November 21, 2006

Of Monkeys and MenWhat the Genetic Code Reveals

An artist's rendering of the face of a half-monkey/half-man graced the October 9, 2006 cover story for Time magazine. Titled, "What Makes Us Different?," the article's tagline responded, "Not very much, when you look at our DNA." For seven pages, the article highlights the latest research into mapping the genome of the chimpanzee compared with the human genome. We are told that of the 3 billion base pairs in the human genome, only 1.23 percent are different from that of the chimp's DNA. But does this mean, as the article states, that these great apes are man's "closest relatives on the tree of life"? Not necessarily.

First of all, it must be kept in mind that sometimes science reports function like a well-executed magic trick: It's not what the illusionist says that is the key to what is taking place on stage, but what he does not say. In the magic business, this is called "misdirection." And like a good magician, the authors of this article are hiding some things behind the scenes they don't want the reader to know about. What are the "spoilers" that the article fails to mention? A little snooping will uncover the theatrics behind the theory.

Don't Look behind the Curtain!

The first bit of misdirection involves a thinly veiled assumption. The article's monkey-to-man scenario is based on naturalism, the view that matter is the only reality. On this view, the human genome — the blueprint that codes for who we are as homo sapiens — is assumed to have arrived on the scene from "simpler" genetic material by a gradual and random process over time. The article's final paragraph summarizes what naturalistic scientists accept as true, that evolution is a "random process" where "haphazard" changes in the genetic code might confer an advantage for survival in the offspring and are selected by "random environmental conditions" resulting eventually in a creature who could "ponder its own origins."

Nice story, but here's the rub. Naturalism is often used as a club to beat back any other interpretation of the facts of science. In practice, this amounts to a narrow-minded point of view, allowing only one way for explaining what we observe, i.e., a naturalistic one. As a result, the possibility of a Supernatural Designer is not allowed, even if the evidence clearly points to such a Designer, because the naturalistic scientists refuse even to consider a Designer as a viable option. This is dogmatism at its worst, reducing the teaching of science to indoctrination into a philosophical naturalism instead of education that searches for the best explanation. It also leads to suppression of any evidence that does not fit naturalistic assumptions. This behind-the-scenes assumption leads to a second bit of slight-of-hand.

Searching the Angles

A second maneuver magicians often use involves limiting the audiences' angle of sight. This allows the performer to focus attention on one aspect of what is happening onstage while hiding other relevant factors that would reveal how the trick is accomplished.

In the Time article, limiting the reader's angle of sight is accomplished by spotlighting examples of similarity between the human and chimp genetic code. But this focuses attention on just one aspect of a larger picture while hiding other pertinent factors. What is not in view are the scientific experiments that demonstrate random mutations, the assumed raw material used to propel evolution forward, have never been shown to produce new genetic material useful for such progress.

To discover what the article is shielding from sight, we must consult other sources. In his book, Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, Dr. J.C. Sanford, a 25-year veteran of teaching genetics at Cornell University, explains that genetic mutations do not have the capacity for advancing the genetic code toward greater complexity. On the contrary, Sanford cites numerous studies confirming the exact opposite! In fact, many geneticists worry that the human genome is actually degenerating over time!

To illustrate the problem of increasing DNA complexity, Sanford uses the analogy of how the genetic code is similar to an instruction manual for building a little red wagon. The instructions for this project would amount to a very large book detailing every part of the process, from gathering the raw materials and manufacturing the rubber, steel and paint to the final instructions for assembling the parts.

Darwinian evolution assumes that by adding random copying errors to the initial instruction manual of our little red wagon, we can arrive at a more complex and much larger manual — in fact, the manual would have to contain hundreds of volumes of highly complex instructions — describing the construction of a spaceship, complete with warp speed engines and a holodeck!

What Can Copy Errorrs Produce?

But does information really increase in this way? Sanford suggests you try this thought experiment. Iif I addd ramdon copying errorrs to a sentence, does the resolt contain more complix enformation? What if I wrote some words sdrawkcab? Would that help? How about if I duplicate an entire sentence? How about if I duplicate an entire sentence? Have I added anything new? new? Obviously, each of these examples does nothing to increase the information that is not already there. And in fact, these mistakes in copying makes the process more difficult for anyone trying to follow the instructions. Thus, there is actually a net loss of useful information.

If the idea of relying on copying errors to increase complexity seems like a story fit for science fiction, that's because it is! And if the wagon-to-spaceship scenario is difficult to imagine, consider the amoeba-to-man theory, where the human body is many times more complex than a spaceship. This is fictionalized science to the nth degree! As Sanford puts it, The Emperor Has No Clothes![1]

Mutant Plants: An Enormous Failure

But the absurdity of such a story is just for starters. The problems get worse for evolutionary gene theory. In Sanford's own area of specialty, plant breeding, he explains how over the past century much effort has gone into trying to use mutations to generate useful variation. Of the billions of mutants produced, the outcome has been "small, sterile, sick, deformed, aberrant plants" with "almost no meaningful crop improvement."[2] In other words, there is a net loss of genetic information, not a gain.

Sanford states the "effort was for the most part an enormous failure, and was almost entirely abandoned."[3] If this is the result when scientists attempt to intelligently guide the procedure, how much less can we expect from a random, mindless, natural process. The "enormous failure" in the hands of scientists becomes an absolute failure in the face of blind, deaf, and dumb natural selection.

The "Dings and Scratches" of Life

But Sanford is not finished yet. He continues to pile up more incriminating evidence against genetic improvement. Sanford cites Bergman's 2004 research into the scientific literature to find out if scientists have discovered any beneficial mutations to date? Of the over 450,000 mentions of mutation in scientific journals, Bergman did not uncover a single example where a mutation created new information. No new information means no evolution in the Darwinian sense of the term.

Sanford refers to the types of variation created by mutations as "more like the dings and scratches of life, rather than the spare parts."[4] Dings don't lead to new models of cars. And in the same way that scratches on your car's surface hasten deterioration of the metal, Sanford writes that mutations "are the basis for the aging of individuals, and right now they are leading to our death," not our improvement as a species.[5]

All these factors that run counter to the amoeba-to-man theory are in the scientific literature. For over 50 years scientists have known that mutations cannot add greater complexity to the genetic code. But these facts are keep from view of the general reader in order to maintain the illusion that life is the result of a wholly natural process.

The assumption of a naturalistic approach to genetics is that similarities in the genetic codes of monkeys and humans point to a common origin. While this naturalistic story sounds good on the surface and seems to explain some of our observations, it does not account for all the data, or even most of the data. In fact, it runs counter to the majority of know facts. It is a story kept alive by the sheer theatrical performance of evolutionary scientists to suppress these contrary details. The driving force behind articles like this one turns out to be not what the scientific facts tell us, but what the scientists' worldview tells us about those facts.

Making Sense of Similarities

But if the naturalistic account for the similarities of chimp and human DNA is illusory, what explanation can be given? An alternative, based on the assumption of an Intelligent Designer, suggests that similarities are due to common design, not common descent. And this design was originally built into each separate species.

But what about the degeneration of genetic information over the years? How is that explained? This fact fits into a Biblical worldview related to the fall of man, an event that affected not only man's standing before God but also had repercussions for all of nature. The Apostle Paul refers to creation's "bondage to decay" (Romans 8:21). This is true on the cosmic scale, where astrophysicists observe the "heat death" of the universe. And it happens on the level of the genome. This explains why we observe the degenerative process in our own bodies, leading to death, as well as the species-wide breakdown of genetic information from one generation to the next.

So the next time you read an article extolling the virtues of evolutionary science, pay attention to the manipulative moves of the authors. By looking for hidden assumptions and other factors concealed from view, you will not be fooled by the pseudo-scientific showmanship.

  1. John C. Sanford, Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome (Lima, NY: Elim Publishing, 2005), vii. Citing numerous scientific studies and papers going back fifty years, Sanford presents seven compelling reasons for why random mutations are insufficient for evolutionary change. We highly recommend this book.
  2. Ibid., 25.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid., 27.
  5. Ibid.

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