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Discovery Magazine 10/1/1999


Theory for Sale: Needs Work

Darwin never gave up on the idea that nature, not God, could explain all living things. But in later years, Darwin started to doubt that his pet theory could get the job done by itself. The trouble is, natural selection does not make new features. It works only on what is there already.

Let’s look as Darwin’s finches again. Say a drought comes, and only birds with big beaks find enough food. More of those birds will survive to pass their big beaks on to the next generation. We could end up with a whole species of finch that has bigger beaks. But the big beaks were there already! This is not a good way to make something new, like feathers or flippers.

Darwin did not live to see a "solution" to his problem. Ands then, in the early 1900s, scientists began to understand that living things pass their features on to the next generation through genes. They realized that those genes could change in unexpected ways. These changes were called "mutations." Here, at last, was a way to get something new for natural selection to work with. If a mutation was good for a creature, then the creature would have more offspring, and the change would spread to future generations. So this became the new version of Darwin’s theory: natural selection worked on mutations to produce huge changes over long periods of time.

Was this the cure for Darwin’s ailing theory? No. The trouble with mutations is that they are very rare. When they do happen, they tend to hurt the creature, or make no difference at all. We have to remember that the mutation makes a change to something that was working just fine before.

For these reasons, it is hard to imagine how mutations could change a scale into a feather, or a leg into a flipper. A mutant scale is most likely to be a bad scale, not part scale and part feather. A mutant leg is most likely to be a bad leg, not part leg and part flipper.

So, after all these years and great advances in science, evolution does not have a way of making new features that work. How did we get finches in the first place? How did we get whales in the first place? These are questions that even the new version of Darwin’s theory cannot answer.

If nature cannot do it, then it must be Someone beyond nature. That Someone the Bible calls God. It was God, not nature, that made all the kinds of creatures that we see on the Earth today (Exodus 20:11).



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