How Predictable is Evolution

Here’s an excellent article demonstrating the difference between evolution and natural selection. It begins with a bait-and-switch, where the headline is a bit deceptive. The Discover Magazine headline I linked to asks, “Is It Possible to Forecast Evolution?” Then the article begins, “Can we predict the course evolution will take?” The article goes on to explain that researchers have been using data collected on the behavior of stick insects for 25 years and states that these researchers “set out to see if they could forecast the path of natural selection.”

Did you catch the change? It’s subtle. At first glance you might think the article is about evolution, but it turns out to be about natural selection. These are two very different things. Unfortunately, evolutionists routinely conflate the two terms, even though they’re not the same, and it demonstrates a fundamental difference between creation and evolution.

I think those who really understand evolution would actually claim that natural selection is a key mechanism of evolution, and that would be more accurate. But it’s easy to see how people get confused; articles like this basically use the two terms interchangeably, leading the reader to accept the premise that evolution is any kind of change over time, and since we can observe organisms changing, that proves evolution!

Well, no, it doesn’t.

First, it doesn’t help that evolution can be defined so loosely that few can spot the difference between it and natural selection, speciation and adaptation. Believing that evolution is simply change over time isn’t helpful. Of course organisms change over time- even within a single generation. Creationists teach this too, yet we don’t believe in evolution, and one reason is because it can’t be substantiated by the evidence. Natural selection, however, can be.

According to the National Science Teachers Association:

“Evolution in the broadest sense can be defined as the idea that the universe has a history: that change through time has taken place.”

Well, that’s not very helpful, is it? Of course the universe has a history. Both evolutionists and creationists agree on that. Yet this kind of definition would make everyone an evolutionist. But, then again, such a definition doesn’t make evolution true; it merely describes what we observe. It doesn’t infer that an ape-like organism could become human. Such a conclusion is unwarranted and unsubstantiated.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary is a little more helpful:

“Descent with modification from pre-existing species: cumulative inherited change in a population of organisms through time leading to the appearance of new forms: the process by which new species or populations of living things develop from pre-existing forms through successive generations.”

This is a popular definition, but still doesn’t capture the difference between the kind of change necessary for dinosaurs to become birds, or a fox to descend from a wolf. Both examples fit the definition of evolution, but only one can be substantiated by the scientific method. One requires a substantial increase in genetic information that doesn’t exist within the organism’s genome, while the other requires a loss of information, accepts the role of mutations, and recognizes variation within an existing genome. Can you see the difference?

Natural selection, adaptation and speciation refer to the smaller changes we observe- like the kind of fur a particular mammal has (or doesn’t have), or how a bird feather behaves and looks. Environmental factors certainly affect survival, but environmental factors don’t create the new genetic information necessary for novel traits. For example, an environment that is becoming colder and colder won’t turn a reptile’s scales into a feather. That would require a radically new genetic program that doesn’t exist in the original organism, and it would require an extreme, new biological blue print.

The reason why understanding these terms is so important is because of articles like this from Discover Magazine. A good understanding will expose some of the myths surrounding evolutionary theory.

Next, consider the National Association of Biology Teacher’s definition of evolution:

“an unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.”

Based on this definition, the answer to the question posed by Discover Magazine is “no”, we cannot predict the course evolution will take. Yet the authors continue to claim that they can predict some simple evolutionary changes. They admit it’s hard, but they were able to successfully predict with 90% accuracy whether green stick insects or green unstriped stick insects would be more common.

So which is it? Is evolution predictable or not? Evolutionists love to tout that the true sign of science is the ability to make successful predictions. Therefore, the inability to make successful predictions is a refutation of genuine scientific status, and this study provides evidence that evolution isn’t real science. I would consider evolution to be nothing more than an unsubstantiated hypothesis. Certainly not true history. Theories are described as being rigorously tested by experimentation, and there is no experiment or observational evidence capable of demonstrating that ape-like organisms evolved into humans. Such a conclusion must be accepted by faith, not facts or evidence.

Hold on though; the researchers do admit that some of their predictions were unsuccessful. They failed to make successful predictions about brown colored stick insects, and they attribute that to environmental factors and other unknown variables and forces. They explain that it’s too difficult to predict how the earth’s environment and climate will change, and that makes it too difficult to predict most evolutionary changes.

Fair enough. Perhaps that will satisfy most evolutionists so that they will not have to accept that evolution has been falsified. But what happens if scientists become better at making predictions? Will that falsify evolution?

Nonetheless, the research does nothing to advance evolutionary theory. Just because one colored stick insect is favored in a particular environment doesn’t mean that they could suddenly grow fur, scales or feathers. And it doesn’t explain how a deer-like mammal could evolve into a whale, as evolutionists claim.

A couple other things to note: some people like to claim that man-made global warming is settled science. But this article seems to provide a different tale. It repeatedly indicates how complex environmental conditions are, admitting that ‘the Earth’s interconnecting physical systems’ are ‘intrinsically complex’, and that predicting how the earth will change is ‘far beyond our abilities’. Really?

The last telling takeaway is a subtle attribute to God. The article admits that “Mother nature is still too complex for us to truly foretell the future.” While they may not be giving credit to God for such complexity, they hint that there are certain things in nature beyond the scope of science.

I think it’s accurate to conclude that this article is about natural selection and not evolution. Natural selection is “the gradual process by which biological traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of the effect of inherited traits on the differential reproductive success of organisms interacting with their environment.” And that’s exactly what we observe- the coloration of stick insects either become more or less common. There’s nothing new here, yet the reader is meant to think this study somehow supports the theory of evolution.

The observational evidence shows that evolution is not occurring, and that organisms reproduce after their kind, which is exactly what the Bible explains. We observe variation within a kind, but stick insects are not evolving into some other kind of organism, and this is consistent with our origins as described in Genesis. If we believe in God, then there’s no need to accept an evolutionary origin.

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