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So, Charles Darwin went to the Galapagos Islands and noticed several different finches with different beak sizes and wing projections. They looked a little different from one another, so he concluded that they must have evolved over time. Perhaps they did, but the finches still remained finches. Therefore, it was change within an existing kind or species. Now, I agree that natural selection may cause this. Natural Selection may work on a limited scale as Darwin proposed.
The problem is that he suggested that this explains everything.
Then, in 1977, scientists visited the Galapagos Islands during a drought and noticed an average of 5% beak change toward the larger due to the lack of water. (The animals with the larger beaks could more easily get to the food and survive and the ones with the smaller beaks died out.) They then concluded that this is an example of evolution. If you gave the process longer periods of time, you can imagine what results we would get! So, they extrapolated that if this phenomenon happened within five years or so, then within a span of 200 years (much less 10 million years) evolution could result into an entirely different species.
However, what they actually found was that the process within the finches was actually cyclical. As the food supply and water supply ebbed and flowed over time, so did the size of the beaks. Therefore, the phenomenon wasn’t moving toward any new anatomy, developing new beaks or new abilities – it was simply a change within a species or kind.
This is called micro-evolution.
Newsweek Magazine addressed this. A reader responded to one of their articles by writing:
“They say there’s no evidence for evolution, yet here is some within my own lifetime. My older sister was one of the patients saved by the wonder drug penicillin, which probably couldn’t save her now because microbes have evolved to the point that penicillin can’t kill them anymore.
That’s fact, not theory- evidence that life forms can change over time.”
What the writer got wrong is that this is merely evidence of micro-evolution. The bacteria that the penicillin was trying to kill was still bacteria. It didn’t become a new organism.
Micro-evolution is change within a kind, and it’s not controversial. Darwin was right about this.
What is controversial is Darwin’s theory of macro-evolution.
A friend of mine put it this way: “From the goo, to the zoo, to you.”
It’s basically Darwin’s grand theory that all organisms in all the living world came about by a natural, blind process. One of its two components is known as Common Descent.
Common Descent describes the theory that first there were one or many single-cell, simple living organisms, which over time branched out and became all living organisms that we see today. By the way, this was not a new theory that Darwin came up with. Even before Christ, many ancient Greeks believed in Common Descent. But what they lacked was a mechanism to show how this process could develop apart from an Intelligent Agent.
Therefore, it’s possible to believe in Common Descent, but disagree with Darwin’s mechanism about how it takes place.
Consider Michael Behe, a Catholic Intelligent Design proponent who looks at the natural world and says that certain things are designed. He also believes in Common Decent, but also believes that this cannot happen by chance – Darwin’s mechanism – there has to be intelligence involved.
Therefore, whenever Michael is presented with fossil evidence that might seem to support Darwinism, he easily agrees with the fossil evidence, he simply doesn’t agree that natural selection and chance can get us there.
But Darwin’s theory is even more than Common Descent. He proposed a mechanism that causes the process to take place without an intelligent agent involved. His mechanism is natural selection acting on random mutation.
That’s what is at the core of Darwin’s theory.
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