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Evolutionists disagree on how evolution happens

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.

Published: 26 January 2019

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