The Natural Selection Paradox – Abridged

The Natural Selection Paradox – Abridged Version

Natural selection does nothing to explain the origin, development, and existence of all current life forms.  The Natural Selection Paradox

The Natural Selection Paradox Abridged Version v.1.4, adapted for this site. More information about natural selection, including more information on the shortcomings of natural selection can be found at Copyright © 2022 Nevin S. Purnell.

Natural selection is the necessary keystone in the arch of evolutionary theory. Without natural selection, Darwin’s arch crumbles; the center cannot hold.

The Natural Selection Paradox offers a different view of natural selection: that—despite the observations in nature attributed to it—natural selection plays (and played) absolutely no role in the creation, development, and continued existence of every living species of plant or animal on Earth today.

The Natural Selection Paradox is explained with reference to the two flowcharts: Diagram 1 and Diagram 2.

Diagram 1: The Natural Selection Paradox

Moving through the flow chart of Diagram 1, we note the arrow indicating time passing vertically downward from a time in the past (Time 1) when the first life form appeared to the present (Time 7) when all existing species—including human beings—exist.

We start with the first life form that had a replicating DNA sequence: Organism 1 at Time 1. No one knows the identity or origin of this first organism. We can consider Organism 1 to be the first animal ancestor of human beings, which we are told was a sea sponge.[i] But without question, evolutionary theory requires that there was a single, first organism in the human line of descent.

As noted by the arrow leading to the decision diamond at Time 2, Organism 1 replicates to make a child. If this child’s genome includes variations introduced into its inherited DNA sequence, then nature will build it different from the parent—and if no variation appears in the DNA sequence when replicated, then no modified organism arises.

In our example, variation emerges in the replicated DNA sequence of Organism 1 such that at Time 3, for the first time on Earth, a new organism appears: Modified Organism 2—an example of Darwin’s descent with modification. Modified Organism 2 descended from Organism 1 with modifications, which we now know derive primarily from variations—including mutations—in the coded DNA sequence inherited from Organism 1.

The question now becomes this: What is nature to “do” with Modified Organism 2 if evolutionary processes are going to play a role in eventually producing many, many modified organisms throughout a long history of descent with modification of innumerable organisms to produce humans and every existing species on Earth?

This question—what is nature to do? —is answered by evolutionists with a “doing” step: natural selection. Like Darwin, evolutionists believe that natural selection performs some “doing” role in nature—producing, acting upon, or otherwise guiding evolutionary processes.

In modern times, Ernst Mayr (widely considered the most eminent evolutionary biologist of the 20th century) explicitly described natural selection as being a “direction-giving force.”[ii] Another modern evolution expert, Richard Dawkins, similarly attributes a “guiding” ability to natural selection when he states that chance variations can be “tamed…only if there is a mechanism for guiding each step in some particular direction, otherwise the sequence of steps will career off in an endless random walk.”[iii]

It remains that natural selection—to be meaningful—must do something responsible for differential survival or reproductive success. According to Darwin and modern evolutionary theory, the question as to what natural selection can or will do hinges on whether the variation introduced into Modified Organism 2 is “favorable” or “injurious.” Favorable variations lead to survival (to reproduce) while injurious variations lead to “rejection” (and maybe extinction). The decision diamond at Time 4 indicates this question and its two possible outcomes.

For purposes of testing the theory, we accept that if the variations are injurious to Modified Organism 2 it may not survive to reproduce; natural selection can “reject” it at Time 4 as being unfit for survival. Its time on Earth is over; it may have been eaten by another animal, starved to death, or succumbed to a natural disaster. In a worst-case scenario, the entire line of descent for Modified Organisms 2 goes extinct. And we can accept the rejection of Modified Organism 2 as an example of natural selection “doing” something.

But what if the variation introduced into Modified Organism 2 by its inherited DNA sequence is favorable to Modified Organism 2? That is, what if the modification inherited by Organism 2 from Organism 1 confers some advantage for survival and Modified Organism 2 survives to reproduce?

According to Darwin, natural selection operates to preserve Modified Organism 2.  What this means to an observer is that Modified Organism 2 simply moves unchanged and unfettered through time—presumably to replicate further (Time 5).

Here is the question that must be adequately answered by evolutionists if we are to believe evolutionary processes created human beings: What, exactly, did natural selection “do” in nature to preserve Modified Organism 2 to be alive at Time 5? In other words, what in nature happened such that Modified Organism 2 is preserved in a manner observed by us as “differential survival” or “reproductive success”? Did something in nature termed natural selection modify or adapt Organism 2, as Darwin suggested? Did something in nature termed natural selection produce anything that renders Organism 2 more fit to survive? Did something in nature termed natural selection invisibly intervene to “guide each step” or render “a direction-giving force” as Richard Dawkins and Ernst Mayr allege?

According to modern evolutionary theory, the answer to the questions above—or similar questions—must be “yes” if natural selection is to play any meaningful role in the process of evolution. For this reason, many modern evolutionists follow Darwin in harboring the notion that the “preserving” function of natural selection entails some non-random, sensible working—i.e., doing something—in nature to guide evolutionary development. Natural selection is the necessary doing step to be “coupled” with undirected, purposeless variation—descent with modification—to produce the necessary “direction” or “guidance” to achieve increasing complexity in diverse organisms through time.

We must, therefore, press further by asking not only what preservation of an organism looks like but how this preservation is achieved. In other words, what does nature “do” to perform the feat of preservation by something called natural selection? What did natural selection do for Modified Organism 2? Rather than simply defining natural selection by describing the resulting fallout observed at Time 5, we must question what happened in nature to cause the fallout.

Consider the view from Modified Organism 2’s lived experience. Modified Organism 2 arrives on Earth at Time 3 and lives unchanged[iv] to freely roam about fed and uneaten to reproduce at Time 5 and beyond. Modified Organism 2 lives each day “untouched” by natural selection as it is preserved in its lifetime to reproduce. “Preservation” of Modified Organism 2 changes nothing of its existence or its fate. Modified Organism 2 passes its life on earth happily unaware of natural selection; natural selection is invisibly irrelevant to Modified Organism 2’s origin or continued being.

It is evident that natural selection “did” nothing for Modified Organism 2. If we are to ascribe to natural selection some volitional action (as evolutionary biologists tend to do), natural selection simply stood back and watched as Modified Organism 2 passes through time to replicate further. We observe Modified Organism 2 blissfully going about life untouched by—and unaware of—natural selection.

According to evolution and as indicated at Time 6, this process of replication with variation—that is, descent with modification—has operated in history through innumerable generations (“n” generations, n being a very large number). Darwinists allege that one of the modified organisms built by evolutionary processes repeated over n generations is human beings (Time 7).

In short, the evolution of human beings—according to evolution—can be traced through an unbroken chain of untouched-by-natural-selection favorable variations in each member of a line of organisms going all the way back to Organism 1.

Our second diagram further illustrates the claim that natural selection plays no role in the evolutionary process.

Diagram 2: The Natural Selection Paradox

Diagram 2 is identical to Diagram 1—except that it shows what the process of evolution would look like without the step of natural selection. The shaded area on Diagram 2 indicates the absence of natural selection from the process.

Note the result: In the absence of natural selection, the fate of Modified Organism 2 is unchanged. That is, for Modified Organism 2—and any other new life form possessing favorable variations—the presence of some process in nature we call natural selection remains invisibly irrelevant to its survival. Its life experience, developmental history, and fitness to reproduce is not affected by natural selection at all as it passes through time preserved to reproduce further.

Whether Modified Organism 2 passes through time because it was “preserved” by natural selection or because natural selection did not exist to affect it in any way it is to say the same thing: Natural selection did nothing in the creation, existence, or continued replication of Modified Organism 2.

Both the origin and the fitness-to-reproduce of Modified Organism 2 is explained solely by the modifications it inherited from Organism 1. And according to evolution, this process was repeated through history innumerable times to produce human beings.

The origin and fitness to reproduce of every Modified Organism n—including human beings—must be explained solely by the cumulative modifications it inherited from a long line of descent with modification from Organism 1.


[ii] Ibid., xvi; introduction by Ernst Mayr. Mayr’s complete quote: “That natural selection is a direction-giving force, within the limitations of the evolutionary potential set for a given species by its genotype, has now been substantiated abundantly.”

[iii] Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1996), 318 (emphasis added).

[iv] At least without change leading to enhanced fitness to reproduce. That is, the organism can change by losing an appendage, being harmed but not killed, and the like, but such changes are not relevant to evolutionary processes.

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