Creation Factsheet No. 29: Selection - Natural and Artificial
Factsheet No. 29
SELECTION NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL
EVOLUTIONISTS from Darwin onwards have compared artificial selection with natural selection, and used this comparison to promote their theory. However, it would be more sensible to contrast the two. Evolutionist Norman Macbeth has written about Darwin's analogy between artificial and natural selection: 'This stimulated Darwin's thinking, but clouded his judgment as to the serious dissimilarities. Several eminent evolutionists have followed Darwin in this error, creating great confusion in biology.'1
Charles Darwin bred domestic pigeons, and, like modern-day pigeon-fanciers, was aware that selective breeding can produce a wide variety of forms, including very long leg or tail feathers, different shaped beaks, etc.. Darwin also drew attention to the way that man had, by careful selection, greatly improved the performance of certain domestic animals and plants. 'Several of our eminent breeders have, even within a lifetime, modified to a large extent their breeds of cattle and sheep,' he wrote, and rightly pointed out: 'The key is man's power of accumulative selection.'2 Many examples spring to mind, and Darwin himself could not have imagined what great strides in animal and plant breeding would be made in the century that followed. Dairy cows yield maybe 10 times as much milk as they did then, and cerial yields have been multiplied many times over. And improvements have not only been for the purpose of producing more food, but also for human pleasure and financial gain, as in the breeding of racehorses which can run faster. Now, in all cases of artificial selection it should be obvious that the changes have been made for the benefit of man alone. It is of no advantage to a cow to give extra milk, for in nature only enough to feed her calf would be needed. Neither does it benefit a racehorse to be able to win the Grand National.
It does not benefit a racehorse to be able to win the Grand National.
On the contrary, natural selection works for the good of the species concerned. It is a conserving process, which enables an organism to adapt in order to survive in the face of a changing environment or competition from other species. There are numerous examples of natural selection in nature. Darwin drew attention to the varieties of finches in the Galapogos Islands as evidence of natural selection in action. He reasoned probably quite correctly that they had all descended from a common ancestor. The shape of their beaks varied widely, some were suitable for wood-boring, some for cracking seeds, others for probing flowers. But all of these changes came about to enable them to survive as finches, not to change into something different. Evolutionist Richard C. Lewontin has written: 'Natural selection operates essentially to enable the organisms to maintain their state of adaptation rather than to improve it.'3
THE LIMITS OF SELECTION
Although there are obvious differences between artificial and natural selection, the 'ground rules' are the same for both. Clearly there are limits as to the amount of variation possible, whether this comes about through man's manipulation or natural means.
Through artificial selection some cattle have been bred to produce high milk yields, while others have been bred for beef production. But they are still cattle.
Artificial selection could never produce a cow capable of yielding 100 gallons of milk a day, nor a cow that laid eggs! Creationists will readily accept that, in the case of domestic species, God provided the genetic potential for maximum usefulness to man. But selection has nothing whatever to do with evolution. The concept of natural selection was not even suggested by an evolutionist, but by creationist Edward Blyth, 24 years before Darwin wrote his Origin of Species. Natural selection is not creative. Whilst it can explain the survival of the fittest, it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest. Evolutionist Niles Eldredge has stated: 'But natural selection per se does not work to create new species.'4
The variations we see in living things are sometimes called 'micro-evolution', but this can cause confusion, as evolutionists wrongly extrapolate these minor changes into 'macro-evolution' changes from one type to another. There is no evidence that this kind of change has ever taken place, nor indeed that it could. Selection, whether artificial or natural, is only a shuffling of the genetic material already present. There are several hundred breeds of dogs, but they are still dogs. Natural selection could never cause a fish to grow legs and become an amphibian, nor reptile to grow wings and feathers and become a bird. The genetic information to build these new structures would not be available for selection! Indeed, as time goes on, dilution of the gene pool would restrict the scope for further variation.
Several hundred different varieties of dogs have been bred, but they remain dogs.
All of this fits in perfectly with the creationist model of origins, namely originally created 'kinds' with a rich gene pool, allowing wide variation within the limits of each created 'kind'.
- N. Macbeth, Danger: Analogies Ahead', Rivista diBiologia (Biology Forum), Vol. 79, No. 2 (1986)
- Origin of Species chapter two.
- R. Lowentin, 'Adaptation', Scientific American, Sept. 1978.
- N. Eldredge, Natural History, Vol. 89, No. 7 (July 1980) p. 46.
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