The basic driving principle of evolution is the concept of natural selection. Natural selection is the process whereby nature ‘selects’ favorable traits that are passed down to succeeding generations of life. There is nothing spiritual or supernatural about this process, it operates solely on the idea that the ‘most fit’ organisms will survive and propagate their traits to later generations. The changing of species over time by this process is referred to as ‘evolution’. The changing of species over time itself is an established fact that few people would dare to challenge. Anyone who breeds animals uses the principle of natural selection to produce different variants in later generations. The controversy however is not with the ‘principle’ of natural selection, but rather with the idea that the ‘process’ of natural selection could produce all of the genetic diversity that composes life on this planet.
The Christian Scientist would argue that ‘adaptability’ or the capacity for life to respond to differing environmental pressures is a characteristic of ‘design’. For example, if we were to ‘create’ an organism of some sort – the best design for that organism would allow for it to ‘adapt’ to changes in the environment over time. If this adaptability were not present in the original design, the organism would be limited to the type of environment it was created to exist in. If adaptability was part of the original design scheme, it would need to have the genetic potential to change from the very beginning.
Where the Christian Scientist diverges in thought from much of the scientific community is in the idea that evolution is a refining as opposed to a creative force. Evolution could be compared to the knife that carves out a block of wood. The knife really isn’t creating anything – in fact it is taking away from the original block. The end result serves a unique purpose, but further refinement is limited. A good example of this is the many endangered species of big cats. These animals are extremely refined but lack the genetic diversity to change much further, which makes them extremely susceptible to environmental pressures. A block of wood whittled down to a pencil is not a good starting point to make something else!
The assumption that the process of natural selection has produced all life on earth from a single cell is inconsistent with the way natural selection works practically. Going back to the example of people who breed animals – they all are aware that traits are lost and not necessarily gained in the process of selection. The more refined an animal becomes through selection the more limited it is to respond to new environmental pressures. Logically then – what does this tell us about life as we look into the past? It seems to indicate that although past life forms may have been less ‘refined’, they were more genetically healthy than they are today. The logical trend for the future will be that genetic diversity will become more limited as further refinement occurs.
As a Christian the observed reality of natural selection is very consistent with the idea that all life is the product of creation. Life placed on the earth at the beginning of creation was at its optimum or peak in terms of genetic diversity, and over time this genetic diversity is gradually lost through selection. This view is really quite opposite to the commonly held view that time has and will continue to be a force in creating genetic diversity.
Read more articles by Jesse L. Smith or search for articles on the same topic or others.