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Evolutionists disagree on how evolution happens

Published: 26 January 2019 (GMT+10)

Kris M. from the United States writes:


Dear Creation Ministries International,

For my work, I am being asked to teach lessons about “structural adaptations” and “behavioral adaptations.” These lessons call any characteristic that helps an animal survive in its environment an “adaptation.” I know certain animals have adapted, such as all felines from a pair of cats on the ark, all canines from a pair of dogs, and probably the camel and llama from one pair; however, this curriculum calls everything from a camel’s hump to an elephant’s trunk an adaptation. I’ve told students that many people believe these are adaptations, but that many others, including me, believe they are how the animals were originally designed. Yet, since some features are adaptations within created kinds, how do I draw the line, especially when appealing for a change in curriculum to a neutral approach that teaches these characteristics without calling them designs or adaptations? (This is the best I can ask for from a Chinese secular company.) Thanks!

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Thanks for writing in.

In a derivative sense, even adapted features such as the specific arrangements of orchid petals are often designed; orchids are designed to adapt in such ways. However, specifying which particular features are adapted vs which are part of the original design isn’t always easy. It would rely on research in baraminology (the study of the created kinds) to begin drawing such conclusions.

At another level, though, it would be fair to point out that many evolutionists also disagree with the idea that every feature in an organism is an adapted feature. As Walter ReMine explains in Developmental genetics supports creation theory:

That conflicts with the selectionist explanation, which argues that a given character was kept, or lost, because of its effect on function. It also conflicts with the neutralist explanation, which argues that a given character was kept, or lost, precisely because it has no effect on function. All styles of explanation—structuralist, selectionist, neutralist, and much more—are part of the evolutionist’s vast, structureless, theoretical smorgasbord—where each entrée is chosen, or omitted, based on the evolutionist’s needs of the moment.

The point of this quote is to show that there is more than one school of thought among evolutionists on how features arise. Almost all will agree that some features are adapted. Even creationists (e.g. long hair and small ears in arctic wolves). But many think that most arise through random mutations in supposedly functionless parts of the genome. There are other models, too. But these other models don’t get too much publicity, even if they have quite a bit of support among evolutionary researchers. Why? Evolution has been taught as ‘natural selection working on random mutations’ for a long time now, so it has become the ‘received wisdom’, even if many evolutionists realize that it fails to explain all of life’s diversity (Desperate attempts to discover ‘the elusive process of evolution’). So, your best option, if you can’t mention a designer, is to point out that evolutionists have different ideas as to how certain specific features arose. And, if you get time, briefly summarize some of the strengths and weaknesses of each model (especially the selectionist and neutralist models). That way, you leave the student with the impression that evolutionists don’t have this all sorted out, and that there’s reason to doubt all the major evolutionary models.

Helpful Resources

Evolution's Achilles' Heels
by Nine Ph.D. scientists
US $17.00
Soft Cover
Genetic Entropy
by Dr John Sanford
US $25.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Mark M.
Perhaps the series of articles by Dr. Randy Guliuzza (Institute for Creation Research) on "Continuous Environmental Tracking" might provide some useful information. He suggests that many of the changes we see in an organism over time are not the result of random mutations and natural selection, but the ability to "adapt" is a design feature pre-programmed in the organism. Surely discussing information contained in the DNA of an organism would not be off limits. I believe Dr. Lee Spetner also touches base on the idea of built-in adaptability in his book "Not by Chance!".
Shaun Doyle
For more on Dr Guliuzza's views, please see The fact of natural selection.
Cowboy Bob S.
When discussing, writing, or posting about flaws in evolution and natural selection models, biblical creationists often have to deal with Darwin's Flying Monkeys™ who swoop down with what they consider the truth. "Evolution is a FACT!", and we're stupid for even questioning evolution. Although enthusiastic, evolution proponents get mighty agitated when we point out that there are major disagreements up at the Darwin Ranch. As this article points out, there is disagreement on how features arose. Indeed, there are some evolutionists who do not think dinosaurs evolved into birds, there was controversy over Lucy's evolutionary status from the get-go, and more. Going deeper, we see that alleged examples of evolution such as Lenski's bacteria experiments showing no evolution, fruit flies change a little but remain fruit flies, no evolution there. Interesting how a bit of critical thinking without evolutionary presuppositions fluster atoms-to-atheopath evolutionists.
Thomas D.
Kris M.: Do not teach in the abstract, but in the concrete. Often far from prevailing theory and opinion (in which most "scientists" are too clever by half), all dependable knowledge comes through hard trial and direct observation. Make of yourself the 'first student' in the matters you put before your children. If you yourself are not convinced of a matter or lack a fundamental understanding of it, you can only communicate uncertainty or, worse, private bias; but if you must first objectively prove things, so that they stand--before everyone--the tests of real investigation, then you will demonstrate a confident and proper manner of achieving reliable knowledge about any particular question. Be a trustworthy witness, not a propagandist...
Paulette B.
I have always heard about Evolution but my question is: where did the materials come from? What did the Big Bang explode? How was land, water, trees and plants evolved and from what? What told a tree to be a tree, why did people not become trees or Sunflowers?
We found remains proving Mammoths at the time of the flood. It was an adaptation when Elephants changed from Mammoths not EVOLUTION for the new world and conditions.

Sorry, i didnt mean to get so long. I take my soap box where I can. With so much minute details in people, flowers, tree bark and so on HOW can people believe it was all by accident! How many have spilt food or drink and it changed into something else? Why has nothing new EVOLVED in how many years? If it was all an accident, why did it stop?

Thanks for listening
Dustin B.
This message addresses something that I always try to convey to my children. There lies a significant difference between adaptation and speciation. Changes within a species are seen throughout nature but changes from one species to another has never been proven in the fossil record. How is it then, scientific fact, that all life on earth resulted from nothing?
Shaun Doyle
Speciation does occur, but it's not evolution (Speciation is not evolution). However, the main problem is that biology simply doesn't produce anywhere near enough of the sorts of information-gaining mutations needed to produce people from prokaryotes (in fact, in the examples we've seen, evolution is uniformly hindered, not helped) (Can mutations create new information?).
Nathan G.
Beware the fallacy of equivocation (changing definitons in the middle of a sentence). You must carefully define your terms and stick to them like glue. A dog growing a thick winter coat is not the same as hair follicles magically appearing on the dog somewhere in the alleged deep past. Pups out of the same litter transported to a hot desert will raise young that either LOSE the ability to grow thick coats (DNA impoverishment or even extinction) or respond to triggers/switches to grow only short, thin fur (preprogrammed responses = the epigenetic code). All adaptations are either a remix, loss, or on/off-switching of genetic variability already contained in the DNA. The only exception: some bacteria and viruses touch other critters and borrow DNA from them, which does not, explain the origin of the DNA in the first place. And selected, domestic, "adapted" animals are LESS fit in the wild.

Also: there is no neutrality among worldviews. All are competing for your true belief. You can, however, sidestep the adaptation issue without mentioning design. Constantly compare DNA to a computer program or a blueprint. Imply an author. Specified complexity only comes from a mind (information theory).

Use a simple Punnett square to illustrate rhis. Use first one, then two traits for tulips. Then ask your class to destroy the genes (on paper) for all but one kind of tulip bulb - lets say blue and frilly. Then ask them to go back and produce red, unfrilly tulips from the bulbs. The blueprint can't. The information is gone. Worse, most traits are controlled by many genes acting together (eye color). You can then talk about the four (possibly five) levels of complexity in the DNA and compare it to a book or language. Even my 10th graders understand this approach.

God bless.
Revd Robert W.
Adaptations? Do populations and species really adapt to their environments? This word suggests that they actively respond to changes in the environment as if they can change, too, in tandem with the environment. But that is not really the nature of the changes we see: rather the environment has an impact upon, an effect upon the population or species so that it does change in a certain sense, but not actively, only passively; like the impress of the footprint in the sand. Of course, the environment has an effect upon everything within it, but that is not the same as the species or population 'adapting' as if it can actively change Evolution-wise. Maybe we should abandon the word 'adaptation' and talk instead about 'effects' or 'environmental pressures' which surely more accurately describe the changes that we do see without smuggling into the description some Evolutionary bias.
Shaun Doyle
Please see Muddy Waters for more information on natural selection/'adaptation'.

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