This post is part of a series written by a secondary school Head of Science, exploring some key areas of the science curriculum where teaching contradicts the Bible. Whilst based on what is taught in UK schools, it will be relevant if you’re studying science at any level or have a general interest in Christian apologetics.
- #1 Two Types of Science – Can I believe everything I’m taught in science? Can science prove everything?
- #2 Fossils – Evidence for Evolution? Does the fossil record prove evolution and millions of years?
- #4 Did it all start with a Big Bang? – Most people think so, but what does the Bible say?
The current biology curriculum teaches that the theory of evolution by natural selection is now accepted because of the volume of evidence which backs it up. However, this theory on the origin of species, popularised by Charles Darwin, is a clear example of historical science (looking at evidence from the past, not repeatable experiments in the present) which is contrary to the teaching of the Bible. In this post
We know from observation that there can be big variations in characteristics of individual members of a species, this is because there are variations in their genes (the genetic information in all cells which determines the characteristics of an organism). The science of genetics also teaches us that these genes are passed from one generation to the next, meaning that offspring often have similar characteristics to their parents. We are familiar with this through the ‘family likeness’ which is often seen between parents and children or siblings.
Imagine a population of rabbits. Half have big ears and half have much smaller ones. Rabbits are hunted by foxes and big ears mean that a rabbit has a better sense of hearing. If a fox is on the prowl the big eared rabbit will probably hear it first and have more time to run for safety than the small eared rabbit. The big eared rabbit is therefore more likely to survive. If the big eared rabbit survives then it has the opportunity to mate and produce offspring, which are likely to also have big ears because they have received the genes coding for this characteristic from their parents. If this process continues over a number of generations you can imagine how there will be a shift in the characteristics of the population. The small eared rabbits keep being eaten by the foxes while the large eared rabbits reproduce and more large eared rabbits are born. The population now has more big eared rabbits.
This is an example of natural selection, a process which we can observe in many populations of organisms on earth. So far this is trustworthy, observational science.
Evolution by Natural Selection?
School textbooks usually give an example such as this and then boldly state that this is evidence for evolution by natural selection and that this process taking place over millions of years has resulted in the formation of all species from single celled organisms which were the first life forms. However, there are some huge problems with this statement.
- The example above shows a loss in the total amount of genetic information in the population. The small eared rabbits would eventually die out, leaving only those with big ears. The big eared rabbits do not have the gene for developing small ears. Thus, the new population is only able to produce rabbits with big ears. This is not a new feature and the variation which was in the population before has been lost. Almost all examples of natural selection that have been observed are like this, resulting in a loss of variation and genetic information. For evolution of today’s plethora of species from a single celled life-form to take place there would need to have been a huge gain in genetic information. This is something which we do not routinely observe in nature.
- There are some examples of new features being observed in organisms (e.g. antibiotic resistance in bacteria). This usually occurs because of a mutation in a gene (when the gene is copied from parent to offspring a mistake is made, resulting in a new genetic code). At first
,this appears to be new information, a possible source of new characteristics and evidence for evolution. However, closer study reveals that these new characteristics usually result from some part of the bacteria ceasing to function (a protein pump in the cell membrane for example) which happens to give the bacteria a survival advantage in their current environment (perhaps the antibiotic molecule is no longer pumped into the cell). Although the mutation has enabled to bacteria to survive, it is not evidence for evolution because the mutation has actually stopped the bacteria from functioning properly (there has been a loss, not a gain of genetic information) and if it wasn’t for the presence of the antibiotic, the mutated variant of the bacteria would actually be less likely to survive than the non-mutated one.
Although natural selection is observed in populations of organisms all over the world, it is not evidence for evolution. We do not see new species with novel characteristics requiring new genetic information arising, and there is no evidence within the fossil record of this happening in the past (see previous post Fossils – evidence for evolution?). Where we see natural selection taking place, genetic information and variety
The Bible teaches that God created the earth and all the creatures living on it in six days and that these creatures reproduce after their kind – parents give rise to offspring of the same kind. This is what we observe today. Natural selection explains how God’s created ‘kinds’ have diversified into the great variety of organisms we see today – all the dogs and wolves etc would have descended from the ‘dog kind’ which God created. But there is no evidence of a dog having developed from a fish, or man from an ape-like creature – this is the theory of evolution which is contrary to the teaching of the Bible and must, therefore, be rejected.
Here are a couple of videos that might help clarify the natural selection vs evolution debate: