My in-laws raise quarterhorses while my parents have a handful of a certain variety of cattle. Both pay particular attention when it comes to breeding because of the genetics involved. Farmers, animal lovers, and even gardeners have been artificially selecting certain characteristics in breeding programs for years. (However, while their efforts have resulted in hundreds of different breeds, the offspring are still horses, cows, dogs, cats, or roses at their genetic core.)
In the 1850s, along came Charles Darwin who theorized that nature does the same thing. His concept of “natural selection” assumed that the strongest qualities necessary for survival would rise to the top (through the “survival of the fittest”) and therefore the entire species after several generations would be ideally suited for survival in that environment.
Does natural selection occur? Yes. Take for example the well-known example of the peppered moth which naturally occurred in white and black varieties. When tree bark was covered with a light-gray-colored lichen, the white moths blended in while the black moths were easily spotted by hungry birds … and the light-colored moths made up 98% of the population. Along came the industrial revolution and pollution killed the lichen, revealing the darker bark underneath. Suddenly, the white moths were more visible while the dark moths survived undetected. Over time, the dark moths reproduced and grew in number until they were 98% of the moth population.
Did the fittest moths survive? Yes. Did nature “select” which traits became more predominant? Yes. At the end of the day, were they still moths? Yes. Did change (evolution) happen? Yes. Did change result in a different species? No. All that changed was the proportion of the population that was dark-colored. (Other examples to consider are pests and bacteria that have developed resistance to DDT or antibiotic medications. Still pests and bacteria … just adapted for survival.)
And that is the key difference between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. I believe — and evidence supports — the reality of micro-evolution, small changes, and natural selection. I believe the Creator created all things with the ability to adapt to a changing environment in order to survive (especially as the effects of sin on our world cause it to fall apart!) as well as the genetic variety to populate the planet with countless variety.
Darwin and others, however, took this idea of natural selection one step further and created a hypothetical, unobservable conclusion. They theorized that given enough time these small, gradual changes could eventually lead to an entirely different, more complex organism (i.e. a different species). In his book On The Origin of Species, Darwin included a chapter called “Difficulties With the Theory” because he acknowledged that natural selection can never take a great and sudden leap, but can only advance through small, slow steps.
In fact, he conceded that, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” [page 158] This type of complex organ is called an “irreducibly complex system” because all the multiple parts must be working together in order for it to function. If even one part is missing, the entire system will fail to function. Therefore such a system could not have evolved slowly, piece by piece.
In the hundred plus years since Darwin first wrote about his theory, vast scientific advancements have discovered the enormous complexity of cells, DNA, and atomic structures. But even before the days of microscopes, irreducibly complex systems like the eye, ear, or heart were clearly observable. In fact, Darwin himself said, “To suppose that the eye, [with so many parts working together] … could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” [page 155]
At the end of the day, logic and scientific evidence point toward an intelligent Creator who designed countless complex systems … and gave His creation the ability to adapt to changing environments within the boundaries of their individual species.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NIV)
Creation declares the existence of an Intelligent Designer who gave His creation the gift of adaptability.
What about you? Do you believe natural selection occurs? Does that undermine or support belief in a Creator? Is there a difference between micro-evolution and macro-evolution?