In this article, I have tried to present the actual mechanism that drives evolution. I have glossed over many scientific arguments and new developments such as epigenetics, but I have written the analogy this way because biology textbooks still teach that natural selection, acting on mutations produced by an unguided process, are responsible for the diversity of life on earth. An analogy similar to this one first appeared in John Sanford’s book Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome. Newer scientific developments (such as epigenetics) have not helped evolutionary theory at all—rather, they have shown that life is vastly more complex than we thought even a few decades ago, and these added layers of complexity only strain evolutionary explanations further.
A certain bright, young designer, who we’ll call Chuck, came up with what he thought was a brilliant plan to produce the perfect tricycle. He built a factory and named his company EvoTrike, and hired several skilled and diligent workers to build his tricycles. The first batch of tricycles was, of course, produced from the first manual. It was a well-thought-out, well-written manual, and the first batch of tricycles had rave reviews on Amazon.com.
EvoTrike’s catchphrase was “Evolve with the best.” Chuck had a unique idea for improving each generation of tricycles. The first part of his plan was to get ten new manuals written after every production run. He wanted to do it medieval style, and hired ten copyists to reproduce the manual by hand. Then, he planned to use each of the new manuals to make a new batch of tricycles, sell the tricycles, and chart their ratings. The manual that produced the best tricycles would be saved and copied the next time, and so on and so forth. So, after the first batch of tricycles hit the market, he had his copyists reproduce the instruction manual by hand. When the first production run of tricycles was completed, the original manual was discarded, and each of the ten new manuals was used to create a new batch of tricycles. The tricycles were sold on Amazon.com, and the customer reviews for each of the ten batches were used to judge the quality of the ten manuals.
The copyists, who were also skilled and diligent, had copied the manual carefully, and each of the ten batches turned out quite well. The average star-rating on Amazon.com for all ten batches was 4.7, with the lowest coming in at 4.5 and the highest coming in at 4.9 stars. According to Chuck’s plan, the manual for the batch of tricycles with the 4.9-star rating was saved, and all the others were destroyed—in evolutionary terms, they were selected out of the population.
That second-generation manual was then copied again ten times, and ten new batches of tricycles were made. This time, the average star rating for the ten batches dropped to 4.6, but one batch actually got a perfect 5.0 star rating. Chuck was ecstatic—his plan to improve the tricycles was working! He discarded all of the nine copies of the manual that had produced tricycles with inferior ratings, and had his copyists reproduce the manual of the top-scoring tricycle ten more times.
For many more generations of tricycles, after each production run, the manual for the best-scoring tricycle was copied ten times. The other manuals were discarded, and ten more batches of tricycles were produced. After many years of repeating this process, and hundreds of generations of tricycles, the average star rating on Amazon.com for the ten batches was only 3.2. Chuck, who was older by now, and called Mr. Darwin by his younger employees, was sure that customers had just gotten pickier, but one employee decided to test Chuck’s method for improving the tricycles. After the next generation of tricycle had been produced, the customers had rated the tricycles on Amazon.com, and Chuck had chosen the winning manual and thrown away the loosing manuals, he snuck the discarded manuals out of the trash and hid them in his office. He compared each of the manuals, and found that, on average, the copyists had made 200 errors in each of the ten copies. Most of the errors were insignificant, but some had serious consequences, such as this one he found in the section on painting the tricycle:
Eight of the nine manuals read:
Mix 4.9 Kg of red pigment with 50 L of paint.
The last manual read:
Mix 4.9 g of red pigment with 50 L of paint.
One little letter, a “K,” was missing. He looked up the reviews for that tricycle on Amazon.com, and found that most people had rated the tricycle with one star; the reason was that it was not painted red as advertised. The 4.9 g of pigment in the paint was 1000 times too little.
The skeptical employee kept the manuals in his office, and 10 generations later, he snuck the discarded manuals out of the trash again. He compared the nine new manuals he had salvaged with the nine older manuals, and found that, on average, there were 2000 mistakes per manual that had not been present in the older manuals—his original estimate of 200 mistakes, per manual, per generation was correct. Chuck’s procedure of selecting the best tricycle had not eliminated the mistakes, nor had it made better tricycles—it had only kept EvoTrike from reproducing the worst mistakes.
He then analyzed the nine newest manuals for legibility, and found that there were so many mistakes in some sections that he had to guess as to what the original intent of the author was, and other sections were now undecipherable. He analyzed the best sections of the manual (which were still not great), and came to the conclusion that they, too, would be undecipherable in another 1000 generations, due to the accumulation of copying mistakes.
Well, how does this story end?
Evolution claims that mistakes, coupled with selection, can turn a bacterial cell into a human being. In other words, the evolutionary process envisioned by Chuck, the CEO of EvoTrike, should be able to turn a tricycle into a star ship. Not quickly, of course, but the tricycle should gradually turn into a bicycle, which should turn into a bigger bicycle, which should develop an engine, and become a motorcycle, which might become a go-kart, which could turn into a car, which should become a faster car, which should morph into an airplane, which could turn into a jet fighter, which should become a Space Shuttle, which should turn into a space ship, which should eventually be able to blast across the galaxy at warp speeds.
In reality, a bacterial cell is vastly more complex than anything humans have ever created, and every human being is vastly more complex than a bacterium. Each one of you, however, have 200 genetic copying mistakes, or mutations, that your parents didn’t have, and each of your children will have 200 genetic mutations that you don’t have.
How will the story of the human race end?
Hopefully, we can see that the skeptical employee is right and Chuck’s plan will never improve the tricycles. If Chuck had kept the original manual, and continued making tricycles with that manual, the quality could have remained excellent. Biological organisms, however, don’t have the luxury of retaining their original manual—their original genetic code. We are forced to accept whatever we received from our parents, and what we receive is always inferior to what our parents have. Mistakes accumulate with each passing generation, and eventually the mistakes get so bad that genetic meltdown occurs. This has happened, or nearly happened with several species.
You may have heard of the Florida panther. The population was reduced to only a few individuals in the 1970s, and the inbreeding that resulted caused the genetic mutations they had to nearly kill them. They were saved by bringing in other panthers from different genetic populations.
We humans are better off than the Florida panther, of course, but we are still subject to the same laws of genetics. It may take many more generations, possibly even thousands of years, before our genetic code becomes so degraded that we become extinct, but it absolutely must happen. This sounds depressing, but let me tell you why it’s not. We have ample evidence that God’s Word is true, and if it is true, we know that we will be getting new, perfect bodies, with perfect genetic codes, and that we’ll get to keep them forever.
So where does that leave us? Evolution could not have happened—in other words, it is not possible for all life on earth to have evolved from a common ancestor back in the distant past. But people believe in evolution because it is the best answer to the question, “If there is no God, how did we get here?” Some are sincerely misguided in regard to the scientific evidence. For others, however, the conviction that God does not exist is stronger than all of the logic and scientific evidence standing against evolution.