The evolutionary mindset produces all sorts of pathologies in modern science, but it has probably wreaked the most havoc in the field of genetics. Because DNA is so incredibly well designed, assuming that it is the result of random processes guided by natural selection has hampered our understanding of it significantly. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the concept of junk DNA. The term was coined by Susumu Ohno back in 1972.1 He applied it to all parts of an organism’s DNA that don’t code for proteins. Back then, it was thought that DNA’s only job was to tell a cell which proteins to make and how to make them. If a portion of DNA didn’t do that, to Ohno and most other geneticists at the time, it was simply junk – a leftover vestige of the evolutionary process. To give you an idea of how unreasonable this evolution-inspired idea is, at one time, it was thought that more than 98% of the human genome was composed of junk DNA!
Of course, creationists have always contended that there cannot be much junk DNA in any organism’s genome. Because DNA is so incredibly well designed, any significant amount of junk DNA would cause all sorts of problems. Imagine throwing a bunch of junk into a race car engine. Do you think the engine would work properly if it was filled with junk? Of course not. Since DNA is designed more elegantly than the fastest race car engine today, it is hard to believe it could function properly if it were filled with junk. The creationist view, then, has always been that while there might be a bit of junk DNA that has come from mutations which have degraded the genome over time, the vast majority of all organisms’ DNA serves important purposes, whether or not we understand them.
Not surprisingly, the more we learn about DNA, the more the creationist view is being confirmed. Time and time, again regions of DNA that have been positively identified as “junk” by evolutionists have been demonstrated to have a necessary function. A recent article in the journal Nature is yet another example of this confirmation process.
I have been doing the “wrap up” session for Vacation Bible School this week, and I have been using chemistry experiments to illustrate the lessons. Tonight’s lesson was about how Jesus died for our sins. It was a real challenge coming up with a chemistry experiment to illustrate The Atonement, but here’s what I did:
In a 250 mL Erlenmeyer flask, I dissolved a small amount of corn starch in 150 mL of water. I then added a small amount of potassium iodide. The result was a slightly cloudy, but mostly clear solution.
In a 50 mL beaker, I made 40 mL of a saturated solution of sodium thiosulfate.
I then filled a medicine dropper with bleach.
The Erlenmeyer flask represented a person, and the bleach in the dropper represented sin. I added a few drops of bleach to the flask, which turned blue. The color change represented the effect of sin. As I added more drops, the color got deeper.
I then showed the kids the beaker, which represented Christ. He lived a sin-free life, which is why the solution was clear. I poured the clear solution into the colored solution that was in the flask, which represented Christ coming into a person’s life. When the two solutions mixed, the deep color went away, and the result was a solution that looked like what was originally in the Erlenmeyer flask – a slightly cloudy but mostly clear solution.
In 2005, Dr. J. C. Sanford wrote a book entitled Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome (Elim Publishing, 2005). Dr. Sanford is well-suited to write a book on genetics, given that he has a PhD in plant breeding and genetics and holds more than 30 patents in his field. While the main thrust of the book is that the field of genetics as we understand it today provides little evidence for evolution and an enormous amount of evidence against it, there are some fascinating “side issues” he brings up from time to time.
I was reminded of one of those side issues on Friday when a student asked me why the patriarchs in Genesis lived to be so old. Noah, for example, lived to be 950, according to Genesis 9:29. Given today’s lifespans, that seems pretty outrageous. How could Noah possibly have lived that long? Also, even though his descendants didn’t live as long as he did, they still lived longer than anyone today.
Noah’s son, Shem, lived to be 600 years old, according to Genesis 11:10-11. Noah’s grandson, Arphaxad, lived 438 years, according to Genesis 11:12. If you continue through Noah’s line, you will find that (on average) the later a descendant was born, the shorter life he led. Nevertheless, it takes many, many generations for the lifespans of the patriarchs to reach what we would call reasonable based on today’s standards.
Of course, one way to deal with this issue is to say that the ages of the patriarchs in Genesis are not accurate. Instead, as a kind of “hero worship,” the writer of Genesis artificially inflated the patriarchs’ ages to make them look “larger than life.” In his book, Dr. Sanford not only shows why such an explanation is probably not correct, he points out the data that indicate a decay in lifespan is exactly what you would expect given our current understanding of genetics.
I expect nearly every creationist and Intelligent Design blog will eventually discuss this, but I thought I would throw in my “two cents” about a study that has serious implications for the creation/evolution controversy. Laura Poliseno and her colleagues have published a study in Nature that has demonstrated a function for a class of pseudogenes.1 The study will result in a radical change in biology’s understanding of what has been disparagingly called “junk DNA.”
Let’s start from the beginning. A pseudogene is a section of DNA that looks a lot like a gene that exists in another section of an organism’s genome. However, despite this similarity, the pseudogene does not produce a protein. In other words, suppose a researcher finds a gene that produces a given protein. Let’s call it “gene A.” If the researcher finds another part of the organism’s genome that looks incredibly similar to “gene A” but with a few modifications that make it impossible for the organism to turn it into a protein, that part of the organism’s genome is called a pseudogene.
Since pseudogenes cannot be turned into proteins, it has long been thought that they are the result of a gene being duplicated at some point in history and then being mutated to the point where the gene cannot be used anymore. Indeed, as a commentary in the same issue of Nature says:
Pseudogenes are considered to be defunct relatives of known genes. 2
What Poliseno and her colleagues have conclusively demonstrated is that at least some pseudogenes are anything but defunct, and they might not even be relatives of known genes.
As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I have some problems with the Answers in Genesis ministry. At the same time, however, Jesus tells us that we must judge a tree by its fruit (Luke 6:43-45), and the fruits of the Answers in Genesis ministry show that it is a very good tree.
One of those fruits is the wonderful Creation Museum, which just recently welcomed its one millionth guest. This is a remarkable achievement, given the fact that the museum has been around for less than three years.
What makes the museum so popular? Well, unlike many museums, it actually makes its visitors THINK. Rather than just mindlessly repeating the dogma of the day regarding origins, it actually shows how strongly a person’s preconceived notions can affect the conclusions that he or she draws from the scientific data. It also has a lot of world-class displays, including one of the famous fish eating another fish fossils and an amazing discussion of the construction processes that could have been used by Noah to build the ark.
There are some things I don’t like about the museum, but they pale in comparison to the things I like about it. I know most evolutionists are furious about the Creation Museum, and it’s easy to understand why. The more people think, the less they will believe in evolution!
I am a bit behind in my reading, so just today I saw an incredible article in the February 27th issue of Science News. The article, entitled “From Skin Cells to neurons, with no middle man,” discussed some astonishing experiments in which mouse skin cells were turned directly into neurons.1
Researchers at Stanford University took skin fibroblast cells (cells that make a protein called collagen) from a mouse and used a virus to insert genes that encode certain transcription factors. These transcription factors are proteins that actually help to regulate gene activity. In other words, their job is to turn genes on and off. The idea here is that even though skin cells are specialized, they have the same DNA that any other non-reproductive cells have. Thus, if we could “turn on” the right genes and “turn off” other genes, we could turn one type of cell into another type of cell.
So…the researchers inserted genes for three transcription factors that are present when neurons are just starting to form. It is assumed that these transcription factors activate the genes necessary for a stem cell to become a neuron, and they deactivate the genes that a neuron doesn’t need. The researchers thought that if they forced those transcription factors to appear in a skin cell, the transcription factors would turn on and off the right genes to make the skin cell turn into a neuron. They were right.
In part 1 of this review, I told you the things I liked about Genesis and The Big Bang by Dr. Gerald L. Schroeder. Now I want to move on to the things I didn’t like about the book. As I already mentioned, Dr. Schroeder seems firmly committed to the Big Bang model, despite its many problems. However, that’s not my main concern. While there are a lot of problems with the Big Bang model, there are some data that support it, so it is not irrational to choose to work with that paradigm. My problems with the book go much deeper than that.
My first problem is that Dr. Schroeder has either not investigated the myriad of opinions of ancient Jewish theologians, or he conveniently doesn’t tell the reader about them. He wants to make the case that he is getting his theology from sources that have not been influenced by modern science. He chooses four theologians (Onkelos, Rashi, Maimonides, and Nahmanides) that he says have “withstood time’s test,” and he says:
Because their commentaries were written long before the advent of modern physics, we avoid the folly of using interpretations of tradition that may have been biased by modern scientific discoveries. (p. 18)
I have two problems with this statement. First, there are many more than four ancient Jewish theologians who have “withstood the test of time.” I am not even Jewish, and I can name several more off the top of my head: Philo Judaeus, Akiba ben Yossef, Saadiah ben Yosef Gaon, Abraham ibn Daud, etc., etc.
Dr. Gerald L. Schroeder is a very original thinker. I recognized that when I read one of his previous books, The Science of God. Dr. Schroeder holds an earned PhD in physics and earth science from MIT and currently is an international consultant on radioactivity and a faculty member at Aish HaTorah College of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. As an orthodox Jew, he takes the Old Testament very seriously. He believes that the days in Genesis are definitely 24-hour days, but he also believes that the earth is billions of years old. In fact, his writings indicate that he is a theistic evolutionist.
How can a theistic evolutionist believe that the days of Genesis are 24-hour days? That’s where his original thinking comes in. As a PhD physicist, he understands that defining reference frame is very important. After all, we know the rate at which time passes depends on the reference frame in which you are measuring time. For example, time passes more quickly on the GPS satellites than it does here on earth. If this were not taken into account, your Garmin would not lead you to your destination. Thus, the question in Dr. Schroeder’s mind is not “How long were the days of Genesis?” He is convinced they were 24 hours long. The question in his mind is “In what reference frame did those 24 hours pass?”
In The Science of God (and in this book), he gives us the answer to that question. He says the reference frame is not that of earth. Indeed, earth doesn’t become the focus of the creation account until after a couple of days pass. As a result, he thinks that the reference frame in which the Genesis days are defined is that of the universe as a whole. This produces an interesting effect.
I have a stack of journals and other periodicals that I read in order to keep up on what is going on in the world of science. Currently, I am working on the ones that came in late July. However, for some reason, the March 23 issue of Answers Update from Answers in Genesis got mixed up with the late July materials. As a result, I just read this:
The horrible school shooting in Finland in 2007 is a prime example. The killer stated: “I am prepared to fight and die for my cause . . .I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit…It’s time to put NATURAL SELECTION & SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST back on tracks!” This student was only carrying out in practice what he had been taught concerning origins, as well as the lack of purpose and meaning he found in life. Herein lies Darwin’s terrible legacy, which has affected all modern cultures. 1
In other words, Charles Darwin left behind a terrible legacy – one of violence and evil. Many other Christian works say similar things. For example, a book that claims to give people a “Biblical Worldview of God and Truth” says:
Darwin’s Tragic Legacy…his 1859 book…gave rise to the controversial theory of evolution. Sadly, 150 years later, modern evolutionary theory has become the basis for most biological studies and is taught as fact in our schools and universities, despite the truth that scientists are no closer to proving the theory after all this time. Meanwhile, the biblical account of God’s creation of the universe is no longer taught in most schools due to legal challenges brought by those who do not believe in God or the authority of His Word. 2
So according to this book, Darwin left behind a tragic legacy that has destroyed modern education.
Of course, both statements are seriously incorrect. Darwin certainly did not leave a “tragic” or “terrible” legacy. In fact, Darwin was a great scientist who left us a rich legacy of solid scientific data and conclusions. Sure, some of what he believed was wrong, but that can be said of almost every great scientist from the past. More importantly, a lot of what Darwin believed is correct. In fact, the great irony of all this is that both sources I quoted are from young-earth creationists, and without Darwin, it would be impossible for young-earth creationists to have a Biblical worldview!
As The Irrational Atheist shows, it doesn’t take much to destroy the arguments of the New Atheists. The arguments of Dawkins, Hitchens, etc. are simply no match for a computer game designer armed with a few facts. Indeed, Dawkins couldn’t even hold his own against a former political speechwriter.
Well, it turns out that it doesn’t even take a computer game designer or former political speechwriter to make Dawkins look like an idiot. Even a radio talk show host can do it. Hugh Hewitt is an attorney who has a radio talk show that I have never heard. However, someone sent me the transcript of his discussion with Dawkins, and after reading it, I had to admit feeling sorry for poor old Richard. Of course, it’s not his fault. His position is so weak that such embarrassments are inevitable.