Visiting the Galapagos Islands

Visiting the Galapagos Islands - Galapagos Tortoise
Galapagos Tortoise

In 2013, we had the blessing of visiting the Galapagos Islands, and we spent some time at the Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora. When Charles Darwin studied the living creatures on the Galapagos, what he saw precipitated his understanding of how God’s design in nature works. At the time of Darwin, organized religion taught that every living thing on Earth was created independently by God, and Darwin had been indoctrinated with that belief. However, the Bible does not say that. 

While visiting the Galapagos Islands, Darwin examined the tortoises, iguanas, penguins, finches, sea lions, and other life forms. It made him realize that each creature had characteristics that enabled them to survive on each island’s habitat. The variations were minor, but they ensured survival, and it was clear that not all of the islands were of the same age. This led, 1859, to the publication of his book On The Origin of Species and to what Darwin called “evolution by natural selection.”

Darwin did not view his studies as contradicting the Bible. Furthermore, neither did anyone I talked with at Darwin Station or any other research facility in the Galapagos. In I Corinthians 15:39, Paul defines the various forms of life as the flesh of fish, the flesh of birds, the flesh of beasts, and the flesh of man. He did not say flesh of bluebird, the flesh of robin, the flesh of crow, the flesh of hawk, etc. It was not Darwin’s research but speculations that grew out of Darwin’s work that put human guesses at odds with the Bible.

Since 2013, genetic studies have shown that the animals in the Galapagos came from somewhere else. DNA sequencing has shown that the giant Galapagos tortoises have relatives living on the west coast of South America. The DNA sequences are over 90% identical. Because of the modifications, the tortoises can live in the Galapagos, where conditions are very different from South America. The Galapagos sea lion is almost identical to the California sea lion. The marine iguanas in the Galapagos are basically the same as the land lizards in Mexico and Central America. The Galapagos penguin is a virtual twin to the banded penguins of Peru. The DNA sequences give a clear picture of how the volcanic islands of the Galapagos became inhabited.

Visiting the Galapagos Islands in 1831-1836, Darwin didn’t have any way of knowing the genomes of these creatures, but he saw the similarities. We know that animals can be transported long distances by hurricanes, tsunamis, typhoons, and floating debris. The animals that migrated to the Galapagos adapted to what they found. For example, Iguanas adapted to eating marine algae, and they multiplied in the Galapagos.

We are now using the design that God built into life and what we learned in the Galapagos to produce plants and animals that can provide more food and more nutritious food. The study of genetics is opening doors to our understanding of how to “take care of the garden (planet earth)” that God has placed in our care (Genesis 2:15). Let us do that wisely.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

You can learn more about our visit to the Galapagos Islands from the Does God Exist? Journal for May/June 2013. It is available to read on the website at THIS LINK. Another reference used in this post is the Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Indiana, for October 9, 2021, page B5.