The Survival of the Species is not the Origin of the Species

In the 4th part of her series honoring Charles Darwin, Olivia Judson writes in “A Natural Selection” about “some examples of recent evolutionary change in nature.”    She proceeds to list several examples – a few classic ones and a few lesser known situations where variation within a species is clearly shown.  In fact one might say the examples she offers are good evidence of the survival of the species and that the survival of the species portion of evolutionary theory seems well documented. 

However, the comments on her article which follow show that convicted Darwinists recognize the infuriating frustration they experience by the fact that no matter how many examples of genetic variation within a species they can point to (natural selection at work in the survival of the species), anti-evolutionary forces still remain unconvinced that macro-evolution actually occurs or that speciation – a new species emerging from an old – really happens.  Though they don’t seem to recognize it, these defenders of evolution experience the same frustrations that believers in God feel when no matter how many believers testify about the power of God in their lives, the atheists, agnostics and skeptics still maintain it proves nothing regarding the existence of God since each testimony is purely anecdotal.

As a non-scientist, I must admit that the evidence Judson offers is underwhelming.  Yes it does show how within a species variation occurs as natural selection predicts.  But the evidence offered could just as easily be proof of intelligent design – that the Creator God built within His creation the ability for species to adapt and survive.  The fact that Galapagos finch beaks change over time indicates survival of the species is a force in nature and that the genetic code is flexible enough to allow great variation over time.  But all the variation shows is that when conditions change the beak size changes – larger and smaller, back and forth through time without any new species emerging.  The finch gene code keeps the less helpful trait in the DNA and stores it for a rainy day as it were; and when that rainy or draught period comes along, the species is able to survive because the genetic variation is built into the species, but it does not morph into a new species.

And one has to ask – given that scientists have bred countless generations of rats, mice and fruit flies for specific genetic traits, has there been even one instance of a new species emerging as a result of selective breeding?  If under ideal laboratory conditions it doesn’t happen, how can we assume it happens in nature?

The theory of evolution has got many things correct and can overall explain many aspects of the variety of species in the world and the variations within a species.  But at least to this observer  it still does not have quite right an understanding of how a new species originates. 

And though I am a believer in a Creator God, I fully acknowledge that at some point whatever God does in creation becomes part of the natural order and can be fully studied by science.  So I think scientific explanations for life are possible – science is capable of exploring all aspects of creation within the time-space limits of science.

But so far, at least in my eyes, all that evolutionary scientists can actually show or prove is the survival of the species is factual, which is a far cry from showing the origin of new species.   And the claim that “well, it takes billions of years for speciation to take place” – I would ask with physicist John Polkinghorne  give us a rough estimate:  we are talking science here, facts and figures, so give us an estimate for how many generations and how many years are necessary for a new species to emerge or for a functioning eye to appear.  Because if you can’t or won’t, then your theory is no different than the Sidney Harris cartoon joke (what’s funny about science?”) about two physicists looking at an equation and saying “at this point a miracle occurs.”

See also my The Spontaneous Apperance of Life:  God is Creative