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New Scientist Must Stop Presenting Outmoded 1960s Theories as if They Were Scientific Fact

New Scientist magazine carried an article called “Together We Are Stronger” in its March 15, 2003 edition. Written by James Randerson, the article appeared under the following box caption: “Was Darwin wrong? Wherever you look, it”s cooperation not selfishness that reigns supreme.” In other words, an attempt was being made to portray a fact which represented a terrible dilemma for the theory of evolution as if it were actually evidence in support of the theory.

In fact, as New Scientist seemingly purports to admit, though it actually does nothing of the sort, the cooperation and self-sacrifice observed in living things are factors that the theory of evolution cannot explain and deal; so it is a major blow. Randerson’s accounts, aimed at rescuing the theory, are unable to explain the origin of cooperative behavior. The position is the same for Darwin himself as for those evolutionists who came after him: cooperation between living things continues to represent one of the greatest mysteries for the theory of evolution. Contrary to what New Scientist magazine claims, Randerson’s accounts fail to shed any light on the subject. The aim of this paper is to reveal the inconsistencies in Randerson’s claims.

At the beginning of his article, Randerson sets out a number of examples of intra- and inter-species cooperation:

• The way that worker ants abandon their own reproductive interests to undertake dangerous duties in the service of the queen
• The way that vampire bats sometimes regurgitate the blood they have sucked for neighboring bats with whom they have no direct relation
• The way that polyps living in coral are unable to survive without the presence of photosynthetic algae in their tissues
• The way that trees exchange nutriments with fungi attached to their roots
• The way that termites owe their ability to digest wood to symbiotic bacteria in their digestive systems
• The way that when a pair of the hairless, blind rats who live in groups of around 80 in underground colonies in East Africa, breed, the other members undertake the care of the young and the defense of the nest.
• The way that, again in East Africa, the members of a kingfisher colony set about hunting fish for a breeding pair which can only be their very distant relatives instead of breeding themselves

Following these examples, Randerson makes the following comment: “Cooperation is everywhere we look, but how does working for others help an organism to pass on its own genes? …So how did cooperation ever get going?” (“Together we are stronger,” New Scientist vol. 177 issue 2386 – 15 March 2003)

Randerson offers some clues as to the answer he will be giving to this question, and indicates that he will be enquiring into cooperative behavior within the framework of “advantages of passing on to genes.” It will be useful to us here to provide some information about cooperation and genes. It is a known fact that many living things which engage in cooperation divide responsibilities amongst themselves, and do so in an organized and obedient manner.

Cooperation in nature can be exceedingly complex. The organization of this division of labor reaches its highest level in social insects such as ants, termites and bees. Millions of living things perform their responsibilities in the daily life of the colony in complete harmony and discipline.

Even more interesting is the way that a member, quite unaware of the general progress of the work, acts in full knowledge the whole time of where to stop and what needs to be done. For instance, when large numbers of bees come together to build the honeycomb, the bee, with no knowledge of the comb’s general appearance at that particular moment, never makes a mistake that could lead to an abnormality when construction is finished. When one considers the large numbers of bees involved and the way they never make a mistake in any stage of the whole plan, it can be seen that they must be being directed from a common center. That is the only way in which organized structures can be made in a disciplined fashion without chaos resulting.

This perfect cooperation reveals an evident contradiction in the “philosophy” of Darwin’s theory of evolution. That is because the theory maintains that there is a constant struggle for survival in nature. That struggle stands in complete opposition to cooperative behavior. In this struggle individuals will always be expected to put their own interests first in order to save their own lives.

In the 20th century, evolutionists had to accept that it was impossible to overcome that question with the concept of a struggle between individuals. They therefore developed theses dealing with cooperation at the genetic level. At the basis of these theses rests the idea that since siblings possess the same sets of chromosomes handed down from the mother and father, it is enough for one sibling to pass its genes on to the subsequent generation. In that sense, evolutionists claim that for an individual to sacrifice itself should not be thought of as a violation of evolution, and that a living thing which does sacrifice itself for its siblings represents no obstacle to the passing on of the genes to subsequent generations. They propose that the genes which travel in the human body from one generation to the next should be regarded as selfish creatures which think of nothing but their own survival.

Yet this scenario, which attributes consciousness to genes, cannot account for self-sacrifice, since such behavior requires a knowledge of the situation facing another and a desire to help that other being. It is evident that there is no such outward-looking, conscious decision-making mechanism in genes. Genes cannot know which living thing’s body they are in. They cannot establish communications with genes in the bodies of other living things nor send messages to the living thing they occupy leading it even to kill itself. Genes possess no ability to think or feel, and consist of totally “unconscious” molecules. Evolutionists’ locating the genes at the center of self-sacrifice is no more logical than thinking that the vegetables in a greengrocer’s shop sacrifice themselves in order to stop other vegetables being purchased by a customer. Neither genes nor vegetables possess feelings of self-sacrifice or the capacity to think of the existence of others.

The thesis relied on in New Scientist magazine to account for cooperation is one which we have already mentioned: the view that self-sacrifice rests in the genes. This thesis, belonging to a geneticist by the name of William Hamilton, rests on a mathematical calculation first proposed in a book in 1963. According to this, self-sacrifice in living things is made to depend on a genetic closeness to other living things. Known as Hamilton’s law, this claim states that an organism should only help another organism if B/C is greater than 1/r. In this equation, B is the gain from the recipient’s ability to have a larger number of offspring, C is the loss the provider will suffer in its ability to provide a larger number of offspring, and r is the number of common genes they share.

According to this calculation, a mother and child have a co-efficient of relatedness of 0.5, since they share half the same genes. The co-efficient of relatedness in cousins is put at 0.125 on average. Examples are provided that in order for a mother to be helped the gain for the mother needs to be twice the damage inflicted on the child, and for a cousin to be helped the benefit to the cousin needs to be eight times the damage incurred by the other person.

It is stated in New Scientist that this mathematical model is compatible with some behavior of living things in nature, and the example is cited of the way Belding ground squirrels assist their close relatives. Rats are cited as another example in this situation, and the article states that the probability of a rat giving its fellows warning of a jackal’s approach is higher if those other rats are close relatives.

Yet these figures, which appear to be “scientific,” have little meaning. The attempt to account for the behavior cited here by means of a mathematical model based on genetic relationships is nothing but an expression of total helplessness on the part of evolutionists. Close inspection reveals that New Scientist imposes a condition in relating the Hamilton model. “An organism should only help another organism if B/C is greater than 1/r.” How can this be? When an ant sees another ant trying to carry a heavy seed to the nest does it enquire into their genetic closeness, calculate the loss to itself and the gain to the other ant, then divide the resulting figures and compare their co-efficient of relatedness? These figures have no meaning outside Hamilton himself, in other words in the real world.

Does the fact of the rat warning its fellows in the example given indicate that it performs all these calculations? Of course not. Does a dog chase a cat because this mathematical equation fails to come up with the necessary figure? Does the dog compare its own genes with those of the cat and turn hostile to it because the numbers fail to add up? New Scientist’s claim is quite nonsensical …

Furthermore, the examples given in New Scientist invalidate this model right from the outset. The beginning of the article contains the examples of the altruistic behavior of the vampire bat and the kingfisher, which we have already seen, yet it is stressed that these take place despite there being only a “distant relationship.” This demonstrates that the mathematical model in question is invalid. It might be better called Hamilton’s hypothesis rather than Hamilton’s law. What is more, the hypothesis is an invalid one.

At the root of these forced theses lie evolutionists’ attempts to explain altruistic behavior as an instinct which emerged with evolution. The theory of evolution imposes the condition that a feature must be beneficial in order to be maintained and not eliminated by natural selection. Yet self-sacrifice brings no benefit at all to the living thing engaging in it, and is on the contrary something harmful, and sometimes even lethal. For that reason, if there were such a thing as evolution self-sacrifice should long since have disappeared. Yet it does exist: and, what is more, in all of nature. Evolutionists seeking to reconcile this contradiction suggest that things resembling it actually stem from selfishness dependent on the genes, as in Hamilton’s thesis. It is clear that this is nonsense. A living thing cannot think “It would be mathematically more productive for me to sacrifice myself in order that my genes be handed on,” and neither can the genes in its body say, “Let us force the animal whose body we inhabit to sacrifice itself so that we can be better transmitted to a subsequent generation.”

When we consider altruism in nature as it really is, without distorting it with such evolutionist maneuvering, an important truth emerges. There is a “program” in living things which causes them to display behavior which may not be to their own advantage. The only explanation for this program, which cannot be explained by evolution, is creation. God, who creates living things, has given them certain instincts, which include altruism. These instincts may be in the genes or else lie in some other as yet undiscovered factor. Whatever the case, it is impossible to account for these in terms of evolution, and it is evident that they were created for a specific purpose.

The conclusion which scientific and rational evaluation leads us to is totally compatible with the truths given in the Qur’an.

God reveals in the Qur’an that He is the inspiration behind the behavior of living things. In one verse, God reveals that the bee is inspired to produce honey in order to benefit human beings:

Your Lord revealed to the bees: “Build dwellings in the mountains and the trees, and also in the structures which men erect. Then eat from every kind of fruit and travel the paths of your Lord, which have been made easy for you to follow.” From inside them comes a drink of varying colors, containing healing for mankind. There is certainly a Sign in that for people who reflect. (Qur’an, 16: 68-69)


The cooperation and altruistic behavior in living things represent one of the gravest blows to the theory of evolution. The evolutionist theses put forward by New Scientist in an attempt to overcome this are of no scientific value. The magazine is engaging in Darwinist propaganda by bringing outmoded evolutionist ideas from the 1960s back onto the agenda as if they were something new. Our advice to the magazine is to give up these dated concepts and to accept that the cooperation in nature has dealt a terrible blow to the theory of evolution. 

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