Natural Selection

Natural selection refers to Darwin's principal mechanism of evolution, which you will learn about in more detail in chapter 2. Those individuals in a population that (genetically) are better able to survive and reproduce in a particular environment leave more offspring, which in turn carry a higher frequency of genes promoting adaptation to that environment. Though effective in producing adaptation, natural selection is a wasteful mechanism: many individuals fall by the wayside, poorly adapted, and fail to survive and/or reproduce.

Even Christians who accept common descent may be uneasy about Darwin's mechanism of natural selection as the major engine of evolutionary change. Common ancestry itself may not be a stumbling block, but if the variety of living things we see today is primarily the result of the incredibly wasteful and painful process of natural selection, can this really be the result of actions of a benevolent God? The theodicy issue (the theological term for the problem raised by the existence of evil in a world created by a benevolent God) is a concern for both biblical literalist and nonliteralist Christians and, as discussed in chapter 6, is a major stumbling block to the acceptance of evolution by intelligent design creationists (IDCs). Yet the evidence for the operation of natural selection is so overwhelming that both IDCs and YECs now accept that it is responsible for such phenomena as pesticide resistance in insects or antibiotic resistance in bacteria. YECs interpret the wastefulness of natural selection as further evidence of the deterioration of creation since the fall of Adam. Both YECs and IDCs deny that natural selection has the ability to transform living things into different kinds or to produce major changes in body plans, such as the differences between a bird and a reptile.

Thus, religious objections to evolution are not simple; they span a range of concerns. Religious objections to evolution are far more important in motivating antievolution-ism than are scientific objections to evolution as a weak or unsupported theory.

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