Natural Selection

Does not include creationism

Gradual Change Darwin Lamarck
Better than Lamarck?


Natural selection is the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype; it is a key mechanism of evolution. The term “natural selection” was popularised by Charles Darwin, who intended it to be compared with artificial selection, now more commonly referred to as selective breeding.

Variation exists within all populations of organisms. This occurs partly because random mutations arise in the genome of an individual organism, and these mutations can be passed to offspring. Throughout the individuals’ lives, their genomes interact with their environments to cause variations in traits. (The environment of a genome includes the molecular biology in the cell, other cells, other individuals, populations, species, as well as the abiotic environment.) Individuals with certain variants of the trait may survive and reproduce more than individuals with other, less successful, variants. Therefore, the population evolves. Factors that affect reproductive success are also important, an issue that Darwin developed in his ideas on sexual selection, which was redefined as being included in natural selection in the 1930s when biologists considered it not to be very important, and fecundity selection, for example.

Natural selection acts on the phenotype, or the observable characteristics of an organism, but the genetic (heritable) basis of any phenotype that gives a reproductive advantage may become more common in a population (see allele frequency). Over time, this process can result in populations that specialise for particular ecological niches (microevolution) and may eventually result in the emergence of new species (macroevolution). In other words, natural selection is an important process (though not the only process) by which evolution takes place within a population of organisms. Natural selection can be contrasted with artificial selection, in which humans intentionally choose specific traits (although they may not always get what they want). In natural selection there is no intentional choice. In other words, artificial selection is teleological and natural selection is not teleological.

Natural selection is one of the cornerstones of modern biology. The concept was published by Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in a joint presentation of papers in 1858, and set out in Darwin’s influential 1859 book On the Origin of Species, in which natural selection was described as analogous to artificial selection, a process by which animals and plants with traits considered desirable by human breeders are systematically favoured for reproduction. The concept of natural selection was originally developed in the absence of a valid theory of heredity; at the time of Darwin’s writing, nothing was known of modern genetics. The union of traditional Darwinian evolution with subsequent discoveries in classical and molecular genetics is termed the modern evolutionary synthesis. Natural selection remains the primary explanation for adaptive evolution.

Or would you prefer – This Created Version?



The Starry Messenger


The Galileo affair was a sequence of events, beginning around 1610, culminating with the trial and condemnation of Galileo Galilei by the Roman Catholic Inquisition in 1616 and 1633 for his support of heliocentrism.

In 1610, Galileo published his Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger), describing the surprising observations that he had made with the new telescope, namely the phases of Venus and the Galilean moons of Jupiter. With these observations he promoted the heliocentric theory of Nicolaus Copernicus (published in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543). Galileo’s initial discoveries were met with opposition within the Catholic Church, and in 1616 the Inquisition declared heliocentrism to be formally heretical. Heliocentric books were banned and Galileo was ordered to refrain from holding, teaching or defending heliocentric ideas.

Galileo went on to propose a theory of tides in 1616, and of comets in 1619; he argued that the tides were evidence for the motion of the Earth. In 1632 Galileo, now an old man, published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which implicitly defended heliocentrism, and was immensely popular. Responding to mounting controversy over theology, astronomy and philosophy, the Roman Inquisition tried Galileo in 1633 and found him “gravely suspect of heresy“, sentencing him to indefinite imprisonment. Galileo was kept under house arrest until his death in 1642.

Galileo began his telescopic observations in the later part of 1609, and by March 1610 was able to publish a small book, The Starry Messenger (Sidereus Nuncius), relating some discoveries that had not been dreamed of in the philosophy of the time: mountains on the Moon, lesser moons in orbit around Jupiter, and the resolution of what had been thought to be very cloudy masses in the sky (nebulae) into collections of stars too faint to see individually without a telescope. Other observations followed, including the phases of Venus and the existence of sunspots.

Galileo’s contributions caused difficulties for theologians and natural philosophers of the time, as they contradicted scientific and philosophical ideas based on those of Aristotle and Ptolemy and closely associated with the Catholic Church (despite their being pagans). In particular, Galileo’s observations of the phases of Venus, which showed it to circle the sun, and the observation of moons orbiting Jupiter, contradicted the geocentric model of Ptolemy and supported the Copernican model advanced by Galileo.

Jesuit astronomers, experts both in Church teachings, science, and in natural philosophy, were at first skeptical and hostile to the new ideas; however, within a year or two the availability of good telescopes enabled them to repeat the observations. In 1611, Galileo visited the Collegium Romanum in Rome, where the Jesuit astronomers by that time had repeated his observations. Christoph Grienberger, one of the Jesuit scholars on the faculty, sympathized with Galileo’s theories, but was asked to defend the Aristotelian viewpoint by Claudio Acquaviva, the Father General of the Jesuits. Not all of Galileo’s claims were completely accepted: Christopher Clavius, the most distinguished astronomer of his age, never was reconciled to the idea of mountains on the Moon, and outside the collegium many still disputed the reality of the observations. In a letter to Kepler of August 1610, Galileo complained that some of the philosophers who opposed his discoveries had refused even to look through a telescope:

My dear Kepler, I wish that we might laugh at the remarkable stupidity of the common herd. What do you have to say about the principal philosophers of this academy who are filled with the stubbornness of an asp and do not want to look at either the planets, the moon or the telescope, even though I have freely and deliberately offered them the opportunity a thousand times? Truly, just as the asp stops its ears, so do these philosophers shut their eyes to the light of truth.

Geocentrists who did verify and accept Galileo’s findings had an alternative to Ptolemy’s model in an alternative geocentric (or “geo-heliocentric”) model proposed some decades earlier by Tycho Brahe—a model, in which, for example, Venus circled the sun.

Galileo became involved in a dispute over priority in the discovery of sunspots with Christoph Scheiner, a Jesuit. This became a bitter lifelong feud. Neither of them, however, was the first to recognise sunspots—the Chinese had already been familiar with them for centuries.

At this time, Galileo also engaged in a dispute over the reasons that objects float or sink in water, siding with Archimedes against Aristotle. The debate was unfriendly, and Galileo’s blunt and sometimes sarcastic style, though not extraordinary in academic debates of the time, made him enemies. During this controversy one of Galileo’s friends, the painter, Lodovico Cardi da Cigoli, informed him that a group of malicious opponents, which Cigoli subsequently referred to derisively as “the Pigeon league,” was plotting to cause him trouble over the motion of the earth, or anything else that would serve the purpose. According to Cigoli, one of the plotters had asked a priest to denounce Galileo’s views from the pulpit, but the latter had refused. Nevertheless, three years later another priest, Tommaso Caccini, did in fact do precisely that.

Intelligent Design

Intell I.D.

Intelligent design (ID) is the pseudoscientific view that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.” Educators, philosophers, and the scientific community have demonstrated that ID is a religious argument, a form of creationism which lacks empirical support and offers no tenable hypotheses. Proponents argue that it is “an evidence-based scientific theory about life’s origins” that challenges the methodological naturalism inherent in modern science, while conceding that they have yet to produce a scientific theory. The leading proponents of ID are associated with the Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank based in the United States. Although they state that ID is not creationism and deliberately avoid assigning a personality to the designer, many of these proponents express belief that the designer is the Christian deity.

ID presents negative arguments against evolutionary explanations, and its positive argument is an analogy between natural systems and human artifacts, a version of the theological argument from design for the existence of God. Both irreducible complexity and specified complexity present detailed negative assertions that certain features (biological and informational, respectively) are too complex to be the result of natural processes. Proponents then conclude by analogy that these features are evidence of design. Detailed scientific examination has rebutted the claims that evolutionary explanations are inadequate, and this premise of intelligent design—that evidence against evolution constitutes evidence for design—has been criticized as a false dichotomy.

Though the phrase “intelligent design” had featured previously in theological discussions of the design argument, the first publication of the term intelligent design in its present use as an alternative term for creationism was in Of Pandas and People, a 1989 textbook intended for high school biology classes. The term was substituted into drafts of the book after the 1987 United States Supreme Court‘s Edwards v. Aguillard decision, which barred the teaching of creation science in public schools on constitutional grounds. From the mid-1990s, the intelligent design movement (IDM), supported by the Discovery Institute, advocated inclusion of intelligent design in public school biology curricula. This led to the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial in which U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science, that it “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents,” and that the school district’s promotion of it therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.