EN17: Who hinders progress in biology and medicine?

An oft-blathered cry of evolutionists is that Biblical creationists hinder progress in science and that if children grow up without fully embracing evolutionary faith, then America will lose its technological edge. Future generations will, apparently, descend into a new Dark Age. This, despite the overwhelming historical evidence that all branches of modern science were founded and initially developed by Bible believing creationists.

Just a small sampling (courtesy of the late Dr. Henry Morris, from an appendix in The New Defender’s Study Bible) . . .

James Clerk Maxwell

• Isaac Newton: Calculus and Classical Mechanics
• Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell: Electromagnetics
• Johann Kepler: Celestial Mechanics
• Robert Boyle: Chemistry and Gas Dynamics
• Georges Cuvier: Comparative Anatomy and Vertebrate Paleontology
• George Stokes: Fluid Mechanics
• Gregor Mendel: Genetics
• Louis Agassiz: Glacial Geology
• Matthew Maury: Hydrography and Oceanography
• Lord Kelvin: Thermodynamics
. . . and so on . . .

What’s interesting is that big lies are usually employed to hide the liar’s own guilt. That’s what this blog is about. It is the religious zealotry of atheistic evolution that hinders science, especially biological science and it’s most vital application, medicine. Lee Spetner’s 2014 book, The Evolution Revolution: Why Thinking People are Rethinking the Theory of Evolution, details how biologists are blinded by a rabid commitment to neo-Darwinian evolution. Spetner’s previous book, Not by chance! Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution (1997), offered a challenge posed by many creationists, namely that no researcher has ever documented a single example of a mutation that increases genetic information. (Nothing has changed since 1997.)

Hawk eye

The information content of the ‘simplest’ bacterium is prodigious, of course, and impossible to derive by mere chemistry from some ‘primordial soup.’ I offer a simple introduction to such mathematical impossibilities in the Probabilities article in my Short Course on this site. Beyond bacteria, upward to clams, fish, reptiles, mammals, and man, the necessary increases in genetic information are awesome indeed. Mutations destroy information, analogous to coding errors that destroy the functionality of software and the machines that depend on it. No parent volunteers his child for doses of ionizing radiation, hoping that mutations will turn him into Spiderman, despite Hollywood fantasies.

In Revolution, Spetner describes how ‘Common Descent,’ which is what ‘evolution’ means to virtually everyone, is impossible on the basis of mutations and natural selection. Unfortunately, in my view, Spetner is content to retain the word ‘evolution’ as a descriptor for adaptive change, within the context of existing genomes. With that in mind, he offers the term ‘Nonrandom Evolutionary Hypothesis’ (NREH), to describe the hypothesis that organisms have built-in mechanisms that enable limited genetic changes – internal rewiring, so to speak – in response to stressful environmental triggers. The resulting adaptive phenotypic changes can be heritable and allow offspring to thrive, or at least survive, in the stressed environment.

Spetner is optimistic that as researchers document more and more cases that validate NREH, the fallacy of Common Descent will be retired. That won’t happen, because Common Descent – EVOLUTION from molecules to man – is held tightly as a worldview, a religious commitment, by the secularists that control government, academia, education, and the media.

Yet thoughtful creationists (moi, perhaps) aren’t trying to change the whole world, but rather offer a Gospel lifeboat to those few who might still have an open and rational mind. Apologetic arguments can be helpful to some, as they were to me, when I was a rabid young atheist. So let’s see what case Spetner can make . . .

Thomas Nagel, a professor of philosophy at New York University, was honest to admit (2012): “. . . for a long time I have found the materialist account of how we and our fellow organisms came to exist hard to believe, including the standard version of how the evolutionary process works . . . What is lacking, to my knowledge, is a credible argument that the story has a non-negligible probability of being true.”

An unusual admission from an atheist, not to mention an academic. So why does he cling to the non-credible? In 1997 Nagel confessed, “It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God, and, naturally, hope that I’m right about my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” And so you have it – it’s not about logic, evidence, or rationality; it’s about gut-level rebellion.

Jean Baptiste Lamarck introduced the idea that characteristics acquired during an organisms life could be passed on, inherited by the offspring. Darwin embraced Lamarck’s idea in the sixth edition of The Origin of Species, but Lamarckism fell out of favor, especially as Mendelian genetics developed over the decades to follow. Especially when genes were tied to DNA in the 1950s, the paradigm seemed secure, that all of inheritance flowed from DNA outward.

Humpback whale

Nevertheless, discoveries of the last few decades indicate that organisms have mechanisms to respond to environmental input, resulting in the activation of a latent gene, or even modifications of gene complexes in order to adapt to environmental stresses, even within the gametes, allowing inheritance! Barry Wanner of Emory University has suggested that bacteria have control systems that produce genomic rearrangements under environmental stress. Christopher Cullis and others at Case Western Reserve University have reported environmentally induced genetic rearrangements in flax plants. Antonio Prevosti and colleagues at the University of Barcelona have found that the DNA layout in fruit flies varies with latitude. These effects are sometimes called epigenetic responses, because there is more going on than can be accounted for within the genes themselves. In my essay reviewing Darwin’s Doubt, Stephen Meyer explains how the information content outside of a cell’s DNA, in the micro-architecture of the cell, the membrane structure, and interfacial structure between cells, affects both embryology and day to day cellular life. Such structures determine communication from DNA to the outside world and vice-versa.

Environmentally produced changes clearly take advantage of sophisticated control mechanisms already in place within the cell and within the organism. When evolutionists observe such adaptations they cry, “See! Evolution is taking place right before our eyes!” The philosophical blindness is amazing, isn’t it? These adaptive mechanisms are already wired in. Where did these incredibly sophisticated mechanisms originate? This has nothing to do with the religion of Common Descent.

James Shapiro has concluded that cells have a built-in capability for doing their own genetic engineering in order to adapt to a changing environment. Genetic rearrangements can be effected by transposons, integrated systems of proteins and nucleic acids, which once were called “jumping genes,” because they can change location and control a different part of the genome.

Fruit fly

Transposons can replicate and relocate the copy (copy-and-paste) or simply move (cut-and-paste). Such elements may make up at least 42% of the human genome. The question is how these brilliantly adaptive systems originated. Design is obvious except to those zealots who are committed to materialism.

Cryptic genes refer to those normally silent, prevented from activation by a DNA segment called a silencer, which keeps the gene off until an inducer protein turns it on. Cryptic genes have been found in bacteria and higher organisms. For example, the heat-shock protein Hsp90 causes the expression of a cryptic gene in Drosophila when stimulated by high environmental temperatures. Cryptic genes provide resistance to antibiotics, silent until presence of a drug provokes expression. Antibiotics have to be designed to beat such systems. If you underestimate your enemy, your battle plan will fail. Simply believing that bacteria “mutate” to “evolve” against antibiotics hinders successful research. These are built-in systems that must be analyzed.

To be sure, there are mutations that occur within a population of bacteria that can allow a tiny fraction to survive while the rest are killed by a drug. The mutant survivors quickly reproduce to re-infect the host, and now the population is resistant. But such examples have nothing to do with Common Descent . . . Evolution from bacterium to biologist. For example, the antibiotic streptomycin clobbers a bacterial cell by attaching (like a key to a lock) to a ribosome, causing errors in protein production, ultimately killing the cell. A point mutation in the bacterial DNA can ruin the shape of the ribosome’s matching site, preventing attachment. The surviving bacterium can reproduce but, in general, such mutations are not helpful, in fact are typically disadvantageous to bacteria under normal circumstances, when the antibiotic is not present.

As an analogy, imagine that the lock to your front door has rusted shut, preventing a burglar from entering. You’ll survive the burglary, but you can’t say that your apartment’s new “mutation” has “improved” your living conditions, nor is your apartment on its way to evolving into a high tech mansion.

Bacteria can also survive toxic threats by horizontal gene transfer, in which a plasmid, a portion of DNA, moves from one bacterium to another. Gene transfer can even occur between species, but the genes must be in existence already for the gaining bacterium to appreciate the advantage. Once again, it’s the origin of the genetic information – an obviously designed system – that must be explained. Random chemistry doesn’t cut it.

Trilobite fossil

Turning to higher organisms, sympatric speciation is the idea that a “newly evolved” species can arise within the same living space as the original species. Famed evolutionist Ernst Mayer gave strong theoretical arguments against this possibility in 1963 on the basis of neo-Darwinism. In the decades to follow, though, many examples of extremely rapid sympatric speciation have been documented. Neo-Darwinism can only explain significant changes by mutations which must be advantageous enough and come to dominate the population over many generations. But when sympatric speciation occurs within a generation, the changes must be already wired in, ready to be triggered by an environmental event.

The Death Valley pupfish is a dramatic example, its nine species and subspecies able to adapt to extremes of temperature, water deprivation, and food scarcity. Environmental changes alter production of a thyroid hormone and trigger changes in behavior and morphology.

Daisy seeds are surrounded by a ball of white fluff, enabling wind dispersal, the seed carrying its own little parachute. On a small ocean island, though, this design is a disadvantage. Within just a few years after introduction to a small island the daisy loses its fluff ball. The change is heritable. Whether the daisy adapted via environmental trigger, or whether natural selection ‘weeded out’ all but a fraction of daisy genomes that already had the right design is actually not relevant to Common Descent. The question for evolution’s zealots is where the dispersal mechanism came from.

Apple maggot flies were originally bred on hawthorn, but eventually spread to infect apple trees, and then cherries, roses, and pears. When they change hosts they change mating preferences to effect isolation from the old population, to prevent interbreeding. Even more interesting is that they adjust their maturation time to match the new fruit’s ripening cycle.

Ribosome model

Guppies survive their predator, the cichlid fish, by changing maturation cycles and body size. Lizards can adapt to a wide variety of environments in just a few years. In light of Darwin’s analysis of the Galapagos finches, evolutionists have estimated that their diversity took over 2 million years. In 1967 about 100 identical finches were relocated 300 miles to a group of four small Pacific atolls, which had no native finches. Seventeen years later the birds had adapted to niches throughout the atolls, and displayed a wide variety of behaviors and beak sizes, analogous to the Galapagos case. So ‘evolution’ took less than 2 million years. The wrong religion produces bad science.

In all these cases, mutations and natural selection are not credible mechanisms. From a Biblical point of view, rapid built-in adaptation was absolutely critical to allow successful dispersion from the ark after the Genesis flood. But there are limits to adaptation – built-in limits. Finches remain finches and bacteria are still bacteria because of these limits. Turning bacteria into finches over hundreds of millions of years via mutation and natural selection is impossible, mathematically and physically.

Evolutionists Peter and Rosemary Grant have discovered that a finch population will alter its beak size and behavior in just a few years to avoid competition with a different finch population introduced to the same area. This effect has been observed in lizards, tiger beetles, and mud snails, also. This is clearly not evolution by mutation and natural selection, but rather triggered adaptation, because it occurs so very rapidly. Spetner goes on to cite many other examples.

Spetner offers a chapter that effectively demolishes various arguments that supposedly support evolution. For example, he notes that the idea of convergent evolution invokes mere terminology as if to explain an evolutionary impossibility. Whales, dolphins, and bats are mammals that have echolocation systems (sonar), systems that involve thousands of genes which code for wonderfully complex systems that transmit, receive, and process (especially in the brain) acoustic signals. Within evolutionary fantasies, “convergence” is invoked to indicate that these systems must have evolved independently, because – clearly – bats and whales don’t share a common ancestor that would also have featured echolocation. Yet these sonar systems involve incredible and distinct technology – at the molecular (genetic) level – requiring the impossible scheme of mutations and natural selection to work not just one time, but many times.

Daisy seed parachutes

Similarly, eyes in all their incredible diversity, are claimed to have evolved independently – convergence – at least 40 times, and possibly as many as 65 times. The eyes of the octopus, whale, hawk, fruit fly, ant, and trilobite enjoy wildly different designs – and are produced by quite different embryological processes. (The trilobite’s eye is designed on a reflection-based optical scheme, and has been used as a model to design the X-ray telescope.) Other examples of miraculous “convergence” include the olfactory systems of insects and mammals, which share some commonality in design to enable detection of thousands of distinct odors; taste cells in the tongues of insects and mammals; pollination schemes of many different flowers; nectar-feeding songbirds in Hawaii and Australia who were once classified as the same species but have quite distinct DNA; nectar-feeding insects such as the hawkmoth feature system designs like the hummingbird; and on and on and on.

One of the most dramatic examples of evolution hindering science is the debacle of “junk DNA” which has been an evolutionary cornerstone for many years. Evolutionist Jerry Coyne (in 2009) wrote, “We expect to find, in the genomes of many species, silenced, or ‘dead’ genes: genes that once were useful but are no longer intact or expressed. In other words, there should be vestigial genes.”

Richard Dawkins, in 2009, also wrote about such “pseudogenes,” that don’t code for proteins. (Only about 1 percent of the human genome actually codes for proteins. When this came to light over the last few decades, the rest of the genome was termed “junk DNA.”) Dawkins wrote, “What pseudogenes are useful for is embarrassing creationists. It stretches even their creative ingenuity to make up a convincing reason why an intelligent designer should have created a pseudogene – a gene that does absolutely nothing and gives every appearance of being a superannuated version of a gene that used to do something.”

Creationists, of course, have long suggested that non-protein coding DNA has functionality; it’s evolutionary zealotry that blocks research funding from finding out what it does! Indeed, Project ENCODE over the last several years has determined that at least “80% of the genome contains elements linked to biochemical functions, dispatching the widely held view that the human genome is mostly ‘junk DNA.’” Many suspect that the percentage will turn out to be nearly 100.

What does the rest of the genome do? It’s not just about coding for protein molecules – protein construction must be controlled; cellular processes must be initiated, terminated, the rates must be controlled, and complex processes – like metabolism – must have carefully regulated feedback mechanisms. Your body has to function without conscious effort on your part to manipulate thousands of biochemical processes! And so the ‘non-protein coding’ DNA does indeed code for RNA, which is used in a large variety of control processes, as determined by relatively recent research – in defiance of the evolutionary paradigm.

Death Valley pupfish

Many creationists have noted that about 120 years ago, Robert Wiedersheim published a list of 86 human organs he called vestigial, allegedly without function, inherited from evolutionary ancestors, but in degraded form. Over the last century, all have fallen from the list, despite evolutionary zealots who loved to hammer creationists on the head, screeching that vestigial organs were strong evidence for evolution. For example, the human appendix was still called ‘vestigial’ in 2009 by Coyne, who cited it as “the most famous” of the vestigial organs. But research has determined that the appendix is critical, a storage place for gut bacteria that allows repopulation after an illness like diarrhea, or after a strong regimen of antibiotics. Our bodies can’t survive without our vast array of helpful symbiotic microbes. Without a safe storage place like the appendix, one illness might produce other catastrophic health problems.

Yet zealotry abides. Vincent Cassone, Chairman of the U. of Kentucky’s biology department, was interviewed by a local newspaper in 2012: “There is more evidence for evolution than there is for the theory of gravity, than the idea that things are made up of atoms, or Einstein’s theory of relativity. It is the finest scientific theory ever devised.” I do marvel at his religious zeal.

Spetner notes that evolutionists are perpetually shocked at new discoveries. He cites how examples of “convergence” are called “surprising,” “remarkable,” and “striking,” but only under the blindfold of evolutionary zealotry. Within the paradigm of Biblical Creation – Common Design – the parallel design schemes of the dolphin’s underwater sonar and the bat’s aerial echolocation systems are clear evidence of a Brilliant Designer.

Just this morning, before I began writing today, I was reading the October 31, 2015 issue of Science News. The report, “Chasing Breath: Search for one-way airflow alters lung evolution story,” details the efforts of biophysicist Colleen Farmer to obtain research funding and conduct experiments to figure out how the lungs of various reptiles work. Our human lungs work as bellows, air in, air out. Birds expend terrific amounts of energy, requiring a much higher efficiency in oxygen intake. With birds, air goes in through the trachea and back out the same way . . . but inside the air flow is essentially one way through a complex tubal network, allowing maximum efficiency for oxygen transfer into the blood.

Bird respiratory system

Reptiles have long been thought to have bellows lungs like mammals, but Farmer thought differently. But because of the evolutionary paradigm – reptiles are slow, cold-blooded, and the supposed evolutionary transition to birds necessitated a big change in many systems, especially lungs – she was repeatedly denied funding to conduct experiments. When she finally did get funding, her experiments showed that the lungs of alligators, monitors, and iguanas exhibit one-way flow within the lungs. At first, many biologists simply didn’t believe her results, just like funding agencies didn’t believe it was worth their money to even look. But her results have proven robust.

The ‘bellows-lung’ paradigm was long held by evolutionists because reptiles don’t ‘need’ super-efficient lungs. A 1-way flow system would certainly be ‘over-design’, akin to all the luxury features in a top-of-the-line Mercedes, as opposed to the basic transportation of a Ford Pinto. Over-design is a refutation of evolution, which is entirely about differential reproduction, even assuming that mutations can provide advantages and take over a population over the course of many, many generations. That’s the opposite of over-design. But from a creationist point of view, over-design is ubiquitous . . . it’s everywhere! Consider how a human being can write poetry, solve equations, hit a tennis ball, and excel in all kinds of activities not required for reproduction. Consider bird-song and peacock feathers and the loyalty of dogs. Those are blessings – God-given over-design. Apparently, God gave reptiles more efficiency than required for breathing and reproduction.

With regard to Colleen Farmer’s research, once again, science occurs only after strong opposition from evolutionary zealots. So now the story of the “evolution of lungs” simply changes, and evolutionists are inventing “reasons” why gators needed 1-way flow after all. What a religion!

In “Testing the Limits,” Answers magazine, July—Sept 2015, creationist Georgia Purdom describes the epic ‘evolution-in-action’ experiment of Richard Lenski, an evolutionary biologist at Michigan State U. He started in 1988, growing 12 identical cultures of E. coli. To date, 27 years later, he has observed over 56,000 generations, but E. coli are still E. coli. Within controlled environments, some lines have “gotten lazy,” losing the ability to use a sugar, or repair its DNA, or even to move. Mutations always degenerate. But in 2008, as reported by New Scientist, “A major innovation has unfurled right in front of the researchers’ eyes. It’s the first time evolution has been caught in the act of making such a rare and complex new trait.”

As Purdom reports, saying it doesn’t make it so. Normal E. coli can process citrate for carbon and energy, but only at low levels of oxygen. The new mutant strain can process citrate at higher levels of oxygen. That’s a very limited change. As far as I can tell from a Wikipedia report on Lenski’s work, here’s what ‘evolved’: A mutation produced a duplicated gene that interfered with the regulation of citrate processing in the presence of oxygen. This interference with the usual low-oxygen metabolic process allows metabolism to proceed in high oxygen atmospheres. The ‘fitness’ of the mutant strain was measured to be about 1% higher than the previous strain. There are no new proteins, no new gene complexes, no new control systems, but apparently just a new defect in an existing control system.

Alligator

Yep, that’s about it. Pretty weak stuff, and nothing at all in the ballpark of what is required to produce new information, new kinds of organs, tissues, and creatures. Duplicating a gene does not increase information, anymore than xeroxing a page does. In this case the duplicate gene did not produce a new protein or tissue at all, but rather gummed up the works a tad, as if the extra piece of paper got sucked into your air conditioning system and restricted the air flow a bit, increasing flow speed by 1% at the expense of an irritating whistle . . . you certainly haven’t “upgraded” your air conditioning system!

But enough of the details. If you’re into Biblical creation and / or Intelligent Design and the insidious efforts of evolutionary zealots to obfuscate the truth, then Spetner’s book will provide you with more ammo and more understanding on a variety of topics. The bottom line is that a philosophical commitment to Darwinism – Mutation and natural selection must explain everything! – hinders science, particularly biological science, and will therefore certainly hinder medical therapies that ultimately depend on a truthful understanding of how genomes work, how humans and bacteria and viruses can adapt at the cellular level, and how much money and effort is spent looking in the wrong places for causes and cures.

– drdave@truthreallymatters.com

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