Scholars speculate regarding which of Darwin’s observations inspired his evolutionary theory. The often suggested Galapagos Island finches, which today bear his name, probably had little to do with inspiring him and are actually poor examples of his theory. Darwin raised pigeons and quite probably these birds contributesd to his evolutionary thinking. By selecting odd traits one can breed rather unusual pigeons. Generally we breed domestic animals and plants for useful traits: cows that produce large quantities of milk, dogs that track game, corn with high per acre yields. Since man chooses who gets to breed, Darwin called this artificial selection.
Results of artificial selection led Darwin to conclude that natural selection would be able to go much farther. In On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection he wrote,
Slow though the process of selection may be, if feeble man can do much by artificial selection, I can see no limit to the amount of change . . . which may have been effected in the long course of time through nature’s power of selection, that is by the survival of the fittest.
Basically Darwin proposed that the conditions in each of the world’s various habitats served as the “natural selecting agent” to breed organisms ideally suited to that habitat. At first glance this might appear logical. Observe the vast variety of dogs man has bred.
Darwin essentially suggested that by selecting certain traits for a long, long time, future canine offspring could be cows. Selecting for other traits you might get horses. Based on this line of reasoning every new breed is more proof of Darwin’s tree of life. Through natural selection a common ancestor at the base of the tree has produced all physically living things. Keep selecting and in time you could get humans.
Microevolution & Macroevolution
Today microevolution refers to the varieties obtainable by selection. There is ample evidence of artificial microevolution on any farm or among our pets. Microevolution, however, has limits. Even with the pigeon’s short life span and the countless generations that have been bred since their domestication over 3000 years ago, we have not seen non-pigeon-like characteristics among pigeons. Assumption: more generations and more
careful selection must be needed to get pigeons to become eagles or penguins.
In the lab, multiple generations of fruit flies and other short-lifespan organisms can be observed. These organisms have been subjected to all kinds of conditions to speed up the evolutionary process. Results: strange varieties of the organism the scientists started with. In these labs, deformed fruit flies abound, but a fruit fly with a hint of butterfly, beetle or any other kind of organism has not been seen.
Today developing new kinds of organisms, which is what Darwin thought natural selection would do, is called macroevolution. In the mid-1980s evolutionists were shocked when a few renegade scientists suggested that, although microevolution happens, there was no scientific evidence that macroevolution had ever taken place. All those mutant fruit flies and deformed organisms in the lab are merely additional examples of microevolution. Those renegades also suggested that the reason their colleagues had not noticed this lack of evidence is because they all believed macroevolution had happened.
Natural Selection & Habitat Suitability
When studying nature one cannot help but be amazed at how organisms are ideally suited to their native habitat. We will call this habitat suitability. The concept impressed Darwin and his writings cite interesting examples. His theory of evolution was, in part, to explain how habitat suitability came to be. He proposed that the conditions of the habitat (nature) favored organisms most suited to live there and forced others (the not-so- fit) to either move on or die. Thus natural selection was to account for macroevolution and habitat suitability.
Theorizing the how based solely on observations of the result is weak. Even Darwin knew his theory needed corroborating evidence. He expected microevolution examples to expand into macroevolution examples, yielding that support. But in the 150 years since his proposal, those expectations have not been realized.
I would like to propose a theory for microevolution and habitat suitability: Sovereign selection. The all-knowing God was aware of the various habitats that existed in His perfect world, in the world following the Fall, and in the world following the Genesis Flood. The all-powerful God can design into the living things He creates the genetic potential to become the varieties of organisms needed to fit those habitats.
As God created the canine kind, for example, He put into its genes the possibility to become all the canines found in nature as well as the ones we have bred. Within a few generations after leaving the Ark various groups of canines had migrated to various habitats for which they were ideally suited. The same is true for cattle, pigeons, and other kinds of organisms.
Like Darwin’s theory, the Sovereign selection theory is based on observations of artificial selection and habitat suitability seen in nature. But unlike Darwin’s theories, Sovereign selection fits with other observations of the physical world, fits within the timeframe of Scripture, and fits under God’s command that animals reproduce “after their kind.”
William Pinkston teaches science at Bob Jones Academy in Greenville, South Carolina. He is a member of Faith FPC.