Kolbe Report 3/9/24

"Natural Selection" is a misnomer

Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,

Glory to Jesus Christ!

One of the points that Dr. Jeffrey Bond brings home in his excellent philosophical critique of Darwinian evolution on the Kolbe website is that the farther a natural scientist is removed from actual observations of living creatures in nature, the more susceptible he is to generalize on the basis of limited experience in ways that depart from reality.

Jean-Henri Fabre (1823-1915)

Dr. Bond ends his paper by quoting the great French Catholic entomologist Jean Henri Fabre (1823-1915) whose descriptions of insects have captivated generations of readers. Darwin called Fabre the "inimitable observer" and corresponded with him about insects. Darwin urged Fabre to perform certain experiments with insects to show that instinct in insects was produced by their environment and was not innate to the insect. For his part, Fabre respected Darwin for his scientific curiosity and performed the experiments, but he had no use for Darwin's evolutionary hypothesis.

Referring to Darwin as "the great master of evolution," Fabre wrote:

See how the great master of evolution hesitates and stammers when he tries, by fair means or foul, to fit instinct into the mold of his formulae. It is not so easy to handle as the color of the pelt, the length of the tail, the ear that droops or stands erect. Yes, our master well knows that this is where the shoe pinches! Instinct escapes him and brings his theory crumbling to the ground . . . The environment does not make the animal; it is the animal that is made for the environment (J. H. Fabre, More Hunting Wasps, Chapter Five).

Fabre's view has been thoroughly vindicated, as biologists have learned that new functions that do arise in plants or animals are in virtually every case the result of pre-programmed responses triggered by changes in the external or internal environment of the organism. As Fabre realized, "natural selection" is a misnomer, since "nature" has no mind and cannot "select" anything. Instinct is best explained as a divinely implanted program which allows a creature to respond intelligently to an environment it has never seen before.

The author of a short biographical sketch of Fabre notes that:

on one occasion he observed that the female fly lays her eggs on the eyes or in the corners of the mouth of a dead animal, and that when the head is covered by a paper bag, and there are no wounds in the body, no eggs are deposited on the carcass. What is the reason? Fabre can answer. The maggots worm their way through the flesh by digesting the protein tissue ahead of them by means of an enzyme, probably much like the pepsin in our stomachs. The skin is made up very largely of a horny material-keratin-which cannot be digested by the maggot's secretion. With her maternal foresight, the bluebottle knows to perfection the choice surfaces, the only ones liable to soften and run under the influence of the reagent dribbled by the new born grubs. The chemistry of the future is familiar to her, though she does not use it for her own feeding. Can chance solve this? Is it by chance that a fly knows the chemical action of ferments in grubs, that she never sees and never will see? ("Jean Henri Fabre: A Great Catholic Scientist," John Daly McCarthy, Ph.D.)

I recently read of an experiment that was performed with weaver birds, so named after the elaborate nests that the male birds build. The males weave plant fibers together to make shapely nests which are often suspended from the tip of a branch. After the males have built their nests, the lady birds arrive and choose a nest before mating with the nest-builder of their choice. In the experiment, five generations of weaver birds were raised without being given any materials with which to build. Finally, after five generations, the sixth generation was given the opportunity and the material to make nests. Immediately, they went to work and wove the same beautiful nests that their ancestors had built five generations before!

Clearly, the environment did not "teach" the weaver birds how to weave. It was the One whom Jean Henri Fabre called the "Pilote Souverain" [the Sovereign Pilot or Director] who had programmed into them the magnificent knowledge of the weaver's craft.

"Without Him," Fabre confessed, "I understand nothing; without Him all is darkness . . . Every period has its manias. I regard Atheism as a mania. It is the malady of the age. You could take my skin from me more easily than my faith in God."

May God raise up a generation of young Catholic scientists like Jean Henri Fabre, who will give Him the glory that He deserves for His magnificent creation!

Please keep the Kolbe Center in your prayers.

Yours in Christ through the Immaculata, in union with St. Joseph,

Hugh Owen

P.S. If you value our work, please prayerfully consider making a donation and/or helping to organize a Kolbe seminar in your area this year.

P.P.S.  Our annual leadership retreat will take place from August 25 to August 31 at the Apostolate for Family Consecration Retreat Center in Bloomingdale, Ohio.  For more information and to register, please email me at

P.P.P.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke has asked us to join him in making a nine-month novena beginning on March 12. I encourage everyone to join me in accepting his invitation. You will find information about the novena at this link.

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