Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Evolution Is Not

What is evolution? How do we distinguish it from related concepts?

Evolution is not survival of the fittest. Survival of the fittest says those animals most fit to survive will do so.  Now "fittest" can be seen as abstract and absolute.  This assumes that the process is fair, and it is not (Ecclesiastes 9:11).  There is no reason to believe the American bison is ultimately less fit then the deer or elk.  But they almost became extinct and quite probably would have without human intervention.  Why? Because they lived in the plains where the humans were building their railroads and wanted meat for their workers.  Also these same humans developed a fad for buffalo skin coats.  Now survival of the fittest can mean that, taking into account every circumstance (including the whims of humans), those animals best able to survive will survive. This is true but is almost a tautology.  But survival of the fittest cannot produce any new thing.

 Another confusion is with that of natural selection.  Now human beings have for many years selectively bred animals for specific purposes.  It seems reasonable that nature, by itself, might breed animals to fit different environments. But this is merely taking the genes that already exist and choosing the ones useful for the animal in different circumstances.  But while it can choose among existing genes, it cannot by itself produce a distinctly new thing. For evolution to work, there has to be something feeding new genes into the system.

Another thing evolution is not is degeneration.  It is an obvious observation that things run down and fall apart over time.  This is the opposite of evolution, which says time and chance can produce a new thing.  There is really no problem reconciling this with the Christian teaching that says things have been degenerating since the Fall took place.  Now many things that are claimed to result from degeneration in animals have been shown to serve a useful purpose, but even if there are such things as vestigial organs and junk DNA, it does not prove evolution.  In a particular case it may be used to try to prove change from one kind of creature to another.  But by itself it is irrelevant.     

The real basis for evolution as it is presently taught is genetic mutation. The idea is that, due to some sort of accident, certain genes are changed, and these changes, being advantageous to the organism, are passed on.  This is like saying if you hit a watch with a hammer, it will produce a better watch.  This might happen very rarely, but as a procedure to produce watches, it is highly problematic. But it is, in the current theory, the mechanism for feeding genuinely new things into the system.  So unless some other mechanism is found, the only way evolution can produce a genuinely new organism is through genetic mutation. Therefore, the proof of the other things listed does not prove evolution or even prove evolution is possible.

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