Dangling or Not? A Response to Chadwick and Brand

A recent Adventist Review article by Arthur Chadwick and Leonard Brand titled “New Evidence Leaves Macroevolution Dangling” suggests that recent genome science presents a number of challenges to evolutionary interpretations. They present three discoveries—the human genome, epigenetics, and orphan genes, which they propose “have undermined the foundation on which the evolutionary origin of life forms seemed to be resting.”

Discoveries in genome science have certainly revealed the incredible complexity of life as created by God. A three billion base pair human instruction code is not a simple story! At the same time, however, I fear that Chadwick and Brand are oversimplifying things to say that evolution is being dramatically undermined by these results and is “on life support.” I can almost hear cheers going up from churches across the country upon hearing this news. A close analysis of the scientific literature, however, reveals that scientists have many cogent explanations for the observations made. That is, while they are at times challenged by their discoveries, it might be misrepresenting the situation to suggest that they are befuddled. Very few scientists would say that evolution is “a theory in crisis” as proposed by Michael Denton thirty years ago.1

I should make it clear at the start that I am a committed Adventist Christian. I believe that the Bible reveals to us the character of God and his message to us in these last days. The world desperately needs to hear the message of hope for the future and love for fellow man as demonstrated to us through the life of Jesus. However, I would disagree that these messages require a belief that the Bible is a scientific textbook. In fact, these messages of hope and love might be significantly undermined by a strident belief in the Bible as a book of science.

While the Bible is not a book of science (although it certainly does speak of the wonder and majesty of creation), science is also not a book about God (although it does suggest an amazing creator). Chadwick and Brand begin their article by stating “The theory of macroevolution asserts that the first living cells, and all types of life, are the result of nondirected, naturalistic processes without the intervention of an outside agency (God).” It is true that this is the typical understanding of evolution—that it is undirected and does not involve God. This is pushed by the most vocal evolutionists out there. However, the theory of macroevolution in fact has nothing to say about God, either for or against. For how could we know scientifically that God was not involved in the process of evolution? What would be the evidence? Science studies the natural world, not the supernatural world. A study of the natural world is not likely to directly show the workings of the supernatural.

But I digress. Let us consider recent discoveries in genome science.

The Human Genome Project

The human genome project was truly an exciting and momentous undertaking. To have the ability to read all three billion letters of our blueprint meant that we could take control of our destiny. If we knew the code, then we might eventually be able to modify the code to fix mistakes that lead to unspeakable suffering and disease. Notably, we should really be talking about this, rather than arguing if evolution is true, because gene editing is currently becoming true,2, 3 and this is not historical science. In just a few years, you can expect to be able to treat many diseases by fixing the germline. This ability to fix the genome suggests that we truly are approaching the time when we will understand the genome.

But when the human genome project was completed, we didn’t understand the code well (and we still don’t, for that matter). The scientific community was surprised to learn that only 2% of the genome encoded all of our proteins. It seemed that our complexity warranted many more protein-coding genes than that found in a small roundworm (C. elegans). Part of the answer to the small number of protein-coding genes had been known since 1977, when the ability of organisms to splice together parts of these genes (exons) in many different ways was first discovered.4 Alternative splicing is a simple way of making many proteins from one gene. It is also thought to be an excellent substrate upon which natural selection can work, leading to increasingly complex organisms: a mutation arises which allows an exon to be easily skipped, the resulting protein has a slightly different structure and hence function which results in a reproductive advantage, thus future generations exhibit a greater proportion of individuals with this new splicing ability. While Chadwick and Brand suggest this is a challenge to evolution, alternative splicing has been shown for some time to fit well into an evolutionary paradigm and to result in many phenotypic differences among species.5

Following the sequencing of the human genome, scientists were particularly interested to know what the other 98% of our genome did. Bacterial genomes were packed full of protein-coding genes, and little else, suggesting that it was the protein-coding genes that were most important and necessary for life. Initial thoughts were that the other 98% of our genome was junk, although this negative terminology was debated for some time within the scientific community because it was understood that it was unlikely to be junk.6 As the authors tell us, many diverse functions have been ascribed recently to the other 98% of the human genome through the work of the ENCODE project, further confirming that it is not junk.7 This functionality of the genome, however, does not appear to pose a strong challenge to evolution; in contrast, evolution requires function to work. Without function there can be no selection. In an artificial selection (aka breeding) program, one cannot select for a trait if no region of the genome contains the function to produce that trait. In natural selection, function of genetic sequence determines whether or not that sequence sticks around, whether it is protein coding or not, regulatory or not, 2% or 98%.

Epigenetics

Again, it is true that epigenetics has grown to a vast and exciting field of biology. The idea that our environment can control our genes has to a small degree vindicated Lamarck. Discoveries showing that DNA bases can be modified with chemical groups, resulting in changes in gene expression that can be passed on from generation to generation, have indeed surprised us. We truly are what we eat, and what we eat, even as fathers, can affect the health of our children.8 Of course, if our obesity causes obesity in our children, then they will also have the same diseases as us that shorten our lives and reduce our reproductive fitness. In other words, epigenetic changes are not always beneficial and should be subject to natural selection.

This understanding of epigenetics has indeed challenged our understanding of inheritance, and with that, evolution.9 While the “modern synthesis of evolution” stated that evolution occurs by small genetic changes, that synthesis reflected our understanding of inheritance when it was developed in the 1930s and 40s. We must now add epigenetics to the repertoire of inheritance, and if epigenetic marks can be inherited, then they can also impact evolutionary change.10 It is worth noting that Darwin proposed evolution without even knowing that DNA was the heritable material. Epigenetics certainly makes things more complicated, but it has not led to the end of evolutionary theory.

Orphan Genes

Orphan genes are an interesting development of recent years. Not that they have developed in recent years. Rather, they have only been recognized in recent years. Scientists love to investigate similarities. If a human gene has an ortholog (the same gene in another species) in the fruit fly, for example, then it is often easier to investigate the function of that gene in the fruit fly. Humans are difficult to dissect and experiment on (for obvious reasons). Fruit flies are insects for which few people have emotional attachment. Many scientists have spent their time investigating this “low-hanging fruit,” those genes that are easy to study in lower organisms, ignoring the so-called orphan genes which do not have orthologs in other organisms.

There are many candidates for orphan gene status, although few genes have evidence to back up their orphan status. Chadwick and Brand state that “more than 1,000 orphan genes are recognized in humans.” This number likely comes from a 2007 publication in which genes found only in the human lineage, but not in the mouse or dog, are investigated for their functionality as protein-coding genes.11 This study identifies 1177 potential orphan genes, of which none are found to be likely genes in our close relative, the chimpanzee. Following a number of technical analyses, they suggest that none of these have characteristics of protein coding genes, although 12 have been shown in the literature to produce a protein. Hence, it could be that some of the remaining potential orphans are true protein coding genes. Due to highly sensitive mass spectrometry methods currently used to analyze the proteome, it is unlikely that all of these putative orphan genes are true protein coding genes. Without evidence, they are certainly not recognized by the scientific community.

Chadwick and Brand ask, “Where did these orphan genes come from?” They suggest that God put them there, and that scientists are stumped by the discovery of orphan genes. I agree that God may have put them there, but I also know that scientists have given this much thought and have come up with many ways through which God may have put them there (although saying that God put them there would not fall in the realm of naturalistic science). One human-specific gene mentioned by Chadwick and Brand, ARHGAP11B, is thought to be important for the large brain of humans. The scientific report on this discovery states that ARHGAP11B arose as a duplication of ARHGAP11A gene, which is found throughout the animal kingdom.12 Gene duplication is a well-documented occurrence that would seem to disqualify this gene as an orphan—it seems that it does have a parent. Other orphan genes have been shown to arise through the mutation of non-coding sequence. For example, a simple one-base-pair deletion event can result in the change of reading frame of a gene so that it produces an actual protein of some length in humans that is not found in the chimpanzee lineage.13 It is clear that scientists have given the origin of orphan genes much thought, and have come up with some good explanations for their origin. It is unlikely that orphan genes will pose much challenge to evolution.

Macroevolution

To conclude, I would like to consider the theme of macroevolution as used in the title of this piece—if macroevolution is left dangling, we should have a definition for macroevolution that clarifies how it differs from other forms of evolution that are more accepted. The terms macroevolution and microevolution are commonly tossed about, sometimes within regular scientific circles, but frequently within young-earth creationist circles to suggest that there is a sharp divide between macroevolution, the generation of new species (or genera, or families, or orders), and smaller adaptations that allow a moth to adapt to sooty buildings or a finch to adapt to drier conditions. But where exactly does the division lie between macroevolution and microevolution?

Maybe our current knowledge of genomes can help us with identifying the dividing line between macroevolution and microevolution. For example, we know that the difference between you and me, at the level of our genetic code, is about 0.1%. That means that I differ from you at about 1 in every 1000 DNA bases. Clearly this is acceptable as microevolution. We might also allow for the radiation of many dog-like species since the flood. Many people allow for representatives of a taxonomic family to have been present on Noah’s ark, suggesting that any change beyond the family level is microevolution. The first Adventist biologist with a doctoral degree, Frank Marsh, is thought to have first suggested this idea. If we consider the dog family, Canidae (coyotes, dogs, foxes, jackals, and wolves), for example, the difference in mitochondrial DNA sequence between the dog and the red fox is about 15%.14 This is roughly twice that between humans and chimps.

Of course, the similarity between humans and chimps is a sensitive topic. While we are likely to be somewhat comfortable with a possible relationship (microevolution) between non-human members of the great ape family, we are unlikely to be comfortable with the close relationship between us and other great apes. Incidentally, based on genomic data, the chimpanzee and the orangutan are less similar to each other than we are to the chimpanzee.15 This is just one instance in which genome science presents a challenge to a traditional young-earth understanding.

Chadwick and Brand not unexpectedly underestimate the genome similarities between humans and chimps when they state that we share “up to 96 percent” of our protein coding genes with the chimpanzee. The real facts can be found in the scientific literature.16 Humans differ from chimpanzees at approximately 35 million nucleotide positions, out of a total genome size of approximately 3 billion for both humans and chimps. This is about a 1% difference (99% similarity) at the level of single nucleotide changes. In addition, humans and chimps differ due to about 5 million insertion and deletion events that result in another 90 million nucleotide differences—gaps in either genome. These 90 million differences plus the previous 35 million total to 125 million—about a 4% difference (96% similarity). However, if we look only at the protein coding genes, these differ at only about 3 million nucleotide positions—a 0.1% difference (99.9% similarity) in protein coding genes. To be more accurate, Chadwick and Brand should have stated “up to 99.9 percent” similarity in protein-coding genes when comparing the human and chimpanzee genomes. But this is likely to make us uncomfortable.

To be sure, recent genome science is challenging. Our genomes are complicated in many ways, and I’m sure that there are more surprises to come. Through all of these surprises, however, a close reading of the scientific literature suggests that evolutionary theory is not on life support. In fact, an evolutionary interpretation is often the simplest way to interpret discoveries in genome science, from the relationships of organisms, to the role of epigenetics, and the rise of new genes within genomes. Genome research can aid in paternity disputes, can solve crime, can clarify ancestry, and can help to predict health issues. These same methods of studying our genomes can also suggest deeper relationships that may extend past the last hundred or thousand years to ages past. I believe that it is important to be clear about the challenges that arise from these studies, and to make people aware of the challenges posed in both directions. It is also important for our Adventist scientists to be sure that they get the facts straight and do not over-exaggerate the implications. The reputation of our church is at stake here. Finally, the simplest reading of the Bible is one that is not encumbered with modern science but one that reads it as a plan for the salvation of man regardless of whether man has been here for six thousand or one hundred thousand years.

____________________

NOTES:

1. Denton, M. Evolution: a theory in crisis. 1st U.S. edn, (Adler & Adler, 1986).

2. Bassuk, A. G., Zheng, A., Li, Y., Tsang, S. H. & Mahajan, V. B. Precision Medicine: Genetic Repair of Retinitis Pigmentosa in Patient-Derived Stem Cells. Scientific reports 6, 19969, doi:10.1038/srep19969 (2016).

3. Porteus, M. Genome Editing: A New Approach to Human Therapeutics. Annual review of pharmacology and toxicology 56, 163-190, doi:10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-010814-124454 (2016).

4. Berget, S. M., Moore, C. & Sharp, P. A. Spliced segments at the 5' terminus of adenovirus 2 late mRNA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 74, 3171-3175 (1977).

5. Barbosa-Morais, N. L. et al. The evolutionary landscape of alternative splicing in vertebrate species. Science 338, 1587-1593, doi:10.1126/science.1230612 (2012).

6. Brosius, J. & Gould, S. J. On "genomenclature": a comprehensive (and respectful) taxonomy for pseudogenes and other "junk DNA". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 89, 10706-10710 (1992).

7. Kellis, M. et al. Defining functional DNA elements in the human genome. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111, 6131-6138, doi:10.1073/pnas.1318948111 (2014).

8. Ost, A. et al. Paternal diet defines offspring chromatin state and intergenerational obesity. Cell 159, 1352-1364, doi:10.1016/j.cell.2014.11.005 (2014).

9. Danchin, E. et al. Beyond DNA: integrating inclusive inheritance into an extended theory of evolution. Nature reviews. Genetics 12, 475-486, doi:10.1038/nrg3028 (2011).

10. Hernando-Herraez, I., Garcia-Perez, R., Sharp, A. J. & Marques-Bonet, T. DNA Methylation: Insights into Human Evolution. PLoS genetics 11, e1005661, doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1005661 (2015).

11. Clamp, M. et al. Distinguishing protein-coding and noncoding genes in the human genome. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 104, 19428-19433, doi:10.1073/pnas.0709013104 (2007).

12. Florio, M. et al. Human-specific gene ARHGAP11B promotes basal progenitor amplification and neocortex expansion. Science 347, 1465-1470, doi:10.1126/science.aaa1975 (2015).

13. Knowles, D. G. & McLysaght, A. Recent de novo origin of human protein-coding genes. Genome research 19, 1752-1759, doi:10.1101/gr.095026.109 (2009).

14. Zhong, H. M., Zhang, H. H., Sha, W. L., Zhang, C. D. & Chen, Y. C. Complete Mitochondrial Genome of the Red Fox (Vuples vuples) and Phylogenetic Analysis with Other Canid Species. Zoological research 31, 122-130, doi:10.3724/SP.J.1141.2010.02122 (2010).

15. Scally, A. et al. Insights into hominid evolution from the gorilla genome sequence. Nature 483, 169-175, doi:10.1038/nature10842 (2012).

16. Mikkelsen, T. S. et al. Initial sequence of the chimpanzee genome and comparison with the human genome. Nature 437, 69-87, doi:10.1038/nature04072 (2005).

The author is an Adventist scientist and educator with a PhD in the biological sciences. He believes that we must be as accurate and honest as possible in all things, both scientific and religious, even when they make us uncomfortable. However, he does not feel at liberty to disclose his name. Jon Johnson is a pseudonym.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7307
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I think religions have always been uneasy that scientists are going to cut the legs out from under their claims about how things are. And scientists are also sometimes seen as a little too focused on the material world and not paying enough attention to spiritual matters, so there is a natural tension there as well.

I think it’s important to point out that we humans tend to take the great eternal truths of faith and interpret them in ways that suit our own selfish purposes. I mean, those great conflicts between the Church and science, at least the ones that we have now gotten through, seem quite puzzling and wholly unnecessary.

Why would it be, for instance, that faith in God would be threatened whether the Sun goes around the Earth or the Earth goes around the Sun? Who cares? Why is that relevant? And yet at the time of Galileo, people were pointing to certain Scriptures as if they were scientific proof that the Earth was the center of the universe. Nobody now considers that as an issue in deciding whether or not to believe in God.

The current battles are unnecessary and destructive, and we need to get past them.
Some of our most brilliant scientific minds – Da Vinci, Newton, Galileo, to some extent, Einstein – have all been people of faith. But organized religion hasn’t always been kind to scientists.

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Genesis is the story of God, humans and the search for relationship. When Moses wrote Genesis in the Midian desert during his forty years exile from Egypt, he related the oral stories of origins in written form.

Origin stories are important for people to reconnect with their heritage. If a people do not know where they came from, how can they know where they are going?

The legacy of Genesis is to remind us of our spiritual heritage to those origin stories. To reconnect with our heritage is to seek the relationship which existed in Eden between God and our parents.

This perspective is essential to our understanding of our origins without adding to the Genesis stories things which were never meant to be implied by the author. Based on history, humans have never comprehended the God of Genesis.

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Not according to Paul. He was quite adamant about the fact that all Scripture was given by inspiration of God. That would include Genesis, which is not a regurgitation of ancient creation myths, but valuable insight into the creation story, imparted by the 3rd person of the Godhead.

I believe it’s more logical to assume that, than to assume that God’s purpose was to convey historically and scientifically inaccurate information, especially on subjects as important as Creation, the Fall, and the Flood.

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Yes, Paul did say that…but I fail to see how GD William’s statement runs counter to this.

@GDW

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Art Chadwick and Leonard Brand have written a very important and powerful argument against materialist philosophy as it attempts to use science as its source of credibility. It is an exciting time to live for those who believe in the Creator God as science continues to confirm the marvelous ingenuities of life

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Thank you Jon Johnson for such a cogent rebuttal to Chadwick and Brand.

But it is revealing that a note says “Jon Johnson is a pseudonym.” If anything, this shows the constricted space for open and honest discussion within the SDA Church.

The fundamentalist elements within the SDA Church have gained enough power that anyone who disagrees with their interpretation of the Genesis creation story is at risk of being purged. Thus the need to hide behind a pseudonym, which is justified especially if Johnson is employed in an Adventist educational institution.

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But you are assuming that God’s purpose in inspiring Moses to write was to convey historically and scientifically accurate information about Creation, when God’s main purpose may simply have been to reassure His people that He was the creator of all things. What is more important, knowing God is the creator of all things, or how he did it, in every detail? It does not detract the least from from our understanding of inspiration that God only intended to convey the former. And if He did only intend to convey the truth of His creatorship, we become presumptuous when we we insist that more is being conveyed. Add to this what we now are able to learn about earth and life history from geology, paleontology and the life sciences, and we start to even look more presumptuous if we insist Genesis is a science and history book.

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Anyone who still pushes the 99% similarity between humans and chimps is either dishonest or ignorant or just not up to date The differences are far greater than that, and it’s not exactly recent news. Here’s a start:

http://creation.mobi/another-evolutionary-truth-now-conceded-to-be-myth

http://creation.mobi/human-chimp-dna-similarity-literature

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The laws of probability don’t fit a trial and error approach to progressive evolution. The present world condition resembles the Biblical account much better than–" In every way and every day I am getting better and better" I stick with Paul and John and Moses. tom Z.

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This is a very interesting topic. I have been following the work of Eugene Koonin and his associates for the past few years. (Koonin is arguably one of the world’s leading evolutionary theorists.) Dr Koonin has showed that LECA (last eukaryotic common ancestor) had a relatively high intron density. Also that humans share about 25-30% of intron positions with plants. One can do a google search and find Dr Koonin scientific research papers. (I would also recommend Koonin’s latest book "The Logic of Chance. The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution.)

To me these kind of findings are quite fascinating and intriguing. It seems that the more deeply I delve into the study of molecular biology, genetics, introns/exons, etc., my faith has increased over the years.

Psalm 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”

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The question is not whether the Bible is a book of science, but whether its factual assertions are true. If the Bible’s factual assertions about mundane things, many of which are verifiable or falsifiable, are not true, there is little reason to heed its spiritual assertions and moral edicts. Moreover, it isn’t true that “the theory of macroevolution in fact has nothing to say about God, either for or against.” It says that God did not create the world in one week in the relatively recent past, which contradicts Scripture, thus throwing into doubt Scripture’s claim to be divine revelation. And this dispute over origins is not tangential but central to the Bible’s teaching regarding man’s Fall into sin, the plan of salvation, Jesus’ role as the second Adam and the redeemer of what was lost in the Fall, etc.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for design in the creation is the genetic code. All the other codes we know of–language, musical notation, Morse code, binary code, etc.–are intelligent acts of communication, not random or self-generated phenomena, and there is no reason to believe otherwise of the genetic code unless we’ve eliminated intelligence for philosophical reasons. http://www.fulcrum7.com/apologetics/2015/12/21/the-genetic-code-and-the-codemaker

The point Professors Chadwick and Brand make with regard to the Human Genome Project is that it revealed some of the functions of the 98% of the genome that does not directly specify amino acids. Some Darwinists had speculated that this 98% was a legacy of evolution, genes that had been inactivated by replication errors, or perhaps an area where functional genes might emerge from the chaos given enough random mutations, etc. But the Human Genome Project revealed that most of the genome (at least 80%) is in fact functional; some of the genetic code has a higher regulatory function, e.g., regulating the expression of the genes that do code for proteins.

On reflection, this should have been obvious from the start, because we are not just a pile of proteins, any more than the Taj Majal is a pile of white marble. There is an intricate plan for the finished person, that plan is latent in the genome from the moment of conception, and that plan governs how our building blocks are to be synthesized and put together, just as the architect’s plan for the Taj Majal governed how the white marble was to be put together.

No sane person would argue that the Taj Majal is un-designed and is the result of random processes, and yet mainstream science maintains that the vastly more complex human being is un-designed and is the end result of random processes. You can believe that if you wish, but I don’t think I ever will.

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as this controversy between creation and evolution continues to be bandied about, i think it’s increasingly obvious that whatever one believes stems from a choice to do so…at this point, it is a non-starter to suggest that the bible account is either not supported or contradicted by physical evidence…i think it’s also a non-starter to suggest that the language of genesis can be contorted to support evolution…people in our church are at a crossroads on this question: they can find support in the writings of scientists for whichever position they choose…however the writings of the bible writers are less generous…

i believe the real question now should be whether there is evidence that a belief in a six-day fiat creation leads to the same outcome of faith as a belief in natural selection over hundreds of millions of yrs…do these opposing theories intersect at the point of an equivalent spiritual experience in the lives of believers, or is it the case that they diverge into outcomes so disparate, that no fellowship between adherents is possible…evolutionists seem to think there can be fellowship with creationists, whereas creationists are generally adamant that there can’t…this opposite outlook and conclusion needs to be explored…i think it means something…

the following article cites a declining correlation between scientists, and particularly biologists, who believe in a personal god:

if it is true that a weak correlation exists outside the church between a belief in evolution and a belief in a personal god, what evidence is there that this correlation would somehow be different inside the church…

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The meaning of “Fellowship” is defined by those who choose to join in that communion and relationship; nothing more, nothing less. If those who call themselves Christian are unable to fellowship with other Christians, they are incorrectly using that name as that word means: All those who believe in Christ as their Savior, period.
@George Tichy

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I applaud the author for putting things in perspective. Anyone who knows just a little bit about science knows that science is a method by which theories are tested and refined constantly. We all know that scientists who work on the basis of evolution are constantly finding out more nuanced aspects of the processes by which life has been going and goes on. To say that new findings modify aspects of some part of a theory and allows for the developing of new ways by which to test those parts further in no way leave scientists confused. New findings only serve to design new experiments in order to get deeper in the search for what actually is the case. That the way in which evolution is understood today is no longer the way in which Darwin understood it is something that is to be expected.
I only wish religious conservatives would read their Bibles and affirm the faith that the Bible reveals, and don’t feel that faith must veto the work of scientists.
This article is a very needed reminder that people of faith should not make fools of themselves by misrepresenting the work of scientists.
It is a sad commentary on the internal culture of our church that the author of this most appropriate and timely article quite correctly felt the need to submit it for publication anonymously.

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The Chadwick and Brand article is an interesting one, but I agree with the author of this piece that it is, indeed, misleading at several levels. First, as pointed out, the evolutionists do work their way around these issues, and will continue to do so. Second, I’m frustrated that the authors perpetuate the misunderstanding of “macroevolution.” I’ve read their materials, so I know they recognize full well that macroevolution refers to the evolution of new species, new genera, new families, and upward. Denial of macroevolution implies fixity of species, which the authors do NOT believe in. Dr. Brand has argued elsewhere that megaevolution is a better term for what we should object to. Yet to avoid using the word macroevolution would upset many in the Church who see it as a dirty word, so rather than properly educate the masses, the authors chose to use the “safe” but very wrong language. Sincere believers will continue to denounce macroevolution as those on the other side laugh at our ignorance and foolishness. The two sides don’t have to speak past each other; let’s use the proper terms.

As Kinetic noted, anyone “in the know” in SDA tertiary education recognizes that there will never again be an honest and open discussion about creation and evolution in the Church. Powerful forces have seen to that. Powerful forces. (I actually posted comments similar to these at the Adventist Review website, and they were rejected. Surprise, surprise!)

BTW, the last paragraph of this article hits the nail on the head. It’s worth re-reading.

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This is going to be a little blunt, but I have unfortunately reached some disappointing conclusions…

Having been weaned on the Advenist worldview of YE/YL I lived the first half of my life with a worldview that reflected YE/YL. It wasn’t until I got my head out of the Adventist Review(AR) and started objectively looking at the actual data that it began dawning on me that the official Adentist worldview is data starved and impoverished.

This has led me to the realization that Adventists (the official AR brand) have abandoned their commitment to “truth.” Here are some of the reasons for this conclusion:

  1. It can be evidenced by the fact that it is not possible to have an open and honest conversation about actual data without risking getting fired. Jon Johnson does not indicate he is employed by the Church, but the only reason I can think of that a scientist would write about data under a pseudonym would be that it would put employment into jeopardy.

  2. It is also supported by the fact that all honest dialogue requires dealing openly with both the helpful data to a worldview as well as the unhelpful data. The problematic data to the Adventist paradigm is not data the AR discusses. The Jon Johnson article is illustrative in that the actual data he lays out is of the nature that the AR would never discuss.

  3. This conclusion is also driven by the GC convening a “faith and science” conference in Utah, yet apparently were so allergic to scientific data that they chose not to invite scientists that would challenge their comfort zone.

  4. Finally, contrary to any pretense of respect for evidence, the Church has now inserted language into the FBs that are falsifiable by an overwhelming amount of data.

I long for openness about the evidence, and candor that we don’t have all the answers, and the humility to admit that we might be wrong about a few things.

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This article is exactly why we need Spectrum. Candor is a pathway to truth, and here (but for the pseudonym) we get open, challenging expression of an Adventist minority point of view. It’s encouraging that even people like David Read, though he does not identify with the article’s point of view, get involved in the give-and-take.

Adventist administrators (many of whom I admire) never do. A shame.

My thanks to the author and the commenters.

Chuck

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Medicodon - thank you for alerting me to James Tour. I just read the article on his website describing his views on the issue. I couldn’t have said it better myself - his views are incredibly balanced and humble. If only all of us could be this balanced and honest with the data. Maybe it takes an H-index of 110 :slight_smile: Notably, the websites linked above by Pagophilus are not nearly as balanced and, if you really read the scientific articles referenced therein, do a good job of misrepresenting the data. At least for me, discovering J Tour has made this conversation worth it.

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I would like to make a few statements about some of what was said in “Johnson’s” article:

Even the most avid YEC does not believe the Bible is a scientific text. This is a straw man. The Bible does say somethings about origins that do not agree with evolution. But it has other bigger purposes than science.

In fact it says a lot about God, for it is a description of his way of creating. And if evolution is true, God is a cruel monster. Hundreds of millions of years of suffering and pain and death? And that does not say anything about God? I certainly would not say it revealed a God of love. Would the author treat his children that way? Really?

And is there some blindness in the author’s thinking? Many see great workings of the supernatural in the natural world. The code itself is an amazing creation. And when David contemplated how the fetus developed in the womb, he explained his wonder. The stars still proclaim the glory of God.

How does random mutation and natural selection explain the splicing? How did the first splicing happen? And how was it then embedded in the code? It seems impossible.

A nano-chemist (James Tour), one of the 10 most quoted in the world said this in a talk a couple of years ago. If you want the whole talk it is on you-tube, “Nanotech and Jesus Christ.” It is a great talk, aboutt an hour and a half. But here is an answer to a question he received from a student:

I will tell you as a scientist and a synthetic chemist: if anybody should be able to understand evolution, it is me, because I make molecules for a living, and I don’t just buy a kit, and mix this and mix this, and get that. I mean, ab initio, I make molecules. I understand how hard it is to make molecules. I understand that if I take Nature’s tool kit, it could be much easier, because all the tools are already there, and I just mix it in the proportions, and I do it under these conditions, but ab initio is very, very hard.

I don’t understand evolution, and I will confess that to you. Is that OK, for me to say, “I don’t understand this”? Is that all right? I know that there’s a lot of people out there that don’t understand anything about organic synthesis, but they understand evolution. I understand a lot about making molecules; I don’t understand evolution. And you would just say that, wow, I must be really unusual.

Let me tell you what goes on in the back rooms of science – with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners. I have sat with them, and when I get them alone, not in public – because it’s a scary thing, if you say what I just said – I say, “Do you understand all of this, where all of this came from, and how this happens?” Every time that I have sat with people who are synthetic chemists, who understand this, they go “Uh-uh. Nope.” These people are just so far off, on how to believe this stuff came together. I’ve sat with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners. Sometimes I will say, “Do you understand this?”And if they’re afraid to say “Yes,” they say nothing. They just stare at me, because they can’t sincerely do it.

The evolutionists make this very clear. Creation scientists do not need to. If one is interested, one can find all they want on why evolution is true from those who believe. The other side is hardly represented and why should they be required to reiterate what others can do better?

Well, sure, but not for the reason the author thinks. If we cannot stand on scripture and defend it against atheists, then we may as well go home. Read Dawkin’s article “God’s Utility Function” Scientific American, Nov, 1995. You can google it.

Here is the last paragraph;

“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

Now that is the conclusion the theory of evolution engenders: nihilism. This is a statement by a very prominent scientist who pedals the theory. I don’t want to feed my people or children this stuff.

One more thing. If the author were honest, he would put his name on his work. The church has every right to take and promote the position it does. And if he is teaching in an SDA institution, honesty would require him to resign. Other courses of action are not truthful. Or does he not have the courage of his convictions?

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