Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Creation vs. Evolution Frameworks

I hear all the time that evolution has disproven the Biblical account of creation. For some, this even leads them to discount Christianity or even theism all together. But is the evidence really so strong for evolution?

I have a master's degree in biology from a secular university. I've studied evolution in depth, and the evidence simply doesn't add up. It's not that there isn't any evidence. There is, but a lot of it depends on your interpretation. There are alternate interpretations that also make sense of the same exact data - and often some data that are more difficult for evolution to explain as well. That's why, overall, the creationist explanation fits better with the evidence. When you actually study the data and understand both frameworks well, you can evaluate which fits better. I've done that.

The main problem is that too many people evaluate the data with an incorrect view of the creation framework. They think, for example, that evolution is about change and creation is about staying the same. So when they see evidence of biological change, they think it's evidence for evolution and evidence against creation. But the truth of the matter is that both frameworks agree to a large extent on what we should see today. Both incorporate change. So you have to dig into the details of HOW that change occurs to really tell the difference.

Here is a very brief and simplified overview of the two views:

Evolution claims that organisms can become more complex over time and that information can be added to the genome through random mutation and natural selection. Evolution also claims that all organisms originated from a common ancestor and have gradually diverged into the many forms of life we have today through the buildup of these mutations.

Creation, on the other hand, claims that organisms were created by God as separate kinds that reproduce only within their kind. Creation also claims that random genetic changes, while they certainly do occur, will generally be neutral or degradative with respect to information content (though degradative changes aren't necessarily harmful to the organism and may sometimes be a good thing in some environments) and that some genetic changes may occur due to directed or programmed mutation rather than random mutation.

That’s not as simple as change versus no change.

Notice that to determine which of these frameworks is correct, one has to dig into the genetic mechanism for each observed change rather than going on more superficial characteristics like whether it is helpful to the organism.

For example, in the case of antibiotic resistance in bacteria (which is widely touted as strong evidence for evolution), in nearly every case, the actual genetic mechanism that confers resistance to the antibiotic involves dismantling or turning off some component of the cell. In some cases, for example, it's a pump in the cell membrane that, in normal bacteria, brings substances into the cell, which allows the antibiotic to enter the cell and kill it. In resistant bacteria, the pump doesn't work and thus the antibiotic isn't pumped into the cell. This is very beneficial to the bacteria, of course.

But the kind of change that provided the benefit isn't the kind of change that explains how the bacteria got there in the first place. It doesn't explain how bacteria might develop into a more advanced organism. It doesn’t even explain how the pump in the cell membrane could have developed. The bacteria didn't add new information. It didn't develop a super power that dissolves antibiotics. It didn't grow stronger. In fact, in most environments, the non-resistant bacteria have the advantage because they have a working pump that does what it's supposed to do. That's why, in the absence of antibiotic pressure, bacterial populations become non-resistant again. The normal, non-resistant bacteria outcompete the broken ones that are antibiotic resistant. The actual change in the resistant bacteria was a degradative one at the genetic and cellular level. This also explains how antibiotic resistance occurs so easily. There are lots of ways to break cellular components and, thus, lots of individual mutations that will have the same effect.

So, when you look deeper, you'll see that antibiotic resistance is actually good evidence for the creation framework because it isn't the kind of change that would produce upward evolution or create new structures. Instead, it's actually a degradative change on a genetic level, just as creation predicts, which happens to be beneficial to the bacteria in some circumstances.

Another good example of something that is thought to be evidence for evolution is speciation. Many people mistakenly believe that the creation view involves fixed species. This is not the case. What the Bible says is that God created organisms to reproduce after their kinds. Assuming that “kinds” and “species” are the same thing is a common mistake. The modern species concept is useful as far as it goes, but it is largely subjective where you draw the line. There is no reason to suppose that the species reflects an actual divide between significantly different organisms. Thus, there is no reason to think that there could be no speciation events within Biblical kinds.

The Biblical kind is actually thought (by creation scientists) to be roughly equivalent to the Family level of taxonomy, although it may vary in different organisms because the man-made taxonomic system may not always reflect the difference in kinds consistently. Thus, while speciation has been observed and there are also many other cases where the evidence for speciation is good, none of those cases provide any evidence against the creation viewpoint. We creationists expect speciation and variation within the Biblical kinds. What we don’t expect (or observe) is evidence of common ancestry for all life.

There are many examples like these where something looks like evidence for evolution at first glance, but on deeper investigation turns out to be consistent with creation or even supports creation better. For those who don’t understand the actual creation framework, it can look like evolution has mountains of evidence to support it. When you understand what the creation models actually predict, you realize that it’s more complicated than that. And when you start evaluating the real creation framework versus the evolutionary one, you start to see the evidence tip in favor of creation.


  1. Lindsay, This is Luis from the Winteryknight blog. Viruses are just one example of evolution. You can't just use this example and imply that evolution is not adequate enough to explain it. If that's all their was, I would still be a christian. What about the fossils, biogeography, DNA similarities, pseudogenes, junk DNA (which ENCODE has since retracted their study), chromosome 2 fusion, population genetics. All this is explained and predicted by common descent not by creationism. I know the common argument is common design but how does one test that?

    1. This blog post was not intended to be a comprehensive explanation of all the evidence for the creation framework. It's a blog post. There's no way I could even mention all the relevant evidence for creation in a blog post, much less explain it all. There have been many, many books and articles written on the subject and there is still much to be studied. The point of this blog post was to point out that most people do not have an accurate view of what the actual creation framework is. I gave a couple of examples to help illustrate that point. There are many others I could have chosen, but time and space are limited. If you're interested in specific items, do some research to find out what actual creation scientists are saying on the matter so that you aren't knocking down a strawman. That was my point.

    2. How are viruses an example of evolution? What do they evolve into? More viruses not other species. Butterflies change but only into more butterflies. The human eye must have been created to work as it does at its first use. You don't hear of eye transplants. The "eye system" is a very complicated system of cornea to brain connection that has to work perfectly to function properly. In a real sense, we see with our brain. The image on the retina is actually upside down and the brain turns it back over so we can see things as they are. The optic nerve is attached at a point where there are no rods or cones to sense images but the brain actually fills in that space from information it has acquired. So you see, the eye had to have been created at one time so that all the necessary things working in the body would make sight function in humans.

  2. Tell me, Lindsay, have you ever done any real research on evolution? Have you ever read On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins (his book The Selfish Gene is great, too), or any other book about evolution written by an actual scientist? If not, then what makes you so sure that evolution is wrong? Just because you believe it's wrong doesn't mean that it is actually wrong.

    1. I believe I mentioned in the article that I studied evolution quite extensively - several years worth of college biology at a secular university, actually, in addition to my own independent research. As for things written by "an actual scientist" - I AM an actual scientist. I'm pretty familiar with evolution. And when you understand the actual position of creationists, instead of a strawman version, and dig into the details of how genetic changes are observed to occur, it fits at least as well with the creation framework if not better. When you've done that, come back and we'll talk about the details.

  3. So what, specifically, do you think is wrong about evolution? What flaws are there in that theory? I mean just saying "dig into the details of how genetic changes are observed to occur" doesn't disprove evolution at all, since scientists already know the details of how genetic changes are observed to occur, and that actually proves evolution to be true.

    1. I don't have time right now to give you everything I think on the subject. It would be a long book. But here is one post that I have written on the subject.

      I also highly recommend that you read Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome by Dr. John Sanford, a retired Cornell University Professor in Genetics who is rather famous for his invention of the gene gun (which is a technique used in producing transgenic crops) and he has published more than 80 scientific publications and holds 30 patents (last I heard). He uses evidence from actual studies and the known prevalence of beneficial mutations to show that the genome is deteriorating - losing information over time. You can get his book for about $15 on Amazon. It's very enlightening.

  4. Anonymous, I wouldn't quit on Christianity just because you believe in evolution. Contrary to popular belief there are a large number of people in the scientific community who DO believe in evolution and God. Look up old world creationists and do a little research. There's actually quite a few camps and you might find that science and faith don't have to be at war.