Reevaluating Natural Selection

Darwin's Finches

Some of you may remember we did a series last year on natural selection and the errors comitted by Dr. Randy Guliuzza, now president of ICR. Since that series wrapped up, I’ve been studying natural selection closely and my views on it have shifted slightly. This article is going to briefly evaluate the view I take now, and some of the reasons why. I’m not claiming, as Dr. Guliuzza has, that natural selection does not exist, nor am I embracing his model. There are a lot of problems with his model that would need to be resolved before I would even consider embracing it. That said, the standard natural selection explanation has a lot of problems as well; too many to simply overlook.

One of two definitions has historically been used to explain natural selection. It has either been described as survival of the fittest, or differential reproduction. The former is the definition believed by the public at large and was fairly similar to the definition offered by Darwin and others when Darwin published his work. It was abandoned in the early 1900s but still permeates the culture. The idea that replaced it, differential reproduction, is still the predominant definition of natural selection. The idea behind differential reproduction is that different organisms leave different numbers of offspring and thus are more or less successful in passing on their genes. Thus natural selection accounts for the reproductive success of organisms in this view.

There are, however, a myriad of problems. The fitness of any organism can only be measured after it’s death. Thus a strong, healthy male lion can be judged very fit during his lifetime, but, after death, if an autopsy is done, it might be discovered he was sterile. Thus all the cubs in the pride were his brothers. His fitness would then be measured at zero, despite holding a territory for years and living a fat and healthy life.

The major difficulty however was that natural selection is purported to operate at the genetic, not organismal level. In other words, selection is supposed to act on each gene independently to determine its frequency in a population. The major problem with this is natural selection cannot see individual genes. It was this argument that told me something was very very wrong. Selection can only act on things it can “see”. If a gene is recessive, two thirds of the time, it will be utterly immune from selection, even if selection acted at the genetic level. However, selection cannot act at the genetic level. Because organisms are bundles of genes that are reshuffled during meiosis to create gametes, and many of those gametes will never be used, there is no selection at the genetic level. In fact, there cannot be. Natural selection is believed to be an environmental force. Such a force cannot reach inside the organism and determine how gametes are formed, nor can it determine which gametes will successfully unite with their counterparts, or what those combinations will be. That is purely random.

At this point, I might be sounding like Dr. Guliuzza. However, I’m not abandoning natural selection. Because, it turns out, that Darwin did not invent natural selection. He just named it. Edward Blyth, a Biblical creationist, invented it. And it is Blyth’s definition, the original one, dating back to 1835, that I think is the right one. Here is Blyth’s definition:

“In like manner, among animals which procure their food by means of their agility, strength, or delicacy of sense, the one best organized (sic) must always obtain the greatest quantity; and must, therefore, become physically the strongest, and be thus enabled, by routing its opponents, to transmit its superior qualities to a greater number of offspring. The same law, therefore, which was intended by Providence to keep up the typical qualities of a species, can be easily converted by man into a means of raising different varieties; but it is equally clear that, if man did not keep up these breeds by regulating the sexual intercourse, they would all naturally soon revert to the original type.”

Based on this quote, and others, Blyth viewed natural selection as a preservative. It helped keep species from accumulating deleterious mutations. Animals with deleterious mutations were less likely to breed and pass on their mutations. This is a sort of differential reproduction but at the organismal level. It is foolish to speak of natural selection at the genetic level, but at the organismal level, it makes more sense. This position, which I’ve termed conservative selection, is one that fits with the Biblical text, as well as the observable data. I will elaborate further as I continue to research the topic.

Do you know what’s going to happen when you die? Are you completely sure? If you aren’t, please read this or listen to this. You can know where you will spend eternity. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us, we’d love to talk to you.

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