Critiques of Darwinism
- Published: May 23, 2012 May 23, 2012
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Darwin made adaptation to the environment the key property of evolved living creatures. That's all natural selection can do. But suppose the key property of living creatures is how independent of their environment they are. This is number 1 in a series of articles casting doubt on the Modern Synthesis.
Darwin made "adaptation to the environment" the key concept in his theory of natural selection. He had to; all natural selection can do is identify which members of a species are better adapted to their surroundings, and make sure only they survive. Since only the better adapted members survive, that species will eventually evolve into another species even better adapted to that environment.
What does it mean to say something's “adapted” to its environment? Take a pebble, on a pebble beach. Won’t that pebble be better “adapted” to that beach than any living creature could be? That pebble will shatter into smaller fragments like all the other pebbles, eventually becoming sand as they do. At all times it remains precisely adapted to its environment. Yet most living creatures on that beach won't have adapted to become anything like a pebble. They'll be very different. What's most distinctive about those living creatures isn’t how much like a pebble they are, it's how they’re different.
Take a cat for example. It's lying on the pebbles because they've been baking in the sun. But if it gets hungry it gets up, looks around, and heads off to forage. Perhaps it heads down towards the sea to see if any fish have become trapped in shallow ponds. Or it might head up to where it can hunt mice in the undergrowth. Agreed, it probably won't take to the sea and swim. But apart from that, which environment is the cat not adapted to? It can survive in almost all of them. It's not "adapted" to any one environment, it's actually become, to a surprising extent, independent of them.
If what's most important about living creatures evolving isn't them becoming adapted to their environment but them becoming increasingly independent of any one environment, then evolution is probably driven by some other mechanism, we're entitled to harbor doubts about natural selection.
Perhaps, to judge evolutionary theories, a better test would be to ask how living creatures become so independent of their environments, so un-“pebble”–like. What gives them capabilities so unlike those of non-living matter? What's a good example? How about us being conscious and having free will? Darwinism can't account for that at all. If it acknowledged that living creatures can be conscious and have free will it would have to include those along with natural selection in what drove evolution. And if you have consciousness and free will, who needs natural selection as well?
Like most terms associated with natural selection, the point of stressing the role of "adaptation" in evolution is to distract us from the theory's weaknesses. But it's a tautology. Living creatures must be adapted to some extent else they’d be dead.
It's hard to argue against a tautology. Of any feature of living creatures evolutionists respond, "it's an adaptation," even if they can't explain how. For them, it is, because it must be! If it's not adaptive for the creature in question it's adaptive for some other creature--the peacock's tail is adaptive for the peahen. How about this, though: line drawing. There aren't a significant number of line drawings in nature, so how did we evolve to make sense of them?
What's obvious is, living creatures are much more than merely being adapted. Once we realize that, we can start appreciating them for how much more than being merely “adapted” to their environments they are.
That living creatures end up being adapted to the environment is the least you can ask of a mechanism of evolution. As long as that's all you lead people to expect, that's all they'll learn to see. Now, should you really teach that in the school science classroom?