What Did Darwin Really Find on the Galápagos?
NEARLY 150 years ago, English naturalist Charles Darwin briefly visited the Galápagos Islands. On these Pacific Ocean islands, located some 600 miles (1,000 km) west of Ecuador, Darwin felt that he had found evidence of his theory of evolution.
But what, really, did he find on the Galápagos? Was it evidence of evolution, or was it evidence of something else?
Darwin believed that all plants, animals and humans had evolved from previous “lower” forms of life by means of gradual changes over vast periods of time. He reasoned that everything living had originally come from a “few forms” of life or just one, adding: “From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved.” (Origin of Species) Today, those who accept evolution generally adhere to the same basic ideas, believing that living things were not created by God, but that they evolved.
What Darwin saw during his visit of just a few weeks on the Galápagos was an “inspiration for many of his views” on evolution, says the Encyclopædia Britannica. And what he observed was this: (1) that living things on the Galápagos were similar to those on the South American continent, and he concluded that they came from there originally, not being created on the Galápagos; and (2) that over the years, variations in those living things on the Galápagos made them somewhat different from their “cousins” on the mainland. These two basic observations, he felt, reinforced his belief that plants and animals keep changing little by little, so that eventually they evolve into entirely different forms of life.
Regarding the Galápagos, The World Book Encyclopedia states: “Much evidence of evolution comes from plants and animals that live on islands far from continents. The Galapagos Islands, for example, . . . have 26 kinds of land birds, all resembling species found in western South America. But 23 of these species seem to have changed since they reached the islands, for the Galapagos birds are distinct species. Comparable differences are shown by lizards and tortoises, of which there were 11 species on as many different islands. They apparently developed there because of changes that took place after their ancestors drifted from the mainland of South America.”
What He Assumed
Commenting on the similarities to mainland animals, Darwin said in Origin of Species: “The Galapagos Archipelago . . . bears the unmistakable stamp of the American continent. The naturalist, looking at the inhabitants of these volcanic islands in the Pacific, distant several hundred miles from the continent, feels that he is standing on American land. Why should this be so? Why should the species which are supposed to have been created in the Galapagos Archipelago, and nowhere else, bear so plainly the stamp of affinity to those created in America?” (Italics ours)
Darwin assumed that a belief in creation required that totally different plants and animals be created in various places, especially on oceanic islands far removed from other land areas. For example, of St. Helena in the southern Atlantic Ocean, he said: “He who admits the doctrine of creation of each separate species, will have to admit that a sufficient number of the best adapted plants and animals were not created for oceanic islands,” having obviously come from other areas. (Italics ours)
Regarding the absence of frogs on some ocean islands, he said that the lack of them “on so many true oceanic islands cannot be accounted for by their physical conditions: indeed it seems that islands are peculiarly fitted for these animals; for frogs have been introduced into Madeira, the Azores, and Mauritius, and have multiplied . . . But why, on the theory of creation, they should not have been created there, it would be very difficult to explain.” (Italics ours)
On the absence of many other mammals on various ocean islands, Darwin stated: “It cannot be said, on the ordinary view of creation, that there has not been time for the creation of mammals; . . . Why, it may be asked, has the supposed creative force produced bats and no other mammals on remote islands? On my view this question can easily be answered; for no terrestrial mammal can be transported across a wide space of sea, but bats can fly across.” (Italics ours)
Were his assumptions correct? Must a Creator have fashioned totally different living things in different places, especially on remote islands? And were the differences Darwin observed in living things on ocean islands, compared to their mainland counterparts, so great that it could be said that new types were being evolved?
One type of bird, called a finch, particularly caught Darwin’s attention. In his short study on the Galápagos, it appeared to him that many different species of finches had evolved on the islands of the archipelago. The variations were mostly in the size and shape of their beaks. Darwin felt that these different beaks had evolved according to the differing conditions on the various islands. As the Encyclopædia Britannica put it: “The Darwin finches have developed a multitude of adaptive types from one common ancestor. They differ mainly in beak shape and size.”
However, naturalist guide Ronald Daeumler, who recently spent two years on the Galápagos, observed: “Frankly, I was astounded on learning that this was really Darwin’s most convincing reason to show that evolution was a possible explanation of the origin of the species. He reasoned that if the finch could, as he called it, evolve a new beak, then it was probable that it could also evolve into another animal if enough time was granted. Could this thinking really be the foundation that has caused so many millions of people to renounce the concept of an intelligent creator? Was this the strongest support that Darwin’s islands could give to evolution?
“As a guide I was really interested in being able to identify the different finches. But since they are called different species I had imagined that identification would be a very easy process. However, as I did research I came to realize that the differences between these so-called species were so small that many could be identified only by weighing or measuring different organs such as the heart or brain. As one author said: ‘It is only a very wise man or a fool who thinks he is able to identify all the finches which he sees.”’
Daeumler then observes: “But really, have the Galapagos finches made what could be called evolutionary changes, changes that in time could change them into something else? Or are these finches simply variations and adaptations that are common to all different, basic types of animals? The facts were clear to me: these finches were still finches and nothing else, and long ages of time were not making them change into something else.”
The giant tortoise of the islands is called the “galapago,” from which the islands get their name. According to Darwin, their isolation on the different islands of the Galápagos resulted in their evolving into different species.
However, the naturalist guide comments: “When I would take a group of tourists to the Darwin Station, a scientist would give them a talk about the islands. One thing they usually mentioned was how the tortoise has evolved differently on each island and had become separate species. Then, ironically, they would take the tourists to a corral where they had a number of tortoises and would explain that these had been taken from the islands as babies by people, but then years later the people who took them had returned them to the Darwin Station for protection. But the scientist explained that these animals had not been returned to their native islands because it had not been determined what species the different ones belonged to, and thus they could not determine from which islands they came.
“But if they had evolved into different species, should there not be enough differences so it should be obvious from which islands the tortoises came? It was so apparent to me that what many scientists called new species, as if some evolutionary process had occurred, were simply slight variations that all animal types are capable of producing.
“Even Craig McFarlan, director of the Darwin Station when I was there, and one of the foremost authorities on the giant tortoise, stated that there is no conclusive proof that the tortoises are even different species, but perhaps are only subspecies. Whatever classification the scientist may choose to put them in, one thing is certain: they are still tortoises and not evolving into something else!”
While Darwin considered animals such as the finches and tortoises prime examples of evolution, his reasoning was seriously flawed. He had concluded that believing in creation meant that one had to believe that every species was created, and in certain localities; also that minor variations meant that something was evolving.
None of these ideas are correct. Nowhere does the Bible’s account of creation say that every species was created separately. Nowhere does it say that each species was created in a certain location. And nowhere does it say that there could be no variety in the same type of living thing.
The Bible shows that in each case animals, plants and humans reproduce “according to [their] kind.” (Gen. 1:11, 21, 24, 25) This Biblical “kind” allows for great variety within it, but cannot mix with other “kinds.” For example, there could be many varieties of tortoises and finches, these animals being created with the capacity for such variation, but they would forever remain tortoises and finches.
The Human Creation
The creation of humans and their subsequent spread over all the earth, including isolated ocean islands, is similar to what happened to other living things.
After the flood of Noah’s day, humans began to spread out over all the earth from Asia Minor. In time, some groups became more isolated than others. Over the centuries, certain variations, or characteristics, became more pronounced, so that in time Pacific Ocean islands came to be inhabited mainly by Polynesian or Melanesian varieties, whereas in Africa the black variation came to the fore, and in Asia, the yellow. But all were still of the human “kind.” They prove it by their ability to intermarry and produce offspring, whereas different “kinds” such as dogs and cats, for example, can never mate and have offspring.
Hardly any two humans look exactly alike. But would anyone say that because humans have various shapes of noses, for example, they are evolving in different directions? Neither should we conclude that evolution is taking place just because we can observe different beaks on the Galápagos finches, or variations in the tortoise.
Mr. Daeumler, the naturalist guide, concluded: “I went to the Galapagos with an open mind, to study and observe for myself, without pressure from others. I wanted to find out if this so-called ‘laboratory of evolution’ was scientific fact or myth. After two years, which included some of the most interesting and enjoyable experiences of my life, I am convinced more than ever that evolutionary explanations for the origin of the species have no scientific basis. Only a supreme intelligence could be responsible for the incredible variety of life in the Galapagos, each multiplying ‘according to its kind,’ but allowing for a great variety within each kind, adding interest and pleasure for the human family.”
There exists a law among living things that has no exception. As “Scientific American” notes: “Living things are enormously diverse in form, but form is remarkably constant within any given line of descent: pigs remain pigs and oak trees remain oak trees generation after generation.”
[Pictures on page 17]
Creatures can have great variety within their own kind but never evolve into something else