In the same way Isaac Newton discovered the laws of motion and gravity, Charles Darwin launched his pursuit to discover the laws of biological evolution. After decades of searching and studying, Darwin eventually proposed his law of evolution – “natural selection.”
Natural selection soon emerged as the cornerstone law of evolution following the publication of the first edition of The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in November 1859. Natural selection stands as the fundamental tenet of Darwin’s theory of evolution, popularly known as Darwinism. But, what in natural selection – really?
“I do believe,” Darwin argued, “that natural selection will generally act very slowly, only over long periods of time…. natural selection acts slowly by accumulating slight, successive, favorable variations.”
Darwin continued in The Origin of Species, “In order to make it clear how, as I believe, natural selection acts, I must beg permission to give one or two imaginary illustrations.” Even though Darwin attempted to explain how natural selection acts with illustrations, Darwin never articulated exactly what he meant by the term “natural selection.”
Amazingly, in the thirteen pages of the “Glossary of Scientific Terms” at the end of The Origin of Species, Darwin failed to include the most critical terms in the entire book – “natural selection.”
A large part of the reason may reside in the fact that even many of Darwin’s inner-circle, including Charles Lyell and Thomas Huxley were completely unpersuaded by Darwin’s vague concept of natural selection. Huxley was definitely against the concept of evolution advancing “slowly by accumulating slight, successive, favorable variations.” For Huxley, evolution could be a fast process.
Considered one of the most important American botanist of the nineteenth century, Asa Gray, in a letter to Darwin noted -
“… personally, of course, I care much about Natural Selection; but that seems to me utterly unimportant compared to the question of Creation or Modification.”
Despite the problems, natural selection eventually emerged as the philosophical justification for endorsing theory of evolution early in the twentieth century.
Evolutionary scientists, since then, have been searching to determine the biological significance of natural selection as a natural law of evolution.
The University of California Berkley “Understanding Evolution” website, while arguing that “Natural selection is one of the basic mechanisms of evolution,” never articulates what the term actually means.
With classic Darwinian imagination science, the website instructs the naïve,
“Darwin’s grand idea of evolution by natural selection is relatively simple but often misunderstood. To find out how it works, imagine a population of beetles.”
There are good reasons why Darwin could not define natural selection; natural selection is a simply an imaginary concept. Even Richard Dawkins, one of Darwin’s few remaining modern traditionalists, downplays the evolutionary role of natural selection –
“For simplicity we speak of mutation as the first step in Darwinian process, natural selection as the second stage. But this is misleading if it suggests that natural selection hangs around for a mutation which is either rejected or snapped up and the waiting begins. It could have been like that: natural selection of that kind would probably work, and maybe does work somewhere in the universe. But as a matter of fact on this planet it usually isn’t like that.”
“We must stop pretending we understand the course of natural selection.”
In turning to the dark side, Swedish cytogeneticist, Antonio Lima-de-Faria, suggests that natural selection granted biological justification for the popular, but controversial, expansion of English colonialism -
“Selection is a political not a scientific concept. At the time of Darwin it fitted perfectly the expanding colonialism of Victorian England.”
NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay in an interview with Suzan Mazur points to the problem with the elephant in the room -
“It would be great to have some way to detect natural selection, but we’re unlikely to be able to. We have a hard time detecting it here on Earth and showing that it’s occurring.”
National Medal of Science award winner by President Bill Clinton, Lynn Margulis
“Darwin was brilliant to make ‘natural selection’ a sort of godlike term, an expression that could replace ‘God’, who did it—created forms of life. However, what is natural selection’ really? It is the failure of the biotic potential to be reached. And it’s quantitative… Natural selection is intrinsically an elimination process.”
In the book Mind and Cosmos, Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Concept of Nature is Almost Certainly Wrong (2012), author Thomas Nagel from New York University published by Oxford University Press in addresses the significance of natural selection in the origin of life -
“It is prima facie highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection.”
In the search for the significance of Darwin’s imaginary concept over the past 150 years since the publication of The Origin of Species, natural selection has emerged as no more than an elimination process−a natural law of extinction, not evolution.
Evolution was once a theory in crisis, now evolution is in crisis without a theory.
Biological evolution exists only as a philosophical fact, not a scientific fact.