Adoption: The Ultimate Evolutionary Challenge

Many of us are familiar with adoption. Probably most people know at least one person who has either adopted children or was adopted themselves. What many may not recognize is that the very idea of adoption is a challenge to the evolutionary theory.  In this article, we are going to discuss adoption in both humans and animals, explain the potential motivations, and describe why the urge to adopt is a massive challenge to evolution.

This is a deeply personal article for me, as my mother is adopted and I plan on adopting children once I have my own family. Human motivations for adoption can all be ascribed to emotions. Love, kindness, desire for a family, all are uniquely human ideas.  Animals are largely immune to these, though some mammals in particular exhibit some feelings. However, animal families are not built on love, but desire. Animals go through periods where they are expected to mate and produce offspring.  This time period is a time of desire from both male and female animal. They are unaware, or uncaring about the potential for offspring.  This is not to say that there are not some animal parents which care for their young quite well. However, this care is instinctual, rather than chosen. Animals reproduce to pass on their bloodline, and for no other purpose. This is what makes animals adopting other animal’s offspring such a strange event.

Animal adoptions, sometimes even across the kind boundary, are well-documented events. Most occur in captivity, but it does happen in the wild as well. The photo atop this article is of a baby leopard suckling from a lioness. Normally a lion would happily kill leopard cubs to eliminate competition, but this lioness is actually nurturing the cub.  This is not the only example of lions adopting other animals young. In another, even more unbelievable incident, a lone female lion adopted a baby Arabian Onyx, its natural prey. I’ve linked to a short documentary about the incident below. This lone female lion protected and cared for the baby onyx for weeks before the onyx fell prey to an adult male lion which the female could not fight.  Lions are not alone in the animal kingdom when it comes to strange adoptions. A group of sperm whales is documented to have adopted a young bottlenose dolphin. The dolphin was born with a rare spinal mutation that caused it to have a crooked back.  Obviously, it contributed nothing to the sperm whale pod, yet the whales accepted it as one of their own, rubbing against it as they would other sperm whales. Clearly, something is driving these adoptions beyond the pure benefit to the adoptive mother.

The above paragraph chronicled what are termed “cross-species” adoptions. However, adoptions within the species are much more common, particularly in birds, where some bird chicks will deliberately leave their nest and seek adoption into another nest, often to the detriment of the chicks already living there. This kind of adoption, while more common, still raises the question of “why”? There is no natural, beneficial reason for an animal to adopt a baby animal, even one of its own species. Male lions, for example, kill off cubs they did not sire, to ensure that they pass on their own bloodline. So why should a female lion adopt an onyx?

Evolutionists struggle mightily with this adoption question. Some are honest enough to admit that it goes against their theory. In an article about animal adoptions for the Ian Somerhalder Foundation website,  Megan Frison says:

Many of these examples of animals helping and adopting other animals outside of their species go against the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest.  By helping others or adopting additional family members, an animal is not only decreasing its own reproductive success, but it also using its own food and energy in aiding the addition.

She then goes on to discuss some theories as to why these adoptions happen, focusing mostly on the mothering hormone oxytocin. This might work for adoptions of babies of the same species. However, oxytocin is not going to turn a predatory lioness into a mother of an Arabian Onyx, which she would normally simply eat. There is more going on here, which has yet to be discovered.  However, adoption is, in a way, an impossibility for Darwinian evolution. Evolutionists preach survival of the fittest and natural selection.  By their logic, no animal should ever adopt another animal’s offspring, because, as Miss Frison says, it both “decreases its own reproductive success” and “uses its own food and  energy in aiding the addition.” Natural selection is, by its very nature, a selfish, short-sighted process. Animal adoption represents the animal acting in a selfless, giving manner, much like human adoption. Human adoption can be explained by the human consciousness and desire to be parents. Animals are not conscious, and the few animals evolutionists like to claim are conscious, such as an octopus, have never been observed to adopt anything other than a shiny object.  Darwinian evolution has no explanation for cross-species adoption in the wild. It makes no sense using the framework of evolution. Logically, we should observe animals killing other animals offspring, and we do. However, we should never observe animals nurturing other animals offspring. Unfortunately for the evolutionists, we observe this as well.   This selflessness destroys the foundation of Darwin’s theory, which relies on a selfish, self-absorbed process to work. Without that process, evolution crumbles.

Lioness adopts baby Onyx

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