Sunday, June 1, 2014

Common Creationist Complaint: Why is natural selection taught as evolution as if it explains the origin of life?


Common Complaint: Why is natural selection, a principle recognized by creationists, taught as ‘evolution’, as if it explains the origin of the diversity of life? By definition it is a selective process (selecting from already existing information), so is not a creative process. It might explain the survival of the fittest (why certain genes benefit creatures more in certain environments), but not the arrival of the fittest (where the genes and creatures came from in the first place). The death of individuals not adapted to an environment and the survival of those that are suited does not explain the origin of the traits that make an organism adapted to an environment. E.g., how do minor back-and-forth variations in finch beaks explain the origin of beaks or finches? How does natural selection explain goo-to-you evolution? [1]

Logical Fallacies:
  • Straw Man (claims evolution is supposed to explain the origin of life when that is not what evolution is; reference to "goo-to-you" is a distorted and inaccurate summary of what evolution says)

Answer: Repeat after me: "Evolution does not mean the origin of life." That is the fundamental problem with this question. Evolution is defined as a change in a population over time, not the creation of initial life. Discussions centered on where life came from do not involve the biological principle of evolution.

Yes, evolution is a selective process, but that doesn't mean that it does not help to create something new. Selection and creation are not dichotomous concepts. For example, a fashion stylist may not create the pieces they use for particular look, but they select them, and the end result is a unique creation. Evolution works in a similar way. Evolution doesn't create DNA or proteins, but it "selects" which ones are most beneficial (by increasing the odds that it will reproduce in higher numbers), and it allows it to continue in greater numbers (please forgive the personification of evolution; I'm merely continuing a metaphor).
Yes, evolution doesn't explain the "arrival of the fittest", but it has never claimed to. That is the role for mutations. Evolution then acts on the mutations that are present. For more information on mutations, see this post
If you understand the "back and forth" evolution of the beaks of finches, then you can understand how beaks arrived in the first place. Let's start with present day finches. If a particular type of beak is more beneficial than another for doing a particular job, it will have greater success. The farther you go back in time, the more similar the beaks will be because there has been less time for them to diverge (become noticeably different). Eventually you get to the point where there isn't a beak as we would see it now but a snout with teeth (Enantiornithes) which had proved itself  more beneficial than those without it. If you understand how mutations work and how natural selection works on DNA, then it is very easy to explain the evolution of adaptive traits.  

Natural selection is the strongest mechanism behind evolution. The “arrival of genes” comes from mutations. Natural selection then acts upon these mutations. It really is as simple as that. 

[1] 15 Questions for Evolutionists. Evolution: the naturalistic origin of life and its diversity (The General Theory of Evolution, as defined by the prominent past evolutionist Kerkut; see introduction to Origin of life.) by Don Batten