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Evolution and the Myth of Populations

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

If evolution is true, the process works at the level of the individual; the effect on populations is secondary.

In a seminal piece entitled The Natural Selection Paradox (Paradox) we have shown with science and logic that natural selection plays no role in explaining the origin, development, or existence of every current living thing. Surprisingly, despite the absolute—and absolutely devastating—claims of the Paradox, and despite invitations to do so, and despite thousands of views, we have received zero rebuttals.

We do, however, receive various criticisms and “pseudo-rebuttals” in the comments of our Facebook page. One of the most common criticisms is that the Paradox is based on the false premise that evolution happens in individuals. Instead, we are instructed, evolution happens in populations. For example, we recently received this in our comments section from one who agreed to read the Paradox:

Reading through this is going to take time, but I’m already spotting some false premises. Namely, the model you’ve provided seems to operate under the false assumption that evolution happens with individuals.

We recognize that populations evolve. The concept is closely related to the concept of genetic drift. Population genetics is an important and useful study in the field of biology.

But is it a false assumption that “evolution happens with individuals?” More pointedly, is it a false premise that evolution—in the sense of organisms changing over time into different organisms—happens only at the individual level?

Consider a grading system applied to a population of students. This grading system is used to remove certain students from the population while permitting those who have the requisite skills to remain and advance. Through this process the population of students changes over time, becoming smarter overall with each new “generation.”

No one knows where this grading system came from and no person controls it, but it is applied without grace or mercy to the detriment or advantage of each student. The smartest students stay, the less-smart students slowly go. Some view this system as the “survival of the smartest.”

Now, imagine a parent of one of the students removed by this system questioning their student’s removal. And imagine that the answer from all those remaining in the “smart” population is that the system did not act on their child as an individual, it operated solely at the population level. Because the population of students changed over time, they insist, any questions about your child are based on a false premise.

A false premise? The parent looks confused, and starts to say something about the system clearly acting on individuals based on the intelligence of each one in the face of a system that grades individuals. But he is shouted down, as if he is stupid. You see, the smart ones repeat as they wave their hands about the remaining students, it is the population of students that changed because of the grading system. The grading system operates at the population level and part of the population was removed by the system. But your child? Your child was merely swept up in a population of students that were removed. Sorry for your misconception.

Upon closer scrutiny, and applying common sense, we see that the questioning parent is correct. Moreover, we can learn much about the claims of evolutionists by studying this imagined grading system. In fact, a bit of reflection shows that Paradox is exactly correct: natural selection [the grading system] plays no role in the origin, development, or existence of any current living thing.

The grading system played no role, of course, in producing the smart students remaining in the student population. And the grading system did nothing to make the smart students smarter. And, if did nothing to cause the smart students to continue being smart.

The grading system simply eliminated the less-smart students from the population. If those less-smart students had not been eliminated, if there had been no grading system applied, the smartest students would nevertheless have remained in the population. They would have in that case simply continued on in the company of all the students rather than as an isolated few.

Note, then, that natural selection not only operates on individuals, it plays no role in preserving those in the resulting population of “selected” individuals. The grading system proved irrelevant to the “smartest” students. With the grading system in place, those students could progress—survive—on their way blissfully unaffected by the invisible “system” removing the less-smart students.

Note that even without any grading system—assume the grading system did not exist at all—the future of the smart “fittest” students remains unchanged and secure. They simply move on to the next level along with all the less-smart students, who would also meet their fate unhindered by any “grading system.” So one way or the other, with or without the grading system in place, the “smartest” students remain preserved to move on to the next level. With the grading system in place, the only difference for those preserved as the elite “smartest” turns out to be the size of the population around them.

Evolution observed today in populations and explained by population genetics is real. But the creation and preservation of new life forms must be explained at the individual level. Descent with modification refers to individual descent. Individuals are replicated with variation.

Every example of natural selection provided by evolutionists today is an example illustrating the fate of individuals: individual dark moths, individual green bugs, individual short-necked giraffes, individuals in a population, etc. It is the individual organism that is born with or without beneficial genetic variation, and it is the individual organism that dies or survives based on their inherited adaptations.

Do populations change? Yes, of course. But the change is due to natural selection acting on individuals. For every example of population genetics, genetic drift, or any other population-based model of evolution, the actions of both descent with modification and natural selection occur at the level of the individual organism.

There is no other option.

Think about it.


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