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talk.origins FAQ (Creation) 2 of 3

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Archive-name: talk-origins/creation/part2
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Last-modified: 17 May 1998
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[18] Does evolution contradict the bible?
[A] Yes. The bible states in Genesis Chapter 1 that God created plants and
animals "according to their kind" and this phrase is repeated a number of
times. Thus the bible states that God created different kinds of plants
and animals and evolution contradicts this.

[19] Is natural selection evidence of evolution?
[A] No. One well known example of natural selection was observed in
populations of _Biston betularia_, the peppered moth. Individuals of this
species may be dark or light in colour. Records of moths collected last
century show that near Manchester in the North of England around 1% of
individuals of this moth species were dark and 99% were light coloured in
1848, and that by 1898 95% of the moths were dark with only 5% light
coloured.

The moth population changed because pollution from industry killed the
light coloured lichens that had previously grown on trees trunks and
blackened the trees so that light coloured moths in later years were more
easily seen by birds. Since dark moths were less likely to be eaten, they
produced more offspring and the dark form of the moth colour gene became
more common in the moth population. 

The dark moths were much more common in 1898 but they were no different to
the dark moths that had been alive 50 years earlier. This change in the
frequency of existing alleles in the gene pool of the moth population is
definitely an example of natural selection and definitely not an example
of evolution if evolution is defined in a way that is similar to what it
means. The term evolution has been used in Biology for more than a century
to include large scale changes that are suggested as an explanation for
the origin of all species as a result of natural processes, this usage
includes the appearance of novel characteristics and precedes the current
definition.

[20] What is the difference between natural selection and evolution?
[A] Natural selection involves changes in existing species in response to
changes in the frequency of existing alleles in the gene pool of the
species. It is likely that this type of change happened in the past
because similar changes are observed today. Natural selection resulting
from changes in the frequency of unaltered existing alleles cannot produce
novel characteristics, natural selection has been observed to act on
alleles that have very minor changes in base sequence produced by
mutations however these minor changes are insufficient to explain the
development of novel characteristics.

Novel characteristics in organisms such as a change from invertebrates to
vertebrates clearly require many new genes with many different Nitrogen
base sequences to those in ancestral organisms and it is assumed by
evolutionary biologists that mutations produced the novel genetic
material. This genetic change is different in kind to the change in the
frequencies of existing alleles that are produced by natural selection.
There are questions regarding large scale change that do not apply to
natural selection as a result of existing allele frequency changes, for
example the relative rates of beneficial and deleterious mutations, the
origin of new characteristics that require many genes, and the development
of multiple step processes.

Despite these differences, modern examples of natural selection are
claimed to provide support for, or according to some, proof of large scale
evolution. This is not sound logic because although natural selection
acting on mutations has been observed to produce modifications to existing
characteristics it has not been shown to produce novel characteristics.
Proof of a simple process is not proof of a more complex process that
includes the simpler one. To suggest that the variation among Galapagos
finches was produced by these processes is extrapolating beyond the data,
to say that vertebrates were produced from invertebrates by these
processes is a guess.

[21] Some mutations have been shown to produce changes in multicellular
organisms that appear to be beneficial. Does this show that evolution
could have happened?
[A] No. Mutations that turn off a gene may produce altered characteristics
that may be beneficial in some cases. Any one of a large number of
possible changes to the DNA of the gene could produce this outcome by
damaging the gene, or the section of DNA that regulates the expression of
the gene may be altered. Some single base substitution mutations may also
produce characteristics that may be beneficial in some cases.

These mutations are very different to the formation of a novel gene with a
number of bases in the sequence that are not found in the base sequences
of existing genes, and the evolution of very different kinds of organisms
that have novel characteristics would require genes with many base
sequences that are different to those of previously existing genes.

Many of the new genes (*or duplicated genes that are significantly
altered) that are required for large scale change would need to have been
produced either by many separate base substitution mutations or by DNA
strand rearrangements where a section of DNA containing a number of bases
is inserted into a chromosome to produce a novel gene with a number of
novel bases. Such mutations are _very_ unlikely since novel genes will in
many cases require base sequence changes from existing genes at more than
one location in the base sequence of a gene.

The mutations that have been observed to produce beneficial effects are
base substitution mutations to genes that are already expressed or changes
in the genes that control the expression of functional genes. In
differentiated multicellular organisms there must be sections of DNA
separate from the protein code gene that control the expression of a
protein in different groups of specialised cells and so for a novel gene
coding for characteristics that did not previously exist to be produced as
a result of random mutations both the novel base sequence of the new gene
and the associated regulatory genes must be produced.

In a complex multicellular species with a limited reproduction rate the
number of separate mutations required to produce the required number of
separate base changes in both the protein code and regulatory genes would
be exceedingly high because the vast majority of mutations will be
harmful. Natural selection can't sort the mutations before they produce an
advantage and a selective advantage may require a number of separate
mutations to occur before survival is increased.

The view that evolution happened as a result of such unlikely combinations
of mutations is not supported by numerical calculations so it is a guess,
a complex multicellular species would be likely to be rendered extinct by
the exceedingly high number of mutations required to produce the genes for
a novel characteristic in a limited time frame.

[22] Mutations are frequently observed in unicellular organisms such as
bacteria and yeast, some of these mutations appear to produce beneficial
effects. Is this similar to the evolution of multicellular organisms?
[A] No. Beneficial mutations in bacteria and yeast are not appropriate
models for speculation about beneficial mutations in multicellular
organisms with specialised cells where genes that regulate expression in
the appropriate cells are needed as well as genes that code for the
proteins that produce the novel characteristics. Many separate fortunate
and unlikely coincidences are required in a limited time to produce a new
characteristic in a differentiated multicellular organism, and the
observation of single fortunate coincidences in isolation is not evidence
that this can happen.

A base substitution mutation can be compared to a roll of a dice with
millions of sides, in the case of the bacterium _E. coli_ the dice has
16.8 million sides since E. coli has 4.2 million Nitrogen bases in it's
DNA and each base is one of 4 types. A single roll may cause a base
substitution to an expressed gene in a bacterium that alters the surface
coat protein and such a change may be beneficial for a bacterium. A few
numbers could work. A novel characteristic in a multicellular organism
such as the first appearance of bones around a dorsal nerve cord would
require novel genes. In most cases a species will lack genes that can be
duplicated and produce the useful code by substituting a single base so
multiple rolls will be needed to make a cell protein code gene, other
multiple rolls will be needed for a gene that regulates expression of the
new protein code in the appropriate cells (how much protein is made) and
still more multiple rolls will be needed for a gene that determines the
cell types and locations where the gene is expressed.

In mice and humans the mutation dice have 1.2 x 10^10 and 1.3 x 10^10
sides respectively, in each case this is four times the number of Nitrogen
bases in the haploid genomes of these species. A significant proportion of
the numbers will produce harmful effects and one such roll will render a
series of rolls useless.

Gene regulation can involve multiple regulatory genes at each stage and
more than one gene will be needed. Unicellular organisms are not a model
for vertebrate evolution.

[23] Is it possible to definitively disprove evolution?
[A] It may be possible to definitively disprove evolution (what everybody
means by evolution, not the disingenuous definition) by calculating the
probability of the combination of random mutations that would be needed
for complex characteristics to evolve in differentiated multicellular
organisms and comparing this with the total number of individuals in a
vertebrate species that can reasonably be assumed to have lived over the
length of geological time when significant change in the fossil record of
vertebrates of this kind is observed. We may not know enough about the
nature of genes to do this yet since one of the important factors in the
development of novel complex characteristics is the control of the
expression of particular genes in specialised cell types and the molecular
nature of this control is not currently understood. It is reasonable to
assume that the control of gene expression in specialised cells of
multicellular organisms involves a significant number of bases in their
DNA and at the current rate of increase of our knowledge of molecular
biology this information is likely to become available in the next decade
or so. When this is known a person who has a very good understanding of
molecular and general biology and an aptitude for probability calculations
should then be able to prove definitively that new kinds of life could not
be produced by evolution.

[24] Are there other flaws in the Neo-Darwinian explanation for the origin
of all species as a result of random mutations and natural selection
following the appearance of the first living organism?
[A] Yes. Some characteristics in organisms are produced by several genes
and in some cases these genes will not be useful in isolation. If a single
new gene was produced by random mutations and the new gene is unused it
will be likely to be damaged by mutations over successive generations and
will only remain in a population for a limited time. For combinations of
several genes to be produced by random mutations not one but many vastly
unlikely events must occur in a limited number of individuals in a limited
number of generations. This is so unlikely that it is effectively
impossible, yet the evolution explanation requires this virtually
impossible chance appearance of groups of complex genes to happen
repeatedly during the development of complex species from simple ones.

This flaw in the evolution explanation is most obvious in the very early
stages of the development of life. The evolution of a complex processes
like photosynthesis could not have occurred by random mutations and
natural selection because these processes require combinations of genes to
function and the presence of only one or two of these genes would not
produce a selective advantage. Without a selective advantage a potentially
useful base sequence would have little chance of surviving enough
generations to accumulate the number of mutations required to form part of
a functional group of genes. Only a relatively small number of biochemical
processes would be present in a simple ancestral organism, photosynthesis
requires a pigment to trap photons of light and use the energy from the
photons to raise electrons to higher energy states as well as coenzymes to
transfer the energy from electrons to enzymes. Many additional enzymes are
needed to synthesise molecules that store energy, the pigment, the
coenzymes and the enzymes that convert the energy captured by the pigment
are complex molecules.

The Calvin Cycle never contains molecules smaller than 3 Carbon atoms and
it is far from certain that a functional biochemical pathway for
photosynthesis involving 1 or 2 Carbon intermediates could exist since
such a pathway would involve large energy jumps, possibly too large for
the energy to be transferred by electrons associated with pigments.
Without such a pathway photosynthesis could not have evolved. Even with
such a pathway many genes are needed for photosynthesis and these genes
would not be useful in isolation. Natural selection could not sort
mutations to produce these genes until the process of photosynthesis had
begun and so the evolution of photosynthesis would require many genes for
enzymes to transfer energy and for the synthesis of a pigment to be formed
purely by unsorted random mutations.

Other examples of characteristics that require several genes include the
biochemical processes that synthesise complex molecules. These reactions
often occur in several stages, each stage of the reaction is carried out
by a different enzyme and each enzyme is coded for by a different gene.
For multiple step biochemical processes to have arisen during the early
stages of cellular development by the natural selection of mutated genes
each step would have to be useful in isolation because of the small number
of enzyme genes that would have been in existence at this time. Genes
coding for enzymes that produced steps that were not functional at a given
stage of change would be likely to be damaged by mutations before the
number of genes required to produce a novel multiple step process that
rendered the genes useful could be produced by random mutations.

[25] I have heard that some people claim evolution is now a fact. Is this true?
[A] Only some supporters of evolution attempt to claim this. One way of
pretending that evolution is a fact is to use the word fact in a way that
is different from the meaning it has for most people, defining a fact as
something that is probably true rather than something that is definitely
true. Many people believe that evolution is almost definitely true however
this is both a form of probably true and an opinion. When evolution is
claimed to be a fact in this way without explaining that the word fact is
used to mean something different to the usual meaning of something that is
definitely true, the claim is misleading.

Another way of pretending that evolution is a fact is to use a definition
of evolution that includes very small changes in a population, then to say
that small changes occur and so evolution is observed. This is also
misleading because the term evolution has been commonly used for more than
a century to mean the whole process of speciation as a result of natural
processes following the formation of the first ancestral organism and this
usage is still current.

People who claim evolution is a fact without explaining that the word fact
or the term evolution is used in a narrow sense that is different to the
current and more common usage must know that their claim of evolution as a
fact is likely to be misunderstood, thus the people who claim evolution is
a fact either do not properly understand the subject or are being
deliberately misleading and are therefore dishonest.

[26] My science educator claims evolution is a fact and I am concerned
that he or she is misleading students. What can I do?
[A] You could speak to this person and politely point out that the use of
the word fact in this context is misleading and should be clarified since
the word evolution in Biology refers both to the current definition of
genetic change and to an unproved theory based on the one proposed by
Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace. If this does not help then it is likely
that your educator either lacks understanding of the subject or is
dishonest. You could then raise this issue with someone in the
administration of the educational institution you belong to, some consider
it good manners to move up one level of administration at a time if your
complaint is not resolved at any given level.

Many people who actually understand evolution recognise that it is an
explanation that cannot be proved to be correct, although most biologists
believe that evolution is what actually happened. Origins is an issue that
many people are interested in and when evolution is popularised, the
actual position "most scientists are convinced that ...." often becomes
distorted by oversimplification to be "what actually happened was .." and
the popularisation becomes a misleading representation of the true
picture. This distortion is worsened by a team spirit feeling that
produces a tendency to overstate the case of one side in a disagreement.

[27] Since evolution is unproved, what are the alternatives?
[A] Some people believe that the origin of living things is unknown and
possibly unknowable, the only serious alternative to evolution is a belief
that God created living things. There are different schools of thought
among Christians who regard the bible as truth.

Many biblical creationists believe that God created different kinds of
living things but do not think that the time scale of the creation process
is important.

Young earth biblical creationists believe that God created life on earth
6,000 to 12,000 years ago. Some of these people believe that God created
each species individually and others think that some separate species have
arisen in this time by natural processes.

Old earth biblical creationists believe that God created life on earth
over the time scale estimated by geologists at around 4,500 million years,
their views differ on the number of species God created directly and the
amount of natural variation that produced species diversity. Some believe
that all species were created separately by God and others, including this
writer, believe that God created different kinds of living things then
mutations and natural selection produced additional species within these
kinds.

Some Christians believe that God created the first living organism and
that mutations and natural selection produced the present variety of
species purely by natural processes without the active intervention of
God. Some also believe that God set up the starting conditions for life so
that it would inevitably appear.

[28] What is the "fine tuning" argument?
[A] Many biblical creationists believe that God created different kinds of
living things with the potential for a limited amount of change by natural
selection to enable adaptation to new or changing environments. It annoys
them when others observe this fine tuning process in operation and claim
that it is evidence for a completely different type of change, large scale
change to produce very different kinds of living things.

[29] Does the fossil record show that Darwin was right?
[A] No. The fossil record does not show the gradual change from one kind
of life to another that Darwin predicted but reveals long periods when
relatively little change took place and episodes when large amounts of
change took place in a short period of geological time. All the major
animal phyla appeared in a rapid "explosion" of life forms at the
beginning of the Cambrian period that is dated about 600 million years
ago.

[30] Many people think that the fossil record and the similarity of DNA
from different groups of organisms indicates direct biological connections
between species. Is this view consistent with creation?
[A] Yes. God may have created different kinds of organisms by modifying
existing species, deliberately altering the Nitrogen base sequence in the
DNA of gametes or zygotes (such as unfertilised or fertilised ova) so that
females produced offspring that were significantly different to
themselves. God may also have ensured the survival of successive
generations of individuals that were changed in this way.

This progressive creation by modification explanation is a modern
alternative to the older explanation of the individual creation of each
species. Progressive creation by modification is consistent with evidence
from DNA similarity studies.

[31] Is progressive creation by modification a form of evolution?
[A] No. The sculpting of one species into another at the molecular level
would produce similar fossil and DNA evidence to the evolution explanation
but progressive creation is not evolution. In the evolution explanation
random mutations sorted by natural selection is the process that is
thought to have produced new kinds of living things. In the progressive
creation by modification explanation God deliberately produced new kinds
of living things by the deliberate modification of the DNA in existing
species. Random mutations sorted by natural selection is not the process
that produced new kinds of living things according to this explanation and
so progressive creation by modification is NOT a form of evolution.

The term mutation is inappropriate to describe multiple changes in base
sequence that arose directly from the active intervention of God.
Researchers using recombinant DNA do not describe the alterations in base
sequence they produce as mutations and creation events where God adds
designed base sequences to an existing species to form a new kind are also
different to mutations.

[32] Is the progressive creation by modification explanation consistent
with the available evidence?
[A] The fossil record shows the appearance of increasingly complex kinds
of living organisms over time and the remains of some species that may be
intermediate stages between major groups. This is entirely consistent with
the modification of existing species by the active intervention of God to
produce specifically designed novel sequences of Nitrogen bases in the
chromosomes of gametes or zygotes. These creation events could produce new
kinds of living things with new characteristics when a number of new genes
are formed in this way. Mutations and natural selection could then produce
different species within these newly created kinds of organisms,
explaining the great diversity of form we observe among living species and
in the fossil record. Over geological time progressive creation by
modification would produce increasingly complex kinds of living things
together with a small number intermediate stages and this is what the
fossil record shows.

The similarity of base sequences in the DNA of extant (living) species is
consistent with progressive creation by modification since only a small
proportion of the bases in the chromosomes of existing species would need
to be changed by God to produce each new kind of living organism. Since
current species are, in this view, descended from ancestors that are
common to other species then DNA similarity is expected.

The biochemical similarity of extant species is consistent with
progressive creation by modification over geological time. In this
explanation the increase in complexity of organisms is produced by the
deliberate modification of existing genes, the replacement of sections of
DNA that do not code for protein with genes that code for new proteins or
functional lengths of RNA or the addition of new genes. Kinds that are
created modifications of existing species would retain the same basic
biochemistry so different kinds of living organisms that are descended
from a common ancestor as a result of creation by modification will have
similar biochemistry.

Homologous (related) structures present in fossil and extant species such
as the pentadactyl (5 digit) limbs of vertebrates are consistent with
creation by the modification of existing kinds of living things to produce
new kinds with the same body plan since only a small proportion of the
genes in an existing species would need to be changed to produce, for
example, a kangaroo from a quadruped.

[33] Is the similarity of vertebrate embryos evidence of evolution?
[A] No. The similarity of the early embryos of different vertebrates is
evidence for common descent but it does not indicate the process that
produced the change, the similarity of embryos is entirely consistent with
progressive creation by modification.

[34] Is the presence of vestigial limbs evidence of evolution?
[A] No. The presence of vestigial limbs in snakes is evidence that
suggests an ancestor with limbs, and therefore common descent, however
both progressive creation by modification and evolution are consistent
with this. Once a species has reached a high degree of adaptation to an
environment there is no particular reason for God to continue changing the
species to remove vestigial limbs.

[35] Are "transitional" fossils evidence of evolution?
[A] Some fossils appear to be the remains of organisms with
characteristics that are intermediate between those of major groups.
Examples include _Archaeopteryx_, a bird that had a number of
characteristics similar to those of reptiles, and Therapsida, an order of
reptiles that had some characteristics similar to those of mammals. These
examples are commonly quoted as representing transitional stages in the
evolution of more advanced or complex groups, however they would also be
animals that were well adapted to a particular environment before
environmental change rendered them extinct. Transitional forms are
consistent with progressive creation by modification since God was
designing ecosystems as well as species and these extinct forms of life
would have occupied ecological niches that were later filled by more
advanced species.

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