googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: June 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Another Argument Creationists Shouldn't Use

In my last post, I mentioned in passing that has a list of arguments they believe creationists should not use. However, there is one argument that I have frequently heard creationists use that I believe should be added to that list. Curiously, groups like and Answers in Genesis use this argument themselves so I doubt I'll see it added to the list very soon.

The other argument which I believe is somewhat weak is the “designed for life” argument. The idea is that our planet, indeed even the entire universe including physical laws, seems perfectly “fine tuned” to support life. If things were even a little different on earth, life would not be possible. Such a delicate balance suggests purpose in the creation and, thus, is evidence for design. This has sometimes been called the “anthropic principle.” Proponents of the anthropic principle cite examples like the abundance and properties of liquid water, the earth's distance from the sun, the unique mixture of gases in our atmosphere, and many, many others. When I said there were “many, many other” examples, I'm not exaggerating. Whole books have been written about the subject and many of these books have been adapted to videos. It's obviously a favorite tool for many creationists.

Let me expound on one example of the anthropic principle just to be sure everyone understands exactly what we're talking about. The human body requires oxygen to survive. If there were not enough oxygen in the atmosphere, we would quickly suffocate. However, if there were too much oxygen, a flash of lightning would ignite the entire planet's atmosphere. So the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere is just right – not too much nor too little. It's “fine tuned” to support life.

Before I get into my problems with such an argument, let me clarify a couple of points. First, “design” is evidence for a Designer. Things that are complex, ordered, and have purpose suggest design. However, “design” in general isn't what I'm talking about here. What I'm questioning is the argument that the earth is uniquely designed to support human life. Here's an analogy to show the difference:

Consider paint on a floor. Because I can recognize design, I can immediately recognize the difference between paint spilled on the floor and a pattern painted on the floor. It doesn't matter that I didn't see the floor being painted; I can still tell it was intentionally painted. That's the design argument. However, suppose the design included a floral pattern and, by happy coincidence, I like flowers (this is an analogy – I'm truly indifferent to flowers). If I liked flowers, I might be tempted to say the painter specifically painted the pattern for my benefit. That's the anthropic principle.

The fact of the matter is that my hypothetical painter chose the pattern that pleased him. Likewise, God designed the universe in the way that pleased Him. It also follows that God also designed us in the way that pleased Him and so put everything together according to His plan. If God had wanted an earth with 100% oxygen, He could have made it that way. If God had intended us to live inside the sun, He could have made it that way. If God had intended for us to live without water, He could have made it that way. If God had intended us to live on a barren rock where there was no water, no night, and the temperature was a constant 500º, we would still be talking about how the planet was remarkably designed to support life and if things were just a little bit different, we couldn't exist.

Considering the infinite number of ways that the universe could have been designed, there's nothing especially remarkable about this design except that this is what was pleasing to God. The Bible tells us that God made the world for us (Genesis 1:28-29). It's no wonder then that the earth should be well suited for us. No matter how narrow the requirements necessary for life (food, water, oxygen, warmth, etc), God would have still made the earth well suited for us.

According to evolution, life adapts to its environment. On a planet like earth, where temperatures range between (approximately) -60ºF and 125ºF, the only life you would ever expect to find is life that can survive between -60ºF and 125ºF. If life existed on another planet where the temperatures ranged between 500ºF and 700ºF, the only life that could exist on that planet would be adapted to survive temperature ranges between 500ºF and 700ºF. You see, it's not that the planet is adapted to the life as much as the life is adapted to the planet. If life exists in any environment, then that environment will seem suited for that life.

An often used analogy that demonstrates this is a puddle. A puddle might believe that whatever hole it finds itself in is remarkably well suited for the puddle. Every convex or concave surface of the hole seems “fine tuned” to match the exact shape of the water inside it! That sounds silly, doesn't it? That's because it is silly. It's obviously the water that adapts to the shape of the hole.

The problem with this argument is that the creationist's explanation for the “fine tuning” is no more compelling than the evolutionist's explanation. When creationists talk about fine tuning, they sound to me like the puddle marveling about its hole. I'm sure that's how the argument sounds to many evolutionists as well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What is the Best Evidence for Creation?

Creationists are often accused of not understanding evolution. It's true that there have been times when I've seen Christians misunderstand some point of the theory. actually has an article dealing with common arguments they believe creationists should not use. On the whole, though, I believe the average, non-scientist creationist understands evolution about as much as the average, non-scientist evolutionist. After all, many creationists went to public schools and were taught evolution along side non-creationists.

Still, the criticism persists that creationists don't believe evolution because they don't understand evolution. By the way, I think it's amusing that more learned evolutionists don't seem to have a problem with lay evolutionists not understanding their theory. Lay creationists are often told that they don't know enough about evolution to judge it; however, lay people who believe evolution are welcomed into the fold. There's never any concern about them not knowing enough about the theory to judge it. As long as someone believes evolution is true, that is sufficient evidence that they understand the theory!

I've personally been told many times that I don't understand evolution. In another forum once, I became frustrated with the militant evolutionists' insults and rude behavior so I decided to play a game. I started a thread called, “Let me show you how it's done.” On that thread, I pretended to believe in evolution again (I used to believe in evolution, by the way). Evos were asked to pretend they were creationists and ask me the kind of questions creationists would ask; then I would answer them the way I believed evolutionists should answer them. This wasn't a parody or an attempt to create straw men. I sincerely advocated evolution for a while. The point was to show them how a person could defend evolution without resorting to the usually tactics employed by most evos.

My time spent on that thread was revealing. First, many of evolutionists were shocked that I could cogently discuss evolution and give reasoned arguments why people could believe in the theory. In the end, though, some of them argued that I was only able to “parrot” the arguments I've heard evolutionists use but I still didn't understand them. They could not get past their stereotype that people don't believe evolution because they don't understand evolution.

Here's the other thing I learned on that thread: many of the evolutionists really didn't know how to challenge evolution. They had trouble asking questions from a creationist's perspective. I could tell that several of them had never even considered alternative explanations of the evidence or even listened to creationists' questions about the theory.

The funniest thing is there was one evolutionist (who posted under the name RJW) who tried to do the same thing (that is, he pretended to believe in creation). He quickly found that he couldn't answer even the simplest questions about creation and, at one point, even asked me advice on how to answer a question. I gave him some guidance but told him he had to answer it himself. I could tell, though, that he knew nothing about creation.

If a person truly doesn't know anything about evolution, I can see how evolutionists might not take his objections seriously. How would a Christian feel in a similar circumstance? Imagine if a skeptic said to me, “I think the Bible is full of errors.” I might say, “Really? Can you give me some examples of the errors?” The skeptic would sound foolish if he only said, “I don't know. I've never read the Bible!”

I watched online while these evolutionists displayed their ignorance of creation. It looked to me as foolish as the Bible skeptic who'd never read the Bible. It seems they were guilty of the same offense of which they accused me. They denounced something that they had never even examined.

I think Christians need to study evolution if they are going to aggressively challenge it. By that same token, if evolutionists want to advertise themselves as intellectually honest, they need to study creation. They should read first hand sources written by creation apologists and not the straw man caricatures built by evolution apologists. People who don't know the evidence supporting creation, or who don't understand some of the arguments used to support it, truly aren't competent enough to judge its merits. Indeed, how can someone have a credible opinion on a subject he's never examined?

I used to listen to the late Dr. D James Kennedy on the radio. He suggested a great exercise Christians could use when confronting critics. Before getting too far into the conversation, simply ask the person, “What do you think is the best evidence for creation?” You'll see quickly that many people who ridicule creation know absolutely nothing about creation.

Monday, June 18, 2012

1 Chronicles 16:30: Does the Bible Say the Earth Doesn't Move?

A frequent visitor to my blog left a comment where he alluded to biblical passages that speak of the earth not moving (geocentricism). He didn't cite a specific verse but this isn't the first time I've heard that criticism so I'm aware of certain passages which are frequently cited in support of that claim. Perhaps the most frequently cited is 1 Chronicles 16:30:

Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved. (1 Chronicles 16:30)

At first hearing, this criticism seems to have legs (for any Bible critic reading this, I'm using an expression. The criticism doesn't “literally” have legs). The genre of 1 Chronicles is historical narrative – unlike Psalms which is Hebrew poetry. So when we read a passage like 1 Chron 16:30 in the midst of historical narrative, it seems as though the Bible might literally be saying the earth does not move. A quick look at the context, however, quickly dispels that notion.

First off, the passage is clearly introduced as a psalm (i.e. “song” or “prayer”) of David. 1 Chron 16:7 says, Then on that day David delivered first this psalm to thank the Lord into the hand of Asaph and his brethren.” Like the book of Psalms, the passage uses poetic descriptions to convey spiritual truth – not necessarily literal truth. In the same passage (v. 32-33) David says that the sea “roars,” the fields “rejoice,” and the trees “sing.”

Why don't the same critics who allege this passage endorses geocentricism, also assert the Bible teaches that trees sing? It's because they know that people will immediately recognize trees singing as an obvious use of metaphor. Yet they still quote v. 30 as though it's meant to be a statement of fact. This is a clear case of quote mining where critics cite a passage out of context in order to make it sound like the Bible says something that it clearly does not intend.

Another thing we must be careful to consider is what is meant by the use of the words like “world” and “earth.” Often, when these words are used, they are not referring to the physical earth but the people of the earth. This is demonstrated in the same verse in question. 1 Chron 16:30a says, “Fear before Him all the earth.” Do you think this means the literal “earth” should fear Him or doesn't it more likely mean the people of the earth? It could mean the literal earth in the same sense that the “fields” rejoice. On the other hand, it could also mean the people of the earth. The Bible does use the words “earth” and “world” in that sense; Here are some indisputable examples where this is so:

And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity. (Isaiah 13:11a)

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (Luke 2:1)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

In these passages, and others, the word “world” clearly means the people who live in the world. No one, for example, could rationally argue that Luke 2:1 means that the literal earth (that is, dirt and rock) is going to be taxed.

We also must ask what is meant by “not moved.” The most ordinary meaning, of course, is that it means “stationary” and that is what the critics who cite this passage claim it means. However, “not moved” can also mean “not moved from its course” or “unpersuaded.” Psalm 21:7 says, “For the king trusteth in the Lord, and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved.” I'll ask you: does this passage mean the king is stationary or does it mean that he should not be moved from his trust in the Lord?

In conclusion, remember that this is a psalm. In a poetic passage that says the Lord established the earth that it should not be moved, would it be entirely unreasonable to interpret that to mean the Lord established the ways of the earth (or its people) and it/they will not be moved from the way He established? What is unreasonable is that critics (whether intentionally or by ignorance) ignore the clear context of a passage and assert the correct interpretation of an obvious use of poetry is that it is meant to be literal fact. It's no wonder that critics see the Bible as rife with errors. They obviously have trouble reading.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Psalm 58:8: Snails Don't Literally Melt but Some Critics are Literally Stupid

I know I shouldn't call anyone stupid but sometimes I can think of no other way to say it. I browse Yahoo! Answers occasionally and recently came across this gem:

Why does the bible say that snails 'melt'? Wouldn't an all knowing God know better than this?

Psalm 58:8 (King James Version)

8As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away: like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun.

It's such a weak criticism that I would normally ignore it as a straw man argument raised by a fringe nut. However, this isn't the first time I've heard this particular criticism so I will amend my opinion and say the criticism is a straw man argument frequently used by lots of nuts.

Do I even need to spend much time rebutting this? I mean, the correct understanding of this passage is fairly obvious. So rather than wasting a lot of words explaining the passage, I'll quickly explain the passage then spend the rest of my time examining the critic.

The Book of Psalms is a collection of poetry. They were originally sung so they could correctly be called songs or hymns. Like any poetry, words are used to paint pictures and sometimes (as in the case of Psalms) convey symbolical – though not necessarily literal - truths. Don't they teach metaphor, analogy, and similar devices in 6th grade English? The snail (or slug) may shrivel under salt or leave a slimy trail as it moves but it doesn't literally melt. Likewise, in Psalm 1, neither is a blessed man literally a tree and neither is there a literal path of sinners. Is that so hard to understand?

When critics raise points like this, it tells us more about the critic than the Bible. I don't want to paint with an overly broad brush but I can only think of three reasons why arguments like this are ever used:

1) Some critics may be grossly ignorant. Perhaps they aren't familiar with the literary genre of Psalms but the fact that one such critic wrote the question above demonstrates that he is at least literate. Is he not familiar at all with such literary devices? If he heard someone say, “I could eat a horse,” would he believe the speaker literally claimed to be able to eat a horse? Such ignorance goes far beyond a lack of familiarity with the Bible. It borders on lunacy.

When someone raises this objection, we should start with the assumption that he is simply not aware of the heavily poetic language used in Psalms. Once it's pointed out to him, perhaps he'll quit the argument. If he still cannot genuinely identify so obvious a metaphor, perhaps he is more than ignorant. He is a simpleton.

2) Some theophobes may be so contemptuous toward the Bible that they are truly blind to its use of literary devices. It's like conspiracy theorists who see a government plot in every headline. When people read the Bible with such a jaundiced eye, they see every word in an ill light. They might understand the use of things like simile, hyperbole, and personification when it occurs in ordinary language, but when it comes to the Bible, they suddenly cannot distinguish between a poetic expression and a statement of literal fact.

By the way, this same phenomenon occurs among theistic evolutionists. They have no trouble interpreting passages that say Jesus rose on the third day (Acts 10:40). However, when they read Exodus 20:11, they suddenly cannot understand what the Bible means by six days.

3) If Bible skeptics insist they understand the use of literary devices yet still pursue this point as if it had substance, then we can only assume they are deliberately lying so they might prey on the ignorance of others. Indeed, what other option is left? If they are truly bright enough to understand the ordinary use of language, and it has been pointed out to them that this is a poetic expression, then there is no other reason to repeat the falsehood except an evil motive.

In conclusion, I again repeat that I don't ordinarily call people stupid. It's not a very nice term. Still, why would any intelligent person use such stupid argument? Perhaps I could temper it by calling him “challenged” or some other polite term. It's either that or call him a liar.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Matthew 5:27-28: The Significance of the Greek Participle

Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη· οὐ μοιχεύσεις. ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ βλέπων γυναῖκα πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι [αὐτὴν] ἤδη ἐμοίχευσεν αὐτὴν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ.
You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman in order to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Matthew 5:27-28

In English, participles are special verbs that function either as adverbs or adjectives. They are easily identified by the ending, “ing.” If there were a room full of men and I wanted to identify a certain man, I might say, “Do you see the man
standing by the door?” The word, “standing” in this sentence is a participle. It's acting as an adjective describing which man I'm talking about – the man standing by the door. I'm not necessarily interested in what he is doing; I'm using the participle to identify who he is.

In Greek, participles act much the same way as they do in English. In Matthew 5:28, the word βλέπων (blepōn) is a participle acting as an adjective (technically, it's an adjective functioning substantively as a noun). ὁ βλέπων is most literally translated as “the one who is looking” but just as in English, the participle isn't necessarily concerned with what he is doing but is merely identifying who he is.

The use of a participle makes an important distinction. Later in Matthew (Matthew 7:16), Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.” You can see that a person isn't defined by his actions; rather, he is revealed by his actions. In the Matthew 5:27-28 passage, it's not “looking” at women that makes a man an adulterer. The passage is clear that he is already an adulterer. When he looks at a woman to lust for her, he is only doing what adulterers do.

By way of analogy, consider dogs: dogs aren't dogs because they bark; they bark because they're dogs. Likewise, adulterers look at women in order to lust for them. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Who we are on the inside is revealed by what we do. In other words, adulterers lust, murderers hate, thieves envy, etc. We’re not sinners because of the sins we commit. We’re sinners and so we commit sins.

Some people think of themselves as basically “good” because they haven't committed any “major” sins. That's because they don't consider their lusts, envy, or hate to be a major sin. What they don't understand is that these are symptoms of who they really are. It doesn't matter how good these people think they are – the Bible makes it clear they are adulterous, thieving murderers who need a Savior.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Evolution Only Happens By Definition

How many times have you heard that we “observe” evolution happening? When I say that evolution doesn't happen, I'm ridiculed for denying the obvious. Some say evolution occurs before our very eyes. Really? Do you mean we can see dinosaurs changing into birds? No. They don't mean that kind of evolution happens before our eyes. They simply mean that populations change. It's all a matter of definition. Consider some of these definitions of “evolution” given on the popular, evolutionist site, TalkOrigins (TO).
"In the broadest sense, evolution is merely change, and so is all-pervasive; galaxies, languages, and political systems all evolve. Biological evolution ... is change in the properties of populations of organisms that transcend the lifetime of a single individual. The ontogeny of an individual is not considered evolution; individual organisms do not evolve. The changes in populations that are considered evolutionary are those that are inheritable via the genetic material from one generation to the next. Biological evolution may be slight or substantial; it embraces everything from slight changes in the proportion of different alleles within a population (such as those determining blood types) to the successive alterations that led from the earliest protoorganism to snails, bees, giraffes, and dandelions."

That’s a fairly lengthy way of saying, “evolution is change.” When we see any change in a population, they say we are seeing “evolution.” Note that there is no qualifier about the kind of change - that is, no consideration is given if the change is adding any novel features to the population. “Evolution is change; change is evolution.” That's the sum of it. The same article goes on to say:
"In fact, evolution can be precisely defined as any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next."

This is, by far, the most commonly accepted definition of evolution by secular biologists. As far as utility, it’s not a bad definition. It’s certainly objective. The problem is that it’s still just a clinical way of “evolution is change.”

There is still another definition offered in the same TO article:
"evolution: The gradual process by which the present diversity of plant and animal life arose from the earliest and most primitive organisms, which is believed to have been continuing for the past 3000 million years."

As far as I'm concerned, this is more like it. When the average person hears the word, “evolution,” he usually has something like this in mind. In the creation v. evolution debate, this is the point of contention that we are debating. But TO doesn’t like this definition. In fact, they condemn it in the strongest way:
This is inexcusable for a dictionary of science. Not only does this definition exclude prokaryotes, protozoa, and fungi, but it specifically includes a term "gradual process" which should not be part of the definition. More importantly the definition seems to refer more to the history of evolution than to evolution itself. Using this definition it is possible to debate whether evolution is still occurring.” [bold added for emphasis]
We can see what’s going on. Evolutionists don’t like this definition because it makes it harder for them to claim evolution is still occurring. It's a glaring example of equivocation where evolutionists can point to one kind of “change” (which everyone will agree happens) and claim it's the same change that turns molecules into men (which no one has ever seen happen). They equivocate intentionally; they admit it here. They are glad for the overly broad meaning of the word because it allows them to use any example of change as evidence for their theory.

Evolutionists engage in a game of semantics and seek to define words in their favor. They often chide creationists for not using words the same way they've defined them but it's only because we refuse to participate in their lies. We seek to make the meaning of certain terms more clear and their sole objective is to cloud the issue.

I've read their examples of “evolution” and I agree it's “change.” It's still not the kind of change that could turn a fish into a frog or an ape into a man. Evolution does not occur anywhere. It's never observed in spite of their many claims to have seen it. Their cited examples only qualify as “evolution” because of their equivocal use of the word.

Evolution only happens by definition.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Trait Adding Mutations? I'll Show You Why More is Sometimes Less

I recently discussed why genetic mutations appearing in organisms isn't enough to rescue the theory of evolution. For a population to “evolve,” mutations would have to add traits that don't already exist in the population. There have been occasions where we have observed mutations that convey a benefit to its host, but in most of these examples, it's easy to see how traits are still being removed from the population. When we look only for examples of “trait-adding” mutations, the list of possible candidates quickly narrows. In this post, so called “trait-adding” mutations will be considered.

Before we begin, let me make a qualifier. As I've said repeatedly, there must be some mechanism that adds traits to a population for evolution to even be possible. Perhaps such mutations exist. Yet even if a convincing example of a trait-adding mutation is found, it still isn't automatic evidence that evolution is true. Consider too that, in spite of our “advanced” knowledge, there's a lot about DNA that we have yet to discover and we've genetically examined only a tiny fraction of the millions of species that are known to exist. We can hardly be sure whether some observed new feature is truly the result of mutation or if it is even “new.” Perhaps it was already present in the creature's DNA. Furthermore, evolution requires an endless parade of novel features. Trait-adding mutations should be the rule or, at the very least, be ordinary. As it stands now, such mutations could only be described as “scarce” or “non-existent.” In summary, trait-adding mutations aren't a fatal blow to creation; if they exist, they only serve to keep evolution in the running as a possible (though still unlikely) alternative.

When considering mutations, it is frustratingly difficult to define “novel” features. I can appreciate how the lack of a clear meaning of words clouds a discussion and I wish I could produce a concrete, objective definition. I can't. Some creationists use the term, “new genetic information” but I've found that term clouds the discussion even further. “Information” has a technical meaning that, ironically, is too broad to be useful here. From a statistical perspective, simply rearranging the letters “JYIL” to “YLIJ” creates new information even though there are no new letters. If we applied that analogy to evolution, we would see that simply rearranging already existing letters does not explain the origin of the letters.

To determine if a mutation is “adding” anything to its host, I've found it best to examine how the mutation conveys a benefit. In my post about blind cave fish, fish being born without eyes is an obvious example of losing a trait. Along those same lines, there are elephants in Africa being born without tusks. Ivory poachers will shoot elephants for their tusks. Due to a mutation, some elephants are born without tusks and the poachers don't shoot them. Therefore, the tusk-less elephants live to reproduce and pass on the tusk-less trait. This is another obvious example of how a mutation can convey a benefit but still not add anything.

Sometimes, mutations cause a loss of function. A defining characteristic of mammals is that they nurse their young. New born mammals have an enzyme in their small intestines that helps them digest milk. About the time of weaning, the enzyme “turns off,” making most adult mammals lactose intolerant. In some instances, though, as seen in many humans, the enzyme fails to turn off which allows the person to continue drinking milk. So the ability for adult humans to continue drinking milk may be “novel” in one sense but it's still the result of the enzyme failing to turn off at the appropriate time. It is a loss of function.

Other mutations sometimes cited as examples of new features involve the duplication or overproduction of already existing traits. A widely known example of this is that sometimes people are born with six fingers on one hand. This may not convey any benefit but it is sometimes cited as an example of a trait-adding mutation. However, extra fingers on a creature that already has fingers doesn't explain the origin of fingers. I would be more impressed if I saw fingers evolve on a snake.

In 1884, Jo Jo the Dog Faced Boy joined to tour with PT Barnum. Jo Jo (his real name was Fedor Jeftichew) suffered from a medical condition known as hypertrichosis which causes the overproduction of hair. Sometimes, overproducing something could convey a benefit. The overproduction of something like pigment could make an animal darker and better camouflaged. However, it's still the overproduction of something that already exists in the animal. “More pigment” isn't novel in an animal that already has pigment.

When I ask evolutionists for examples of truly novel features added through mutation, I overwhelming hear the same three examples: 1) antibiotic resistant bacteria, 2) pesticide resistant insects, and 3) nylon digesting bacteria. Let's look at these in light of what we've already discussed.

In the case of the first two items (resistant bacteria and insects), one must first ask if the critters “acquired” resistance or were they already resistant? Scientists have recently discovered bacteria in a cave dated by evolutionists to be 4,000,000 years old. When tested, the bacteria were found to already be resistant to modern medicine! To quote the article:

The cave, which is coated in the ancient bacteria, has never encountered modern medicine. Amazingly, these bacteria can still fight off different kinds of antibiotics, including synthetic drugs.... 93 types of bacteria found in the cave were tested against 26 different antibiotics. Seventy percent were able to resist three or four kinds of antibiotics. Three anthrax-related bacteria resisted 14 different types of antibiotics. The results suggest that drug resistance is at least millions of years old and not a man-made phenomenon.”

Obviously, the bacteria are not “evolving” resistance to drugs but have always been resistant. How then could drug resistance be considered “novel”? And if drug resistance isn't necessarily novel in bacteria, perhaps the same thing is true for insects. Unfortunately, we cannot test the insects that lived (supposedly) millions of years ago to see if they were already pesticide resistant.

For the sake of argument, let's suppose that these creatures only recently “evolved” resistance. What has changed in them to accomplish this? Antibiotics work by binding with bacteria which disrupts the function of an important protein and prevents the bacteria from reproducing. It's possible for a mutation to prevent the antibiotic from binding with the bacteria, thus making the bacteria resistant. This doesn't necessarily mean there is a gain of features. Consider how handcuffs are used to subdue criminals. If, because of a mutation, a suspect had no arms, the police could not cuff him. So even though the suspect is “resistant” to handcuffs, it still represents a loss of traits.

Finally, there is the example of nylon digesting bacteria. As in the other examples, we cannot rule out the possibility that this feature isn't novel but has always existed – heretofore unobserved. Setting aside that possibility, we can again speculate about what mutation could introduce this “new” ability. In digestion, enzymes help us break down certain substances. We discussed above how infant mammals have an enzyme that allows them to digest milk. Enzymes are specialized and normally only work on specific substances. However, in the case of nylon digesting bacteria, a certain enzyme in the bacteria has lost its specificity and will break down other substances. Here's an analogy to help visualize this: imagine that I designed a machine that pulls weeds in my garden. It's only supposed to pull weeds but the machine becomes broken and no longer recognize weeds. Eventually it starts pulling my flowers too. Some could say the machine has acquired the ability to pull flowers but the reality is that the machine is broken and doesn't function as well as when it was built.

Let me pause here and remind you that feature-adding mutations must occur with some frequency for evolution to be possible. Three examples, no matter how often they are trumpeted, cannot be stretched to demonstrate that trait-adding change is commonplace.

I could say a lot more about each of these but this series has gone on long enough. We can quibble over whether a feature can be called “new” or not but, all in all, none of these oft-cited examples are convincing. In each case, we cannot be sure the traits are even novel. What's more, even if the traits are novel and even if they are the result of mutations, they still likely represent a loss of function. Thus we can see how “more” is really “less.” If these represent the best examples of observed trait-adding evolution, how can anyone be convinced that molecules to man evolution is even possible

Further reading:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

“Mutations” Make a Creature More Evolved?

In my last post, I pointed out that many of the things closely associated with evolution really have little to do with evolution. Things like natural selection, variation, and millions of years cannot work together to turn an amoeba into an aardvark nor a bacterium into a basset hound. For evolution to be possible, there must be a mechanism that can add novel traits to a population. Just think how many features someone would have to add to a single cell in order to make it a cephalopod.

Many evolutionists fail to grasp the concept that evolution demands organisms to acquire novel traits. In the most cited example of evolution ever to haunt biology books – the famous “peppered moth evolution” - I've often asked evolutionists to clarify what evolution has occurred in the moths. The usual response is to repeat the observations: the ratio of light/dark moths changed over time. I then ask, “How long would birds have to eat one color of moth in order to make new colors appear?” At this point, evolutionists usually resort to mutations but in nearly every instance, the significance of my question is lost on them. The significance is this: birds eating one color of moth (natural selection) will never add new colors to the population no matter how long it continues. Even millions of years is not enough.

When evolutionists trot out examples of “change” (natural selection) and say that “change” continuing for millions of years will cause a population to evolve into something else, they have not spoken one word that should convince anyone of their theory. It's not enough that something changes. It is only when something new is added to the moth that it could possibly become something that is not a moth. One lie often spoken by evolutionists is that microevolution (i.e. “any change”) + time = macroevolution. They give no consideration to the type of change nor do they care if any new trait is added.

By way of definition, mutations have been likened to “copying errors” or “mistakes” in DNA. All creatures have mutations in their DNA. In sexual reproduction, the offspring inherits a combination of both parents' DNA (including the parents' mistakes). The offspring will also have mistakes in their own DNA. The vast majority of these mutations are not expressed – that is, there is no observable manifestation of the mutation in the host. That's because the “good” DNA in one parent will often mask the mutations in the DNA of the other.

Expressed mutations are sometimes called “birth defects” (though not all birth defects are due to mutation) and can range in severity from having no deleterious effect to its host to gross deformities that are not compatible with life.

Every once in a while, an expressed mutation will convey some benefit to its host. One oft-cited example of a beneficial mutation is the blind cave fish. Blind cave fish are eyeless fish that are descended from seeing fish. At some point in the past, a group of fish were separated from the rest of population and thrust into the new environment of a cave. In a dark cave, having sight is not an advantage. However, while swimming around in a dark cave, a seeing fish might run into a wall and scratch its eye leading to a dangerous infection. In that environment, being born without eyes actually gives the blind fish an advantage so the mutation of being born without eyes eventually spread to the entire population of cave dwellers.

It is upon these types of changes – beneficial mutations – that evolutionists' hope rests. One of the many definitions of evolution is “descent with modification.” Through continuous mutations, skin can become a fold in the skin, which can become a scale, which can become a feather, which can turn a dinosaur into a bird. Mutation is the magic potion that could turn a frog into a prince. It is the ingredient missing from the formula “micro + time = macro.”

There are other observed examples of beneficial mutations. I hesitate to say there are “many” examples because many is a subjective term and I don't mean to imply that beneficial mutations are especially frequent. I might write about some other examples in the future because they are interesting but in the blind fish example (as well as in the others), traits are still being removed from the population. Therefore, even in the case of the blind cave fish, I still refuse to identify the change as “evolution” (micro- or otherwise) since no traits are added to the population. Mutations that cause a fish to be born without eyes does not support the idea that a bacterium could evolve to be a bass or bluegill. I would be more apt to believe evolution if it theorized that fish lost their eyes, fins, scales, gills, etc., and eventually became bacteria!

What's also bad news for evolution is that the blind fish may be specialized and better adapted to the dark cave, but they could not convincingly be called “more fit” overall. It's not like a shrew-like, mammalian ancestor evolving to become a cunning leopard. These fish could not compete with seeing fish if they were reintroduced into a lighted environment.

Examples of beneficial mutations are not enough to rescue the theory of evolution. For the theory to have legs, there still needs to be examples of mutations that actually add novel traits to a population (observed examples, please; not the imaginary skin-scale-feather told in the dino to bird story). And if evolution happens all the time (which I have been told ad nauseum) then examples of trait-adding mutations should abound. Well, show them to me!

When I ask for observed examples of mutations adding new features (or novel traits), some evos try to pin me down for a rigorous definition of a “novel trait.” I concede in advance that it's hard to give a rigorous definition. I'm tempted to say that I would know one when I see it but, of course, that's hardly satisfactory. Let's see: something like hair appearing on a reptile would be impressive. A blue dog might also persuade me, as per my last post. These would be spectacular examples but I'd settle for anything. Why not just show me some examples and we can discuss them. Why is it when I ask for such examples, I hear only the same three continuously?
  1. Bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics
  2. Insects that become resistant to pesticides
  3. Nylon digesting bacteria
I'm going to deal with these three examples in my next post. If I were an apologist for evolution, I would spend all of my time talking about trait-adding mutations because without them, evolution isn't even plausible. I suspect the reason I hear these same three repeated so often is because even questionable examples of trait-adding mutations are frighteningly scarce. I had intended to address them long ago because I hear them so often that I get tired of writing responses. When some evo cleverly repeats one of these tired examples, it would save me time to have a written response to which I can simply link him.

The video, “What Every Creation Must DENY,” lists beneficial mutations as something that creationists must deny. It's a straw man. Beneficial mutations, though infrequent, are real. They just don't deserve the importance given them by evolutionists. Evolutionists seem to treat “mutations” with the same regard as any “change” in a population. Any beneficial mutation is trumpeted as “evolution” because it fits their technical definition of the term. To them, beneficial mutations is the fuel that drives the engine of natural selection and they don't care if the mutations actually add anything to the population. And just as before, I remind you that removing traits from a population will never amount to evolution.

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