Does evolution TRY to do anything?

Evolutionary news stories and articles are often over hyped, dogmatic and virtually always laced with numerous “fuzzy” words and phrases. For example, this “may have happened”, “could have occurred”, “scientists believe it is possible”, etc. Many readers do not consciously notice this tendency and feel like each publication is just another example of scientific proof for evolution. However, if they were to go back and re-read the article looking for these “fuzzy phrases”, they would most likely be surprised at how frequently they occur and it would probably cause them to reevaluate the effectiveness of the evidence or argument.

One other phenomenon that I have noticed regarding evolutionary literature is a certain type of false impression given to the readers… one that in reality is not even believed by the leading evolutionists. I am referring to the idea the evolution “tries” to do things. It is given the characteristics of will or volition. It has an agenda. It has desires. It has needs and appropriate related goals.

Over the years, I’ve viewed numerous videos and documentaries on evolution and heard something like the following many times: “Food was perhaps becoming somewhat scarce in the oceans, so fish needed to move onto the land in search of other sources, so they evolved the ability to crawl and breathe air.” This of course was always accompanied by very professional video footage and artists renditions of the alleged transition. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. These powerful images will last for years and years in the minds of the young students and serves as a great substitute for the lack of actual scientific evidence. An intriguing story, great video editing and an narrator’s voice with a British accent… what more proof do you need?

Here’s a specific example from DiscoveryNews. While talking about dinosaurs and their size, the author of the article wrote:

“Presumably, the sauropods evolved large  body size as a strategy to deter predators." [DiscoveryNews, Jennifer Viegas, Tue Mar 23, 2010]

What are they implying here? It could be facetiously explained this way:

“Apparently, at some point in the distant past, dinosaurs were not as large as they eventually came to be and they were also in danger of becoming extinct. So they were sitting around the campfire one evening and one of them said, “Hey you guys, things are not going so well for us and we are in danger of being wiped out altogether. We have to come up with a strategy. You guys have any ideas?” “No, our brains are too small!” comes the response. Then one particularly bold dinosaur offers, “What if we get some machine guns and ward off our enemies?”. The “leader” dinosaurs says, “We can’t do that! Machine guns haven’t been invented yet!” A second dinosaurs says, “How about we hop onto our motorcycles and ride off into the sunset?” The leader responds in a similar fashion again, “No, they haven’t been invented either.” Then, a particularly promising young dinosaur says, “I have an idea… why don’t we evolve really large body sizes and scare them all away?” “Now that’s a good idea,” says the leader. So they all agree and subsequently go out and work really hard doing things that would cause their great, great, great, great, great, great… grandchildren to be enormous!

This is a fairly silly story, but it serves to make my point. Evolution does not “try” to do or accomplish anything. It is not a conscious, living entity that thinks, has opinions, desires or goals. It never “sees a need” and sets out to resolve a problem. Students often soak all this in because it seems plausible. A certain creature needed longer, thicker fur because the climate was becoming increasingly colder, and so it evolved thicker fur!

There are stories of how a cow-like creature evolved into a whale. (Scientists have wondered where whales came from, since they are mammals and obviously did not evolve from other fish.)

Here one version of the story from The National Marine Life Center:

“It took about ten million years for the changes to happen. During that time the animal began spending more and more time in the water, where it had little competition for food. As it changed to a whale, its body shape became more streamlined so that it could move through the water faster. It also lost most of its hair and instead developed a layer of fat, or blubber, to keep warm. Its head changed shape so that it could see and breathe easily on the top of the water. Its eyes moved to the sides of its head and its nose moved from the front of its face, where yours is, to the top of its head.” [Kathy Zagzebski, Where Did Whales Come From?, nmlc.org, posted Apr 19, 2009]

Restraining myself and only making just a few comments on this… apparently spending more time in the water caused it to turn into a whale. That’s amazing! (I knew there were good reasons not to let my kids swim too long on our vacation!) Also, its body became more streamlined so that it could move faster through the water. It did it for a reason. It’s thinking to itself, “You know, it would be very helpful if I could move faster in the water. I know, I think I’ll streamline my body!” (FYI… Many people will say there is proof of whale evolution because of “vestigial leg bones” found in some whales. However, these are not actually left-over, useless leg bones, but structures that help support reproductive organs.)

Unfortunately, the literature is replete with example such as these. The interesting thing, however, is that even the leading evolutionary scientists do not believe it actually works that way. They agree that evolution is random, not aiming towards any predetermined or desired outcome.

Jerry Coyne (professor of biology, University of Chicago, Department of Ecology and Evolution):

“But evolution is, as far as we can tell, purposeless and unguided. There seems to be no direction, mutations are random, and we haven’t detected a teleological force or agent that pushes it in one direction.” [What’s the problem with unguided evolution?, richarddawkins.net, posted 17 July 2012]

In short, much of the common literature and school textbooks imply the idea that a certain creature needed a particular feature, so it evolved to acquire it. This is nothing more than story telling and is very misleading. Unfortunately, many readers, especially the younger ones, will uncritically accept it as “gospel”.

We would all be wise to think more critically when reading the scientific literature and not just take it all in as “fact”, being overly impressed by the credentials of the authors.

 

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Author: Jay Seegert (Co-Founder & Principal Lecturer, Creation Education Center)

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