Secular Science and Natural Selection

QUESTION: Secular Science and Natural Selection


The second idea Humanists embrace in biology is natural selection. Natural selection is the mechanism proposed by Darwin that, through competition and other factors such as predators, geography, and time, only those life forms best suited to survive will live and reproduce. Tied up in this theory is the notion of “survival of the fittest, “or the struggle for existence.” Carl Sagan insists that “natural selection is a successful theory devised to explain the fact of evolution.”1

Charles Darwin relied on natural selection as the mechanism for his theory of evolution largely because he felt it was something man had already observed through artificial breeding. When one breeds horses to create faster offspring, one is artificially selecting a beneficial trait and, therefore, engaging in a microevolutionary process. Darwin was convinced that, given enough time, nature does the selecting to evolve new forms of life. Indeed, Darwin believed that “natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing...every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good; silently and insensibly the improvement of each organic being.”2

Secular Science – Darwin and Random Variation
While a breeder purposely controls the selection process so that each generation contains the best improvements, Darwin believed that random variations were responsible for such improvements in nature. Current evolutionary scientists agree, even stating more forcefully that natural selection is a mindless process that does not have an ultimate goal or purpose in view. Cornell University Professor William Provine, a leading historian of science, writes, “Modern science directly implies that the world is organized strictly in accordance with mechanistic principles. There are no purposive principles whatsoever in nature.”3 In the words of Richard Dawkins, “Natural section, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered...has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of a watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.”4


Rendered with permission from the book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden (New York, NY: Random House, 1977), 6.

2 Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 1:103.

3 Cited in Phillip E. Johnson’s Darwin on Trial (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 124.

4 Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1996), 5.

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