Darwin and Adoption

Darwin's Theory of Evolution and its modern proponents have always maintained that most of what living things do is done to promote their own genes. Living things fight to survive, and they fight to pass on their genes by having multiple offspring. The fact that polar bears and lions will kill babies of their own species is seen as a way of promoting their own offspring. Bird singing and coloration is seen as a way of producing more chicks and keeping rivals away. Much of this scenario makes good sense and is supported by numerous studies.

If you watch Animal Planet on television for any period of time, you will see videos of dogs raising cats, cats raising birds, dogs raising pigs, and many other combinations that seem at best unlikely. Recent studies of meerkats have shown that one dominate female will give birth and lower-ranking females will baby sit--even though genetically they are unrelated (Milner, R., "Altruistic Meerkats," Natural History, Vol. 109, No. 8). Not only does such activity promote the survival of a competing meerkat's offspring, but it keeps the baby-sitter from mating and having offspring of her own.

In an article titled "The Adoption Paradox," Evan Eisenberg, Discover, Vol. 22, No. 1, reports that adoption has been observed in mice, rats, otters, skunks, llamas, deer, caribou, kangaroos, seals, sea lions, dogs, goats, sheep, and bears. Eisenberg says,

The habit can be expensive. If the adoptee is added to an existing litter, the adopter's own offspring may get less to eat. If adopting delays the next brood, the adopter's lifetime reproductive success may be reduced.

All of this flies in the face of sociobiology and the notions of nature as a cold and heartless master.

What may very well be the situation in nature is that much of the mechanical view of how living things function is too shallow. Animals eating their own kind are likely to be oddities produced by stress or extreme conditions and not the normal result of animal behavior. Years ago, there were researchers who reported that female praying mantises killed and ate their male partners immediately after copulation. Later studies showed that this behavior happened in captivity, but rarely, if ever, happened in the wild. Man's influence on animal behavior produces some bizarre reactions on the part of the animals.

The biggest failure of the Darwinian theory is to explain adoption and its related behaviors in humans. There are couples who have no desire to have children. Richard Dawkins has noted though that from an evolutionary standpoint, adoption is "a double whammy. Not only do you reduce, or at least fail to increase, your own reproductive success, but you improve someone else's. Since the birth parent is your rival in the great genetic steeplechase, a gene that encourages adoption should be knocked out of the running in fairly short order. Clearly, it has not been knocked out at all."

While we may not understand all of the processes operative in the animal world, we can see the answer in man by looking at the biblical perspective. As the father of three adopted children, one of whom was born with multiple birth defects, I have been asked on a number of occasions why we adopted children. It consumed massive amounts of our time and resources and subjected us to a significant amount of abuse and pain. Friends and family that did not share our religious convictions thought we were making a mistake.

If you believe in the God of the Bible and are convinced that God created man uniquely in God's image, that changes everything. My adopted son who is retarded, blind, has cerebral palsy and a form of muscular dystrophy still has enormous worth because he is created in God's image. His soul--his spiritual being--is as valuable as any human on this planet. The struggles we had with bringing two daughters through their teenage years made sense to us because they were precious--no matter what they did or how much they might have frustrated us.

We are not mechanical robots run by a mindless cause-and-affect set of biological rules. The evidence of man's spiritual makeup as a being with whom God's "Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16) is what causes us to love those with whom we have no biological connection. Minimizing that belief has caused enormous tragedy; and whether that minimizing comes from misguided science or misguided religion, it needs to be opposed.

--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, SepOct02.