EN18: Evo-Devo, Structuralism, and other Fairy Tales

You might not be aware that a large number of evolutionary biologists have given up on neo-Darwinism, the fable that random mutations generate slight advantages that compete better, eventually producing new organs, new species, and even entirely new body plans. (Note that the human body is built on a different plan from clams or petunias.) Of course, neo-Darwinism is the reigning paradigm, the state-sponsored and state-mandated religion of the public schools, so your children are not likely to hear of such dissent among the faithful.

 

Boeing plant

Boeing plant

During my career I’ve had the pleasure of touring a variety of state-of-the-art manufacturing plants, including facilities producing computer chips, cars, fighter aircraft, and even cruise missiles. What the world’s best engineers can produce is impressive, but nothing compares with the extraordinarily complex world of developmental genetics, the phenomena associated with the replication and reconfiguration of DNA molecules, starting within a fertilized egg cell, and proceeding through an embryological process that generates full-sized organs and bodies. Scientific mysteries abound, which is not surprising, since the normal day-to-day operation of individual cells retains many mysteries. It’s only in recent years, for example, that the evolutionary fable of ‘junk DNA’ has been forcibly overturned by discoveries of functionality throughout the genome . . . functionality previously hidden, in large part, because of evolutionary dogma.

In this essay I’ll be discussing what I’ve gleaned from three sources: (1) a creationist review of an evolutionist’s book on developmental genetics, (2) a book by two anti-creationist committed evolutionists entitled, What Darwin Got Wrong, and (3) a related book by a fellow in the ID (Intelligent Design) camp.

Creationist Walter ReMine, in Journal of Creation 30(1) 2016, reviews Gunter Wagner’s 2014 book, Homology, Genes, and Evolutionary Innovation. Wagner’s book presupposes evolution, but represents a growing community of biologists who are bewildered by recent discoveries that continue to add layer upon layer of complexity to our understanding of life’s basic processes. Specifically, evo-devo is the nickname for the field that attempts to explain developmental genetics within the framework of evolution.

a few phyla

a few phyla

But evo-devo is rife with problems and mysteries. Wagner admits that it “was a deeply surprising discovery . . . that all animals share a set of conserved genes that are causally important for the development of body plan characters.” You see, “homologous genes among distantly related species was explicitly dismissed” by neo-Darwinism. ‘Homologous’ is an evolutionary term to describe similar structures that exist because of an alleged shared ancestor.

ReMine explains that it is unreasonable to conclude that shared ancestry is the reason that you find similar genes among disparate phyla – different body plans – such as vertebrates, starfish, jellyfish, and insects. Any supposed common ancestor would necessarily have existed much earlier than the Cambrian explosion, when these groups first appear in the fossil record. Remine: “In other words these widely important body plan genes must have originated at a time when there were microorganisms and relatively little else with a body.” In short, how could pre-jellyfish genes be essential to many different body plans now? Neo-Darwinism requires that genes must be essential for survival, moment by moment, in fact that any gene – to survive – must have been markedly more useful than what a species had before. Evolution can’t plan for future use; it can’t foresee the need for diverse body plans.

And so many evolutionists now realize that mutation plus natural selection is not sufficient. Wagner, one of these guys, proposes structuralism as an additional explanation. The idea is that there are forms or structures that exist in nature (somehow) that constrain evolution, that limit the directions evolution can follow. Evolution must be stuck with particular genes which produce some particular traits.

pentadactyl limbs

pentadactyl limbs

This is all in contrast to the usual selectionist or adaptationist story, which insists that a given gene or trait survives or not because of its effect on function, particularly whether the trait enables a creature to out-produce its cruder relatives to such an extent that the population is overwhelmed by the new gene.

Let’s step back for a moment here. As I’ve written about repeatedly (see my essays or free ebook on Creation vs. Evolution), the random generation of even one functional protein or its encoding DNA is physically / mathematically impossible, even if the universe were filled with the right chemicals. This is not a small point; in fact, it’s a show-stopper so that we shouldn’t have to deal with all these other issues. But let’s get back to the story anyway . . .

It’s amazing to me that structuralism is coming back. It’s an old idea, widespread in the 19th century, with roots among the ancient Greeks. Aristotle saw forms, the structures of living creatures, as “among the basic things that are.” Namely, the forms themselves are part of nature’s fabric whether or not creatures take on those forms. More significantly, it’s a design idea, perfectly in sync with Biblical creationism. Consider your bigscreen TV or your automobile. There are lots and lots and lots of different ways to put together all the parts, but very few ways that will produce a functioning TV or car. There is nothing in the nature of the component parts or the materials from which the parts are made that constrains how you should connect the pieces. There is no picture on the puzzle box. The constraints are tied to functionality. If you want the TV to work, then the parts must be designed and built just so, and they must be interconnected just so. The functionality is a property of the desire of the designer or user. There is nothing in nature that requires TVs to be built. The laws of physics – quantum mechanics, gravity, electrodynamics – don’t force circuits into working TVs.

Just so with biological organisms. There is nothing in the nature of the chemical elements you find in the periodic table that forces them into information rich-DNA chains or function-rich enzymes or protein complexes or cellular structures or organs or reptiles or birds or mammals. Bio creatures are spectacularly more complex and functionally constrained than any supercomputer or any other human-designed artifact. That particular structures, such as fingers, eyeballs, fins, and wings are constrained by functions such as grasping, seeing, swimming, and flying, speaks to the necessity and the brilliance of a Designer . . . let’s call him God.

triclinic crystal structures

triclinic crystal structures

In brief, once you reject neo-Darwinism and get tempted by structuralism, you’re an idiot if you don’t believe in God. Structures are designed to work in Earth’s environment. You would expect that once you have a working structure (an eyeball, for example), you can’t mess with that particular design very much without dysfunctionality. Thus there are severe limits to biological change. Mutations degrade; they don’t increase complexity. Decades of mutation-inducing experiments on fruit flies and microbes demonstrate this. If you want a completely different eyeball design, you have to start over – you can’t get there one mutation at a time and preserve / improve functionality at each step. With a little mutation, perhaps you’ll see a little variation, often with a bit of degradation. But much mutation, much death.

Wagner admits another problem in evo-devo: “What is problematic, though, is the fact that clearly homologous characters can derive from different developmental mechanisms in different species.” Like grasshoppers and fruit flies, for example, which use “quite different genes for the development of clearly homologous characters, like insect body segments.” Across the biological spectrum researchers are discovering that quite similar structures, like the pentadactyl limb (5-fingered hand or wing or paw), can arise in different creatures via different genes and different developmental pathways. Wagner finds this to be “a pretty depressing situation.” In fact, “that homology may be an illusion” . . . since “developmental pathways of homologous characters can vary considerably between species without affecting the identity of the characters concerned.” Thus, there is a disconnect between morphology (body shape and traits) and the underlying genes. Wagner actually writes, “One possible reaction to this fact is to assert that homology is a meaningless concept.”

Well folks, what we’ve got here is a falsification of evolution itself, which is built on the idea shown in every child’s textbook, that similar traits mean common ancestry. Oops, we just found out that’s not true. It’s just as if a designer picked some functional traits (binocular 2-eyed vision) and enjoyed using different design techniques to establish them in different creatures. A Toyota plant may actually be quite different from a Ford plant, for example, but both Toyotas and Fords can get you to Taco Bell. A Mac and a PC can produce the same functionality despite noteworthy differences in manufacturing plant layout, parts, and software. It could just be that the Lord, in addition to enjoying variety in design, has a sense of humor: “Hah, stick that in your evolutionary craw!”

diamond crystal structure

diamond crystal structure

Remine goes on to explain that historic neo-Darwinism is based on a fallacy, that one gene typically controls one trait (hair color, blood type, the ability to hit the curve ball, etc.). The idea of the fate of one gene tied to the performance of one trait makes for some plausible story-telling in textbooks and popular science shows. But now it’s known that most genes affect multiple characters; this is called pleiotropy. In fact, each gene affects on average seven different traits, with some genes affecting as many as 35. Furthermore, a given trait is often affected by multiple genes.

Such interlocking complexity makes evolution ridiculously implausible – even if you forget that you can’t even get that first protein going. ReMine points out that most evolutionists simply avoid the issue. When such matters are discussed, it’s in the context of how fascinating biology is, not in the context of how biology came to be.

I recently read the 2011 book, What Darwin Got Wrong, by Jerry Fodor (professor of philosophy and cognitive science at Rutgers) and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini (biophysicist and professor of cognitive science at the U. of Arizona). In the book’s 2nd paragraph they want to make it perfectly clear: “. . . we both claim to be out-right, card-carrying, signed-up, dyed-in-the-wool, no-holds-barred atheists. We therefore seek thoroughly naturalistic explanations of the facts of evolution, although we expect that they will turn out to be quite complex, as scientific explanations often are. It is our assumption that evolution is a mechanical process through and through.”

We see the germ of the coming admissions throughout the book, that they are seeking naturalistic explanations, but haven’t found them, and that they assume that they can find utterly mechanical processes to account for Earth’s life . . . but they are part of a growing community within atheism that admits that neo-Darwinism doesn’t do the job.

Right up front they admit that by the end of the book they will “make some gestures towards where we believe a viable alternative might lie; but they will be pretty vague.” They therefore affirm my long-standing position: There is no theory of evolution! Evolutionary zealots, whether armed with Ph.D.s and tenure or not, merely have a vague hope that one will arise in the future, such hope based on presuppositions void of evidence . . . a blind and desperate faith. But they must keep searching since they profess: “Darwin’s theory of natural selection is fatally flawed. That’s what this book is about.” They admit they have suffered grief at the hands of colleagues for daring to say in public that Darwin was wrong, that by doing so they align themselves with the “Forces of Darkness.” That’s the accusation from their peers. How ironic.

microchip

I won’t try to summarize all of their arguments. They cover a lot of ground, not all of it interesting. I also do not recommend the book for the casual reader. If you’re a biologist by training, sure, go for it. I’ll just do my usual thing and pluck some nuggets.

The authors (I’ll just cite ‘Fodor’ henceforth) summarize the gist of neo-Darwinism as a “story” (they got that right!) of blind trials and errors, which produces an “exquisite match between the evolved phenotype and the requirements of the external environment.” Their argument is that biologists now understand that minor variations, even under environmental selection, cannot possibly explain the appearance of radically new body plans, new forms of life. Their metaphor is that natural selection can tune the piano, but cannot at all compose the melodies, an unintentional admission that design cannot be avoided. (Compose is a design word.) They insist that selection must operate on strong constraints and systems of regulations. This is structuralism, though. Again, constraints and regulations do not put the building blocks together; they inform a designer that she’s got to be clever or the machine won’t work.

Fodor suggests the main discovery of evo-devo is the commonality of genetic building blocks. One of many examples is that a certain defective gene in a mouse can be replaced by an identical (or nearly) gene from a fruit fly, ‘rescuing’ functionality in the mouse. These are typically so-called ‘Hox’ genes, switches that turn on or turn off biochemical processes. The commonality, then, is in the switches, not the overall ‘circuits’ or structures.

Consider an analogy . . . A PC and a supercomputer have enormous design and performance differences, but both may employ the same ON/OFF switch, which also may be purchased for use in an auto factory’s robotic machines, or in a toaster. The designer of that switch may intend it to be sold in a variety of markets. Further, similar transistors, capacitors, logic gates, and even chips can be used in both PCs and supercomputers. The existence of such building blocks – all of which are designed themselves – does not lead one to believe that supercomputers arise from natural processes. Note that any useful protein molecule is far more complex than any state-of-the-art electronic building block.

Researchers have been struggling for years to reconstruct how similar genes “mastermind the development of wildly different creatures.” The embryological circuits are so complex, so delicate, so interconnected that it defies evolutionary logic that common genes can be preserved over millions of years in different phyla. Aren’t mutations happening all the time? What about genetic load, the ever-pervasive buildup of mutational defects that will drive any species to extinction, given enough time? If you ignore extinction by genetic load, how can environmental adaptation produce conservation of genes and gene complexes? (Gene complexes: It’s never about one gene, one trait.)

nematode nervous system

nematode nervous system

Yet it’s clear that the gene networks involved in embryological development are enormously sensitive to slight changes. Fodor hopes that random variations in such networks may be responsible for major evolutionary events, like the Cambrian explosion. But like they admit early on, this ‘hope’ is vague. It’s not science; rather, word games. Making random variations in the design software of the robots in a PC factory is not going to produce supercomputers.

Fodor argues that the ubiquitous phenomenon of horizontal gene transfer blows up neo-Darwinism. Microbes trade genes with each other quite regularly, which compensates for some disadvantages of asexual reproduction. But ‘higher’ organisms also experience horizontal gene transfer. Within the human genome, Transposable Elements (TEs) can move around within the genome. Such elements can also be inserted from without the creature by viruses which can write new sections into the DNA code. All of this turns speculative evolutionary ‘trees of life’ into tangled bushes at best, even if you buy into the naturalistic worldview.

The authors invoke structuralism to account for biological scaling laws. When you look at metabolic rates, blood circulation time, oxygen transport, blood viscosity, capillary size, lifespan, and a host of other factors tied to the daily life of organisms, it’s been shown that there are definite mathematical formulas that relate these factors to body size. Their conclusion is that these scaling laws cannot have come about by mutations and natural selection. (I agree.) They appropriately infer that there must be “severe geometric and physical constraints on metabolic processes,” to cite one particular scaling law. I also agree here. Similarly, for cars and planes to work, successful engineers must respect the laws of aerodynamics, material properties (aluminum bodies are better than iron, for example), combustion, etc.

Fodor says it is inconceivable that so many different creatures across so many kingdoms and phyla could have “blindly tried” all kinds of power laws, and only some, by chance, “discovered” the correct power law to thrive. (Fascinating – they can’t avoid ‘intentional’ language, can they?) The scaling laws operate with respect to various physical and chemical processes, within a 3-D topology. The authors blurt out, “They had no ‘choice’ (so to speak) but to exploit these constraints and be channelled by them.”

Fascinating again! They really don’t want to use intentional, intelligent design language – thus the quotes around ‘choice’ and the parenthetical ‘(so to speak)’—but their thought is entirely immersed within a design paradigm! ‘Exploit’? ‘Channelled’? Are the constraints sentient?!? Well, the Constrainer is . . . the universe’s Architect, the Author of the constraints.

Michael Denton

Michael Denton

Once again, the idea of structuralism is that standard forms (like scaling laws in this discussion) exist naturally and are attractors for successful body types. These forms are somehow wired into nature. Clearly, they’re not in physics or chemistry, so where are they? Studies in crystallography show that there are a limited number of standard forms, constrained by 3-D geometry. Particular elements and compounds crystallize into preferred forms because of their well-defined atomic and molecular bonding properties, dictated by how the electrons are arranged around specific atoms and molecules. But that’s as far as it goes. Beyond crystal structure, anything goes. An architect can try to build a skyscraper out of any combination of materials and in any shape he pleases. But the constraining laws of gravity, aerodynamic wind loading, and material properties will allow the survival of only an intelligently designed structure.

I just saw an interview of atheist physicist Lawrence Krauss conducted by Ray Comfort. Comfort got him to agree that books don’t create themselves, then asked from whence came the information content in DNA. Krauss actually affirmed that books could conceivably come into existence naturalistically, and then suggested that DNA could arise by random chemical processess, like snowflakes do. Wow, it’s amazing that someone who professes to be so superior to the creationists he ridicules can be so obtuse on such an elementary matter. Snowflake crystal structure is determined by the bonding properties of water molecules. The whole point of the information content of DNA is that it is not determined by physics or chemistry. Quite analogous to the fact that the physics of paper and ink do not naturalistically produce encyclopedias and textbooks and poetry, the order of nucleotides in DNA can produce ginormously varied designs for protein and RNA machinery. There are gazillions of nonsense orders for every useful choice, just as monkeys typing randomly will not produce Shakespeare, or even a single Bible verse, like John 3:16. Do the math or write me and I’ll show you where I’ve done it.

Fodor cites research on the neurological wiring of creatures small and great, from nematodes to cats and monkeys, discovering that functional neural systems are optimized in their wiring connections. Yet they imagine that such optimization arises from some unknown physical principle! What physical principle?!? Scientists shouldn’t invoke blind faith. One researcher concludes that the brain’s cortex is better designed than the best industrial microchip! (Designed!) Then why can’t we just let physics design and build microchips? Who needs Intel? The macaque’s cortex wiring is optimized to a precision of one in a million (potential alternatives). The ‘simpler’ nematode’s nervous system is the optimum choice out of 40 million alternative layouts.The authors see structuralism in these discoveries of neural optimization. They won’t see design. Within the context of neo-Darwinism, they call this “an intractable enigma,” and so they assume “prior filtering by endogenous (internal) constraints.”

Fodor surveys a variety of cases that defy neo-Darwinism, including the perfection of the ‘design’ of leaves, with their parallel networks of channels for fluid transport, constrained by factors including evaporation, permeation, fluid flow rate, channel density, and bio-material properties. In the realm of honeybee life, we see optimization in foraging, requiring efficient scheduling and inter-bee communication. Insect wings are optimized for flight. They note that the fossil record is ‘poor’ (if you’re an evolutionist), with “no fossils showing intermediate stages in the evolution of wings.” Of course, it’s not just about wings; you need optimization in the insect’s neural and muscular control systems, too.

red blood cells

red blood cells

Their overarching conclusion is that natural selection cannot optimize, and so “something else must be involved . . . (perhaps something in) physics, chemistry, autocatalytic processes, dissipative structures, and principles of self-organization, and surely other factors that the progress of science will in due time reveal.” In due time! (I won’t bore you with an exposition of the items on their list; the last three are merely analogies with well-understood and simple chemical physics. It’s weak stuff, indeed. Otherwise, their faith wouldn’t be in “surely other factors.”)

I’ll conclude my review of What Darwin Got Wrong with the authors’ final assessment that whatever happened in their supposed billions of years of history happened naturalistically: “History (natural history included) is about what actually happened; it’s not about what had to happen; or even about what would happen if Mother Nature were to try again. What had to happen is the domain of theory, not of history; and there isn’t any theory of evolution.”

In 1985 Michael Denton published a still quite relevant book dismantling evolution, entitled Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. In 2016 the Discovery Institute, unofficial headquarters for the Intelligent Design movement (they’re not Biblical creationists, though), published his sequel, Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis. If you’re going to read Denton, I’d recommend his first book, written primarily for the general public. His new book is clearly aimed at his peers, and therefore at a more challenging stylistic level. Denton is not a creationist; he is a structuralist, believing life’s forms, the body plans, are part of the very fabric of nature. If this were true regarding books and magazines and newspapers, only certain novels and favored sports and particular news items would ever be published, because the paper and ink just couldn’t help but self-organize into favored forms.

Denton’s critique of neo-Darwinism in both books is powerful. The challenges he poses in the first book have not been met by evolutionary dogmatists over 30 years later. He pulls a cute quote from Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll, 1871.

Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

The fabled Queen could easily find a home in evolutionary biology.

Denton sees Darwinism as one of the strangest views in the history of human thought, that life is an artifact of deep time and chance, “an inference for which there never was the slightest rational justification.” He quotes atheistic philosopher Thomas Nagel, who refers to evolution as “a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense.”

In Denton’s 1998 book, Nature’s Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe, he unpacks modern discoveries that show how the laws of physics and chemistry are so finely tuned to enable life to exist. (That book is well worth reading, once you’ve finished his 1985 work.) All this is great stuff, perfectly consistent with the Biblical view that God’s creation was prepared for His image-bearers . . . us. To live and breathe, carbon atoms must be designed just-so to enable organic compounds, water must freeze just-so for ice to float and allow river, pond, and ocean life to survive winter temperatures, the atmosphere must be a just-right mixture of oxygen and nitrogen, to allow combustion (fire) without it running amok, and to facilitate nitrogen-fixing in plants . . . and so on.

What Denton argues in his 2016 book is that, given the fine-tuning of the cosmos at the nuts and bolts level of the periodic table and the laws of electromagnetics and quantum theory, etc., then the next logical step is to “infer that nature may be also fine-tuned for the origin and actualization of the basic forms of carbon-based life which characterize life on earth.” In fact, he argues that failure to take this intellectual leap “is one of the most striking failures of the human imagination in recent scientific history.” But you may as well argue that the existence of bricks and mortar and plumbing and wiring may completely explain the existence of the Empire State Building, the Pentagon, and the Taj Mahal without the need of architects, engineers, and construction workers!

Denton therefore proposes that there must be “laws of biological form . . . built into the order of nature from the moment of the ‘big bang’” that account for the origin of life and its subsequent evolution. See, I told you that he is NOT a creationist.

As foolish as Lawrence Krauss, he argues that biological forms “should arise by analogy with inorganic forms, spontaneously and ‘unbidden,’” via “structuralist principles from the self-organization of particular categories of matter.” He immediately goes on to cite salt crystals, snow flakes, and nuclear fusion as analogous natural processes that automatically produce the final products, then concluding that “biomatter” should do the same thing.

Wow!! And Wow!! Why not self-typing for textbooks and self-bricklaying for buildings and self-circuit fabrication for computers? Structuralism is hereby revealed as not only not science, but also not philosophy and not-sensible. Let’s just make up new principles of the universe that defy all logic, and experiment, and experience, and rationality, and then claim that we’ve explained how evolution works!

Denton does a terrific job of refuting the possibility of neo-Darwinism as an explanation for life, which depends on the idea that changes in the linear DNA molecule can account for radical changes in phenotype (body form). The genes – segments of the DNA molecule – are 1-D entities. But the DNA is arranged into complexly-folded chromosomes, arranged into 3-D configurations that vary by organism, and embedded in 3-D cellular environments that are also specific to different creatures. You can’t determine the 3-D structure of a life form strictly by the 1-D code. The 1-D code is always embedded in a specialized 3-D environment, and the specifications of that 3-D environment represent information in quantities much larger than can be encoded in the genes.

As Denton expresses it, “It looks as if the epigenetic (outside of the genes) physiological and biochemical state of the cell determines the meaning of the genes ‘from above.’” One consequence of this is that 3-D cells must have been in place in the beginning. The origin of life must therefore have been ex nihilo.

Recent research indicates that “mechanical tensions in the cell membrane and in the architecture of cells . . . can influence gene expression.” He quotes a Nature column in which Jim Collins states: “Although the Human Genome Project has expanded the parts list for cells, there is no instruction manual for putting them together to produce a living cell.” In another Nature piece, Mel Greaves says, “We fooled ourselves into thinking the genome was going to be a transparent blueprint, but it’s not.”

Scientists now recognize that spatial order is not encoded in the DNA. For creatures to reproduce, history has to repeat itself, the DNA has to replicate in the same constraining 3-D context to produce a functional descendant. Yet atheists don’t see brilliant design in the cell’s overwhelming complexity; they conclude self-organization. When cells divide and replicate, a multitude of incredibly complex processes occur, as microtubular networks morph into spindles, separate, and recombine, as the cell membrane separates and reforms at just the right time to enclose just the right stuff, as the Golgi complex rapidly disassembles and then reassembles, as chromosomes untangle, replicate and entangle again, precisely. What a delicately designed system! Yet somehow evolutionists, whether neo-Darwinists or structuralists, assume that screw-ups in this system can somehow produce entirely new functional forms.

An interesting example of 3-D information is in the biconcave shape of the red blood cell, its shape vital to the properties of blood transport. A recent paper affirms that the red blood cell’s mechanical properties are intrinsic, not coded in the genetic blueprint. Another paper documents that the architecture of photoreceptor cells in mammalian eyeballs is not specified by genes. It’s already there.

Similarly, evidence abounds that biomechanical forces apart from genetic information play a big role in shaping embryos as organisms develop from their original fertilized egg cell. True for all metazoans (multi-celled creatures), different organisms exhibit different schemes for embryological development, while having no common genes from alleged ancestors that orchestrate this development. How could they, since genes do not specify much of the developmental process! At a higher level, it’s clear that the differences between reptiles and birds and mammals, etc., are profound. The differences are enormous in the genes, but also enormous in the cell and tissue structures, in systems that are not specified completely by the genome.

Yet this principle is true for all cell forms. Denton: “The genes specify the bricks; self-organization builds the higher architecture.” Wow, so close and yet so far. No, it’s obvious that the higher architecture – which is a design word –had to be there from the initial creation. The 3-D structure must exist before it can be replicated by cell division. As wacky as it is to imagine that the ultra-high information density of the DNA code can arise by chance, it’s even wackier to suppose the greater quantity of 3-D info happened by chance – or by magical unknown structuralist forms wired invisibly into nature . . . which would magically manipulate (with magic fingers?) atoms and molecules into just-so components (proteins, RNA) to build just-so structures. These ‘forms’ sound a lot like God!

At the molecular level, Denton argues that because a functional protein requires a specifically folded shape, then “laws of form” must apply to proteins in analogy with selected crystal structures. Sigh. A functional protein must have a specific sequence of amino acids. The 20 amino acids of life, specified by codons in the DNA, and akin to letters of the alphabet, can be arranged randomly, unlike the atoms of a crystal. Only just-right sequences of codons / amino acids result in a sequence that can be folded (via existing cell structures) into functional proteins. The odds against getting lucky are just as severe as you would get in pulling random Scrabble letters in the hope of producing a best-selling novel.

It’s interesting that Denton criticizes What Darwin Got Wrong, giving them credit for deconstructing Darwinism, but rebuking them for saying they just don’t know what the answer is. Denton isn’t much better, though. In his concluding remarks on his view that structuralism is embedded in the universe, he writes, “Whether or not the fitness of that fabric for life on earth is ultimately the result of design has no bearing on whether life is an integral part of nature or whether the universe is in some sense biocentric.” He claims to simply not care whether a Designer is behind it all.

Well, I do. And it’s obvious that He is behind it all. Besides the spectacular in-your-face evidence of design throughout creation, don’t we all live as if there is meaning to life, as if there ought to be a purpose? There is no ought in DNA or the laws of physics. But ought is a powerful driver. Somebody ought to tell these guys to repent from their blind bull-headed stubbornness. The Creator is Saviour to all who humble themselves.

For a few decades now, creationists have been hoping for the day when even atheist academics admit that neo-Darwinism is bankrupt. Well, here we are. They admit it! Now structuralism and self-organization have become gods. I’m not being entirely facetious. Structuralism sounds like it might be quite happy in a pantheistic worldview. How can ‘smart people’ believe such idiotic ideas? In the Boardroom of the human soul, Mr. Mind is ruled by Mr. Heart and Mr. Will. It’s not about smarts.

How about you? Once you’re informed, if you still want to put your faith in neo-Darwinism or structuralism, then go for it. Your choice, your consequences. It’s only your eternity that’s at stake. But if you get in touch with reality, with rationality, you can get to know the Author of life, and proclaim His glory to those deceived by the old fables of the Adversary.

– drdave@truthreallymatters.com

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