Microbiology: Hard Evidence for Intelligent Design

Microbiology: Hard Evidence for Intelligent Design

A very good question was posed to Eric Lander when he was asked, “How is genomics affecting the study of evolution?” He answered this way:

Evolutionary biology is being transformed by the availability of genomic data. Now we can sit down with the complete sequences of a number of organisms and begin to reconstruct their evolutionary relationships and histories in exquisite detail. We can see the forces at work in different lineages. For instance, we can see that in humans the most actively evolving genes are those involved in reproduction and the immune system. Scientists have long thought that genomes carried such information about evolution, but we’re finally getting to see it laid out clearly. Evolution is, so to speak, an experimentalist that has been running experiments for three and a half billion years, since the origin of life on Earth. And, wonderfully, the genomes of today’s organisms retain the lab notes of these experiments, so that we can go back and reconstruct the events that took place. 1

 

Is this true? Has the modern study of genomes, and microbiology in general, led us to the necessary evidence to reconstruct a viable evolutionary explanation for the origins of life on earth? The theory of evolution has risen up and spread throughout the scientific community, dominating the majority opinion in this field of study. Is this progress? I believe that Darwinian evolutionary theory rests on primitive scientific study which should be discarded in the light of modern microbiology. A creationist movement has also risen up and for years has been arguing for the position of intelligent design. They have defended intelligent design with microbiological evidence for complexity, irreducible complexity and genetic information. Creationists have also called attention to the absence of intermediate forms in the chain of evolutionary mutation. The theory of evolution has produced dangerous applications to society and is dangerous to the church. Where believed, it undermines Christian beliefs.

The theory of evolution has risen up and spread throughout the scientific community, dominating the majority opinion in this field of study. Early evolutionists, such as Joseph Hooker, Herbert Spencer and, most notably, Charles Darwin began teaching evolutionary theory in the 1800s. The most significant date in evolution theory history is 1859, when Darwin’s book, “Origin of Species,” was published. This book comprised over twenty years of Darwin’s work and was an immediate sell-out. While many scientists were interested in this new theory of evolution, one man, perhaps more so than any other, worked to see it spread. His name was T. H. Huxley. Huxley was a biologist and a professor whose influence in the scientific community was steadily growing. In 1864, he founded the X Club, a scientific club which went on to influence and, to a great extent, control the Royal Society, the most prestigious scientific body in England. Huxley gained the authority to appoint nineteen university professors in new universities and, consequently, evolution gained a strong foothold. In America, professors, such as Asa Gray, also popularized the theory. 2 Today, it is the majority opinion within the scientific community. Although evolution has progressed in its influence, it has not progressed in providing the necessary information which would move it from being a theory to a fact.

I believe that Darwinian evolutionary theory rests on primitive science that should be dismissed in light of modern microbiology. When the Origin of Species was first published in 1859, it provided an explanation for homologous resemblance, rudimentary organs, abundance of species, extinction and biogeography. It provided an explanation for these and other data discovered up until the first half of the twentieth century. However, in the second half of the twentieth century, more data has come forward which cannot be reasonably explained by Darwinian evolution. 3

One example of primitive scientific theory in Darwin’s generation is that of Ernst Haeckel. He proposed that a cell was a “simple little lump of albuminous combination of carbon.” 4 In that same year of 1859, Haeckel viewed some sea-bottom mud and became excited over how much he thought it resembled cells that he had seen in a microscope. He informed Huxley, who also observed the mud, and concluded that it was urschleim (protoplasm) and even named it “bathybius haeckelii.” However, the mud did not perform as they expected it to. It did not grow or become more complex. What did become more complex were microscopes and in the coming years the complexity of cells became known. The “simple little lump” was found to hold thousands of different organic molecules, proteins and nucleic acid. It contained numerous sub-cellular structures, specialized compartments and complicated components. While in ignorance of this complexity, Darwin, Haeckel and Huxley’s evolutionary beliefs seemed realistic. Michael Behe refers to this as Darwin’s “black box.” Darwin, and those of his day, simply could not see what we can today and for him it was like staring into a black box. 5

Since the 1950s, the box of microbiology has become brighter. New understanding of microorganisms has led to the advancement of both medicine and agriculture. Sometimes, new discoveries shake the foundations of what was previously believed. Previous theories are then overturned in the light of new discoveries. 6 In modern times, many microscopes have been replaced with more powerful electron microscopes, allowing even more visibility of a cell. Modern microbiology has provided what should be ample evidence to overturn Darwinian evolution.

With the advancement of microbiology, a creationist movement has risen up. While creationists had been conducting their scientific research and publishing some of their work, creationism, as a movement, remained largely unorganized until the involvement of the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in the early 1990s. This organization began organizing and coordinating the efforts of leading creationists and funding the movement in a big way. They also began convening creationist conferences to spread their ideas. One large conference was the “Mere Creation Conference” held at Biola University in 1996. An official statement of purpose was drafted, called “The Wedge Strategy,” and posted on the Internet in 1999. With funding from the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture organization, the creationist movement expressed itself in a number of ways. One way was in the publishing of books, video tapes, audio tapes and their journal, “Origins and Design.” One book, which had major influence in this movement, was “Darwin’s Black Box,” written by Michael Behe in 1996. Another way that the creationist movement began expressing itself was through seminars and teacher-training programs. A further achievement of the movement has been that of publishing editorials in major newspapers, such as The Wall Street Journal (December 6, 1993 and August 16, 1999), The Chronicle of Higher Education (November 12, 1999), The New York Times (October 29, 1996 and August 13, 1999), The Washington Times (July 4, 1996), The Washington Post (August 21, 1999), and others. Another medium made use of has been television, as leading creationists like Michael Behe, Phillip Johnson and Stephen Meyer have appeared on PBS Broadcasting. The Internet has also been used in a big way to spread creationism. 7

Creationists, such as those working for the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, have employed modern microbiology to present proof for intelligent design by showing the complexity of life. Francisco Ayala said that Darwin’s greatest feat was to show how the organized complexity of creatures could come about without a designing intelligence. 8 Remember, however, the degree of complexity which Darwin observed was restricted to the “black box” of what the technology of his day would allow. With the invention of the electron microscope, the simple cell has been so magnified that modern scientists are aware of thousands of different types of proteins at work within cells, performing numerous tasks. A protein chain is made up of anywhere from 50 to 1,000 amino acid links. 9 In fact, a single cell contains numerous microscopic machines which work in connection with each other. Bruce Alberts comments on this complexity:

The entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of large protein machines … Why do we call the large protein assemblies that underlie cell function machines? Precisely because, like machines invented by humans to deal efficiently with the macroscopic world, these protein assemblies contain highly coordinated moving parts. 10

 

While the cell, as a whole, is complex, so are its individual machines and component parts. DNA within a cell is one such example. In 1988, scientists began mapping the human genome. This became a colossal task as human chromosomes have been found to contain approximately three billion nucleotides. The technology of gene-mapping has also led to DNA fingerprinting, in which individuals can be identified by their DNA. 11 The complexity of DNA staggers the mind. In the human body, DNA controls the arrangement of 206 bones, 600 muscles, 10,000 auditory nerve fibers, 2 million optic nerve fibers and 100 billion nerve cells. 12 Evolutionist, Frank Salisbury, testifies to the complexity of DNA in these words:

A medium protein might include about 300 amino acids. The DNA gene controlling this would have about 1,000 nucleotides in its chain, one consisting of a 1,000 links could exist in 4 to the power of 1,000 different forms. Using a little algebra (logarithms) we can see that 4 to the power of 1,000 equals 10 to the power 600. Ten multiplied by itself 600 times gives the figure of ‘1’ followed by 600 zeros! This number is completely beyond our comprehension. 13

 

What is equally incomprehensible is how this kind of complexity could not be a product of intelligent design.

Not only have creationists employed modern microbiology to show that cells and life are complex, but also that they are irreducibly complex, proving intelligent design. Behe defines this term in these words; “By irreducible complexity I mean a single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” 14 In other words, complex systems, such as cells, could not have had their individual parts and machines evolve gradually because the absence of one or more of these parts makes the entire system inoperable. One example of this would be cilia, hair-like organelles on the outside of some animal and plant cells. They exist to row cells through fluid. They are comprised of at least six proteins which work together. If the protein, alpha-tubulin, is absent, then there are not filaments to fly. If the protein, dynein, isn’t there, the cilium is motionless. If the protein, nexin, isn’t there, then the axonene falls apart. 15 So we see that the only way that the cilia can function is if they are complete, with all of their necessary proteins. By reducing a cilia’s protein, you do not digress it to an earlier evolutionary stage; you destroy it.

Not only have creationists demonstrated intelligent design by using microbiology to show irreducible complexity, they have also demonstrated intelligent design by using microbiology to show information systems in life. They point out that organisms have both a “material” and a “codical” existence. 16 Their codical existence is the non-material information existing in DNA which determines our physical makeup. It was Gregor Johann Mendel who, in 1900, first discovered that inheritance comes from “matter of particles” (genes). Next, it was James Watson and Francis Crick who worked out the double helical structure of DNA. It became apparent that sequences in the DNA chain were information which was copied as the DNA helix split. 17 Complex information, such as this, mandates a designer who created it. Two scientists who proposed a different idea for the assembling of micro-organisms were Dean Kenyon and Gary Stienman. Their theory was that properties of attraction automatically caused chemical parts, especially amino acids in proteins, to connect in the cell. Their research gained much attention from the scientific world. However, instead of proving their theory with evidence, Kenyon came to abandon their theory. He said, “We know today that it is not just chemical attraction but DNA gives instructions for the construction of amino acids and proteins.” 18 He said that, somewhere in the late 1970s, he reached the “intellectual breaking point” and:

The more that I conducted my own studies … the more it became apparent that there were multiple difficulties with the chemical evolution account and further experimental work showed that amino acids do not have the ability to organize themselves into any biologically meaningful sequences… The more I thought about the alternative that was being presented in the criticism and the enormous problem that all of us who worked on this field had failed to address, the problem of the origin of genetic information itself, then I really had to reassess my whole position regarding origins. … It’s exactly this new realm of molecular genetics where we see the most compelling evidence of design on the earth. 19

 

The question is inescapable. If life is constructed by complex information within the DNA, where did this information come from?

As well as using microbiology to prove intelligent design, creationists have used microbiology to disprove evolution by showing that there are no intermediate microbiological forms. If evolution is occurring and if organisms are not irreducibly complex, we would expect to find the intermediate forms of microbiological machines. Evolutionists have dismissed the problem of the absence of intermediate forms between species of animals, arguing that the evolution of a creature transforming from one species to another is such a long and large job that it takes millions of years to observe. However, surely at a microscopic, microbiological level we should be able to observe these changes and their intermediate forms if evolution is, in fact, correct. However, the evidence is found wanting. Behe points out that the Journal of Molecular Evolution centers around the theme of how evolution occurs on a molecular level. 20 However, this magazine has not discussed “detailed models for intermediates in the development of complex biomolecular structures.” 21 Behe goes on to say that such information has neither been found in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Nature, Science, the Journal of Molecular Biology, nor, to his knowledge, any journal, whatsoever. 22 Behe comments; “With the advent of modern biochemistry we are now able to look at the rock-bottom level of life. We can now make an informed evaluation on whether the putative small steps required to produce large evolutionary changes can ever get small enough.” 23 This technology, instead of revealing intermediate forms, has revealed complete structures.

With modern microbiological discoveries and with these reconsiderations, the evidence for evolution has become shaky. Not only is it shaky, the theory of evolution when it is believed, is dangerous. Throughout history, the theory has been embraced by both right-wing and left-wing extremists. On the right-wing spectrum of thought, Hitler’s government was very accepting of evolution and the theory contributed to his ideas for a “master race.” On the left side, communists embraced evolution and propagated it zealously. The communists viewed religion as the “opiate of the people,” tried to crush it, and presented evolution as an alternative. 24

As well as evolutionary theory being dangerous in, and towards, society, it is dangerous to the Church. Many well-meaning Christians have tried to accommodate the theory of evolution by conceiving of a Christian version of evolution. Such accommodation undermines our faith and spawns distrust and unbelief in the Bible. By giving credence to evolution, many Christians have accepted a viewpoint that literal interpretation of Scripture (in particular, Genesis) is at odds with science. It is not at odds with science; it is at odds with evolutionary theory.

So, we see that while evolutionary thought has risen up and its influence has spread, its progress has been in its influence, not in its evidence. Darwin’s ability to test his theory was dramatically hampered by the primitive nature of the technology of his time. The “black box” that he tried to work with has now been illuminated by modern microbiology. While Haeckel and Huxley were excited over mud that they thought resembled the cell, electron microscopes have given us another picture of the cell, one that is infinitely complex. Far from being a “simple little lump,” the cell is a factory of complicated machines which are irreducibly complex. The pinnacle of their complexity is the DNA helix and its volumes of intricate, detailed information. Instead of revealing intermediate forms, microbiology has revealed complete systems. All of these things serve as hard evidence for intelligent design. A creationist movement has risen up and is progressing in evidence and in influence. It is committed to standing for the truth of intelligent design in the face of a false evolutionary theory which would undermine Christianity.

 

Shawn Stevens

 

ENDNOTES

 

1 Eric Lander, “Genetics” in Biology, 7th ed., edited by Neil A. Campbell and Jane B. Reece.

(San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2005).

2 M. Bowden, The Rise of the Evolution Fraud (San Diego: Creation Life Publishers, 1982).

3 Michael J. Behe, “Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference”

in Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock. (Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2001).

4 Ernst Haeckel, quoted in Michael J. Behe, “Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference” in Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock.

5 Michael J. Behe, “Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference”

in Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock..

6 Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: The Free Press, 1996).

7 Barbara Forrest, “The Wedge at Work: How Intelligent Design Creationism is Wedging Its Way into the Cultural and Academic Mainstream” quoted in Michael J. Behe, Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock.

8 William A. Dembski, The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004).

9 Michael J. Behe, “Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference”

in Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock.

10 Bruce Alberts, quoted in Niall Shanks, God, The Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).

11 Richard T. Wright, Biology Through the Eyes of Faith (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003).

12 Scott M. Huse, The Collapse of Evolution (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993).

13 Frank Salisbury, “Doubts About the Modern Synthetic Theory of Evolution,” American Biology Teacher in Scott M. Huse, The Collapse of Evolution.

14 Michael J. Behe, “Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference”

in Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock.

15 Ibid.

16 George C. Williams, Natural Selection: Domains, Levels and Challenges in Phillip E. Johnson, “Is Genetic Information Irreducible?” in Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock.

17 Richard T. Wright, Biology Through the Eyes of Faith.

18 Dean Kenyon, quoted in Unlocking the Mystery of Life: The Case for Intelligent Design.

60 minutes. Illustra Media, 2002. Videocassette.

19 Ibid.

20 Michael J. Behe, “Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference”

in Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid.

24 M. Bowden, The Rise of the Evolution Fraud.

 

REFERENCES

 

Alberts, Bruce. Quoted in Niall Shanks God, The Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of

Intelligent Design Theory. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Behe, Michael J. Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution.

New York: The Free Press, 1996.

Behe, Michael J. “Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference.”

In Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2001.

Bowden, M. The Rise of the Evolution Fraud. San Diego: Creation Life Publishers, 1982.

Dembski, William A. The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Forrest, Barbara. “The Wedge at Work: How Intelligent Design Creationism is Wedging Its Way Into the Cultural and Academic Mainstream.” In Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2001.

Haeckel, Ernst. Quoted in Michael J. Behe “Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference.” In Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2001.

Huse, Scott M. The Collapse of Evolution. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993.

Lander, Eric. “Genetics.” In Biology, 7th ed., edited by Neil A. Campbell and Jane B. Reece.

San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2005.

Kenyon, Dean. Quoted in Unlocking the Mystery of Life: The Case for Intelligent Design.

60 min. Illustra Media, 2002. Videocassette.

Salisbury, Frank. “Doubts About the Modern Synthetic Theory of Evolution,”

American Biology Teacher. In Huse, Scott M. The Collapse of Evolution.

Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993.

Williams, George C. Natural Selection: Domains, Levels and Challenges. In Phillip E. Johnson

“Is Genetic Information Irreducible?” In Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2001.

Wright, Richard T. Biology Through the Eyes of Faith. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003.

 

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