How do evolutionists construct their scientific case for evolution? How can the creationist respond in scientific terms? Greg D. from New Zealand writes:
My oldest son is a Christian currently being persuaded by evolutionary science. He has challenged me to supply him names of peer reviewed geneticists who conclude that DNA is an information rich code (or language) that points to an intelligent source.
I would desperately appreciate any information you are able to supply on this topic.
We can certainly offer some names: John Sanford, Maciej Giertych, CMI’s Robert Carter, James S. Allan, Matti Leisola, and Georgia Purdom are several PhD geneticists who have published in secular peer-reviewed journals and think DNA is a code that is best explained by a designer. In fact, they are all biblical creationists. I would recommend to you Dr Sanford’s book Genetic Entropy, and our book Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels, which may be of particular benefit to your son. Another book that may be beneficial to him, which is freely available online, but is not on our website, is Biological Information: New Perspectives.1 We certainly wouldn’t endorse all the perspectives offered in this book, but it provides some good information on population genetics and biological information that your son may find useful.
But this debate isn’t really about names; it’s about arguments. More specifically, it’s about the fact that mainstream science operates with a methodology that only accepts attempts to describe the origin of anything biological in terms of natural causes (physics and chemistry). For more information, please see Historical science and miracles. This is why he will not find articles in the secular biological literature arguing openly for a divine designer (see Creationism, Science and Peer Review for more information). If he doesn’t understand the different assumptions at play in this debate, and how they can constrain the interpretations of the evidence an investigator is willing to entertain, then he will fall quite easily for fallacious evolutionary arguments, such as equivocation. Why? Because of how they tend to construct their case.
Evolutionists build their case in two basic ways. First, they show that biological change does happen, at the molecular and the organismal levels. This is not hard to do, and nobody disagrees. Second, they posit that common ancestry is the best explanation of a suite of different patterns of similarity we observe in physiology, embryology, and genetics. They then combine these two lines of evidence and conclude that the best explanation of how the patterns of similarity that we observe arose is through the biological mechanisms of change that operate via reproduction.
A few things to notice from this. First, evolutionists have an automatic ‘fall back’ position if their current ideas on mechanisms for evolution don’t work; the patterns of similarity that (supposedly) demonstrate common ancestry. In other words, if pressed, some prominent evolutionists will willingly admit that neo-Darwinian mechanisms are insufficient while maintaining Darwin’s central argument for common ancestry from patterns of similarity. The meeting of prominent evolutionists known as the Altenberg 16, shows this clearly; they admit that there is no mechanism for evolution but they still asserted their belief in evolution. The patterns of similarity that ‘show’ common ancestry are really the crux of the issue, as far as evolutionists are concerned.
However, the patterns of similarity actually don’t fit the evolutionary story at all well, so all sorts of ‘rescue arguments’ come into play to explain away similarities that cannot be explained by common ancestry (convergent evolution, parallel evolution, etc.). Such similarities are consistent with a common designer, not common ancestry; see: Homology made simple.
Second, creationists are not averse to seeing some patterns of similarity as explainable in terms of common ancestry. In fact, we would insist that some patterns of similarity are only explainable by common ancestry. However, we stop using ‘common ancestry’ explanations for patterns of similarity when biological mechanisms are not sufficient to explain the origin of a new biological feature. Thus, for the creationist the central issue is not the pattern of similarity we observe. We are not convinced that the types of similarity pattern we see in a particular instance alone suffice to warrant common ancestry as the sole likely explanation for a particular pattern. Evolutionists are too quick to make that connection, since their methods of investigating biological similarity presuppose evolution (see e.g. Cladistics, evolution, and the fossils), and they typically assume too much about what a designer would do when they have no clue (see our vestigial organs and homology Q and A pages). Rather, the central issue for creationists is that biological mechanisms alone are insufficient to explain all the patterns of similarity evolutionists claim result from common ancestry.
Second, there is a universal pattern of mutational decay across all forms of complex cellular life. This is called genetic entropy. In fact, the rate at which genetic entropy occurs is so fast that God would have to do regular ‘genetic maintenance’ on all ‘higher’ organisms throughout the supposed billions-of-years history of life just to keep creatures alive! As explained in our article Age of the earth:
The decay in the human genome due to multiple slightly deleterious mutations each generation is consistent with an origin several thousand years ago. Sanford, J., Genetic entropy and the mystery of the genome, Ivan Press, 2005; see review of the book and the interview with the author in Creation30(4):45–47,September 2008. This has been confirmed by realistic modelling of population genetics, which shows that genomes are young, in the order of thousands of years. See Sanford, J., Baumgardner, J., Brewer, W., Gibson, P. and Remine, W., Mendel’s Accountant: A biologically realistic forward-time population genetics program, SCPE8(2):147–165, 2007.
So, genetic entropy is not just evidence against evolution, but against any deep time scenario for the history of biology. After all, does it really sound likely that God would tinker with genomes so regularly over a span of c. 600 million years when He could avoid such periodic ‘tune ups and tweaks’ by creating all creatures a few thousand years ago, just as He indicated in Genesis?
To summarize—evolutionists concentrate their efforts on patterns of similarity to try to demonstrate common ancestry, but the real issue they need to explain (and can’t explain) is how all of those patterns could arise through biological mechanisms alone.
The search for truth is governed by one simple idea ‘Go where the evidence leads’. The recently formulated ‘scientific consensus’ version of this idea has been changed to ‘Only consider the materialistic explanation’.
Consider the following scenario:
DNA is a set of instructions written in a code whose chemical properties in no way relate to the information encoded with them. The only way to decipher this code is with a translation device that is itself written in this code. Without the code there is no information, without the translator there is no way to use the information. What came first the code or the translator (the chicken or the egg)? There is no workable naturalistic explanation for this conundrum therefore the explanation can’t be naturalistic and our experience of the natural world tells us such a system must have been designed.
‘We now know that the secret of life lies not with the chemical ingredients as such, but with the logical structure and organisational arrangement of the molecules. … Like a supercomputer, life is an information processing system. … It is the software of the living cell that is the real mystery, not the hardware.’
‘How did stupid atoms spontaneously write their own software? … Nobody knows … ’.
Paul Davies, Life force, New Scientist, 1999
Any search for truth to be a legitimate and informed exploration must consider all facets of reality and not just one. You can’t explain a poem about love with mathematics. Scientific naturalism cannot answer historical, philosophical, emotional, metaphysical or religious questions in and of itself (although they can inform such topics) as these questions are outside of its domain.
As our education system thoroughly indoctrinates us in materialism I would focus first on this aspect.
Geoff C. W., Australia, 7 January 2017
Also put the shoe back on the other foot.Evolutionists say evolution is science, but it (and the 'big bang') consistently flouts scientific laws.
1st law of thermodynamics - energy and mass can neither be created nor destroyed. No scientific observation has contradicted this. However, the big bang theory says that the whole universe - matter and energy - were spontaneously created from nothing. Only a supernatural Creator could have done this.
Biogenesis - only life produces life. No scientific observation has contradicted this. Evolution theory (or its precedent) says that all life on earth came from non-life. Only a supernatural Creator could have done this.
2nd law of thermodynamics - everything decays over time. Again. no contradictory observation. Evolution says that functional complexity increased over time to the incredible level we see now. Only a supernatural Creator could have engineered this - but, of course, He wouldn't need any time.
Three scientific laws broken by evolutionary theory, but fully consistent with the teaching of the Bible.
Then there are scientific observations made about dinosaur bones' soft tissue, blood cells and DNA not yet fossilised. Impossible under evolution. Consistent with the Bible.
Dinosaur bones, diamonds, etc, containing C14. Impossible under evolution. Consistent with the Bible.
Pictures and engravings of dinosaurs around the world. Impossible under evolution. Consistent with the Bible.
Then there are polystrate fossils, huge canyons, water gaps, etc, etc, none of which are consistent with the theory of evolution, but are consistent with the Bible.
Evolutionary theory is about as unscientific as it can be, and results from an initial assumption that there is no Creator. There is no basis for making this assumption!
Michael T., Australia, 7 January 2017
The absence of "names of peer reviewed geneticists who conclude that DNA is an information rich code (or language) that points to an intelligent source", would not prove evolution.
Joseph M., United Kingdom, 7 January 2017
"...names of peer reviewed geneticists who conclude that DNA is an information rich code (or language) that points to an intelligent source."
That's a strange statement, because they all agree that DNA or RNA molecules are written in a "language" of four nucleotides. Hence we get the terms "information", "DNA or RNA code", "genetic code", "language" proliferating peer reviewed journals, science literature, medical journals, etc. As the article states there is the scientific discipline of bioinformatics. It is simple homework on the son's part to know this.
"An intelligent source will always produce information", is an observed indisputable fact.
"Physics and chemistry without intelligence always produce information (language)", is unobserved and suffers from the fallacy of affirming the consequence.
It is obvious which statement is more likely to be true of biological information. Evolutionists will invert the meaning to "it looks like design but it is an illusion", "it looks like codes, but it is an illusion" if their worldview is in conflict with the obvious and science.
When being persuaded by evolutionary science it's also important for the oldest son to understand logical fallacies such as: "equivocation", "no true Scotsman", "affirming the consequence", "straw man", "genetic fallacy", etc.
michael S., United Kingdom, 7 January 2017
I think it's essential to teach your son that accepting things unquestioningly because they come from, "science" or only accepting things studied by science, in itself is a misguided belief, because a lot of things can be proven by deductive reason alone. A lot of things can be figured out using logical reasoning. So what your son really needs to do is ask if the argument for information in the DNA, is a logically reasonable argument. That is to say, if he needs an authority to, "okay" an argument, then he has fallen into the trap of thinking that a sound argument is something decided by professional opinion.
In fact a sound argument is decided by rules of logical notation. If an argument is sound, it's premises are true, it's form is valid as a syllogism, and it's conclusion follows from the premises.
So if there is a logically sound argument for why DNA is information, then it would quite literally not matter if every scientist on the planet disagreed with that argument, for if that argument is sound according to logical rules, then the neurotic-agreement of the majority-scientists, is 100% not relevant and only has it's basis as an appeal to authority. (Argumentum Ad Verecundiam).
So logically, DNA qualifies as an information-code, if it has all of the usual elements that would usually qualify a code such as binary code or english, it must use code-reprentation, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, apobetics. Thus CATG is a quarternary code, the four genetic "letters" really do instruct for certain actions in the cell, and codons are the words. Google "codon" and the first description on google talks about DNA and codons as the, "language". I'm pretty confident the people on google are unlikely creationist yet they describe DNA using informational terminology.
Ken C., Canada, 7 January 2017
Dr Francis Crick, professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, who received a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA suggested, “To avoid damage...the microorganisms...traveled in the head of an unmanned spaceship sent to earth by a higher civilization which had developed elsewhere some billions of years ago...Life started here when these organisms were dropped into the primitive ocean...We called our idea Directed Panspermia.”
A New York Times article on July 29, 2004 following Dr, Cricks death suggested, “With "Directed Panspermia," he prepared, in effect, an intellectual escape hatch, an alternative explanation for life should scientists in fact find it too hard to account plausibly for the remarkably rapid emergence of Earth's first life forms.”
Indeed why would a scientist of Crick’s credentials need an “intellectual escape hatch”? What happened to the billions of years necessary for macroevolution?
The basis for his proposal above can be best described by Dr. Crick himself with these two statements where he suggested, “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that, in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle"… "Every time I write a paper on the origin of life, I determine I will never write another one, because there is too much speculation running after too few facts."
Joe B., United States, 7 January 2017
In addition to the already referenced books, I would also recommend Werner Gitt's book "Without Excuse" which delves into the nature of information and how what we see in the genome is both special and deliberately designed. Parts of the book read more like an abstract text on mathematics or logic but for the aspiring student taking course in a scientific discipline, this should not pose a problem.
From a personal perspective, I believe that the second law of thermodynamics (which has already been mentioned) is really the proverbial nail in the coffin of evolutionary theory. There have been lots of attempts to refute this but they are all either circular arguments, doublespeak, or semantic baloney.
One suggestion for Gregg D. would be to have is son go online and search - 'Complex grammar of the genomic language' from ScienceDaily.
The overwhelming evidence of the complexity of the genome literally screams "Design!", and the faith of some to ignore it overpowers their ability to acknowledge it.
Jordan C., United States, 9 January 2017
The Creation.com website is second to none for researching the topic and the literature used in the articles information are well sited. I would recommend: Signature of the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, by Steven Meyer. His arguments for design in biological systems (DNA) is devastating to abiogenesis. It kills Darwin's tree at it's roots.
Don Batten responds
Our article on the origin of life is a good place to start: Origin of life.
Scott L., United States, 10 January 2017
Addressing the peer review issue, keep in mind that submitting scientific papers for publishing with conclusions that go against evolutionary theory are dismissed at best and viciously attacked at worst.
Remember the paper that dared to endorse a "Creator" as the source behind the complexity of the human hand? The vitriol and outcry from those that see creation as pseudo-science was astounding - a real eye opener for me.
If you are interested, it's pretty easy to find with a quick Google search - "PLoS One" "Human Hand" and "Creator". Hard to miss!
Nathan G., Germany, 14 January 2017
Science "Answers questions and questions answers."
I would remind your son not to accept any so-called expert's word for anything without independent confirmation. Even "peer reviewed" ones. This combines the fallacies of the expert and of the majority.
Peer review is a recent fixture of science. History of science textbooks show us that peer review is often skewed and sloppy. Science today is a politically and idealogically charged, post-WWII mess, which is increasingly based on funding battles. Money is the name of the game.
I would also remind your son that peer review has other very serious problems:
1) Geneticists with peer review have had to jettison "junk DNA", vestigial organs, etc. in the last few years due to embarrassing new evidence.
2) Numerous peer-reviewed Chinese fossil frauds.
3) Almost none of the earliest, most important science discoveries by Christians like Kepler, Faraday, Newton, etc. up to 1900 were peer-reviewed in the current sense, but the data is still valid.
4) People purposely slipped fraudulent papers past peer review watchdogs, just so they could later expose the fact and say "I told you so!".
5) Recent findings in Germany reveal that possibly half of university professors commit plagiarism to get their PhD degrees. So exactly who are we supposed to blindly trust? Others like Dr. Glueck purposely lie during peer review (see article "Why the epidemic of fraud exists in science today" on this website).
6) Michael Ruse openly admits that materialistic, atheistic evolution is a replacement religion for Christianity. Dr. Scott Todd and Dr. Richard Lewontin do, too. (see "Leading anti-creationist philosopher admits that evolution is a religion" and "‘Arrogate’" on this Website).
Test everything. Keep that which is good. (2 Timothy)