November 7, 2020 | David F. Coppedge

Selectionism: An Empty Idea

If anything could be due to any selection pressure up, down or sideways, then nothing might be due to selective pressure.

Credit: J.B. Greene

Selection – that intuitively obvious, wonderfully explanatory word that Darwin brought into biology – is like an elegantly wrapped present with nothing inside. When one looks at how biologists actually use the term, it becomes clear that they are speaking nonsense out of the imaginations of their own heads. Selection can be anything they need it to be to keep the Darwin hot air balloon aloft: positive selection, negative selection, purifying selection, balancing selection, whoop-de-do selection, or whatever (2 Sept 2019).

But who is the selector? Nobody! Darwin and his followers insist that even though natural selection mimics the designing ability of artificial selection (i.e., intelligent design), there is no mind involved. What, then is the goal of selection? Nothing! Darwin insisted that there is no goal to evolution. The word “fitness” is just as nebulous; it means anything shy of extinction. If it survives, it’s fit, isn’t it? Then what is the target of selection? Darwinians debate about that endlessly (see Doolittle’s bizarre ITSNTS idea, 2 April 2018 and 3 April 2018). What is the result of selection? Anything from a virus to a platypus to an upside-down ankylosaur. Some scientific explanation!

If evolutionists don’t know what is the Selector, what its goal is, and what its target to act on is, and what the result is (whatever “fitness” means), then they don’t really know anything at all. They’re like the character Talkative in Pilgrim’s Progress – skilled at flapping his gums without saying anything. Linguistic verbosity does not assimilate semantic lucidity: i.e., “all talk” means “no action.” By contrast, an ID scientist can say more in 16 minutes than Darwinists have said in 160 years. Why? Because they appeal to a Mind that provides a necessary and sufficient Cause for the specified complexity observed in everything from bacteria to blue whales. The cause may be applied in a primary or secondary manner, but it derives from a Mind. Selectionism is causeless. It is equivalent to the non-explanation, “stuff happens.”

Selectionists want a symphony without a composer or conductor, an artist without a paintbrush or paint, and a skyscraper without an architect. Sheer dumb luck cannot do such things. Even chance-music composer John Cage had more “selection” in his work than Darwin. At least he chose how many movements to have in his silent composition 4’33” and determined the length of each “movement.”

To prove the emptiness of selectionism, here are recent examples of the word in recent usage by evolutionists.

‘Resource-driven’ selection identified as a purifying selective force connected to environmental nutrient availability ( As if there weren’t enough variations on the “selection” theme already, these Rockefeller geniuses add another: “resource-driven selection.”

Prior work has shown a shift in guanine-cytosine (GC) levels in the marine creatures that live in the ocean. Those that live in areas of low nitrogen tend to have lower levels of GC than do those living in areas where nitrogen levels are higher. The genetic work by the researchers involved taking a closer look at this connection and finding associations between environmental conditions and the shift in GC levels. They were able to see that “resource-driven” selection was a selective force that could be associated with an environmental condition—namely nutritional availability.

This may sound astute until one thinks about it. First of all, selection is not a force (16 April 2020), just like chance is not a force. And remember the adage, “association is not causation”? They forgot about that. Did they show that having lower CG in their genes makes either group more “fit”, whatever that means? No! Both groups are fit, because both exist! Finally, they insert the “could” word to cover their bases: selection “could” be associated with the environment. Well, then again, it could as well not be associated. Adding the word “selection” to this explanation, therefore, conveys no knowledge or meaning. It only perpetuates Darwin’s favorite word, like a mantra that gives comfort while the brain is put into a trance.

Regulators of Gene Activity in Animals Are Deeply Conserved (The Scientist). Here’s another case where an appeal is made to “selection” when it doesn’t select. “Because the target gene is often critical to proper development, the researchers reasoned that selection would keep the genes more stable over time.” Experienced CEH readers will surely recognize that had the observations been the opposite (genes that differed significantly), the evolutionists would have appealed to the same cause—selection—to explain it. They would call it a case of “convergence” as in, ‘Because the target gene is often critical to proper development, the researchers reasoned that selection would cause the genes to converge on similar functions.”

Monarch butterfly on flower

Two centuries of Monarch butterflies show evolution of wing length ( This article freely admits that opposite outcomes can be explained by the same “cause” — selection. Under the subheading, “Selection at work in opposing directions,” it reads (watch for the high perhapsimaybecouldness index):

The shift between longer and shorter wings shows two opposite selection forces at work, Freedman and colleagues wrote in a paper published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Migration selects for longer, larger forewings while non-migration seems to relax this and lead to smaller wings.

Alternatively, wing size could be influenced by other environmental factors depending on where butterflies are hatched and grow up. To test this, Freedman raised Monarch butterflies from non-migrating populations in Hawaii, Guam, Australia and Puerto Rico outdoors in Davis, California alongside native migrating Monarchs. The non-migrating butterflies retained their smaller wings, showing that the effect is due to genetics and not the rearing environment.

“Our findings provide a compelling example of how migration-associated traits may be favored during the early stages of range expansion, and also the rate of reductions in those same traits upon loss of migration,” the authors wrote.

It could be this; it may be that. But it doesn’t matter anyway. They are all members of the same species – Monarch butterflies. Darwinism was about the “origin” of species, remember? This story is like attributing “selection” in humans to account for differences in height or muscle mass. We are all the same species! To think otherwise would be racist. Darwinists are notorious for that (see 9 June 2020).

Model of multicellular evolution overturns classic theory ( It’s nice when Darwinists overturn their own ideas. It saves us work. In this case, evolutionists assume selection theory to modify selection theory (see Circular Reasoning). But when your theory is “stuff happens,” all variations of the Stuff Happens Law mash together into a cloud of indeterminacy. Watch for the hedging word “can” and the Tontological sentence structure:

Cells can evolve specialized functions under a much broader range of conditions than previously thought [by whom?], according to a study [prepare to be hoodwinked] published today in eLife.

The findings, originally posted on bioRxiv, provide new insight about natural selection, and help us understand how and why common multicellular life has evolved so many times on Earth.

Evolutionary assimilation of foreign DNA in a new host ( To demonstrate their insistence that the assimilation of foreign DNA must be “evolutionary” rather than plain old ordinary assimilation (or designed assimilation), they bring King Charles in with teleprompter to deliver the obligatory talking points:

All life is subject to evolution in the form of mutations that change the DNA sequence of an organism’s offspring, after which natural selection allows the ‘fittest’ mutants to survive and pass on their genes to future generations.

But then they go off script! They talk about Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT), which involves sharing of existing information from one creature to another. Not only that, they gave the microbes the genes they wanted to see evolve. This had nothing to do with Darwinian evolution; they were tweaking one species under lab conditions (E. coli), not watching the origin of species. The passing reference to “natural selection” added nothing to the story.

Exercise: Grad Level Baloney Detecting

The above are all popular-level articles from press releases. Do serious journals do any better adding meat to the bones of selectionism, or inserting real gifts into the empty box? Read this open-access paper and try your hand at it. The authors sincerely desire to increase understanding of natural selection. Search for the word selection (it appears 28 times) and see if it adds any real knowledge or understanding. Look at the diagram. Be on the alert for hedging words.

Increasing our ability to predict contemporary evolution (Nosil et al., Nature Communications).

Classic debates concerning the extent to which scientists can predict evolution have gained new urgency as environmental changes force species to adapt or risk extinction. We highlight how our ability to predict evolution can be constrained by data limitations that cause poor understanding of deterministic natural selection. We then emphasize how such data limits can be reduced with feasible empirical effort involving a combination of approaches….


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