Posts Tagged ‘DNA’

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Will The Real God Please Stand Up! (Part 2)

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

In part one of this post, I was taking a look at some of the clichés that have become popular in our culture when it comes to religion-  namely, the idea that “all beliefs about God are equally true.”  In the process, we discovered that slogans of that kind often make the mistake of treating belief and truth as if they are the same thing when, if fact, they are not at all the same thing.  Furthermore, we established that all beliefs about God cannot be true because they are making contradictory claims about God.  This eventually led to the question:  Is there any way that we can verify which beliefs about God actually correspond to the truth about God?  Before proceeding to that question, I think that it would be best to begin by addressing those who would insist that it’s rather pointless for us to even ask such a question since we cannot know anything about God.  In response to that, let me quickly say that if God has chosen to remain anonymous by leaving it entirely up to us to figure it out for ourselves, then they are correct-  we cannot know.  However, if God has chosen to reveal himself to us by some means, then this gives us the ability to sort out which beliefs about God are more likely to be true about God.

There are many compelling reasons why I think that God has, in fact, intentionally revealed himself to us.  Both time and space in this post do not allow for a thorough presentation of the various evidences from philosophy and science for the existence of God.  That alone is such a huge topic that it deserves and requires a series of posts that I plan to address in the future.  For now, let it suffice to say that the list includes such evidence as the origin, immensity, and fine-tuning of the universe, the information content of DNA, the countless examples of obvious design that we observe in nature, and our shared moral intuitions that transcend time and culture.  When all of the evidence is combined, it requires an intelligent Cause of the universe and everything in it, who is greater than the universe itself.  In order to best explain the evidence, this First Cause must be self-existent, eternal and all-powerful (to explain the universe), all-knowing (to explain the complexity and variety of living things), moral (to explain our shared moral intuitions), and personal (to explain conscious, creative human persons).

This information alone begins the process of narrowing down the options in our attempt to determine which beliefs about God are more likely to be true.  If we begin with the evidence, as well as the characteristics that God must possess in order to best explain that evidence, it serves as a “filter” through which we can process various beliefs about God.  For example, if the combined evidence points favorably in the direction of God’s existence, then it is highly unlikely that belief systems such as atheism, agnosticism, or Buddhism are true, because they either deny God’s existence or imply that God doesn’t exist.  They disqualify themselves on the basis that they do not fit the observable evidence.  If conscious, self-aware, creative human beings (persons) are best explained by a personal Creator, then any belief system which claims that God is an impersonal force or energy immediately loses traction.  Again, they disqualify themselves because they do not comport with the observable evidence.

Once we’ve processed all of the world’s beliefs about God through this “filter”, the only three belief systems which remain are Judaism, Islam and Christianity.  Is there any way to narrow down our search any further?  Is there any way to determine which of the three “finalists” is most likely to give us the truth about God?  That will be my topic in the third and final part of this series.

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Posted in Theology | 1 Comment »

Mutations And “Faded” Genes (Part 2)

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

In my previous post we were examining the claims of evolutionary theory which says that every living thing which exists is the result of an unguided process of natural selection acting upon random mutations.  The point that I emphasized was the fact that natural selection is powerless to create the very thing that is most needed-  new genetic information.  I ended by saying that the evolutionist would remind us that we are overlooking the most important factor of all-  mutations.

            So, do mutations have what it takes to save evolutionary theory?  It’s highly unlikely.  Just as with natural  selection, mutations cannot create any new information.  When asked if new information can originate through mutations, Dr. Werner Gitt, a director and professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology answered this way:

             “…this idea is central in representations of evolution, but mutations can only cause changes in existing information.  There can be no increase in information, and in general the results are injurious.  New blueprints for new functions or new organs cannot arise; mutations cannot be the source of new (creative) information.”

Gitt,W., In the Beginning Was Information, CLV, Bielefeld, Germany, p. 127, 1997

            It’s bad enough that mutations are not the “hero” that the evolutionist was hoping for.  To make matters worse, mutations actually turn out to be the villain in the story!  Not only do mutations lack the very thing that it takes to drive us forward in some onward, upward evolutionary direction, mutations are actually driving us irreversibly and inescapably in a direction toward decay and death.  In fact, mutations are the primary reason that all of us age and eventually die.  But not only do our bodies, individually, age and die, the overall effect of genetic decay (entropy) is that the entire human race is “aging” genetically and will eventually die.

            In order to understand why that’s the case, we need to understand what mutations are and how they work.  In short, mutations are “typographical errors” that occur in our DNA code as that information is replicated during cell division.  Similar to word-processing errors, mutations can occur as deletions, insertions, “letter substitutions” (point mutations), and inversions.  Just as errors in word-processing corrupt the meaning and integrity of a text, mutations corrupt genetic information.  As a result, the cumulative effect is that the genetic information necessary to build human beings is in a state of disintegration

            In his presentation, “The Mystery of Our Declining Genes”, retired Cornell University Professor Dr. John Sanford comments that a famous geneticist once stated that if the mutation rate was as high as one mutation per person, per generation, human extinction and human degeneration would be certain.  Dr. Sanford goes on to point out that current research in human genetics has confirmed that there are more than one hundred new mutations per person, per generation-  a fact that is well-known among human geneticists.  By the way, the “genetic mistakes” of each generation are passed along and added on to each successive generation.  In other words, each of us will have one hundred more mutations than our parents did.

            Evolutionists insist that it all makes sense once you include natural selection in the process-  that natural selection acting upon those mutations is the key to understanding evolution.  However, that explanation is entirely inadequate to salvage the theory.  For the most part, natural selection cannot select for “beneficial” mutations because they are extremely rare and much too subtle at the genetic level-  so subtle, in fact, that they are virtually “invisible” to natural selection.  On the other hand, natural selection has the additional problem of not being able to select against  (get rid of) bad genes for the same reason (too subtle to detect). 

            Here’s the problem:  Since nearly all mutations are harmful, and since most of them are so subtle that they go largely undetected by natural selection, the overall, cumulative effect on an organism is one of decay and disintegration.  Sanford compares the effect of harmful mutations to rust on a car.  The rusting of metal is a subtle process (one atom at a time) that takes place long before there are any visible signs, and  the overall effect is always destructive not constructive.  In addition to this, it’s important to keep in mind that natural selection cannot “pick and choose” between which genes it “likes” and which ones it “doesn’t like”.  It can only select the entire organism-  it must take the bad genes (the majority) along with the “good” genes (extremely rare by comparison).

            Dr. Sanford says that the declining condition of our genes is well known among human geneticists.  He goes on to say that he is puzzled by the fact that even though geneticists agree that the human race is degenerating, many of those same geneticists continue to believe in evolution despite evidence to the contrary.  What doesn’t surprise Dr. Sanford is why they withhold that information from the general public.  After all, it’s not easy to face up to the fact that the human race is dying, and dwelling on it can leave a person feeling hopeless and in a state of despair.

            However, the good news is that we are not the “byproducts of time plus matter plus chance”.  You and I were created by the purposive act of an awesome, all-powerful God-  the same God who sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to vanquish death and to offer eternal life to those who are willing to place their trust in Him.

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Posted in Science | 5 Comments »

Mutations And “Faded” Genes (Part 1)

Monday, May 16th, 2011

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of taking my nephew and niece to the Arizona -Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson where we had the opportunity to observe various wildlife and habitats that are indigenous to Arizona.  Later that evening, I took their two younger sisters to the Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe where we visited the Arizona SeaLife Aquarium.  It was a great experience that gave us a chance to take a close-up look at marine life of various sizes and brilliant colors.  As I look back on both of those experiences and as I reflect on all that I had seen, I can’t imagine someone who would come away from such an experience without asking at some point, “How did all of this come to be?” 

            If you accept the explanation given by those who have embraced evolutionary theory, then everything which exists, the universe and everything in it, came about through a purely naturalistic process of “time, plus matter, plus chance”.  More specifically, the theory suggests that every living thing came into existence through a combination of random mutations and natural selection.  Even though that idea has been the dominant view in science for many, many years, the most recent research in various scientific disciplines tells a much different story.

            One area of research that has exposed some of the theory’s weaknesses is the study of genetics.  In order to appreciate its significance, it’s crucial that we begin with an understanding of DNA and its function.  Every living thing, from microbes to man, is built upon genetic information in the form of DNA.  Without this information it’s impossible to build life.  You might think of DNA as a set of “blueprints” or “assembly instructions”.  If you’ve ever had the experience of building a model plane or assembling a child’s bicycle, you know that it’s not enough to simply have all of the necessary parts.  You must also have a set of assembly instructions to tell you exactly how and where each piece fits together.  It’s important to keep in mind that the more complex something is, the more assembly instructions it’s going to require in order to build it.  A model plane or a bicycle may come with a sheet of assembly instructions requiring twenty or more steps.  Designing and building an automobile will take much more information.  A space shuttle will take an even greater amount of information.  This same principle holds true for living things as well.  While the leap in complexity from a child’s bicycle to a space shuttle is unimaginably great, by comparison, the leap in complexity from a bacterium to a human being is far greater.  If evolution is true, if life somehow evolved from single-celled organisms all the way up to complex human beings, it would require an increase in genetic information of staggering proportions! 

            The nagging question for evolutionary theory is this:  Is it likely that an increase in information of that magnitude actually took place?  Is there any mechanism that we’ve observed that has the ability to produce new genetic information?  The reason that I emphasize “new” information is because there are processes that can transfer a loop of genetic material (a “plasmid”) from one place to another.  But notice that such transferred information is not new, created information.  It was pre-existing information that was simply relocated.  Also, in plants there are processes that can result in the doubling of all the chromosomes, but such a process does not create new information.  It would be analogous to a malfunction in a printing press that causes it to double-print the pages in a textbook.  Even though it would result in twice the amount of pages, the book would not contain any more information than that which is in the properly printed book.  This brings us back to the question of whether there is any mechanism capable of producing brand new genetic information. 

            The evolutionist will tell us that mutations and natural selection are the driving forces behind evolution.  But in order for that claim to be true, one must first of all show that those processes have the ability to create the information necessary to build new, novel features. Everything that we’ve observed about natural selection and mutations would indicate that neither are capable of producing the new information that would be necessary for “molecules to man” evolution. 

            While it is true that natural selection is an undeniable process that we observe in nature, it is imperative that we understand the limitations of that process and not attribute to that process abilities that it does not possess.   The most significant limitation of natural selection that we need to acknowledge is that it does not have the ability to produce new genetic information.   Natural selection can only sort out, rearrange, and separate the information that already exists in the genes.  The point is, natural selection cannot create new biological features because it cannot create the information that’s necessary to build  those features. 

            At this point, the evolutionist would remind us that it’s not entirely up to natural selection alone to perform the “miracles”-  it is a combination of natural selection and mutations.  But is that really the case?  Are mutations the “hero” of the plot?  Can mutations come to the rescue of evolutionary theory?  We will explore that question in my next post.

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Posted in Science | 3 Comments »

Chimp vs Human DNA- The “Ninety-Eight Percent” Myth

Monday, August 9th, 2010

As we enter the month of August, it’s time once again for students to head back to school.  That being the case, there’s a good chance that in science classes all across the country, as teachers cover the topic of evolution, sooner or later they will make mention of the “98 percent similarity” between human DNA and chimpanzee DNA, thus implying common ancestry.  Over the past several years, this idea of 98 percent similarity has been repeated so many times that it is now widely accepted by most people as a “scientific fact.”  But is that really the case?

To begin with, it’s really important to understand that this whole idea of comparing DNA can be rather tricky business and we must exercise a great deal of caution when it comes to the conclusions that we draw from the data and how we interpret that data.  For example, compare the two sentences below:

“You are going on an all-expense-paid trip to the Caribbean aboard a luxurious cruise ship.”

“You are NOT going on an all-expense-paid trip to the Caribbean aboard a luxurious cruise ship.”

Even though these two sentences have 98 percent homology (similarity), they have  opposite meanings- the difference between going and not going!  In a similar way, since DNA is all about information, a high degree of similarity between two DNA sequences does not necessarily mean that they have the same meaning or function.

Another pitfall that we must avoid in comparing DNA is that we have to be careful not to assume that genetic similarity necessarily points to some sort of ancestral-descendant relationship or relatedness.  After all, some studies have shown that humans and daffodils share a 35 percent genetic similarity.  But I don’t think that anyone is prepared to interpret that data to mean that humans are “related to daffodils” or that humans are “over one-third daffodil.”

Getting back to the claim that humans and chimps are 98 percent similar, the most damaging evidence of all was revealed in more recent studies as reported a few months ago in the journal Nature.  (see Nature. 463 (7280):536-539)  The article’s title alone speaks volumes about what researchers found: “Chimpanzee and Human Y Chromosomes are Remarkably Divergent in Structure and Gene Content.”  In other words, chimp and human Y chromosomes are surprisingly different.  The results of this more recent research contradicts the initial findings from the 2005 chimpanzee genome project which ultimately led to the idea of 98 percent similarity.  As it turns out, one of the underlying problems with the 2005 study was that it was extremely biased toward an evolutionary view.  Rather than trying to determine whether or not chimps and humans are related, researchers in the 2005 study began with the assumption that chimps and humans are related.  When they began the process of assembly and orientation of the sequences gathered from the chimpanzee genome, they did so based on a map of the human genome rather than basing it on a map of the chimpanzee genome.  Taking this approach allowed their evolutionary bias to influence the outcome of the study.

So, the long and short of all of this is that the idea of “98 percent similarity” is a myth.  According to the latest, more accurate study, the overall similarity turned out to be 70 percent or less.  It will be interesting to see whether or not this latest information is mentioned at all in our high school science classes this year.  If not, it should be a reminder to all of us that those who knowingly disallow such information are more interested in pushing their ideology than they are about doing good science.

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Posted in Science | 2 Comments »

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  • In today's world, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to matters of truth, meaning, morality, our origin, and our destiny. The purpose of Renewed Thoughts is to bring clarity to such issues by examining them in light of a Biblical worldview, using the tools of science, philosophy, and critical thinking.