July 23, 2018 | David F. Coppedge

Environments Do Not Cause Adaptations

The way some evolutionists think, light creates eyes, sound creates ears, and odors create noses.

As we have seen, lazy Darwinians are accustomed to explain everything by the phrase, “It Evolved” (12 July 2018). That’s a restatement of their prior belief, not an explanation. When pressed, some of them try to say that the environment causes things to evolve and adapt. Here are some recent examples in the news. But before reading, ask: what power does the environment have to make something adapt?

How California’s sea stars are evolving past a devastating pandemic (Phys.org). In California, sea star wasting disease (SSWD) has had a devastating effect on a particular species of sea star, turning the “normally rigid body into a gooey blob.” Unchecked, the disease would have driven the ochre sea star extinct, but some individuals of the species are surviving the epidemic (or “epizootic” as the paper in PNAS calls it). Is this evolution in action? The article thinks so. “While it remains one of the worst marine pandemics ever recorded, the SSWD outbreak had an unexpected silver lining: It provided scientists with a natural experiment in evolution and an opportunity to explore how a species responds to a cataclysmic population collapse.” At best, though, this is an example of microevolution that takes advantage of “standing genetic variation” – variability that already exists in the population. The disease was specific enough to target only some existing variants. Others escaped. The biologists speak of “selection pressure” on the survivors, but that’s like saying wind creates selection pressure on falling leaves. Charles Darwin saw no more directionality to evolution than the way the wind blows.

Natural selection could have influence on lizards’ ‘personalities’ (Science Daily). Do predators create personalities in their prey? Evolutionary theory expects that all traits—behaviors as well as phenotypes—should emerge by Darwin’s mechanism. “Surprisingly, however, no experimental studies had been able to actually conduct an experiment in wild animal populations and test the idea in nature,” this article admits. Scientists wanted to know if the presence of predators on Caribbean islands selects for boldness in lizards. Some anolis lizards in the population already were bold, and some already were shy; nothing new emerged by a Darwinian mechanism. The evolutionists in this study were honest enough to admit that they had not demonstrated evolution:

Natural selection is crucial for adaptation to new environmental challenges,” Lapiedra said. “But the presence of natural selection per se does not imply evolution. What we have shown is that there is consistent variation in behavior. If there is heritability in behavior…lizards that are more bold would have more bold offspring. But so far, we don’t have evidence for this. We can say that some phenotypes survive better than others in certain conditions…but that does not necessarily imply evolution.”

Evolution does repeat itself after all (Phys.org). Does water create fish to swim in it? Does the depth of water create the shape of a fish? Here is another paper that assumes similar environments will predict the kinds of animals that will be found there. Before we get into that, keep in mind that this study involves not just freshwater fish, but freshwater cichlid fish of certain lakes in Nicaragua, and only “Midas cichlid fish” in particular. By trying to narrow down their study so as not to “compare apples to oranges” (e.g., mammal evolution to fish evolution), these evolutionists have narrowed it so far down as to make it nearly meaningless for explaining macroevolution (the real issue that would separate Darwinism from young-earth creationism). The only differences they find are tiny differences in how slender certain species are in certain crater lakes compared to their counterparts in great lakes. They also find an apparent correlation to the depth of the lake and the fish’s shape. These factors are what they claim make evolution “predictable”—

The importance of these ecological factors can further be demonstrated by the fact that the diverse body shapes of the crater lake populations are closely related to the average depth of the lakes. Andreas Kautt comments: “It makes sense. The deeper a lake is, the more likely it is to provide various ecological niches, including in the deep open water.” All of this leads the researchers to conclude that, under certain conditions, evolutionary outcomes can be predicted.

And yet if this were a law of nature, they should be able to see every species of fish, arthropods and other aquatic organisms follow the same pattern. Does water depth cause a Midas cichlid to become slender? Most likely, all the variability was present in the initial population, and still exists in the purported “various ecological niches” that exist in any given lake. Even if the crater lakes could somehow “cause” its cichlids to become slightly more long and slender, the evolutionists do not connect that to a survival advantage that would cause all the others in that particular niche to die off. Their paper in Evolution Letters pathetically says, “The depth of a crater lake is positively associated with variation in body shapes (and number of species), presumably by providing more ecological opportunities.” Association is not causation, and presumption is not demonstration.

Factors that shaped evolution (Science Daily). “Understanding the many factors that have played into shaping the biodiversity within Earth’s ecosystems can be daunting,” this paper begins, but then claims that a group of international scientists helped identify “many of the fundamental factors that drive evolutionary adaptation and extinction.” How did they solve this daunting task? They developed a computer simulation. Needless to say, minds use intelligence to program computers, but nature (in the Darwinian view) has no such resource. If programmers know what they need to see, can’t they rig it to succeed? Besides, their simulation is so broad, trying to simulate “cradles, museums and graves” of organisms (which originate, stabilize and go extinct, respectively), the model does little more than restate their beliefs. Do they explain how a mountain range caused a particular bird or mammal to appear in a particular niche? Of course not; it would be impossible to sort through all the factors. The study accomplishes little more than providing them an opportunity to pontificate about climate change.

Physics makes rules; evolution rolls the dice (Science Magazine). In this book review, Chico Camargo gushes over Charles Cockrell’s new book, The Equations of Life: How Physics Shapes Evolution. His first paragraph could almost fool one into thinking he’s in a worship service:

Picture a ladybug in motion. The image that came into your head is probably one of a small, round red-and-black insect crawling up a leaf. After reading Charles Cockell’s The Equations of Life, however, you may be more likely to think of this innocuous organism as a complex biomechanical engine, every detail honed and operating near thermodynamic perfection.

The only worship going on, though, is for Darwin. Evolutionists seem pressured to make natural selection more law-like, and less random. The tone of Cockrell’s book is that physics—blind physics—creates biological organization. It may constrain what is possible, but can physics cause a snail to emerge, as shown in the photo accompanying the article? Ignore the praise, and think about the concepts:

In a fascinating journey across physics and biology, Cockell builds a compelling argument for how physical principles constrain the course of evolution. Chapter by chapter, he aims his lens at all levels of biological organization, from the molecular machinery of electron transport to the social organisms formed by ant colonies. In each instance, Cockell shows that although these structures might be endless in their detail, they are bounded in their form. If organisms were pawns in a game of chess, physics would be the board and its rules, limiting how the game unfolds.

Constraints are not the same thing as causes. In the illustrations Camargo picks from the book, he commits a fallacy borrowed from Cockrell, that physics has creative power. He says that a drop of water on a ladybug’s back is like a heavy pack to a human. He says that a drop of water to an ant would be like a prison to one of us. Those might be interesting details, but what power does a water drop have to direct Darwin’s unguided processes to evolve an ant or ladybug in the first place, endowing it with antennae, eyes, and numerous organs that allow it to thrive? Water is oblivious to organisms. The physical properties of water drops can only limit what is possible for organisms to do. Nothing in physics, despite the fancy equations Cockrell employs in his book, has creative powers.

At the end of every chapter, the reader is reminded of how the laws of physics nudge, narrow, mold, shape, and restrict the “endless forms most beautiful” that Charles Darwin once described. Cockell’s persistence pays off as he gears up for his main argument: If life exists on other planets, it has to abide by the same laws as on Earth.

Nudging and shaping are activities that minds engage in. If Camargo has accurately described the book, both he and the author commit a non-sequitur in a post-hoc fallacy. Just because an organism abides by the laws of physics, it does not follow that the laws of physics created the organism. The most egregious error in the book review is where Camargo allows Cockrell to leap over fantastical improbabilities (improbabilities so utterly absurd as to qualify as insane) with the same post-hoc sandwich:

Cockell also describes how physical constraints make evolution possible by causing different DNA sequences to be translated into the same amino acids, leading amino acids to form proteins with the same shapes. If one were to consider, for example, that every position in a chain of 300 amino acids—not far from the length of an average protein—could be one of 20 possible amino acids, a simple calculation would reveal that there are approximately 2 × 10390 potential combinations. If each of those chains were to adopt a different shape, evolution would never lead to the same protein shape twice. But because of the laws of physics, most proteins assume a very limited set of shapes, combining patterns of α-helices and β-sheets.

Words cannot describe how absurd and unscientific this statement is. Nothing in the laws of physics forces life to select amino acids that are left-handed. Nothing in the laws of physics forces strings of amino acids to form sequences that result in patterns of α-helices and β-sheets. Nothing in α-helices and β-sheets forces them to fold into functional machines. If evolution is as blind and unguided as Darwin taught, there is nothing in physics to make life “choose” any solutions that work. And certainly, if the Universal Probability Bound for our universe is 1 in 10150, nothing in a thousand universes could overcome odds like 2 x 10390. (Remember, each additional exponent multiples the previous number by 10.)

Evolutionists are desperate to distance themselves from chance. In our Twitter debates with atheists, they get uptight about our frequent assertion that natural selection is equivalent to the Stuff Happens Law. The more civil tweeters, instead of cussing, like to pass around boilerplate statements like this one from the PBS Evolution FAQ:

Evolution is not a random process. The genetic variation on which natural selection acts may occur randomly, but natural selection itself is not random at all. The survival and reproductive success of an individual is directly related to the ways its inherited traits function in the context of its local environment. Whether or not an individual survives and reproduces depends on whether it has genes that produce traits that are well adapted to its environment. 

Repeating this quote ad infinitum does not alter its inherent big lie. The holes in the statement are easy to see for anyone not intimidated by Darwin bluffing. If Darwinians really believe that evolution is an unguided natural process—without any mind or aim—then every part of it is unguided. Nobody disputes that mutation (genetic variation) is random, but so is the local environment as well as the global environment. An unguided environment cannot steer unguided variation. Additionally, the statement presupposes that the organism has inherited traits that perform functions, but those had to come from genetic information, not from random molecules. Moreover, that information had to reach a phenomenally improbable threshold before reproduction “emerged” that could reproduce it, using molecular machines of astonishing complexity. Finally, there is nothing about physics or chemistry that makes an organism desire to adapt, let alone reproduce, since extinction is the easier way out. Evolution is unguided turtles all the way down.

Laws of physics can constrain actions, but they have no creative power. Gravity may draw objects toward the Earth, but the same law can fling objects away from the Earth, or toward another object. It doesn’t care. Even Aristotle, for all his faults, realized that “If the art of ship-building were in the wood, ships would exist by nature.” Since we don’t see ships growing on trees, we can assume that an additional cause—a ship-builder—is required. We do, however, see cells and organisms of astonishing complexity. They use the laws of physics (a sea turtle can navigate by the magnetic field); they are constrained by the laws of physics (ants lack the power to escape a water droplet’s surface tension); but the laws of physics do not create the organisms. Evolutionists wrongly attribute creative powers to natural selection, contrary to the best-known laws of physics: the laws of thermodynamics.

In his book Undeniable, Douglas Axe describes “The Gaping Hole in Evolutionary Theory” — “Evolutionary theory ascribes inventive power to natural selection alone,” he notes. “However, because selection can only hone in on the fitness signal from an invention after that invention already exists, it can’t actually invent” (p. 97). We know that intelligent minds can invent. We know they can invent things with traits for robustness so that they can survive perturbations (see Guliuzza article). The only way evolutionists continue to believe evolution can invent all the wonders we see around us, he argues, is by personifying evolution (p. 80), which is the fallacy of personification: attributing intelligence, emotions and will to inanimate objects or to the laws of physics. To believe in the creative power of mindless, unguided nature, contrary to all evidence and logic, evolutionists transfer the attributes of God onto matter. They do not rid nature of the need for the attributes of God. This means that atheists believe in a god—a nature god, or a pantheistic god, but a god nonetheless. The only God with the attributes necessary to create what we see in a hummingbird, a whale, or a human brain is the God who revealed Himself in His Word.


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  • Mark Glaab says:

    Good article. Evolutionists frequently claim that creationists don’t understand science. I think that they do.

    This article demonstrates that it is rather the evolutionist that is led more by flights of imagination than science.

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