Natural Selection

From Issue: Discovery 4/1/2013

The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was the main title of Charles Darwin’s book, first published in 1859. Those last two words, “natural selection,” have been discussed often in the halls of science. And it is no secret that Darwin’s concept of natural selection (or “survival of the fittest,” as it has come to be known) has been at the center of evolutionary thought.

According to Darwin, a creature with a particular advantage—the “fittest of its kind”—would be “naturally selected” to pass on the advantage to its offspring. A horse with long legs, for example, would be able to gallop faster than the rest, thus escaping from wolves or other predators in order to produce other baby horses with long legs. A “fit” creature, therefore, was one that could best carry out the functions that kept it alive, and made it best adapted to its environment. This is what Darwin meant by “survival of the fittest.”   

But problems with the theory of natural selection soon developed. Somehow, natural selection was supposed to ensure the “survival of the fittest,” but the only realistic way to define the “fittest” was “those that survive.” Basically, then, natural selection simply says that all the winners win, and those who win are the winners. Natural selection does not explain how those creatures came to be the most “fit.”

Creationists have never objected to the idea of natural selection as a way that gets rid of unfit, poorly adapted organisms. As a matter of fact, creationists long before Darwin said that natural selection was a good conservation principle (think of it as a screening device for getting rid of the unfit). If a harmful mutation causes a grasshopper to have only one leg, then that grasshopper will be an easier meal for a bird. Natural selection is the Creator’s plan for preventing harmful mutations from destroying an entire species. But natural selection cannot cause one kind of animal or plant to “evolve” into another kind of animal or plant. In reality, it is nothing more than an argument that reasons in a circle. As one scientist said, “[N]atural selection can account for the survival of the fittest, but it cannot account for the arrival of the fittest.”


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