We have all heard about Charles Darwin’s use of terms like ‘natural selection’ and ‘survival of the fittest’. But when Darwin first developed his Theory of Evolution, he was very puzzled by the beauty of a peacock’s tail. He could not see how having such a beautiful tail helped the male peacock survive. In fact, he thought it might even be a burden rather than a bonus for survival.
So Darwin proposed a second process that might drive evolution, which he called ‘sexual selection’. According to Darwin, if one peacock had a more beautiful tail than another peacock, then it was more likely to mate and produce offspring.
I’m not a female peacock, but every peacock’s tail looks very beautiful to me. In my opinion Darwin’s Theory fails to explain many things about the natural world, and the fact that we appreciate beautiful things is one of them.
But according to some ‘experts’ in Norway recently, the human brain is our equivalent to the peacock’s tail. They suggested that our superior intelligence evolved to help us attract mates, rather than to survive.
However, there is a problem. Larger brains, like larger tails, are a bit of a burden! Having a larger brain may boost our intelligence, but it also places a greater burden on our bodies, using 20 per cent of our energy. So, say the experts, having a bigger brain must be linked to ‘sexual selection’ not ‘natural selection’.
But this idea seems to be at odds with the ‘facts of life’. On average, do brainy people have more children, or less? And do we always see the brain ‘fully engaged’ when it comes to ‘affairs of the heart’?!
As a recent editorial in The Guardian newspapers whimsically observed, under the heading ‘Smarter than peacocks’:
‘Perhaps the theory should incorporate the correlation between brains and income. Money is a notorious aphrodisiac. Yet experience must show that neither brains nor bank balance guarantee happy family life.’
In my opinion the best explanation for our larger brains is found by using them properly, rather than trying to make Darwin’s theory fit the facts. Rather than accept Darwin’s theory without question, listen instead to the arguments in favour of divine creation, or call it ‘intelligent design’.
Beautiful designs, like the peacock’s feathers, tell their own tale! Less colourful sometimes, but no less dramatic, are the feathers on any bird’s wings, giving it the ability to fly, prompting God’s question:
“Does the hawk fly by your wisdom, and spread its wings towards the south? Does the eagle mount up at your command, and make its nest on high? (Job 39:26-7)
How do birds fly? Darwin thought he had found the answer to that question and many others that stood in the way of his Theory. But since Darwin was alive we have found out far more about the complexity of living things than he would probably have even imagined. For a start he didn’t have the powerful instruments available today that reveal the amazing structure of the peacock’s iridescent feathers.
So how many more ‘patches’ are going to be proposed to bolster up his Theory before somebody shouts “enough!”?
If the peacock has a ‘tale to tell us’ about the complex beauty of living things, let’s not be afraid to use our ‘big brains’ and accept the explanation we find in the Bible about how this has all happened? It might even make us happy!