Why Do People Refer To Evolution As Being Clever?

Last updated on July 26th, 2022

Using the term ‘clever’ to apply to evolution

Quite often on television programmes one hears the presenter say that a creature is clever for having evolved in a particular way. This use of the term ‘clever’ seems to suggest that creatures cause themselves to evolve in order to overcome problems.

Are organisms clever enough to influence evolution?

According to the theory of evolution, individual organisms cannot influence their own evolution.  If one listens to television presenters, it would seem that they believe otherwise.

The marvellous spatuletail hummingbird has four tail feathers, two of which grow to around three times the length of the bird during the breeding season. Each of the two long feathers has a large spatule (disc) at the end, and these are waved about vigorously in order to attract a mate. The weight of the feathers and the required movement for the mating display use up a considerable amount of the bird’s energy. After the breeding season the two long feathers are shed – obviously to remove the encumbrance.

Watching a television programme about the bird tells us that it evolved the two extraordinary feathers in order to become more successful in attracting a mate, and how clever it was to come up with such an idea. But was the bird clever? How did it know that the feathers wouldn’t scare away a potential mate, or put them off? And why produce something so complex and energy consuming when all the other hummingbirds, and even very drab birds, successfully find mates without the use of such methods? It seems an awful lot of bother to go to.

Moreover, how could these ‘clever’ birds possibly have influenced the production of their feathers? Are the presenters suggesting that one of these birds decided that it required something more flashy, and this triggered a change in just the right part of their DNA in order to create the feathers?

Scientists previously suggested that early forms of bird ‘dropped’ their teeth in order to achieve flight – the teeth taking up unnecessary weight. The question is, how did these early forms of bird know that their teeth were preventing them from flying?  And how could they possibly change their own DNA in order to do this?  The suggestion is absurd.

The Early Spider Orchid is another life form referred to as clever, having seemed to alter its appearance in order to attract the male buffish mining bee. Not only does the form of its flower look similar to the female bee, but the exact same pheromone released by female buffish mining bees to attract the males is also given off by the orchid. On top of this, the orchid produces a stronger form of the pheromone than the female bees, ensuring that the male bees are more likely to pollinate the orchid.

How could this ‘clever’ orchid have known what the bees look like? How could it know what pheromone is given off by the female bees, and how strong it is?  And how could it possibly create a copy of the pheromone?

Evidence of a subconscious belief in intelligent design

According to evolution, changes in organisms are random, and cannot be influenced by the organisms themselves.  Why, therefore, do television presenters refer to organisms as being clever for evolving? There can be nothing clever about it at all.

The reason why people who believe in evolution use the term ‘clever’ to describe it is because they see intelligent design in it. The very idea that a random mutation occurred and developed so perfectly is unbelievable.  The generation of such changes is a highly complex process, and the thought of them being random doesn’t seem possible.  When one says that something is clever it suggests that it was planned and created, not something that occurred at random.

Those who believe in evolution need to stop being ambiguous: either evolution occurs through random mutations, or creatures cause mutations to occur through their own desire and intellect.