Macroevolution vs Microevolution: Whats the difference? lol

I’ve seen Christian apologists say they believe more so in Microevolution than the other. In the simplest terms can someone give a summary of what they are and how they differ and why Christians seem to be more so leaning toward Micro?


Hi Luna. I’m no expert, so others can give a better answer, but in a nutshell, Macroevolution (also called Darwinian Evolution sometimes) talks of a common ancester. We all started off as fish which crawled out of the sea and became mammals, which evolved into differnt types - cats, dogs, monkeys and eventually humans. Many Christians reject this idea as it is seen to contradict the idea that God made each type or kind of animal on the sixth day, and the fact that humans are made in the image of God. There are some scientists who are firm Bible believing Christians who see no contradiction here. I don’t know enough to comment. Microevolution might be better termed ‘adaptation’. This is where we see changes or ‘adaptations’ within the natural world. Darwin’s finches whose beaks changed to deal with their environment, or a certain type of moth in England whose colour changed to better camoflague on trees that were getting darker due to pollution. These are changes we can see happening and so Christians can agree that this happens. Also, these changes are not proof of macroevolution. The finches were still birds, the moths were still moths - they didn’t become different types of creatures. I hope that this helps.


@Luna my definition may be over simplistic but:
Macroevolution - A lion turns into an elephant
Microevolution - An animal moves to a cold environment and its fur changes to keep it warm.


I think the article in the link below will make us appreciate this issue more. It is a topic for Biologists. :slight_smile:

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Lion turns into Elephant… Explain that one Darwin!! Thanks Brian, I really enjoyed that.

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I can’t really add to anything from above… really enjoyed that chat though.

People describe macroevolution as a change from one species to another species and microevolution as an adaption within a species to it’s environment. That is also probably simplistic but might help as a starting point.


Thanks Brian @brianlalor. Yes your explanation was simple yet it hits the core of the question. [quote=“brianlalor, post:3, topic:20431”]
Macroevolution - A lion turns into an elephant
And I really like this. :grin: it makes my day.

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I have a M.S. in biology, with a focus on evolutionary biology, so let me step in with my 2 cents:

First, these aren’t really terms the scientific community uses. That said, when they are used, they GENERALLY (and most accurately) are used as follows:

And no, a lion turning into an elephant is not a good example, that’s not evolution. lol. :slight_smile:


@EvoFaith so what are the correct terms to use?

Could you explain why some apologists think Microevolution is better?

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If you can provide a link, sure.
I can spitball though: it’s easier to observe, and difficult to argue against. In the last 30 years or so, we have seen several instances of “microevolution” in real time. (the link I provided previously being a good example)
Any argument against that would boil down to either (1) the scientists are lying, (2) the scientists had an error in data collection, or (3) “it didn’t happen.” Not a lot of meat on those bones.


Thanks EvoFaith!
In many christian discussions they talk about micro- and makroevolution.
But that a christian terms.
If you´re in a discussion with friend and students, which believe in evolution. There is only one kind of evolution so please be carefull with words like micro and makroevoltion, because in my experience they´re not helping at any point.

Greets from a chemist :wink:

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I hope this video helps a bit

Thanks for the link! I think this is a good example of another topic raised in a separate thread. That is, that Darwin described how life began. Darwin explicitly denied making such a claim, and intentionally stood FAR apart from it.

That said, this was a very useful explanation of the micro/macro construct. It is definitely not a construct scientists recognize. That’s not to say that the 5 items he describe aren’t accurate, per se. It’s just that they are not separate as he provides them. For example, I’m not sure what the difference is between speciation and macroevolution are as he presents them. Even his own presentation seems to indicate they are the same, separated only by degree.

Also, at ~3:10, he combines evolution and adaptation. A major faux pas.
His definition of speciation at 3:25 is also severely lacking. He only applies one of 5 different recognized definitions (here, the geographic definition). He ignores the others, which would be more problematic to lump together in the same way.

Finally, his characterization of microbial evolution is wrong. Literally every sentence.

But I appreciate the video simply so we can frame this conversation more accurately.

Hi, @EvoFaith

Interesting reply. I am a bit puzzled when you say that literally every sentence of the microbial evolution segment is wrong. Could you please elaborate on this?

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Well, problem number one is that he lumps viruses in with bacteria. They are not the same and they do not evolve the same at all. I mean, for one, there is an argument that viruses aren’t even alive, which raises the question of whether they can per se evolve at all. I’d agree they can, but not like living organisms, but that is very much an open question.

Second, it ignores the fact that many bacteria evolve THROUGH viruses. (Look up ‘plasmids’ for more info there, and ignore all the video game related stuff).

Third, he seems to suggest that because bacteria are found in populations of millions/billions, that this somehow indicates that they are more susceptible to evolution. This is also false. (see me previous link to the Grants’ work). Shoot, you can see bacterial evolution occur in an agar plate layered with antibacterial compounds. Population size has VERY little to do with the potential impact of evolution, and in fact the smaller the population, the greater impact selective pressures have.

He also uses the term “genetic drift” incorrectly.

Finally, he tries to state that the evolution bacteria experience do not fundamentally change their nature. He’s going to have to explain development of commensal organisms, the prokaryotic theory of mitochondria and chloroplasts, etc. Shoot, slime molds present a real problem to his position.

I shouldn’t be so dismissive, and its a bad habit of mine, and if the author ever sees this, I apologize. It’s a hang up of mine.

It’s just that mistakes in biology aside, hes just making a bad argument, and it revolves around time. ALL of his distinctions are basically based on arbitrary time scales. SOME of what hes saying may be more likely if you are working on a short term time scale (generations). But if you push them out longer, the distinctions he is making simply disappear. WHat’s the difference between the evolution of bacteria via plasmids, and the development of a flagella? Adding an entire structure to an organism is exactly what he says cannot happen, and yet it can, easily, and we do it on purpose all the time.



What do you think is the bad argument that he is making?

Fuz defines evolution simply as change over time. In this segment he is talking about microorganisms, which include viruses, bacteria and other single celled organisms. Both viruses and bacteria can experience change over time, so they all can evolve. Would you agree with this?

I agree that some viruses and some bacteria may be closely associated as to drive their mutual evolution. Even though this is not mentioned in the video, I don’t think this makes it wrong. I also am not sure what you mean with plasmids in this section. Plasmids have some similarities to viruses, but they are not the same thing. Not sure I got your message there. Just curious: Is there an example in which a plasmid carries with it the information for a full bacterial structural component? (Not metabolical)

Don’t you think that a large population of organisms have by mere probability more chances of developing random changes?

Would like to hear your thoughts on this.


@Francisco_Delgado Thanks for the reply. To be clear, I don’t think his arguments are all WRONG, per se, just poor, and no doing us any favors.

I think the issue I have with the video is that in its attempt to simply a complicated topic, it makes some rather significant faux pas, rendering its information less helpful than it might otherwise be.

For example, his definition of “evolution” while semantically correct, leaves out the other half of the full name of the theory: “evolution by natural selection.” This is a HUGE difference. For example, say you observed a population of birds. Over a few years, the average beak size changed by narrowing by 20%. Sure, it “evolved” because it “changed over time,” but just as important to science is the answer to “what caused the change?” By chopping that second half off, you would be left with a paradigm that includes adaptation… such as that population of birds living largely on the leeward side of the island because the windward side was too annoying to fly around on. (NOTE, this is a mistake that many people new to evolutionary biology make quite often.) This distinction matters because the evolution biologists speak of is in response to selective pressures. This goes toward your question:

Don’t you think that a large population of organisms have by mere probability more chances of developing random changes?

First, there are no "random changes to populations. There can be random changes in individuals within a population that can, based on the impact those changes have on the ability for those individuals to reproduce, become more prevalent over time within the population until they become the dominant trait. This seems like a semantic difference, but it is not. Evolutionary theory says that changes only occur at a population scale if they confer some kind of reproductive benefit to the individuals. In fact, changes happen all the time to individuals that are not carried over to the population because they are detrimental.

However, second, population size is only one of MANY factors that impact population evolutionary rate, and it’s not the largest, by far. Generation time, sunlight exposure, population structure and mobility, genetic drift, founder effects, external forces like disease and predators, reproductive means and behavior, and others, all play a part. Shoot, generation time alone is likely the most important factor in evolutionary speed (e.g., the use of fruit flies and mice in experiments). Also consider that many bacteria and yeasts enter into spore phases in which they do not change at all, despite their numbers. Plus, the rate of viral evolution is actually VERY slow in many cases (owing to the fact that it is not “alive”). Many fungi are incredibly active in an evolutionary context, but their populations are infinitesimal fraction of a microbe’s.
So, to just say, “microbes exist in high population numbers therefore they evolve fast,” is too simplistic a statement to be true. It will be true for some species, but not others.

There is also an aspect here (that I am admittedly not 100 familiar with, mechanistically) related to an organism’s ability to “fix” genetic changes. Some organisms are great at repairing/resisting mutations so they do not have a chance to propagate, while others are less capable, so changes are given a chance to be tested in terms of selective pressures. For “way over my head” kind of description of some of these factors:

The problem I have with the microbial evolution bit is that he acts like it is somehow unique from the application of the theory of evolution by natural selection to multicellular organisms, but doesn’t define how. AFAIK, there are no meaningful (in this context) differences that could be pointed to that would allow someone to separate them out such that the arguments for one would not apply to the other. I.e., what is the difference between how a species of paramecia evolve versus a species of ant?

So, looping back around, the guy’s not lying. But the five groups are not well or meaningfully defined or separated, and so the system falls apart under a little scrutiny, and as a result, there are two issues:

1- The ideas he raises to support the first three in their ability to synthesize with a Christian worldview are applicable to the latter two he says are not.
2- The ideas he raises to indicate the second two are problematic equally apply to the first three.

Is there an example in which a plasmid carries with it the information for a full bacterial structural component?
There are many examples of whole-change payloads by plasmid. Several famous ones are for flagella. Here is the first I found after a quick search:

That said, why differentiate between structural changes and metabolic? There is no real difference.

I was eager to join this thread as soon as I saw the topic of evolution being discussed among Christians. I would like to ask and see if anyone else has come across Biologos, an organization that is committed to bringing science and faith together. The organization is specifically postured around the topic of evolutionary creationism (God bringing about the creation of man and other organisms through the process of evolution.) If not I highly recommend it for those who would like to explore evolution in an intellectually honest way while also holding close to their Christian faith.

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I would like to understand your view a bit more. Do you think that evolution is a directed or an undirected process?

What is the role of natural selection in your view?

@Francisco_Delgado Those are very good questions, and ones I am still working through, so my answer may not be the most worked-out. I understand evolutionary biology well enough, but synthesizing it with my faith is the current struggle.

The answer to your first question (appropriate coming from an attorney) is BOTH. The term “evolution” isn’t specific enough for me to give a specific answer. On one hand, Man has an impact on the world, intentionally and unintentionally. The common example are the moths in England that went from a mostly white population to a mostly dark grey population because of the aesthetic impact on the color of tree bark during the industrial revolution. That is evolution by unintentional human selection. Because I take a loosely Arminianist view of human choice and free will, I would file this under “undirected” evolution.

The creation of new dog breeds, on the other hand, would be evolution by intentional (“directed”) human selection.
The example of the Grants’ finches (linked previously) is an example of evolution by natural selection. The answer here is, “I don’t know.” At a fundamental level, I would likely categorize this as “directed” evolution, as God willed the weather that resulted in the change in beak shape within the population. Which neatly segues into your next question re the role of natural selection.

First, I’m not sure if you are using evolution and natural selection interchangeably. I will assume you aren’t, as they are not the same thing. That said, the “role” of natural selection is on the same scale as what is the “role” of sublimation of ice to vapor. They’re processes. They accomplish things based on context, but in a vacuum they aren’t a thing. If you mean, “what is the role of evolution by natural selection” it’s a narrower question, but in what context?

That said, I think the answer is: “I don’t know.” I lack the perspective and understanding to say. And I’m not sure anyone does.

Questioning the “role” of something like a process of nature assumes a certain amount of either anthropomorphic quality, or an individual intelligence behind the process and the context(s) it falls into. I’m game for the latter obviously, but then we’re talking about the long term (millenia) will of God. And to that, I can’t shrug enough. I ask that question every day! :slight_smile: