Are evolution and adaption different?

by Helen Fryman

Question: Are evolution and adaptation different?

Response: "Evolution" is such a broad term, simply meaning "change," that quite honestly it can be stated that adaptation qualifies as a type of evolution. However, when "evolution" is stated to the layperson, the concept is that one sort of organism--like a bacteria--through time, chance, mutations, and natural selection, becomes another sort of organism, like an elephant. If this is the sort of evolution being referred to, then adaptation is in a different category altogether.

Adaptation is the process whereby a series of variations already within a population gets winnowed down to the few that are best suited to any particular environment. This is not a matter of adding anything new to the genetic material of the population, but simply weeding out what is not working as well as some other variations. For instance, a population of bears which wandered north at some point gradually lost members with less fat, less aggressiveness, and darker fur, eventually leaving us with the white, aggressive, and fat-layered polar bears. There may have been some mutations or combinations which increased the fat or the aggressiveness or the lightness of color, but nothing which changed the essential "bear-ness" of the beast.

This is radically different from the type of evolution which posits that some kind of unicellular organism, through millions of mutations, became that bear in the first place.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.