Galapagos Islands: Did Darwin Really See Evolution in Action There?

March, 2006
Mark Stephens MCS

The Galapagos archipelago (a chain of many islands) is made up of thirteen major islands located on the Equator about 600 miles west into the Pacific Ocean from the coast of Ecuador, South America. The Galapagos Islands are made up of thirteen major islands, six smaller islets, and fifty still smaller islets and rocky formations.1

In 1835, Charles Darwin stepped off his voyage ship the HMS Beagle onto the Galapagos Islands and after observing a variety of birds known today as finches and collecting specimens of them declared, "...Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends."2

This "fancying" led 24 years later in 1859 to his very influential book on origins, The Origin of Species, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.3

Today, naturalistic evolutionists follow Darwin's inspiration in their observation and interpretation of plants and animals of the Galapagos Islands with such statements as, "The Galapagos archipelago has been called the 'showcase of evolution' and truly, for the biologist, the islands are a living laboratory for the study of evolution...Let us put it this way: the Galapagos have a strong magnetic aura. Somehow, the islands always find a way to be in the limelight. The media love it, every happening, every scandal, every disaster is a good excuse to analyze, criticize, condemn; in short, to write and talk about the islands. Everybody complains and the result: tourism is booming. Imagine: 71,567 visitors discovered the archipelago in the year 2000, an all time record!"4

In 2003, Mark Stephens stepped off an airplane unto the Galapagos Islands and declared, "I am going to see first hand if I can see what Darwin saw or confirm that all this is just naturalistic evolutionary theory, not 'evolution in action'!" Could it be that all this evolutionary thinking is still "fancying, speculating, conjecturing" theory about origin of living things? Would it make sense that what I, as a creation scientist, saw there was that God created in the beginning the earth, and created on it His plants and animals, and programmed tremendous potential into his founder kinds for tremendous variety to be expressed from the individual genome of plant and animal kinds so marvelously invented by Him, our Creator? Remember that Darwin was not yet aware of Gregor Mendel's work on genetics that was being conducted about that time and that could explain the variety Darwin saw expressed in the finches' beaks as well as the variety and ability for adaptation of the other plant and animal kinds of the Galapagos Islands as they spread onto the islands from other areas of the world. Nor was Darwin aware of the millions of base pairs in a genome of a living kind that we are aware of that helps us understand the tremendous variety that can be elicited from the genetic content of a genome but yet hold to the basic features that keep that group of living individuals unique.

In visiting the Galapagos Islands, I could use my scientific training as a science teacher in biology, chemistry, and geology to observe and draw some conclusions too. That's really what all of us scientists do, regardless of whether we are persons of faith in God as our Creator or persons of faith in infinitesimal chance espoused by naturalistic evolution that we all came from a common cell that came to life by accident hundreds of millions of years ago. By the way, the age theory of millions and billions of years of age of the earth has to have been developed by the evolutionists for any probability for these improbable events to occur mathematically by chance. Darwin's observations and interpretations of the Galapagos Islands were influenced by the continuing development of the naturalistic evolutionary philosophy of his day as they continue today about these islands. We all use our scientific training but come up with different interpretations espousing scientific evidences to support our claims about what we observe in nature. We are influenced by what philosophy or belief system we have. I contend that naturalistic evolution is a philosophical belief or faith, just as belief in a creator of this world is a faith. Will it be omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God our Creator, or fallible, imperfect man that we follow? Romans 1:20 of the Bible (KJV) gives us insight into our faith in our Creator, God, "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead: so that they are without excuse." Romans 1:21 tells us of the rejection by some men of God our Creator, "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened."

Let us entertain some observations about the Galapagos Islands based on my and my wife's trip to those islands in May of 2003 with some 20 other visitors and three creation scientists from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) from Santee, California. These three tour leaders were: 1) Kenneth B. Cumming, Ph.D., Harvard University, Dean of ICR Graduate School, and Chairman of the Department of Biology, ICR, Santee, California; 2) Jan Mercer, Ph.D., Cambridge Graduate School, Brisbane, Australia, Emeritas Associate Professor of Biology, Tarrant County College, Fort Worth, Texas; and 3) Roger W. Sanders, Ph.D., University of Texas, Research Botanist, Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Forth Worth, Texas. First, as we toured several of the islands that looked like what you would see in some of the dinosaur movies and likely have been used for such, there were many pleasurable observations we saw of tremendous variety and beauty from the thousands of exotic animals (some of which were land and marine iguanas, snakes, lava lizards, giant turtles, sea lions, whales; birds, including blue-footed boobies, flightless comorants, penguins, albatrosses, pelicans, herons, the great frigate birds, mocking birds, hawks and of course thousands of finches; many varieties of fishes and crabs while we were snorkeling, and sharks, later while we were out of the water; abundant and beautiful plant life including sea corals and algae, mangroves, cacti, banana trees, coffee trees, and many other trees and grasses. Note that although some exoticness is due to variety capable of being expressed by their genomes, the animal and plant life on these islands is similar to the world in general. If some of these had evolved into other radically different kinds of life with the so-called 'evolution in action' that is supposed to have been going on more pronounced there, then why do we have the basic kinds that they represent still there as we do in other parts of the world?

We observed the landscape as we toured around the islands on our cruise ship and noted semi-arid volcanic islands with much lava rock and sandy, rocky, and desert-like soils with sparse to abundant vegetation as you got onto islands with more topsoil. Now I bet you want to go see for yourselves these beautiful Galapagos Islands that I believe were part of the earth that God created. Yes, the earth, including the Galapagos Island area, was changed and affected by catastrophic events after the Fall of Genesis 3 and, after, and as a result of the worldwide Flood of Genesis 6 some 4.5 thousand years ago whereby much volcanic activity occurred and continues to occur to build up and change the landscape of these islands in years to hundreds to thousands of years not millions of years that evolutionists build into their equation. (You may wish to access our TASC web site: www.tasc-creationscience.org to refer to the two-part article I wrote for the August and September, 2004, TASC newsletters titled, "Could the Ice Age Have Been Caused by the Genesis Flood?" to help you get a better understanding of landscape and meteorological effects of this very catastrophic event recorded in the Bible.) Actually, there have been 13 volcanic eruptions in the Galapagos Islands in the last 100 years, having significant impact on the islands in short periods of time of years not millions of years5 (e.g., just as the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 had significant impact on Washington state in days). The young guides provided to us on our cruise ship and trained in naturalistic evolution would say quite comically sounding to me as they commented on the geological evolution of volcanic activity "so many millions of years ago, more or less." Our tour guides from the Institute of Creation Research listed above would discuss with us along the tours or at night sessions the creation science that supports the Genesis account of creation and a young earth to balance the naturalistic evolutionary view that the cruise guides were giving. They provided us a Galapagos Islands Tour Manual (see reference 1) from which I have been and will reference in this article. We actually had some friendly, educational conversations with the cruise guides about this topic of creation or evolution during our tour.

Now let us use the finches sometimes referred to as "Darwin's finches" because of their association with evolution in action of the animal life on the Galapagos to assess their naturalistic evolutionary origin or how they represent a created kind with simply programmed-in variety for adaptation and change as they were and still are the "finch" kind.

The theory of evolution brought fame to Darwin's finches. The dark-colored birds are about the size of a sparrow and are distributed on all the Galapagos Islands. They are often very noisy birds and have no fear of man. The naturalistic evolutionist and author of the popular book, The Galapagos Islands, comments in his book, "In the Galapagos, 13 species of finches (in fact 14, counting the one on Cocos Island) have evolved from one original species, which migrated from Costa Rica. Melonospiza richardsoni, on St. Lucia Island in the West Indies, is the nearest species."6 I might note that this does not prove the naturalistic evolution of finches but rather is best explained by the creation science view which points to the variety that would be expressed from the genome of the finch kind as it spread out from St. Lucia Island into the Galapagos Islands. This same kind of explanation can be applied to humans as they got off the ark and actually were made to spread by God all over the world, expressing their large variety from their human genome. But note thousands of years later, although humans may have different skin color or hair color or cultures, they are still humans today capable of reproducing with each other from other nations. Modern day USA is a good example of the melting pot of peoples coming back together, having not come from an ape-like creature but from other humans (You may also like to refer to my TASC newsletter article titled "Racism: Human 'Races' or 'One Blood'?" of April, 2004 on our web site www.tasc-creationscience.org, to better understand this). I observed first hand some 168 years after Darwin that the finches were still finches on the Galapagos Islands in 2003 with a lot of phenotypic variety still being expressed from their programmed genotype, but they still are finches all around the world, not even appearing to evolve into some other bird or other creature. I did not have to do any fancying or conjecturing to conclude that either. I understand as a biologist and creation scientist that their relatively small differences represent a lot of phenotypic variety expressed from programmed genotypes from the genome of the finches, not naturalistic evolution in action that Darwin fancied/conjectured and evolutionists choose to continue to espouse. In his Galapagos book, Pierre Constant continues to reference evolutionist Ernst Haeckel's deceptive drawings on embryos to allude to evolution taking place on the Galapagos Islands by stating, "To conclude, let us quote Haeckel: 'Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny', which means that the development of the individual within the egg sums up the development of the animal group to which it belongs."7 The doctored drawings of embryos in 1874 by Haeckel, who was Darwin's advocate in Germany and whose evolutionary ideas were instrumental in the later rise of Nazism, were exposed as fraudulent in the late 1800s. In the 1990s, they also have been exposed by embryologists as fraudulent; yet because they are so useful to convince students of naturalistic evolution, they still appear in biology textbooks in the public schools and other evolution based writings today.8 Likewise, the Galapagos Islands are still used to push the idea that they represent 'evolution in action', but I believe the evidence I am presenting should help to disprove this assertion. The life in the islands show simple change due to variety expressed phenotypically from its genes and ability to adapt from variety programmed within the genes, not change from one major kind to another major kind through atheistic, naturalistic evolution.

Regarding the Darwin finches on Galapagos Islands, one of our tour guides from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), Dr. Ken Cumming, referenced above, pointed out that Darwin collected, preserved, and sent the finch specimens back to his ornithologist friend, Gould, in England. Gould did not observe the finches live in their habitat or their breeding habits but merely postulated to Darwin that these different varieties of finches may have evolved from one another. Gould categorized them into 13 different species. Some twenty-five years later, Darwin assembled the data and observations, and with a blend of his observations, recollections, and conjecture, came up with his theory of evolution, which was not established scientific fact. Later, the Galapagos finches were researched by a husband and wife team, the Grants, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. They were able to come up with only three proposed species of finches in a new schema of reticulate evolution. 9 It has been noted by the staff at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz that "only God and Peter Grant can recognize "Darwin's finches".10 Dr. Cumming further declared that if we put the biological species test to the proposed Grants' reticulate evolution, we believe it establishes that the hybrid finches and their parents can be nothing more than varieties of a single polymorphic species. 11 Again, it boils down to who to you believe, God or man?

Dr. Roger Sanders, another of the ICR tour guides, concluded that the variety of animals and plants on Galapagos and elsewhere, "...has everything to do with the expression of information that was there from the creation." God put it there (in the animal and plant kinds) and provided for the rapid subdivision of that information and for the flexibility He knew that organisms would need to survive and flourish in a fallen, patchy, and often inhospitable world. This does not represent chance development of new genetic information to produce new organisms as the naturalistic evolutionary theory would propose, but simply new varieties of organisms from the expressed genetic information programmed by God into His original created kinds. Dr. Sanders pointed out, "With the plants, we find only variation within a kind, i.e., variation that originated at creation and lay dormant until conditions on the islands allowed the genetic reorganization necessary to express that variation. The Galapagos provide a living laboratory to study, not evolution, but God's design and unfolding plan for His Creation." 12

A part of TASC's mission is to provide under our free democratic system a balance of information to include factual scientific evidences that support God as our creator. I believe that my Institute for Creation Research tour of the Galapagos Islands in 2003 has helped me to provide needed balance on origins and belief in God, our Creator. Hopefully, by sharing this information with our TASC friends and supporters, it will help you to do so as well.


1 Cumming, K., Rogers, R., Mercer, J., Vardeman, L (2003) Reticulate Evolution. Galapagos Creation Tour Manual, Institute for Creation Research, Santee, CA, 1

2 Darwin, C. (1988) The Voyage of the Beagle, Penguin Books USA, Inc., New York, NY, 326

3 Consant, P. (2000) The Galapagos Islands, Odyssey Publications, Ltd., Hong Kong, 289

4 Ibid., 7, 44

5 Ibid., 27

6 Ibid., 47, 43

7 Ibid., 45

8 Sarfati, J. (1999) Refuting Evolution, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, 85-87

9 Cumming, K., et al., 1-4

10 Weiner, J. (1994) The Beak of the Finch, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, NY, 19

11 Cumming, K., et al., 4

12 Cumming, K., et al., (2003) Plants of the Galapagos. Galapagos Creation Tour Manual, Institute for Creation Research, Santee, CA, 1-26