I would assume that most people would say that the purpose of evolution is survival. Every adaptation, mutation, and change happens ultimately so that the species can survive. This is how I have always been taught.

Of course, survival is relative. Can we say that a house fly survived when its life span is less than a month? How about the Mayfly? Not much survival there as its life is anywhere from thirty-minutes to a day. Obviously, if survival is the purpose, these two species have not faired well when it comes to evolution!

If “survival of the fittest” is the theory behind evolution, then the most advanced species would be the “fittest.” They will have adapted the most in order to survive the longest. Darwin believed survival of the fittest (which he used synonymously with “natural selection”) described the species that were “better adapted for immediate, local environment.” Better adapted for what? Love? Happiness? Technological breakthroughs? Euphoria? No, survival.

Here is my question (and it is not loaded): For evolutionists (whether theistic or naturalistic): If survival is the instigator of evolution, why has man not evolved to the point that we live longer lives? Why don’t we survive longer? Why does the Giant Tortoise live so much longer than man? How have Turkey Buzzards, Swans, and Parrots managed to “out evolve” us in this most central area? All of them have a longer life span than man. Why is it that man’s lifespan is only equal to that of a catfish? 

Here is a list:

  • Bowhead Whale: 200 years
  • Giant Tortoise: 150 years
  • Box Turtle: 120 years
  • Turkey Buzzard: 120 years
  • Swan: 100 years
  • Carp: 100 years
  • Parrot: 80 years
  • Elephant: 70 years
  • Alligator: 68 years
  • Catfish: 69 years
  • Man: 67 years
  • Eagle: 55 years
  • Giant Salamander: 55 years
  • Lion: 30 years
  • Cobra: 28 years
  • Beaver: 19 years
  • Dog: 17 years
  • Cottontail: 10 years
  • Mouse: 4 years
  • House fly: one month
  • Mayfly: thirty minutes to a day

If we change to combat enemies (that is why spiders have venom and porcupines have quills), isn’t the greatest enemy natural death itself? It seems that after millions of years of evolution, nature would see longer natural life as the first and most important mutation to instigate. Other species were able to do it. Why not us?

You may say that we have been getting better over the last few million years. But, relatively speaking, this is not true. There are some periods where we have actually declined (e.g. in the Upper Paleolithic period we lived longer than the following Neolithic period). Technology and medicine has made life expectancy expand much in the last hundred years, but naturalistic evolution has not. Before technology, man’s lifespan gravitated between 30 to 40 years.

Where am I wrong here? Am I assuming that survival is the issue? But if it is not, what is? Being technologically savvy? Being happy? Articulating yourself in community? Having fun? Why would such things motivate mutations? It is hard enough to find an “oughtness” in survival, much less happiness and enjoyment. 

Am I assuming that man is the most evolved? Is this a bad assumption? Maybe we are really only as evolved as a catfish (or nearly so)?

What constitutes a positive evolutionary “advancement”?

Is the Turkey Buzzard more evolved than me?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    66 replies to "Questions for Evolutionists: Is the Turkey Buzzard More Evolved than Me?"

    • Michael T.

      Again Jugulum mostly beat me to the punch. I just wanted to emphasize one point.

      “In other words, something is pushing them toward survival. The species only starts with one, therefore, at some point the sigular entity wanted to survive.”

      When evolutionists talk about “goals”, “progress”, or “instincts” or any quality like this they are using anthropomorphic terms or terms that help us understand. Yet as Jugulum pointed out there is no goal, no progress, no anything.

      Evolution is simply a description of cause and effect as to why some genetic traits (and the species that carry them) die out while others continue on. Why did dinosaurs go extinct while mammal thrived? One had genes that were conducive to survival when the environment changed and one didn’t. Thus those genes which conducive to survival were passed on and those that were not conducive died out.

      Yet don’t confuse “survival” with being the “goal” of the evolutionary process. It isn’t since again the evolutionary process is simply descriptive, not teleological.

    • Mark

      Hello CMP,

      These are interesting questions, thank you for asking them. You also said, “My biggest fascination with this is that all the people that I feel like are respectable and without an agenda come down on the side of evolution these days. It seems pretty well accepted and I respect scholarly consensus when agendas don’t seem to be the motivating factor.”

      I just have to say that I just don’t think I’ve ever met a completely unbiased person. Everyone has a religion, even Atheists, and everyone thinks the world would be a better place if everyone else adhered to their religion. Atheists are no different from Christians in this regard. At the heart of every religion is the question, “what is truth?” People generally don’t get mad or defensive when making an argument for their favorite flavor of ice cream because it just doesn’t matter that much. But they do when defending their religion. An Atheist isn’t going to come to this blog because they really hope chocolate will beat vanilla in the mind of public opinion. They come here to proselytize for their faith.

      Every big question we can ask is ultimately religious in nature and therefore I don’t think an “agenda-less” motive is possible.


    • JS Allen

      Jugulum makes a key point here:

      The leap of faith isn’t at the mechanism for preserving or favoring certain genes. The leap of faith is that mutations will produce those genes.

      IMO, the things CMP is asking about are all things that ancient Jews, or any other nomadic shepherds, would’ve accepted as common sense. Environmental changes will wipe out some species and cause other species to thrive. In fact, the Biblical shepherds would do things like culling the herds, selecting for specific traits, and so on. And God Himself selectively wiped out certain human populations, and repeatedly restored populations from small remnants (what evolutionary biology would call a “bottleneck”).

      Selection is a central concept of the Bible, so it seems Christians should easily understand the concept of *Natural* selection, even if they disagree with the idea that Nature operates independently of God’s will. There is nothing mysterious about it.

    • […] Parchment and Pen: Questions for Evolutionists: Is the Turkey Buzzard More Evolved than Me? […]

    • Ed Kratz

      From where I am in the stadium, I still think you are answering according to the prevailing interpretation of what is being observed without asking whether this is plausible.

      My next blog post question for Evolutionists: Are dogs more advanced than humans? Why can they swim from birth and we have yet to aquire such a helpful survival skill?

    • Michael T.


      There is no such thing in evolution as “most evolved” since evolution is merely a descriptive term that has no end goal and no teleology inherent to it. One can only term something the “most evolved” if evolution has an end goal point which is doesn’t.

      However, if you are going to insist on using this term you must understand it this way. The “most evolved” creature is that creature best capable of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment. Thus in the ocean fish are “more evolved” then humans while on land vice versa. Or to take you’re example the ability to swim from birth that dogs have does not provide them with a significant survival advantage over humans in the present environment. However, if tomorrow the entire world was flooded save for some small islands the ability to swim from birth might provide dogs with a survival advantage in the new environment.

      Who is the “most evolved” thus depends on the environment in which you are placing them. Taken to a extreme one celled green algae are more evolved then humans if the environment one has to survive in is over 500 degrees F.

    • Scott F

      You know, I heard the host of a kids nature show talk about how much more evolved humans are than Lemurs. I hate to have my son hear me scream at the TV like that 🙂

      As to the difficulties in “creating” information posed by positive mutations, I have started to think of it this way: No information is ever actually created in evolution. The information is already there IN THE ENVIRONMENT. The genes merely REFLECT the environment by being those that match the organism with the prevailing conditions.

    • Scott F

      I understand your difficulties with this whole “More Evolved” issue, Michael. It is a tough concept to get your head around and requires that you shed a number of assumptions (or dare I say, “Memes!”) Not many people seem to have accomplished this outside of us Dawkins Worshipers (The Selfish Gene was a great insight). I assume you have read some non-apologetic accounts of evolution. Keep trying. You are right in that the consensus is as strong as you are going to find.

    • val

      Is man the most evolved? Why?
      If not, what determines the success of evolution?
      If it is only survival of the species, why evolve beyond an single celled organizam? or a fish? or a whale?

      Umm, if you really want to understand this, you need to do some heavy reading – or take a few biology college courses.

      Most evolved? All species alive today are equally evolved – there is no most or least – all species survive AND reproduce successfully, therefor, they are all evolved equally.

      Second question is answered in the first – over history populations that are able to produce offspring again and again are the most successful – ie all species here today.

      One of the most misunderstood quotes – Survival of the fittest – was not uttered by Darwin first, but:

      Survival of the Fittest: wikipedia – look it up!
      Herbert Spencer first used the phrase — after reading Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species — in his Principles of Biology (1864), in which he drew parallels between his own economic theories and Darwin’s biological ones, writing “This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called ‘natural selection’, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.”

      And is not a complete capsulation of evolution at all. You and the amoeba are both equally evolved, but you are more complex -that may or may not be a benefit after a nuclear war, for example – whichever species survives will (if only one does) continue on – the other will join 99.9% of all species ever to walk this earth – and become extinct. Evolution is not efficient – it just is what it is.

      The “breath of life from God” can be interpreted as many different things and doesn’t equate with us as a species in my mind, but rather a sprit or soul that goes beyond our fleshly bodies. Looking for proof in the make-up of the species is like looking for the tree of life in Iraq – don’t bother!…

    • Boz

      Are dogs more advanced than humans?

      That depends on what you mean by advanced. What is your definition of ‘advanced’ in this question?

      There is no such thing in evolution as “most evolved”.

      Why can they[dogs] swim from birth and we have yet to aquire such a helpful survival skill?

      A trait provides an evolutionary advantage if it, on average, produces more offspring.

      Does an expert human swimmer produce more descendants than an inept human swimmer? No.

      If we lived in the movie ‘waterworld’, the answer to this questions would probably be Yes.

      Or if we lived in a culture where we were all obliged to throw all 1-day old babies in to a swimming pool to drown(or swim and live), then the trait swimming-from-birth would produce more offspring, and over time, the trait would exist in all humans.

    • Boz

      CMP, do you understand the following? This is the basis of how evolution works.

      Mutation, Inheritance, Selection

      1. Mutation. New traits appear through the mutation of genes.

      2. Inheritance. species have many varied traits. These traits are inherited by the offspring.

      3. Selection. Traits that produce more offspring become more common than traits that produce less offspring.

    • Cadis

      A dog would be more advanced, IMO, not necessarily that opinion of evolutionary scientists, but IMO, would be, when the dog bends his knee in prayer and worship recognizing his creator and pays hommage to the God of all creation. The dog is like Balaam’s ass..dumb! whether barking or speaking, the dog is not created to advance beyond a status of a dog. The same with an ameoba is not to go beyond an ameoba. God “formed” man from the dust and breathed into his (Adam’s) nostrils life. It’s not that hard to comprehend.

    • Val

      Cadis says a dog would be more ‘advanced’ when he can pray – we are talking about evolution, if praying helps human’s survive over and above other species then that would be an advantage that could advance humans. Just to stir it up a little, the most numerous species are bacteria, do they use prayer to their advantage while they populate the planet? – no, so praying is not an evolutionary advantage, nor technically an advancement, if we measure advancement by population. Praying is something humans do because our more complex brains can not only plan for the future (make tools, store food, bury dead) – as other hominids did, but we can also conceptualize life after death or at least contemplate what happens after we die – part of our pre-frontal cortex complexity – something dogs, amoebas and bacteria lack. That complexity does not give us a more ‘evolved’ status, just a different mechanism to make our way in life – perhaps freedom from future worry would allow species to reproduce more, thus gaining an evolutionary advantage. Don’t mix up faith (spiritual) with evolutionary advancement (ability to carry ones genes on far into the future).

      To Cadis: So did God form man out of the dust before or after he made plants? Who is correct? the author of Genesis chapter 1 or 2? Dump the (impossible) literal interpretation and stick to the actual topic – which species is most evolved (not most spiritual, that is a given)?

    • Cadis


      In the evolutionary scheme a species more likely to advance, beyond the endurance of man, would be the cockroach. In God’s scheme the species that will advance is the one he breathed life into and gave dominion. God’s scheme has little to do with evolutionary advancement. That also is a “given” IMO.

    • Wolf Veizer

      What is the point of this post? Did the author wake up and think he’d found a question that biologists had never thought of?

      A simple literature search would have revealed that this is a long-researched topic, and numerous reasons for the varying lifespans of different species are known.

      In the academic world, one professor will hardly venture to opine on the field of a colleague in a different specialty. If he does, at the very least he will perform (or have a grad student working for him perform) a literature review first. This is especially important if the tone is going to be critical or questioning.

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