not survival of the fittest, it is really survival of the ‘fitted.’ Creatures came designed with innate abilities to diversify, multiply, and fill environments.” Ibid, 11.
* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Johnson, J. J. S. 2010. Survival of the Fitted: God's Providential Programming. Acts & Facts. 39 (10): 17-18.