Evolution and the Myth of Adapting

If evolution by natural selection is true, then natural selection should have some adapting function. Does it?

We hear all the time about natural selection’s effectiveness as the key process in evolution. In various terms natural selection is said to guide evolution, or to be the non-random mechanism to bring order out of the randomness of genetic variation, or to “adapt” organisms.

All the examples of natural selection provided by evolutionists are examples of certain organisms being “rejected” (Darwin’s term) due to being unfit for survival. Light-colored moths get eaten by birds; short-necked giraffes starve to death; flowering plants succumb to drought. For purposes of discussion, we can all agree that natural selection does something to remove the less fit in a regime of survival of the fittest.

But what does natural selection do in nature to (or for) the fit organisms that survive and reproduce?

More specifically, what does natural selection do to effect the necessary evolutionary changes in a continuous lineage of ancestors and descendants? After all, if evolution is true, then every current living thing can trace its evolutionary lineage in an unbroken chain of “un-rejected” fit organisms all the way back to the first replicating life form.

When asked the question about natural selection’s role with fit organisms we get either blank stares or various forms of scolding. We get labeled, variously, as some form of idiots, Bible-thumpers, third graders, science deniers, or wife beaters. All of those have been raised against us at one time or another.

One response that comes up regularly is the notion that natural selection plays a role in “adapting” an organism to its environment. The idea is that in the struggle for survival somehow natural selection acts at the environment-organism interface to somehow aid the organism in adapting.

Even major science organizations can’t resist implying the “adapting” role of natural selection. But they are very clever in how the imply what they want you to infer. For example, National Geographic, in an entry on natural selection, states that natural selection is a process involving adapting and changing:

Natural selection is the process through which populations of living organisms adapt and change. Individuals in a population are naturally variable, meaning that they are all different in some ways. This variation means that some individuals have traits better suited to the environment than others. Individuals with adaptive traits—traits that give them some advantage—are more likely to survive and reproduce. These individuals then pass the adaptive traits on to their offspring. Over time, these advantageous traits become more common in the population. Through this process of natural selection, favorable traits are transmitted through generations.

https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/natural-selection

Sounds very “sciency.” Right? Somewhere in that paragraph National Geographic explained what natural selection does to change organisms over time. Right? Surely, if we were to carefully parse out this paragraph we would find the insight needed to understand Darwin’s “keystone” process of natural selection as having something to do with adapting and changing. Right?

Wrong.

Below we have numbered all seven sentences of the paragraph above. Let’s go through each one and see what we can learn about natural selection.

(1) Natural selection is the process through which populations of living organisms adapt and change.
(2) Individuals in a population are naturally variable, meaning that they are all different in some ways.
(3) This variation means that some individuals have traits better suited to the environment than others.
(4) Individuals with adaptive traits—traits that give them some advantage—are more likely to survive and reproduce.
(5) These individuals then pass the adaptive traits on to their offspring.
(6) Over time, these advantageous traits become more common in the population.
(7) Through this process of natural selection, favorable traits are transmitted through generations.

Sentence (1): This sentence introduces us to natural selection as “the process” through which populations organisms “adapt and change.” Note the reference to “populations.” Modern evolutionary theory focuses on “population genetics” and “genetic drift” in populations, and similar ideas. This is not a wrong way to look at populations, but in view of “the process” we must note (as National Geographic does) that all evolutionary change happens first at the level of the individual. Populations change only as individuals in the population change. Presumably, then, natural selection plays some role in “adapting” and “changing” individuals. We will see.

Sentence (2): This sentence is true and self-evident. Natural variation is virtually always due to genetic variation that offspring inherit from parents. This is Darwin’s “descent with modification.” So far, natural selection has done nothing.

Sentence (3): This sentence is true and self-evident. The genetic variation inherited by offspring produce traits in the offspring. Some traits are better suited to the environment than others, meaning some traits (like dark-colored moths, long-necked giraffes, and drought-resistant flowers) are better suited to survive. So far, natural selection has done nothing.

Sentence (4): Here it gets interesting. We read about “individuals with adaptive traits—traits that give some advantage. Consider: How did these individuals get these “adaptive traits”? From sentence (2), as well as using observation and common sense, we know that these adaptive traits arise due to the inherited genetic variation in the individual. And it is these inherited traits that make it more likely that the organism would survive and reproduce. So far, natural selection has done nothing.

Sentence (5): Because the individuals that inherited “adaptive traits” tend to survive and reproduce, the traits can pass them to their offspring. So far, natural selection has done nothing.

Sentence (6): This sentence is self-evidently true. But note: natural selection has still done nothing! All that has happened is parents producing offspring with inherited traits that lead to survival, and more offspring.

Sentence (7): What process of natural selection? Natural selection has done nothing in this described process.

Let us illustrate the fact that in the process described above natural selection plays no role. Note that the same observations in nature described above can be identically described as “nothing happening” to adapted and fit organisms. Here is a more observationally accurate version of the process in the same seven sentences:

(1) When nothing happens to adapted and fit organism, they freely reproduce. Over time populations of these organisms can continue to adapt and change.
(2) Individuals in a population are naturally variable at birth, meaning that they are all different in some ways.
(3) This variation means that some individuals are born with traits better suited to the environment than others.
(4) Individuals born with adaptive traits—traits that give them some advantage—are more likely to survive and reproduce. That is, nothing happens to them to prevent them from freely reproducing.
(5) These individuals then pass the adaptive traits on to their offspring.
(6) Over time, these advantageous traits become more common in the population.
(7) Through this process of nothing happening to adapted and fit organisms, favorable traits are transmitted through generations.

Does no one actually read for understanding description put forth by the likes of National Geographic? Teaching by cleverly utilizing the implication/inference technique abound in the field. Careful educators and evolutionists imply certain abilities of natural selection, leading students to infer that natural selection has the implied ability.

The National Geographic article continues this tactic:

Darwin and other scientists of his day argued that a process much like artificial selection happened in nature, without any human intervention. 

Ibid.

A process “much like” artificial selection? A process “much like” artificial selection needs an intelligent selector. Without any “human intervention”? The implication is that there is an “intervention” by something or someone. And yet, as we described above, using National Geographic’s description, there is no intervention by anything or anyone.

And yet students (who generally don’t care and just want a passing grade) infer that the “process of natural selection” does something to “adapt” organisms and select them “much like” a breeder in some kind of natural “intervention.”

Must the rest of us suffer the lazy acceptance of evolutionists’ claims any longer?

Think about it.

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