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Will Bennett's "Chaos Theory of Evolution" Catch On?

on October 23, 2010
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New Scientist: “The Chaos Theory of EvolutionOnly time will tell whether Keith Bennett’s “chaos theory of evolution” will catch on, but we’ll at least give his new idea a listen.

Writing in New Scientist, Queen’s University Belfast palaeoecologist Bennett points out that “[b]ecause of the way evolution works, it is impossible to predict how a given species will respond to environmental change.” He goes on,

“Because of the way evolution works, it is impossible to predict how a given species will respond to environmental change.”

But the neat concept of adaptation to the environment driven by natural selection, as envisaged by Darwin in On the Origin of Species and now a central feature of the theory of evolution, is too simplistic. Instead, evolution is chaotic.

Adopting the micro-/macroevolution framework, Bennett then asks, “Are these [large-scale evolutionary changes] the cumulative outcome of the same processes that drive microevolution, or does macroevolution have its own distinct processes and patterns?” That is, is the long-term evolution of molecules into man really the grand consequence of short-term selection processes plus genetic mutations and an awfully long time period? If not, what explains it, at least in the evolutionist’s mind?

Bennett examines the question by discussing what sort of changes and tribulations old-earthers believe our planet has seen in the last few million years and, narrowing in, the past twenty thousand years. If environmental changes are the impetus behind much of natural selection, then, Bennett concludes, “recent” environmental changes should have led to macroevolutionary effects. Yet “studies show that most species remain unchanged for hundreds of thousands of years, perhaps longer, and across several ice ages[,] . . . show[ing] no evolution of morphological characteristics despite major environmental changes.”

Nevertheless, Bennett keeps the evolutionary faith: “That is not to say that major evolutionary change such as speciation doesn’t happen,” though he admits that “the connection between environmental change and evolutionary change is weak . . . . It is hard to see how adaptation by natural selection during lesser changes might then accumulate and lead to macroevolution.”

“Molecules-to-man” evolution is totally unobservable, and hence something evolutionists must accept entirely on faith.

The problem is, in the absence of small-scale changes as the driving force behind large-scale changes, evolutionists have little else to point to as the source of evolution. Bennett seeks shelter in a “chaos theory” view of evolution in which

[m]utations occur continually, without external influence, and can be passed on to the next generation. . . . [Some of these] might cause a significant change in the offspring’s physiology or morphology . . . . Iterating these unpredictable changes over hundreds or thousands of generations will inevitably lead to evolutionary changes in addition to any that come about by the preferential survival of certain phenotypes. It follows that macroevolution may, over the longer-term, be driven largely by internally generated genetic change, not adaptation to a changing environment.

The central problem of this defense of evolution is that such long-term accumulation of genetic changes (leading to new species) has never been and can never be observed by humans, and thus it remains any entirely speculative explanation for biodiversity. Most evolutionists argue that we see examples of evolution all around us—snapshots of a greater process that works on a time-scale far longer than a human lifetime. (We reject that argument on the grounds that the “evolution” (change/adaptation) we observe around us has never been shown to produce new genetic information.) But if this view is incorrect, as Bennett argues, then what creationists call “molecules-to-man” evolution is totally unobservable, and hence something evolutionists must accept entirely on faith.


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