Evolutionary Paradox: Embryos Resist Tinkering | The Institute for Creation Research
Evolutionary Paradox: Embryos Resist Tinkering

What steps are required to build a snail? Can natural selection, as described by evolutionary biologists, accomplish any of these steps? These questions were investigated in a recent report by Biola University science philosopher Paul Nelson. His observations clearly show that natural selection is totally inadequate to the task.

And if natural selection couldn't build a snail, it couldn't build any other animal.

Dr. Nelson's analysis was presented at the Society for Developmental Biology Annual Meeting on July 24.1 He began by reiterating the three essential components that natural selection supposedly needs in order to function, as described in the classic 1986 book Natural Selection in the Wild by population biologist John Endler:

  • First, organisms must have trait differences.
  • Second, they must leave more offspring with one version of a trait than those with a different version.
  • Third, they must transmit the trait versions faithfully each generation.

Nelson asked whether or not these conditions were met in the history of animals such as snails.

His poster presentation described why evolution's required changes to animal embryos are not possible. When biologists or mutations alter genes or other DNA sequences that are used during embryonic development, the result is catastrophic. In other words, experiments have proven that generating trait variations in animal embryos—which must happen for evolution to build a new life form from an old one—kills the developing animal.2 This means that the first condition for natural selection, trait variations, cannot be met in core embryonic traits.

What about the two remaining conditions? Nelson wrote, "No species can stably transmit a developmentally catastrophic mutation, and no positive fitness difference obtains with such mutations."3 Thus, when it comes to natural selection building a new animal form from a single fertilized egg cell, none of Endler's three basic conditions are met. This means that the supposed "engine" of evolution is an illegitimate explanation for animal construction.

"There is no evidence that the process of natural selection caused the origin of primary embryonic characters in the Bilateria [a category that includes most animals]," according to Nelson's critique.3 And if an organism could not have evolved, it had to have been created.

Every new generation of animal is built by an unalterably precise sequence of specified events that could only have been constructed by an intelligent Person. And that Person could only be the God of the Bible.


  1. Program for the Society for Developmental Biology 70th Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, July 21-25, 2011. Posted on sdbonline.org, accessed August 4, 2011.
  2. For example, see Thomas, B. Genetic Stop Sign Halts Evolutionary Explanations. ICR News. Posted on icr.org May 31, 2011, accessed August 11, 2011, and Thomas, B. No Fruit Fly Evolution Even after 600 Generations. ICR News. Posted on icr.org November 16, 2010, accessed August 11, 2011.
  3. Nelson, P. A. Did Natural Selection Construct Metazoan Developmental Sequences? Poster presentation at the Society for Developmental Biology 70th Annual Meeting, Chicago, Illinois, July 24, 2011. Posted on discovery.org, accessed August 4, 2011.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on August 12, 2011.

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