Did Birds Evolve to Be Bad Parents?

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According to an article from World Nature News, the zebra finches of my homeland of Australia could be examples of evolution in action. These small birds practice something known as “brood parasitism.” Now, this is when a bird lays an egg in some other bird’s nest for them to raise. Reportedly, a recent study concluded that this style of parenting could help improve the species, since it allows zebra finches to lay lots of eggs without having to put the time, energy, and work into incubating the eggs and raising the young.

On discussing how this trait may have come about, the article says, “If a bird lays its eggs over several days, but its nest gets destroyed before it completes its clutch, it could salvage the remaining eggs by laying them in the nests of birds from other species. If the offspring was successfully raised by the unsuspecting host, this unexpected brood parasitism event may provide a stepping stone [for] this behavior to evolve further.” The article concludes by quoting one of the researchers involved in the study: “These are the kinds of biological leaps that Darwin discovered when he first studied finches. . . . And, even today, we are still learning.”

These researchers suggest that zebra finches, needing a nest in an emergency, opted to let other birds raise the rest of their eggs. Then, they presume that once upon a time this happened a lot, and the zebra finches with the propensity to preserve their lineage by giving their eggs to another bird did so even when they didn’t have to. After all, it's easier to let someone else do the work of brood raising than to do it yourself! Being free from the difficult business of spending their energy on raising their young, these finches remained strong and eventually flooded the population with birds that abandoned parenthood. But whether a tendency to brood parasitism ever enhanced the survival or strength of the finch population, no Darwinian evolution is in evidence here. The finches are still finches—they haven’t changed into anything else. This instinctive strategy may have helped their species survive challenges or even equipped the birds that did this to become stronger than birds that didn't. But it’s not helping them turn into another kind of creature!

Now, I find it interesting that the article about this study says, “Many will argue that there is no worse parent than one who abandons their child—especially for selfish reasons. Unfortunately, evolution doesn't select for what we think is ‘right’ but for what works best.” Now this made me think, if we behaved in the same way as these birds—who routinely abandon their offspring—our behavior would rightly be called immoral and wrong. And, yet, if we are just animals, like evolutionists claim we are, then why should it be wrong to behave like an animal? Why shouldn’t we selfishly behave like a zebra finch and abandon our kids if that’s what works best and save our energy and time for other pursuits?

Now, some people do claim that, for select issues, we should look to the animal world to see what is “natural” for us to do. For example, some of those who support homosexual behavior will claim that since we sometimes see that behavior in the animal world, it’s a natural thing, so there’s nothing wrong with humans engaging in homosexual activity. After all, we’re just animals in an evolutionary view. But should the fallen, broken animal world really be our guide? By this logic, perhaps parents should abandon their children and let other people raise them like zebra finches do. Or perhaps they should cannibalize their own children or murder and steal from their own kind. Of course no one would really think that humans should do these things just because animals do. They would certainly agree that they are wrong. But why are they wrong? What makes us as humans have to be held up to a higher standard than the animals, and who sets that standard? In a naturalistic evolutionary worldview, nothing! There is no foundation for morality in this worldview.

But we did not evolve, and we are not animals. We were specially designed and created in the very image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). There are absolute moral standards because our Creator has told us how we are—and are not—to behave. Humans recognize that we can’t just act like the animals because we have God’s law written on our hearts—whether or not we recognize or listen to it (Romans 2:14). We shouldn’t look to the sinful, cursed animal world for guidance on morality, but we also shouldn’t look to ourselves, the majority, or anyone else for moral guidance. We need to look to the only true source of absolute morality—God’s Word, given to us by our Creator.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
Ken

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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