Understanding Natural Selection

On the grassy plains of East Africa, a herd of Grant's gazelles meander slowly in the afternoon sun. Suddenly, the herd dashes off in unison — with a streak of spotted fur in hot pursuit. The healthy gazelles easily escape the hungry cheetah, but a sickly and weak gazelle at the back of the herd pitifully succumbs to the carnivore's devices. Has "natural selection" struck again? And why does it matter to the creation/evolution debate? The term "natural selection" has been defined clearly for over 150 years. Charles Darwin put the term in the title to his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, and he articulated what he meant in the text of his seminal work:

But if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterised will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance they will tend to produce offspring similarly characterised. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection.

Evolutionists to this day define it much the same way (but without the Victorian verbosity):

The differential survival of and/or reproduction of classes of entities that differ in one or more characteristics.

Thus, "survival of the fittest" or "survival of the fittest to reproduce" is the standard definition of the process termed "natural selection," and it finds no conflict with the text of Scripture. Ever since the Fall (Genesis 3), living things have been dying and killing each other, and the self-evident fact of natural selection is perfectly consistent with the Bible. Natural selection has happened, and it continues to happen every day. In fact, the concept of natural selection was first articulated, not by an evolutionist, but by a creationist nearly a quarter century before Darwin published his most significant work.

Furthermore, as biblical creationists, we must affirm that the term "natural" has been used from the earliest days of formal scientific inquiry to describe God's upholding of the universe through the laws of nature. For the Christian, nature is simply shorthand for God's providential operation of the creatures and creation we see around us. In our example above, the culling of the sickly gazelle removes its unique genetic contribution from the overall genetic pool of the gazelle population, potentially preventing propagation of its genetic mutations from spreading.

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