Isn’t it obvious? Natural selection can eliminate, but never create!

by

Swallow
© 123RF.com/Michael Lane

Many proponents of evolution repeatedly cite examples of natural selection as evidence of evolution—i.e. evidence of the sorts of processes that could have turned microbes into man, given enough time. Often the terms ‘natural selection’ and ‘evolution’ are used interchangeably, as if they were synonymous.1

Occasionally an evolutionist will speak out against such error. One notable example was John Endler, who in his 1986 book Natural Selection in the Wild 2 warned that “natural selection must not be equated with evolution”, and he also said:

Natural selection is common enough in natural populations to have been detected in a wide variety of organisms … However, natural selection does not explain the origin of new variants, only the process of changes in their frequency.

Endler had seen this himself in his own previous research on guppies in mountain streams in Trinidad, Tobago and Venezuela.3 He observed that populations of guppies there include drab-coloured males as well as brightly coloured ones, and the relative frequency of each goes up or down in line with predation pressure. If predators are few or absent, brightly coloured males predominate, as female guppies prefer them as mates; so gaudy males are more likely to pass their genes to the next generation. But when predators are numerous, the better camouflaged drab male guppies are less likely to be eaten than the gaudy ones, and so the females have to be content to mate with the survivors, thus drabness becomes predominant in the population.

The guppy population dynamics are indeed a terrific example of natural selection. Ironically, however, Endler’s warning in his 1986 book hasn’t stopped others from incorrectly misrepresenting his guppies as demonstrating evolution. E.g. Richard Dawkins proclaimed it to be “a spectacular example of evolution before our very eyes”4 but it most definitely is not, as there is no new genetic information in evidence anywhere here. There is not a shred of any evidence from Endler’s creditable guppy research that fish could have turned into fishermen, fishmongers and fish physiologists (yet that is what the evolution story would have us believe).5

As Creation magazine has pointed out many times, natural selection has been amply observed happening in many populations of insects, animals, fish, and plants, but in all instances it is not evolution.6 Whether by differential reproduction or differential survival, natural selection results in the culling or loss of genetic information, not its creation.

That last point was certainly obvious to another noted evolutionist who spoke out against the natural-selection-equals-evolution sham, viz., the late Lynn Margulis.7 Just before her death in 2011, she said in an interview:

Natural selection eliminates and maybe maintains, but it doesn’t create.8

That’s telling it like it is: natural selection by itself generates no new genetic information. It can eliminate genes that already exist, but never create.

Evolution evidence evades evolutionists (and everyone else!)

According to standard evolutionary theory today, evolutionists look to mutations as being the process responsible for generating the new genetic information evolution requires, which is then sorted by natural selection. But where is the evidence of this happening? Margulis had a very blunt, and bleak, assessment of this. Note again that she was no creationist, being absolutely committed to Darwin’s ideas of evolution, which she happily defined as, “Darwinism says that there has been change through time, since all life comes from a common ancestor”.8 But her biological experience and observations of nature had made her contemptuous of the neo-Darwinists’ faith in mutations as being the engine9 of evolution:

[N]eo-Darwinists say that [evolutionary change occurs] when mutations occur and modify an organism. I was taught over and over again that the accumulation of random mutations led to evolutionary change— … I believed it until I looked for evidence.8

Indeed, when other evolutionists over the years have been pressed to give specific evidence of mutations that increase the information in the genome, they are unable to give coherent answers.10 That’s because mutations are overwhelmingly a downhill process—see box p. 40 “Mutations can’t climb mountains!”.

Is it any wonder that Margulis went looking for some other mechanism that might provide a means of evolutionary change, latching on to her own pet theory of endosymbiosis?8 Not that there’s any evidence of any evolution there, either.11 But Margulis was certainly right to point out the dearth of evidence for mutations and natural selection ever being able to create the evolutionary change required for all living things to have arisen from a common ancestor.

Examples of natural selection and mutations galore—but no evolution

As with Endler’s guppies, when one looks at the evidence in the real world, stand-out examples of natural selection and mutations show a consistent loss or mere maintenance of genetic information, not the gains that microbes-to-man evolution requires:

  • Dance-or-die lizards: Fire ants invading parts of the USA quickly cull out fence lizards that don’t do the ‘twitch dance’ to shake off biting ants. Only the twitch-dancing lizards survive—a characteristic which was already present in the lizard population. In the face of such natural selection, the lizard population is now better adapted to maintain a presence in fire ant areas.12 Note: no new genetic information, therefore no evolution.
  • Kauai’s silent crickets: A deadly parasitic fly on the island of Kauai acoustically tracks down chirping male crickets—but crickets with an X-chromosome mutation that silences them evade detection by the killer fly. Somehow the mutant mute crickets have been able to find mates, and pass their mutated genes to the next generation. Note that genetic information (for chirping) has been eliminated. In this classic example of natural selection and genome degradation, Kauai’s crickets are now silent, but at least they survive.13
  • Not-so-dark deer mice: In Nebraska’s sand hills, deer mice with a mutation conferring pale colouration are better camouflaged against bird predators than normal deer mice. But the mutation is a downhill change, not gain-of-function—no justification whatsoever for those trying to claim this as the latest ‘icon of evolution’.14
  • Shorter-winged swallows: Cliff swallows live in mud nests they build on highway bridges and road culverts. But when flying out from the nest they are vulnerable to being killed by passing vehicles—particularly those with longer wings, less able to take off vertically than birds with shorter wings. The genes for longer wings are thus being progressively eliminated, leaving behind a population with most birds having shorter wings.15
  • Wingless beetles: In the absence of their usual predators found on the mainland, the mutant flightless offspring of beetles on windswept islands are favoured by natural selection over their winged prone-to-being-blown-out-to-sea siblings. But there’s no gain-of-function evolution here—the genes for flight have been lost.16
  • Smaller fish to fry: It’s getting harder to catch fish of even minimum legal size—in some commercial fishery populations (e.g. Canadian cod) the genes for large size have been completely eliminated.17,18
  • Shorter-tusked elephants: By selectively killing elephants with the largest tusks, poachers for the ivory trade have left behind elephant populations having short, or even no, tusks. The genes for large tusks are being eliminated.19
  • Blind cave fish: Living in dark, underwater caves, natural selection favours eyeless mutant fish over their sighted kin. Eyes in such an environment are a disadvantage as the delicate tissue is prone to injury as fish bump against sharp rocks in the darkness, becoming an entry point for potentially lethal bacteria. Eyelessness clearly represents a loss, not a gain,20 yet leading evolutionists bizarrely have claimed it as supporting their case.21 But evolution needs to invent eyesight, not destroy it!
  • Not-so-tall snow lotus: Highly prized for traditional Chinese medicine, the Tibetan snow lotus has halved in height during the past century, because every year at flowering time people scour the alpine slopes for the taller plants considered more potent. Only the smaller plants have been left behind to produce seed, and thus the genes for snow lotus tallness are being progressively eliminated from the Himalayas.22 Far from being one of the top seven examples of ‘evolution in action’ as some claim,23 this observed genetic change is in the wrong direction for primordial ooze to have ever turned into plants and animals.

From a straightforward view of the evidence from these and other real-world examples, surely it’s obvious: natural selection can eliminate, but never create. And we see that mutations are no help to the microbes-to-man evolutionary storyline either. The facts instead fit the Bible’s historical account of our post-Fall world having originally been created “very good” (Genesis 1:31) but now being “in bondage to decay” (Romans 8:19–22). The evidence is there for all to see—and the wise to comprehend.

Mutations can’t climb mountains

mutation

Mutations overwhelmingly degrade genetic information, a downhill process. Whereas for microbes-to-man evolution to be true, evolutionists should be able to point to thousands of examples of information-gaining mutations, an uphill process, but they can’t. Note that sometimes diehard anti-creationists quibble over the definition of ‘information’. As information is foundationally an argument from probability, we might expect a few cases of trivial information increase (see the CMI DVD Understanding the Law of Decay, and creation.com/edge-evolution). But evolution requires encyclopedic amounts of new information. Some evolutionists have pointed to nylon-eating bacteria as being a lead candidate, but unfortunately for proponents of evolutionary theory, it turns out not to be new information. Rather, the new ‘ability’ comes from two ‘typos’ in an existing enzyme finely-tuned to break bonds in certain chemicals. The mutated enzyme is less tuned for its current task, but can digest other chemicals, including nylon, with the same bond (creation.com/evoquest#nylonase, creation.com/infoloss; see also creation.com/new-info). Such mutations are therefore evidence of downhill change, not uphill. They are thus of no help to evolutionists in the climbing of the ‘Evolution Mountain’—representing evolution’s mooted uphill journey from microbes to marlin, macaws, magnolias, and man—no matter how many millions or billions of years are invoked.

References and notes

  1. CMI has long warned of this, e.g. see Walker, T., Don’t fall for the bait and switch—sloppy language leads to sloppy thinking, Creation 29(4):38–39, 2007; creation.com/baitandswitch. Return to text.
  2. Endler, J.A., Natural Selection in the Wild, Princeton University Press, NJ, 1986. Return to text.
  3. Endler, J.A., Natural and sexual selection on color patterns in poeciliid fishes, Environmental Biology of Fishes 9(2):173–190, 1983. Return to text.
  4. Dawkins, R., The Greatest Show on Earth—The Evidence for Evolution, Free Press, New York, USA, 2009, page 139. (Note that the author, Richard Dawkins, claims that Endler himself participated in this disinformation in conversation with an adjacent passenger on a flight. This particular book by Richard Dawkins has been comprehensively rebutted by Jonathan Sarfati’s The Greatest Hoax on Earth?—Refuting Dawkins on Evolution, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA; creation.com/s/35-4-501.). Return to text.
  5. Sarfati, J., Dawkins playing bait and switch with guppy selection, creation.com/dawkins-guppy, 18 February 2010. Return to text.
  6. E.g. see: Wieland, C., The evolution train’s a-comin’ (Sorry, a-goin’—in the wrong direction), Creation 24(2):16–19, 2002, creation.com/train; and Wieland, C., Muddy waters—clarifying the confusion about natural selection, Creation 23(3):26–29, 2001; creation.com/muddy. Return to text.
  7. Lynn Margulis was an evolutionary biologist and professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and for some years had been married to the well-known atheist and astronomer, the late Carl Sagan. Return to text.
  8. Teresi, D., Discover interview: Lynn Margulis says she’s not controversial, she’s right, discovermagazine.com, 17 June 2011. Return to text.
  9. See: Williams, A., Mutations: evolution’s engine becomes evolution’s end, J. Creation 22(2):60–66, 2008; creation.com/mutations-are-evolutions-end. Return to text.
  10. See the YouTube clip accessible via: Was Dawkins stumped?—Frog to a Prince critics refuted again, creation.com/dawkins-stumped. Return to text.
  11. See: Batten, D., Did cells acquire organelles such as mitochondria by gobbling up other cells? (Or, can the endosymbiont theory explain the origin of eukaryotic cells?), creation.com/endosymbiont, 6 July 2000. Return to text.
  12. Langkilde, T., Invasive fire ants alter behaviour and morphology of native lizards, Ecology 90(1):208–217, 2009; also see Catchpoole, D., Dance—or die! Creation 36(4):42–44, 2014; creation.com/dance. Return to text.
  13. Zuk, M., Rotenberry, J. and Tinghitella, R., Silent night: adaptive disappearance of a sexual signal in a parasitized population of field crickets, Biology Letters 2:521–524, 2006; and: Tinghitella, R., Rapid evolutionary change in a sexual signal: genetic control of the mutation ‘flatwing’ that renders male field crickets (Teleogryllus oceanicus) mute, Heredity 100:261–267, 2008. Also see Catchpoole, D., Kauai’s silent nights (the crickets have gone quiet), Creation 35(1):12–13, 2013; creation.com/silent-crickets. Return to text.
  14. The mutation is ‘downhill’ as an amino acid has been lost. Linnen, C., Poh, Y.-P., Peterson, B., Barrett, R., Larson, J., Jensen, J., Hoekstra, H., Adaptive evolution of multiple traits through multiple mutations at a single gene, Science 339(6125):1312–1316, 2013; Linnen, C., Kingsley, E., Jensen, J., and Hoekstra, H., On the origin and spread of an adaptive allele in deer mice, Science 325(5944):1095–1098, 2009; Catchpoole, D., Nebraskan deer mice—evolution’s latest icon?, Creation 38(2):44–45, 2016. Return to text.
  15. Brown, C. and Brown, M., Where has all the road kill gone? Current Biology 23(6): R233–R234, 2013; also see Catchpoole, D., Traffic clips wings, Creation 35(4):19–20, 2013; creation.com/cliff-swallows. Return to text.
  16. Wieland, C., Beetle bloopers, Creation 19(3):30, 1997; creation.com/beetle. Return to text.
  17. Hutchings, J., The cod that got away, Nature 438(6986):899–900, 29 April 2004; and: Loder, N., Point of no return, Conservation Magazine 6(3):28–34, July-September 2005. Also see Catchpoole, D., Smaller fish to fry, Creation 30(2):48–49, 2008; creation.com/smaller-fish. Return to text.
  18. van Wijk, S., and 7 others, Experimental harvesting of fish populations drives genetically based shifts in body size and maturation, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11(4):181–187, 2013; see also Catchpoole, D., Where have all the big fish gone? Creation 36(1):23, 2014; creation.com/big-fish-gone. Return to text.
  19. Steenkamp, G., Ferreira, S., and Bester, M., Tusklessness and tusk fractures in free-ranging African savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana), Journal of the South African Veterinary Association 78(2):75–80, 2007; also see Catchpoole, D., Why the elephant is losing its tusks (and it’s not evolution!), Creation 37(1):21, 2015. Return to text.
  20. See Wieland, C., Blind fish, island immigrants and hairy babies, Creation 23(1):46–49, 2000, creation.com/blind-island; and: Wieland, C., Let the blind see … Breeding blind fish with blind fish restores sight, Creation 30(4):54–55, 2008; creation.com/blindsee. Return to text.
  21. E.g. Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens. See: Christopher Hitchens—blind to salamander reality, creation.com/hitchens, 26 July 2008. Return to text.
  22. Law, W. and Salick, J., Human-induced dwarfing of Himalayan snow lotus, Saussurea laniceps (Asteraceae), PNAS 102(29):10218–10220, 2005; also see Catchpoole, D., Tibetan snow lotus suffers ‘tall poppy’ syndrome, Creation 37(3):31, 2015. Return to text.
  23. signs of evolution in action—indications that species evolve through a process of natural selection, nbcnews.com, acc. 9 October 2014. (For a rebuttal see: Walker, T., MSNBC’s seven signs of evolution all point to creation, creation.com/nbc-7signs, 28 May 2009.) Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Philippus S.
Just like the mind behind it, natural selection only destroys.
Bruce M.
Excellent article. Thank you.
Revd Robert W.
Agreed. Natural Selection/De-Selection can only work on what comes before it and after the interview and selection process, so to speak, only one candidate comes out as the survivor. So Natural Selection/De-Selection is an Eliminator. What a different slant that puts on things. And that is what we see both today and in the past: many living kinds becoming extinct as the Eliminator does its work through a harsh environment, weather-wise, or in terms of predators. Certainly, diversification helps some living kinds to survive these pressures of the environment as one trait, inherent in the ancestors, comes to the fore; but this is not a new living kind emerging from a lower one - it is not Evolution. Professor Richard: if only he could just interpret the facts instead of inventing them.
Ken C.
Excellent article…

In a New York Times article on July 29, 2004 following Dr, Francis Crick’s death the article suggested that, “With "Directed Panspermia," he prepared, in effect, an intellectual escape hatch, an alternative explanation for life should scientists in fact find it too hard to account plausibly for the remarkably rapid emergence of Earth's first life forms.”

Indeed why would a scientist of Crick’s credentials need an “intellectual escape hatch”? What happened to the billions of years necessary for macroevolution?

The basis for his proposal above can be best described by Dr. Crick himself with these two statements where he suggested, “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that, in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle"… "Every time I write a paper on the origin of life, I determine I will never write another one, because there is too much speculation running after too few facts."
Dan M.
It is interesting you said at the end of your article, " and the wise to comprehend. " King David said not once but twice in Psalm 14:1 & 53:1, The fool has said in his heart,"There is no God." God equates denial of his obvious creative power and glory with foolishness not because they cannot see it but because they refuse to see it. when you cannot see, it is ignorance and not foolishness because you have never been exposed to the truth. This is what the atheist's want to achieve. Keep any exposure to the truth out of our schools so the wise children do not see the truth and continue to live in ignorance.
When fishing for men through Christ, if the fish won't bite, I don't waist my time and move to a different spot where the fish are willing to bite. You cannot convince someone who doesn't want to see so don't waist your time and move on to streams ripe for harvest and leave the fools to God.
It is sad that a method of discovery, (scientific) that put men on the moon and gave us so much knowledge has been corrupted by those who won't follow the evidence where it logically will lead them. A method formulated through believers in God by the way.
Judie S.
My brother and I don't see each other often enough to have more than brief conversations, but I was able to inject into our last discussion that natural selection is the opposite of evolution. He conceded the point, one of the VERY few times he has admitted I could correct him. I couldn't help being rather surprised at his admission.

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