Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What is Evolution (According to Evolutionists)?

The great twentieth century physicist Erwin Schrodinger, after helping to elucidate quantum mechanics, turned his attention to the question of life. What is life, wondered Schrodinger. Today, evolutionists define life as that which evolves. If so, then perhaps evolution itself is alive because, according to evolutionists, evolution has done quite a bit of evolving. This is not to say that the idea of evolution has evolved (though it has). This is to say that the process of evolution, if true, has evolved.

Evolutionists have always made high claims about their idea. In the nineteenth century Joseph Le Conte explained that evolution is a law, not a theory, and it is a law to which every department of natural studies must adhere. It is not merely as certain as gravity, "Nay, it is far more certain." Similarly, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin maintained that "evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow—this is what evolution is."

Had they thought long enough about it, Le Conte and Teilhard would probably have gladly proclaimed evolution to be life itself. Certainly today this conclusion is hard to avoid. After all evolution has created a variety of mechanisms by which evolution occurs. Evolution created itself, and in the process it has evolved. If life is to be defined as that which evolves, then surely evolution is life itself.

To explain biological change, early evolutionists might have envisioned a simple sort of blending action or random perturbing force. But we now have discovered a series of highly-intricate mechanisms that bring about change. These mechanisms must have been created by evolution.

For instance, one recent paper reviews a mechanism known as horizontal gene transfer, or HGT. The idea is that in addition to genes being modified and created by mutations, they can also be imported in one fell swoop from another organism. Evolutionists debate the extent to which HGT has steered evolutionary history, but they all agree it played a role. As the authors write:

... there is a need for a new evolutionary paradigm that includes horizontal gene transfer

But HGT doesn't just happen. You have to have certain molecular structures and facilities in place (and of course you have to have the genes themselves). Simply put, evolutionists say that evolution created life in such a way that HGT arose at some point.

And there are several other evolutionary mechanisms that had to have evolved as well. From the Mendelian machine described by modern genetics to epigenetics and the ability of organisms to evolve (so-called evolvability), evolution created the evolutionary process. It is the ultimate example of a boot-strap process. According to Evolutionists, evolution is alive.


  1. You are getting confused. The word 'evolution' simply means a process of growth or development. Any process of growth or development. We can talk about the evolution of the motorcar. That doesn't mean motorcars are alive.

    Likewise, from your OP, "From the Mendelian machine described by modern genetics to epigenetics and the ability of organisms to evolve (so-called evolvability), evolution created the evolutionary process." is true. But it doesn't necessarily mean these things are alive. Just that they developed.

    The confusion often arises because the word 'evolution' is commonly used as a short-hand word for the theory of evolution through natural selection. Which is a theory of biology and IS exclusively concerned with living organisms.

    Just because something evolved, doesn't mean it is alive.

    Which takes us back to your OP again. "Today, evolutionists define life as that which evolves." Not true at all. Lots of things evolve, and many of them are not alive. Anything that develops, evolves.

    In fact, I can't say I ever heard anyone define life like this before - even assuming they are exclusively using the word 'evolution' in the biological sense. Who have you heard define life like this?

  2. Biological evolution refers to the observation that hereditable characteristics of living populations change over time. The Theory of Evolution is a body of claims and supporting evidence that explain that process. The Theory of Common Descent concerns how life evolved through a process of divergence from common ancestors.

    Horizontal evolution is apparently the primitive condition. Vertical evolution is a later development.

  3. So how was it that evolution was able to create itself? Was it serendipity, or are we just living in the right universe?

  4. Any comment about that paper on waterflea introns? It seems those viruses get smarter all the time.

  5. Cornelius -

    Why are you describing evolution as an objective thing to be 'created'? That seems bizarre to me. Would you describe gravity as a thing which was created? Would you ask how gravity was 'able to create itself'?

    Gravity is simply the force of attraction between objects with mass. It is not as if there was a time before gravity was 'created' and there was no attraction between objects with mass. Then all of a sudden somebody created gravity (or it 'created itself') and objects started becoming attracted to each other...

    So it is with evolution (in the biological sense). It's not as if there was ever a time when there were living organisms who simply did not evolve, then all of a sudden somebody 'created' evolution (or it 'created itself') and suddenly things started evolving.

    Your question is absurd. Evolution is not a 'created' object. Dig a pond in your back garden. Put some fish in it - fish who will start competing for food. The fittest survive and the weakest die. Have you thus 'created' evolution in your pond? It's true that it didn't exist before the fish did, but evolution is just a consequence of having living creatures, just as gravity is a consequence of having objects with mass.

  6. I enjoyed looking over your blog
    God bless you

  7. Ritchie,

    Question for you. When did evolution begin?

  8. Steve: Question for you. When did evolution begin?

    With replication.

  9. Steve -

    I agree with Zachriel: with the first self-replicating organism.

    Assuming of course you mean 'evolution' in the biological sense.