In this article we step back in time and analyze Darwin’s basic theory of evolution by means of natural selection. Before we do this, we need to recall some terms we defined in the second article of this series. Evolution is descent with modification. Evolutionism is a world view using evolution to explain the origin of all things in one common ancestor millions and billions of years in the past. Evolutionism leaves no room for God, the creator and sustainer of all things.
In December of 1831 Charles Darwin (1809-1882) departed England aboard a survey ship, the HMS Beagle. Throughout the voyage Darwin made several observations regarding the plants and animals of South America. Darwin observed the various characteristics of plants and animals that made them well suited or adapted for their respective environments. He also observed that much of the life in South America resembled that of Europe. The bulk of Darwin’s later research and conclusions he made stemmed from his exploration of the Galapagos Islands, located off the western coast of South America. Darwin observed several species of finches on different islands. Some of these were only found on one island, while others were to be found populating several neighboring islands. While studying the finches, Darwin observed many adaptations which are “characteristics of organisms that enhance their survival and reproduction in specific environments.” During his five-year voyage Darwin read Principles of Geology by Charles Lyell. His reading about uniformitarianism in Lyell’s books led him to doubt the earth was as young as was commonly accepted. These misgivings concerning the biblical timescale no doubt contributed heavily to his misinterpretation of the data he gathered and his concluding theory of descent from a common ancestor over millions of years.
There is a common misconception that individual organisms within a population evolve. We need to clear this up before we go farther. Individual organisms do not evolve. Individual organisms do not adapt themselves to a certain environment; they are adapted for that environment. When they have inheritable traits that enable them to survive in that environment and pass on those traits to the next generation, this means they are adapted for that environment. To clarify this distinction and get a better understanding of what evolution is, let’s consider a case that was observed in the late seventies. The island Daphne Major, which is part of the Galapagos archipelago, is home to a species of medium ground finch (Geospiza fortis). In 1977 a drought devastated the population of this particular species. The population went from around 1,200 finches down to about 180 survivors. Researchers observed that the surviving finches tended to have larger, deeper beaks than those finches that did not survive the drought. Also observed was that small, soft seeds that were easy to eat were not readily available because the drought had decimated those species of plants on the island as well. The finches could for the most part only feed on seeds from plants that had survived the drought. Those plants had seeds that were larger and harder than the ones that had not survived. The finches with the larger, deeper beaks that had survived were able to crack the larger, harder seeds much easier than the finches of their same species that had smaller beaks. The large-beaked finches survived and passed their traits on to the next generation, while the smaller-beaked finches of the same species did not. The large-beaked finch was adapted better for the drought; it did not adapt itself to the environment; it did not change itself into something better. In the generations of this particular species (containing big and small beaks) of finch, the bigger-beaked birds were more fit and had offspring while the smaller-beaked ones died off and were not able to pass their small-beakedness on to another generation. The individual finches themselves did not change and grow bigger beaks. This species of finch changed over time in its generations. This is evolution. This population of finches descended with modification. This does not in any way take away from God’s sovereignty in creation. This example actually points to God’s providential hand in creation. The researchers did not acknowledge God’s providential hand directing the events of the earth so that there would be a drought at that particular time. The researchers say this documented case of evolution proves evolutionism. They say that this was just part of the process of natural selection that has been happening for millions of years, which has slowly evolved the finch from the primordial soup that we all came from to what the finch is today with its large beak. Natural selection is a process that does occur and has occurred within the biblical timescale, as we saw with the finch example. Jonathan Sarfati explains natural selection as follows.
Natural selection occurs when a creature has some inheritable trait [finches with big beaks, RJK] that gives it a better chance of passing on this trait to the next generation. Creatures without this trait [small-beaked finches, RJK] are less likely to survive to reproduce, so they don’t pass on their genes. Therefore this trait will become established in the population.
If God with his providential hand would not have sent a drought at the right time (his time), the small-beaked finches mentioned earlier would still be living and reproducing. After a few generations the island may have been teeming with finches, which may have led to overcrowding. But “we believe that the same God, after He had created all things, did not forsake them, or give them up to fortune or chance, but that He rules and governs them according to His holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without His appointment” (Belgic Confession, Article 13). We read also in Psalm 104:27-29, “These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.” Before creation God ordained that the drought he would send at that specific time in history (1977) would wipe out the smaller beaked finches. “Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust” (v. 28). In that same God-sent drought the large beaked finches of the same species would thrive. “That thou givest them they gather” (v. 29).
Darwin was correct in saying that plants and animals are adapted to fit their respective environments; however, we disagree with his assessment of these observations. What Darwin took away from these observations is laid out in his book, On the Origin of Species. Darwin speaks of descent with modification from a single ancestor over long periods of time.
On these principles [descent with modification within a kind, something biblical creationists have no problem with, RJK], I believe, the nature of the affinities of all organic beings may be explained. It is a truly wonderful fact–the wonder of which we are apt to overlook from familiarity–that all animals and all plants throughout all time and space should be related to each other in group subordinate to group,
With Darwin’s conclusion that all organisms can trace their lineage back to one common ancestor, he also believed that one kind of animal could eventually evolve into a different kind of animal. Before we look at Darwin’s fantasy of one kind evolving into another kind, we need to define what a ‘kind’ is. When two different species (a horse and a zebra) can combine, with true fertilization, to form a hybrid (zorse), they can then trace their lineage back to a common created kind of Genesis 1:24–25: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so: And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” Another example of a ‘kind’ is the deer family. The deer kind, or family, contains many species of deer, including whitetail deer, mule deer, fallow deer, caribou, elk, and reindeer.
Now we get to Darwin’s fantasy of evolution from one kind into another kind. In Darwin’s book he has an idea of “a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more and more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale.” The example he gives is evolution from one kind into another kind, which is impossible. Nevertheless, this idea of evolution between kinds is what Darwin took away from his observations on the Galapagos Islands as seen in his sketch in Figure 1 below. He took his findings of true (providential as we saw in the finch example) evolutionary change and traced them back not only to their original created (Darwin would not agree that they were created) kind, but also back to one common ancestor, point 1 in his sketch or the trunk of his evolutionary tree of life.
(Figure 1, Darwin’s single tree of diversity with all species traced back to one common ancestor.)
Notice what is written at the top of Darwin’s sketch: “I think.” Well, he thought wrong. He should have taken his findings and applied them to the biblical timescale in order to produce a diagram representing diversity that looks more like Figure 2.
(Figure 2, creation’s orchard of diversity with related species traced back to their created kinds (individual trees within the orchard) that diversified after the flood. One tree is the dog/wolf kind, another tree is the deer kind, another is the bear kind, etc.)
We agree with Darwin that descent with modification did occur. Where we differ from him is that the diversity we see in creation today can be traced back only to the kinds that were in the ark, not back to a single common ancestor millions of years ago. A good example of this is the diversity of the deer family. The deer family is one of the kinds represented as one tree in the orchard of creation (Figure 2). We can safely agree that there was only one species of deer on the ark, which was the kind that diversified into the various species of deer we see today. This includes: whitetail deer, mule deer, fallow deer, caribou, elk, and reindeer. The same example can be shown in the canine kind: all domesticated dogs, wolves, coyotes, foxes, and hyenas are one kind that has descended from a common ancestor, the canine kind that was in the ark and diversified after the flood.
Genesis 9:2 is a verse that we might easily read over. “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth, upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.” In this verse God gives man dominion over the animal kingdom, but don’t lose sight of the beginning of the verse where the fact is that God puts the fear and dread of man into the animals so that they scattered. The fear of man was put by God into all the animals after the flood so that they scattered throughout the earth into various environments. Let’s look at the bear kind. Within this kind of animal (bear), animals possess adaptations or variations (polar bear with a long muzzle and neck that enables it to search in deep holes for seals, and sharp, wide claws for good traction on ice) that cause them to be more fit in their environment (Arctic Circle). Animals that were fit for the environment survived and brought forth offspring, and animals that were not fit for their environment died off without passing on their traits to the next generation. You won’t find a black bear in the Arctic Circle. This is providential. God ordained before creation that after the flood there would be many environments with different extremes (hot or cold, wet or dry). He also ordained that within these various extremes of environments, some variations or adaptations within a kind would be more favorable than others.
God’s ordinance in Genesis 9:2 made possible his decree in the previous chapter, where he commanded Noah and his family to exit the ark and to bring all the animals with them “that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth” (Gen. 8:17). God’s instilling of fear and dread of man into the animals was his means of scattering the animals throughout the earth. These animals would then produce the amazing diversity of species we see today. In this we see God’s providential hand providing for man and beast. We confess with the Belgic Confession in Article 13, “We believe that the same God, after He had created all things, did not forsake them, or give them up to fortune or chance, but that He rules and governs them according to His holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without His appointment…”
When it comes down to it, Darwin was right as far as the natural explanation of diversity goes, but he stretched his findings too far. People are often scared and a little hesitant to agree with anything Darwin wrote because of how he applied his findings. He looked back millions of years to one ancestor. He ignored God’s creative act and providential care. This is where Darwin went terribly wrong in analyzing his observations.
 Campbell, Neil A., Jane B. Reece, Biology 8th Edition (San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2008), 456.
 Campbell, 454
 Campbell, 468
 Jonathan Sarfati, The Greatest Hoax on Earth? Refuting Dawkins on Evolution (Atlanta: Creation Book Publishers, 2010), 42.
 Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species, 1st ed. (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 2004), 112.
 Sarfati, 35. True fertilization only takes place when the chromosomes of both parents take part in the formation of the embryo.
 Darwin, 155.
 Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Darwin_tree.png#filelinks
 Image obtained from Wikimedia Commons, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Creationist_orchard.gif#file