Environment (natural selection) never creates it only eliminates. The organisms already have the information in their group to survive a variety of environments. The environment is not responsible for producing that information, the organisms already have the necessary equipment. Nature just eliminates those organisms in the group which don’t have the preexisting information to survive. If a pair of eyes are necessary for certain organisms survival, like hawks for example, those that don’t have eyes will not survive (be eliminated by natural selection). You could say that nature “selected” the hawks with eyes. But the eyes had to be there first and “nature” is really only time, random chance and environment, not intelligence.
Dr. Lee Spetner who received his PhD in physics from MIT and spent almost 20 years in research and development at John Hopkins University and a year in the department of Biophysics at Hopkins, also 5 years teaching physics at Howard University and 15 teaching information theory also at Hopkins before moving to Israel to work as a tech advisor, has spent his life studying organic evolution.
Not a Creationist, he has come up with an interesting take on evolution which flies right in the face of the Neo Darwin Theory that teaches that evolution only occurs at the population level by accumulated DNA copying errors occurring randomly over time. He teaches that “evolution”, defined as the apparent ability of animals to display new capabilities in adapting to their environments, occurs at the organism level and is a result of information that the organisms already have, though hidden from view until triggered by environmental cues.
While these hidden capabilities are an advantage for the overall populations survival, they are not dependent on it. And while these previously hidden capabilities are triggered by the environment, they are not products of the environment either.
A simple analogy might be a light fixture designed to throw a switch that turns the light on when night comes. Or a thermostat that starts the heater up when the temperature drops. Neither the switch or thermostat are products of the changes in light or heat in the environment, they were just designed to react to the environmental cues.
Dr. Spetner gives many examples from the scientific data that support his theory. Keep in mind that the word Phenotype refers to the visible or expressed genetic characteristics of an organism and genotype to the total genetic information, both expressed and unexpressed in the organism. Examples of these changes in behavior and expressed genetics are found in the way many plants automatically change the number of seeds they produce when planted in crowed conditions, other plants change the number of leaves they produce according to their environment, in adjustment the competition.(Bradshaw 65)
In the ocean, snails that are preyed upon by crabs immediately adjust by growing thicker shells. (Stearns 89) The snails feed on barnacles which sense the presence of snails and adapt by changing the shape of their shell from straight up to bent in an angle. (Stearns 89, Lively 86) These changes happen quickly and cannot be due to slow random changes over time in the DNA of these animals. These changes are simply the outward display of adaptability which is hidden from our view in the genes. Just like Darwin, we might be tempted to think finches from different island environments, which have adapted by changes in bill structure, are the products of new information being added to their genetics over thousands of years. But these types of changes have been seen to take place in the same finch species when isolated from each other very quickly, with whole populations changing within a decade, not over millenia.(Conant 1988, Pimm 1988)
Fish of the same species have less vertebrates when found in colder water environments than those who live in warmer waters. The shorter fish maintain their body temperatures better in colder waters, and so when they migrate into a colder environment, a genetic switch is thrown that makes changes in the genetic program of the fish’s vertebrae. (Johnson and Gottlieb ’90 and many others)
This hidden information in organisms has been found to exist in what are called cryptic genes. These are sometimes triggered by mutations, but the mutations are not believed to be random. For example, some bacteria when they need to hydrolyse lactose, will almost immediately experience two separate but complementary mutations which trigger the hidden gene. When the environment calls for the capability, the mutations occur, and the switch is turned on. If the cryptic gene, the hidden information wasn’t already there, the mutations would be entirely useless. No new information is added, just turned on or off.(Cairns, et al 1988)
In one of my college courses on child development they spoke of switches in humans that can help infants survive famine. A baby born to a mother in an area of famine will experience a genetic switch which will cause it’s body to store all calories with great efficiency. Unfortunately, if the baby’s family moves to an area of plenty, the child will have problems with obesity, because once thrown, this hidden trait cannot switch back after a limited time.
In his book, Not By Chance, Dr. Lee Spetner gives excellent technical information as well as easy to understand explanations for the layman. He also points out, among other things, that no mutation has ever been observed to add even a little information, and even the ones that can temporarily help an organism survive, cause a loss of information that lessen it’s vitality overall. He emphasizes that you can’t get rich by losing a little money every day. You can’t build a better a machine by degrading and removing essential parts.
Spetner, Not By Chance, 1998, The Judaica Press.
Bradshaw, A.D., Evolutionary Significance of Phenotypic Plasticity in Plants,, Advances in Genetics, vol.13.
Stearns, S.C., The Evolutionary Significance of Phenotypic Plasticity, BioScience, vol. 39 1989
Lively, C.M., Predator-induced shell dimorphism in the acorn barnacle…etc. Evolution vol.40, 1989
Conant, S,, Saving Endangered Species by Translocation, BioScience, vol.38
Johnson and Gottlieb, Neophenogenesis: A developmental theory of phenotypic evolution, Journal of Theoretical Biology, vol. 147
Pimm, S.L., Rapid Morphological Change in an introduced Bird, Trends in Evolution and Ecology, vol.3
Cairns, et al, The Origin of Mutants, Nature, vol. 335