Monday, August 12, 2013

Natural selection

Natural selection is a source of disagreement among creationists.  Some think it exists and works to explain speciation within created kinds.  Others think it exists but only acts as a fine-tuning mechanism to keep populations from going extinct.  Others think natural selection is entirely bogus.  I think that the selection deniers have a much harder argument to make than either of the other two positions.

Apparently, so does ICR's Nathaniel Jeanson.  In a paper published last week in Answers Research Journal, Jeanson evaluates a prominent denial of natural selection ... originally authored by ICR's Randy Guliuzza and published in Acts & Facts.  Some of you might recall the series of articles in question, where Guliuzza basically denied the existence of natural selection.  For myself, I found his claims unconvincing (and uninformed), and I was glad to see someone other than me trying to set the record straight.  Honestly though, I never, ever expected that correction to come from within ICR.  I talked to Nathaniel at the ICC last week about the paper.  He assured me that it was nothing personal at all, which I did not doubt, but it was something that he felt was necessary.

Whether or not Guliuzza got every detail about natural selection right, I still think there are some more subtle issues at play here, especially the question of what selection does in a creationist model.  I know there are creationist biologists who are willing (and perhaps even eager) to embrace natural selection, while others are more ambivalent.  I personally tend to think that natural selection is pretty powerless to do much beyond fine-tuning.

At this point, I'd love to refer you to an article I wrote for Answers magazine on this subject in 2009, but it seems that article has been expunged.  You can still find the citation and abstract in CELD, but the AIG website no longer has it online nor even a listing of the title in that issue of Answers (notice the pages jump from 45 to 60).  So I'll just quote a relevant section for you here:
Modern creationists disagree about the role of natural selection. Some think that natural selection might have played a role in developing species within kinds after the Flood. Others see natural selection as a maintenance device that destroys deviants, much like Darwin’s friend, Blyth, believed. Still others believe that natural selection doesn’t do much of anything. There really isn’t any such thing as the creationist position on the long-term effects of natural selection.
I hope in our zeal to correct misperceptions and misunderstandings about natural selection (and I speak to myself as much as anyone else) that we do not lose track of this more important question: What can natural selection actually do?

Jeanson.  2013.  Does natural selection exist?  A critique of Randy Guliuzza's claims.  ARJ 6:285-292.
Wood.  2009.  Natural selection - theory or reality?  Answers 4(1):46-50.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.