Many people first encounter the issue of origins in the subject of biology. Secondary and college students are exposed to an evolutionary approach to biology in school or college classes. The general idea ofevolution has become an important part of the value system of our culture, thus it has influenced all subjectareas in public education. The issue of the origin of living things is important because it says something about what it means to be human. Are we just extra-intelligent animals, or are we uniquely created for adivine purpose? Some attempt to combine these two ideas. This brings up challenging questions on howChristian values and beliefs relate to science. Evolutionary ideas have been entrenched into biology,geology, and astronomy. But for many years evolutionary theories have been challenged occasionally byevolutionist scientists who are nonchristians, evolutionist scientists who are Christians, and by othersincluding myself who reject evolution and hold to Biblical creation. Certain aspects of the Biblical teachingson creation have direct implications contrary to accepted ideas of biological evolution. Yet, I would say thatcreationism is not contrary to science, if the issues are understood correctly.
This article is written to focus on some of the most important aspects of understanding biology from acreationary point of view. It will be in several parts. After studying the issue of creation and evolution for some years, spending many hours in university libraries, and havingdiscussions with individuals of varied points of view, this is my attempt to pull together some main ideas. All of the ideas from creationism which follow are in need of further research and refinement. Some of thefollowing is based on creationist publications, some is based on personal correspondence with certaincreationist biologists. Contrary to a common evolutionist misconception, there are plenty of young-agecreationists with graduate degrees in the sciences. There are too many to ignore, though compared to thescientific community (practicing scientists and university professors) they are a small minority. As formyself, biology is definitely not my major field but I offer this information to anyone interested. I hope thatthe following will help avoid some misunderstandings of creationism that are very common, and help thosejust starting to learn about the issues.
The Biblical term "Kind" and modern Biology
Any biology course would teach about the Linnaean Classification system. This is a hierarchical systemthat places all living things in various groups based on important characteristics they have. The Linnaean system, from the largest category grouping down to the smallest, includes the following: Kingdom, phylum,class, order, family, genus, and species. Genesis 1 says that living things multiplied "according to theirkind." The implication of Genesis is that living things cannot cross the boundary of "kind." Living things can change and adapt to their environment to some degree, but there is a limit to how far this change cango. Just where is this limit? This is an important question that creationists are researching. The limit is notat the species level, that would be the equivalent of saying that living things are all created a certain way by God and they do not change. Creationists do not believe this, however. Creationist biologists wouldsay that the biblical term "kind" does not correspond in any simple way to any term from the Linnaean classification system. Sometimes creationists would put "kind" at either the genus or family levels,depending on what organism you are discussing. This would represent the limit of change. This leads to aview of Genesis that agrees very well with what modern biology and with what selective breeding tell usfrom experience. Evolution would imply that living things would go beyond reproducing "according to theirkind" and would actually produce new kinds over many generations. Evolution requires large changes thatwe do not see occurring in the living world (such as from fish to amphibian for example).
In a creationary view of biology as I see it, there are positives and negatives. The positives are creationist attempts to reinterpret the facts from a creationary framework. The negatives are issues in which creationists point out scientific problems with some aspects of biological evolution. I will briefly mention three positives, four negatives, and one special issue that represents both a negative for evolution and a positive for creation. I am only providing a brief introduction to these ideas here. Of all creationist booksand articles related to the life sciences, most of them would fall into one of the following subject areas.
For the positives, where creationists are working to provide a better way of understanding the facts, the first would be intelligent design. 1) In the last few years there has arisen what is now called the IntelligentDesign Movement, which is influencing scientific circles more and more. This is the general idea that thereis a Creator-God who has created things for a purpose and that there is a complexity in how things aremade that demands that a Creator deliberately planned and arranged things to be as they are in nature. 2)Another major subject area of creationist research is in the subject of classification. How should weclassify living things? Creationists are trying to develop a new classification scheme known asBaraminology, which attempts to avoid following evolutionary concepts. 3) A third major area of creationist work is a Biblical and scientific issue, about how to understand life before Noah's Flood and at the time ofCreation. This is about the question of how is life different now than when it was originally created. This isa very important question; a number of other questions about understanding biology depend on how you answer this question. There is not currently a consensus among creationists on many questions in thisarea. 4) The last issue is called homology, which from the evolutionary view is about arguing for evolutionbased on the similarities between organisms. Creationists have shown this can be both a problem forevolution and a positive that supports the idea of intelligent design in living things.
Now for the negatives. These are areas where creationists attack evidences often presented for evolution. 1) One key area has been the matter of the problems with the mechanisms of evolution (especially mutations and natural selection). 2) Another major issue is the concept that the first living cells formed by natural processes from simple organic chemicals. This is basically the idea that your ancestor was anamino acid. The staggering complexity of living cells has pointed out devastating technical problems withthe evolution of life from chemicals. 3) The third main topic area in the negatives is cell biology andmolecular biology. This is a subject in which there has been incredible scientific advances in recent years. 4) A fourth area creationists have addressed for years is embryology. Though the basis of the idea hasbeen clearly disproven since the 1800's, evolutionists and often modern textbooks still use the argumentthat the developing embryo goes through stages like its evolution. All these issues are important toaddress in what follows.
Two terms should first be defined that are very important for understanding the issue of how much livingthings can change. Microevolution is a term for small changes in a type of living thing, changes that takeplace through the reproductive process. Macroevolution is a term for large scale changes in living things. Macroevolution is where the controversy lies. Macroevolution says that there is no limit to how much livingthings can change, given enough time and the right circumstances. Creationists say that there are limits tohow much change is possible. Creationists have acknowledged microevolution for years, so creationistsand evolutionists generally agree on small scale changes in living things. Living things are made so thatover generations the characteristics of their bodies are able to change in minor ways. This is very good because it makes living things able to adapt and survive as conditions change.
Here is a very important point not adequately explained in many biology courses and textbooks. Forthousands of years, man has been able to do selective breeding of livestock and plants to make somedesirable trait emphasized and more common. This is how we have cows that are specialized forproducing milk (dairy cows) and how we can cross various flowers or grain-bearing plants to get variouscolors or other characteristics. Also, in observing animals in the wild, we see how conditions like theclimate or food available can make one variety of bird more common that another, even though they areboth the same type of bird. Charles Darwin, in the 1800's, became well known for observations like this offinches on the Galapagos islands. He watched them and found that the size of their beaks seemed to berelated to what kind of food they ate and where they lived. All these kind of changes that we can really seeand study or produce in the real world are microevolution. The kind of changes required for macroevolution could not be seen in real living things even if macroevolution were true because they taketoo long. So, basically microevolution happens, and biology textbooks give a variety of examples of it thatwe can see in real life. But, macroevolution is never seen happening, nor could it ever be seen happening. Creationists acknowledge that living things can change, but they maintain the changes are limited. On the other hand, evolutionists believe that over long periods of time and many generations, larger changes cantake place by the same mechanisms that produce the small changes we can see. But, the mechanisms of microevolution cannot explain macroevolution.
In Part 1 of this series, the Biblical term "kind" was explained, as well as the terms microevolution and macroevolution. Macroevolution represents the large scale changes required for evolution, such as from fish to amphibian, for instance. Part 2 will address how living things change to adapt to their environment. Macroevolution requires large inputs of information into the genetic makeup of living things, to makeorganisms change from one form to another. In macroevolution, without a Creator's input, there is no explanation for where all this information can come from to make the complex changes required byevolution. In the creationist view, the Creator made living things able to change, but only within limits.
DNA is the special complicated molecule that contains all the information that determines what the body ofa living thing is like. Every cell in our bodies contains this informational molecule. Chemical sequences inthe DNA are copied in reproduction, with half of the information coming from the father and half from themother. If something is not copied correctly in some way it is called a mutation. Mutations are a bad thingas a rule, though some mutations have little or no effect. There are mechanisms in cells that tend tocorrect mutations or prevent them from affecting us. Mutations cause many genetic diseases. But,evolutionary biologists argue that mutations would sometimes produce changes beneficial to a living thing, something that gives it an advantage of some kind and helps it survive.
There are several problems with mutations producing the changes required by macroevolution. First, mutations are almost all harmful and mutations are so rare that even if there are "beneficial" mutations, they could never become common in the population. They wouldn't last. I do not make this statement lightly, the problem of mutation rates is a major issue and an issue that requires some significant technical discussion to fully appreciate. The problem with mutations and how often they occur is a mathematical problem that many biologists do not appreciate adequately. Recent research implies that there are something from 1 to 3 mutations in humans per generation, on the average (harmful or not). This is enough to create problems for evolution theories. It creates a problem for macroevolution because if mutations were this frequent, the harmful ones would cause too many negative effects. On the other hand, if mutations occur less frequently, evolution still has a problem because then the beneficial mutations cannot become common in the population, so the beneficial changes in living things cannot get going.
I would like to make a distinction
between what I would call soft beneficial mutations and hard beneficial
mutations. (This is my terminology only, I am not aware of any other writer
who makes this distinction.) Soft beneficial mutations only involve some
modification of a trait the living thing already has (usually the loss
of some function), they don't make anything really new. Put another way,
soft beneficial mutations do not add significant amounts of new information
to the genetic code. Soft beneficial mutations may still be harmful in
most circumstances but in certain special situations it may provide an
Sickle cell anemia is an example. Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disease that you would not wish on anyone. But, for people in certain tropical areas of the world where malaria is a problem, sickle cell anemia gives resistance to malaria. So, sickle cell anemia could be described as a beneficial mutation (in the "soft"sense). But, it could never be important for macroevolution because it is only an advantage in special circumstances. Malaria is not a problem everywhere in the world and so sickle cell anemia will never make the whole human race evolve resistance to malaria. "Soft" beneficial mutations are consistent with Biblical and scientific creationism in my opinion.
"Hard" beneficial mutations, on the other hand, are what macroevolution requires. Hard beneficial mutations have to produce a trait or organ system that is really new, not just a minor modification of what it already has. This requires addition of complex information in the DNA of an evolving animal or plant. And, it must be the type of change that would be an advantage to that living thing wherever it lives. It would have to be something that would benefit all of that living thing, so that the change can become common in the population. Soft beneficial mutations can happen, hard beneficial mutations cannot.
Modern molecular biology has shown us that there are great complexities in how information is encoded inthe DNA. There is much scientists do not yet know. Scientists may determine the genetic function of particular sequences of genes in humans. But the same sequence may have a different function in another living thing, or it may have multiple possible functions that depend on other genes in some way. A changein one particular gene can also affect more than one trait. So, the information encoded in the genes ofliving things is complex. But, mutations are totally random, one mutation has no affect on the next mutationand they have nothing to do with the needs of the organism. Macroevolution requires changes that often affect multiple organ systems at once, and if these changes do not work together properly the organism may not survive.
For instance, in the evolutionary change from reptiles to birds, changes in the skeleton would require changes in the muscles as well as in the respiratory system. Changes in the muscles requires changes inthe nerves, and so on. Living things are wonders of divine engineering. They are organized in complex ways. Yet, random mutations are said to provide the raw material that make the changes of macroevolution possible. I would say mutations are simply not the right kind of phenomena to generate thecomplex specified information that makes living things what they are. In fact, mutations are not necessary for living things to change to adapt to their environment. Many different animals have adapted white coats of fur so they can live effectively in arctic regions where there is lots of snow. These animals were not created so well adapted to arctic conditions at Creation. Rather, the Creator made them with enough information in their genes to allow for that possibility. Thus they became that way over a number of generations. This again is microevolution, not macroevolution.
Macroevolution depends on the idea that the environment can cause the bodies of living things to change to any degree, given enough time. The changes take place over many generations. Natural selection is aprocess in which individual organisms (animals or plants, for instance) that have some advantage overtheir fellows will have more offspring and in time those with the advantage will be the most numerous in the population. The classic example of this for years has been the "peppered moths" in England in the yearsof the industrial revolution. These moths come in two varieties, one light and one dark in color. As thestory goes, when soot and pollution from the factories made the trees dark, the light colored moths were easily seen by birds, so the birds ate them and what was left was mostly dark moths. So, many text books have pointed this out as an example of how natural selection changes a population. Well, this was believed to be a valid example and was not questioned by creationists to my knowledge, but now evidence has come to light that shows the whole story of the peppered moths to be wrong. A now famous picture that shows a light moth and a dark moth on a tree has appeared in many biology and life science textbooks (including in creation-based Christian textbooks). Recent research from evolutionists has shown thatKettlewell, who published this study on the moths years ago, actually faked this picture. These moths actually do not rest on trees and the moths in the famous picture were dead moths glued to the tree! So,this makes the peppered moth story no longer a valid example though it sounds quite plausible. Even if itwere a valid example of natural selection, it would only represent microevolution (or minor changes), not macroevolution.
On the other hand, there are valid examples of natural selection. There is a degree of competition between animals for food, water, for mates, territory, etc. There are winners and losers in the animal world. Natural selection is really just a SELECTION mechanism. It does not create anything new, but only determines who wins in the sense of which animals survive best and have more offspring. Creationists acknowledge that natural selection occurs. This allows living things to adapt to some degree and survive when their environment changes. Natural selection is supposed to work with mutations to make the changes of macroevolution possible. According to evolutionary theory, new traits develop as the climate or food supply changes, or as predators change, or as organisms move into a new habitat. For instance, changes in climate or vegetation could force some animals to move to another area for foodor shelter. Over a period of time, having to live in a different area could cause a group of animals to change in their color, the shape of their teeth, or their fur for instance.
According to evolutionary theory, beneficial mutations are believed to somehow add up in the genetic code until they make some significant improvement possible in the body of an animal. This improvement will give them some new ability. This new ability would give that particular animal an advantage over its peers,but the new ability would never spread to most of the others (of all groups of that type of animal) without natural selection. By natural selection the animal with this new ability might live longer and have more young. Then its offspring would also have the ability and they would also have more young than others that did not have this new ability. In time, the individuals with the "new ability" would become the norm, and the "new ability"would no longer be new. The individuals who did not have the ability would become fewer and fewer. Evolutionists believe that this process works best in small populations, because a new trait can become the dominant thing in the group easier. But, research has shown that small populations, rather than leading the way in evolution, are more likely to go extinct than larger groups. Charles Darwin's book "The Origin ofSpecies," published in 1859, contains much about natural selection. So, natural selection is a theory about what happens to groups of living things when they are in competition.
We can see natural selection among living things, but living things do not always compete. Living things also cooperate to a surprising degree. They may live and let live if they can. Often they compete only at the points where they have to. The idea that the strong survive but the weak die, based on natural selection, is an oversimplification. There are many examples in nature where instead of the weak dying they end up in some symbiotic relationship with another creature. It's like they "make a deal" with some other living thing that benefits both. A classic example is the cleaner fish. Sharks allow the small cleanerfish to clean their teeth without eating them. Rather than the weak dying, the weak may simply move somewhere else. Being stronger or faster etc. also is not always an advantage all the time. Sometimes real life is more "survival of the luckiest" than survival of the fittest.
Creationists acknowledge that natural selection is a real process in the living world, but natural selection cannot explain how macroevolution could happen. Why? First, because there are many mechanisms in the cells of every living thing that limit how much change is possible; they prevent genetic changes because they are harmful. Second, because the pressures on living things are not so predictable as the idea of "survival of the fittest" and so even if a particular beneficial mutation produced some dramatic new ability, there are enormous odds against it lasting in the population. Natural selection may determine what size or variety of dogs can survive in a particular area, but it cannot provide the information required for the complex changes it would take for a dog to evolve into some other kind of animal.
Note that in a Biblical view, the
animal world was somehow affected by mankind's fall into sin in the beginning.
This is important for answering many questions about living things. Exactly
how life was affected by mankind's Fall into sin is not clear. But, the
violence and cruelty of nature is not the way life and ecology operated
in the beginning. Living things did not need to eat each other in the beginning.
We know this from Genesis telling us that God provided plants for food
Two major things have had adverse effects on living things and on ecological relationships between living things. The first was mankind's sin against God, causing a sinful nature to be inherited by all humans from then on. God judged this sin partly by adverse effects on nature and living things (see Genesis chapter 3). The second thing that negatively affected the living world was the worldwide Flood of Noah's time. It is not surprising that there are organs in living things that do not function perfectly today, for example. There have been thousands of years of harmful mutations and adverse effects of living in a fallen broken world. The Earth is not a perfect habitat for living things as it once was. Many processes have caused imperfections in our bodies that are carried on from one generation to the next. Yet, in spite of this, God's marvelous design is still very evident in living things.
Recommended Sources on Biology
Armitage, Mark; "Those Who Live in Glass Houses Stow No Thrones," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 31,December 1994, pp 167-170.
Batten, Don (editor), Ham, Ken, Sarfati, Jonathan, Wieland, Carl; The Revised and Expanded Answers Book, Answersin Genesis, copyright1990, revised edition January 2000.
Behe, Michael J.; Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Simon & Shuster, New York, 1996.
Bergman, Jerry and George Howe; "Vestigial Organs" Are Fully Functional, Creation Research Society, 1990.
Bergman, Jerry; "Some Biological Problems of Natural Selection Theory," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol.29, No. 3, December 1992.
Bergman, Jerry; "The Problem of Extinction and Natural Selection," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 30, No.2, September 1993.
Bergman, Jerry; "Why did God create poisons and toxins?," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 3,December 1995.
Coyne, Jerry A.; "Not Black and White," Nature, Vol. 396, Nov. 5, 1998, pp 35-36
Davis, Percival, Kenyon, Dean H., Thaxton, Charles B.; Of Pandas and People, Haughton Publishing Company, Dallas,Texas, 1989.
Denton, Michael, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Adler & Adler, Publishers, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, 1985.
Eyre-Walker, Adam and Keightley, Peter D.; "High genomic deleterious mutation rates in hominids," Nature, Vol. 397,Jan. 28, 1999, pp 344-347.
Friar, Wayne; "Baraminology-Classification of Created Organisms," Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 37,September 2000, pp 82-91.
Helder, Margaret J.; "Let's Rewrite the Book on the Galapagos Islands," Creation Matters, Volume 1, Number 4,July/August 1996.
Johnson, Phillip E., Darwin on Trial, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1991.
Lewin, Roger; "Evolutionary Theory Under Fire," Science, Vol. 210, Nov. 21, 1980, pp 883-887.
Spetner, Lee; Not by Chance! , The Judaica Press, Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y., 1997.
Thaxton, Charles B., Bradley, Walter L., and Olsen, Roger L.; The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing CurrentTheories, Philosophical Library, New York, 1984.
Wells, Jonathan; Icons of Evolution , Regnery Publishing, Inc., Washington D.C., 2000.