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Proving Evolution, Doggy-Breeding Style

I admit it: I’m something of a Snoop Dogg fan. We’re from the same hometown, went to the same high school, and Snoop is basically revered like a god among my hometown friends. In Snoop’s words, “I’m somewhat brain boggled” by a recent press release issued by Darwinist researchers at the University of Manchester who are claiming that evolution is supported because “changes to the shape of [the St Bernard] breed’s head over the years can only be explained through evolution and natural selection.” And what is their evidence for “evolution and natural selection”? You have to see this to believe it: “over time … breeders selected dogs that had the desired physical attributes. … we can be confident that they have evolved purely through the selective considerations of breeders.”

“Breeders selected” and “the selective considerations of breeders” sure sound a lot like intelligently-guided artificial selection, not natural selection. But these scientists don’t let little distinctions like that get in the way of finding support for Darwinism. In fact, they claim their research demonstrates the grand Darwinian narrative: “this research once again demonstrates how selection – whether natural or, in this case, artificially influenced by man – is the fundamental driving force behind the evolution of life on the planet.” So intelligent design is now cited as proof that natural selection is the fundamental driving force behind the evolution of life. It’s too bad these researchers didn’t consult the facts on dog breeding as they are recounted in Explore Evolution:

[A]s different as these [dog] breeds are, the differences still fall within limits. No one has ever bred a dog lighter than a few pounds, or heavier than about 150 pounds, despite thousands of years of selective breeding. Critics say that the experimental evidence reveals definite, discoverable limits on what artificial selection can do. …

[A]nimal breeders hit limits all the time. Breeders have tried for decades to produce a chicken that will lay more than one egg per day. They have failed. Horse breeders have not significantly increased the running speed of thoroughbreds, despite more than 70 years of trying. Darwin’s theory requires that species have an immense capacity to change, but the evidence from breeding experiments shows that there are definite limits to how much a species can change, even when intelligent agents (the breeders) are doing the selection intentionally, trying to maximize certain traits. … Darwin’ theory requires that species exhibit a tremendous elasticity–or capacity to change. Critics point out that this is not what the evidence from breeding experiments shows.

(Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism, page 90 (Hill House Publishers, 2007).)

The University of Manchester researchers also take a fallacious cheap shot at intelligent design, wrongly equating it with “creationism … the belief that all living organisms were created according to Genesis in six days by ‘intelligent design’.” (Even Eugenie Scott doesn’t have the gall to make such a false claim, as she acknowledges that “most ID proponents do not embrace a Young Earth, Flood Geology, and sudden creation tenets associated with YEC.” See Eugenie C. Scott, Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction, pg. 128 (Greenwood Press, 2004).) Moreover, if there’s no scientific controversy over intelligent design, then why are these researchers touting how their “St. Bernard study casts doubt on creationism”?

In the end, this study doesn’t demonstrate anything about natural selection. Rather, it demonstrates that some Darwinian scientists are following the evidence to Darwinism, even when it leads to intelligent design. To again quote Snoop, “It’s a crazy mixed up world, it’s a Doggy Dogg World.”


Casey Luskin

Associate Director and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



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