Natural Selection vs Evolution

Science Curriculum and the Bible #3

Time to read: 4 mins

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.

See also:

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 i’ll try to make clear the difference between natural selection (true observational science) and the theory of evolution.

Natural Selection

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 is being lost, not increasing as would be required for evolution.

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:

[A00089 – 10/10/2018]

3 Comments on Natural Selection vs Evolution

  1. I noticed your blog does not mention “genetic drift” this works alongside natural selection to result in which phenotypes are expressed. This can also account for gain of genetic information, many proteins change due to repeat codons which can then result in a defective or beneficial protein.
    Genetic drift is a crucial aspect to the theory of evolution and should be dealt with when countering the arguments of evolutionists.

    On a different note, it is good to see better education for young Christians surrounding the theory of evolution. It was something I missed when I was younger, I just found straw man arguments that were torn apart by peers and teachers.
    Also evolution is advantageous gain or loss of genetic information not just gain.
    An example of genetic gain:
    “Some monkeys have a mutation in a protein called TRIM5 that results in a piece of another, defunct protein being tacked onto TRIM5. The result is a hybrid protein called TRIM5-CypA, which can protect cells from infection with retroviruses such as HIV. Here, a single mutation has resulted in a new protein with a new and potentially vital function. New protein, new function, new information.”

    • My understanding of genetic drift is that this is an alteration over time of the predominant genotype (and hence phenotype) present in a population as a result of selection pressures from the environment. This is therefore surely an example of a process driven by natural selection? If the occasional mutation results in a beneficial characteristic which is subsequently selected for then this is also an example of natural selection. The point made in the original article is that the leap from observable natural selection (which results in genetic drift and thus the proliferation of species from each original created “kind”) to evolution as the means by which all species originated is not something for which there is observable evidence, but is rather a position of faith.

      With regards to TRIM5 gene this is not something I have the expertise to respond on. This article may be of interest…

      • Regarding natural selection and genetic drift. From what I understand, natural selection works on whatever genetic drift has caused, not genetic drift being caused by natural selection.
        A better example I have seen is:
        Natural selection = traits that improve survival or reproduction, accumulate in a population. For example in a population of 50 beetles 25 green and 25 yellow, if a predatory bird can see and eat the green beetles more easily yellow is clearly provides a reproductive advantage (regardless of how many of each).
        Genetic drift = frequency of traits changes in a population due to chance events.
        This time an elephant runs through where these 50 beetles are living, randomly killing 15 yellow beetles and 5 green beetles, 10 yellow:20 green. Green more likely to be passed on.
        These both work along side each other so of course it is possible that despite more green beetles surviving the elephant squished fate they end up being eaten by birds.

        “Comments are automatically closed 14 days after publication”
        This says a lot about that article on Fascinating studies which have been used to slip in assertions that critics are not able to respond to?
        That article shifts the goal post for what new information is.
        It also uses it to make suggestions for how it supports the theory of creation;
        “The new findings indeed show that, in many cases, transposable elements function as regulators of gene output, but major vehicles for evolution from microbe to man they are not. The transposition of jumping genetic elements may certainly affect gene expression patterns, but it does not follow that they produce new genetic information. Considering the biological data, it seems reasonable that transposable elements are present in the genome to deliberately induce biological variation. ”
        Now I don’t have a problem with postulating that as a theory but you can’t criticise the theory of evolution for being flimsy whilst using that to support the theory of creation.
        Anyway I apologise that was a bit of a tangent more aimed at the author of the article Peer Terborg and the website for not allowing discussion than you for suggesting it. It was an interesting article (a fair bit of biochemistry that I know next to little about) and in fairness I haven’t discovered one piece of evolution evidence that disproves a god it can always be used as part of the plan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.