Posted tagged ‘cell complexity’

What does EVOLUTION really mean?

September 30, 2013
This AP Biology laboratory activity works just fine without the controversial word

This AP Biology laboratory activity works just fine without the controversial word “evolution” included. “Population Genetics and Inheritance” would be a better title.

The Evolution of “evolution”

The word “evolution” can mean a lot of things, which in turn leads to a lot of confusion! A brief look at the etymology reveals that “evolution” was originally a Latin word for “an opening of what was rolled up,” as in the growth of a plant from a seed. Charles Darwin actually used the word only once in Origin of Species, as he preferred “descent with modification.”

Today though, “evolution” is not so easily defined. Now, evolution might refer to anything from Darwin’s idea of descent with modification, to the idea that the whole universe is a progression of interrelated phenomena. Or, it may just mean “change,” which is the way I used it to describe how the term “evolved,” or changed over the years. The many faces of the modern definition have obvious scientific, historic, and religious implications. Let’s briefly explore these implications, and see how they may or may not relate to the creationism/evolutionism battle.

Evolution and Science

Evolution does indeed have a scientific component to it. For example, there are creationists who have PhD’s in evolutionary biology and actively work in this field. Some of you are probably thinking “how can a creationist be an evolutionist?!” Well, think about it. Darwin’s idea of “descent with modification” does occur, right? We are not all clones, right?

You look similar, yet also different, from your parents. You are walking proof that limited descent with modification is real. There is some obvious “phenotypic plasticity”, or more simply, built-in flexibility, that, within limits, allows organisms to adapt and change. So, a creationist can be an “evolutionist” in the sense that he/she is conducting research on mechanisms of inheritance. The problem is not that the creationist is being a heretic and rejecting the Genesis account, where God clearly says He created different kinds of organisms. The problem is the many faces of the word “evolution,” and applying the “universal progression” idea of evolution in this instance is improper.

The photo above is from my DIVE Biology curriculum. Lab activities designated “AP” are recommended by the College Board, creators of the AP exams that high schoolers can take to receive college credit for high school work. However, because of the confusion over what “evolution” means, tagging on that word alongside “population genetics” is unnecessary. If, by evolution you mean the “universal progression” idea, then it is laughable if you think this lab activity is going to prove that. The lab is actually just a card-type game that uses multiple forms of the same gene, called alleles, to show the effects of a lethal mutation on a population. It also teaches students about the inheritance mechanism known as genetic drift.  However, if by “evolution” you mean the self-evident truth that limited “descent with modification” occurs, then this lab does a pretty good job of showing how some genetic mechanisms of inheritance work. Because of confusion over the word evolution though, it would be more appropriate for the College Board to title the lab simply “Population Genetics”, or “Population Genetics and Inheritance.”

But what happens when an evolutionary biologist, who is not a creationist, finds out creationists oppose the teaching of “evolution” in schools? Well, they may end up saying pretty crazy things! For example, take evolutionary biologist Dr. Justin Bahl, who in a recent opinion article in the Houston Chronicle, claimed that creationists opposed research on pathogenic viruses!   Obviously, his confusion is over the word “evolution.” Creationists object to the naturalistic “universal progression” idea of evolution. However, I have yet to hear of a creationist who opposed research on how diseases develop resistance! Instead, a creationist who is also a scientist would use every inheritance mechanism currently known in an effort to discover disease cures.

Viruses, bacteria, etc. develop drug resistance. This is self-evident. It is also self-evident that viruses and bacteria almost never show the “universal progression” idea, which would require they create new, functional information, and lots of it. They have never displayed anything more than a limited “descent with modification.”

Rapid evolution” is another growing area of “evolution” research that interests creationists. A Google search of the phrase “rapid evolution” produced 130,000 results! So what is “rapid evolution,” and how is that different from just normal evolution? Well, the difference lies in Darwin’s idea that evolution requires millions of years of “numerous, successive, slight modifications” (Darwin’s own words in Origin of Species). But Darwin’s “gradualism” is really part of the unscientific “universal progression” idea.

Darwin said his theory would “absolutely break down” if it could be demonstrated that a complex organ formed without involving gradualism. Well, that’s exactly what happened in a transplanted population of wall lizards, who developed a “brand new structure”, without any known genetic changes! But, they are still just wall lizards, with no change of kind.

So what is “rapid evolution”? Well, it is exactly what scientists like Dr. Bahl study! “Rapid evolution” is about studying fairly significant changes in populations that occur in just a few generations. It occurs in everything from the viral pathogens Dr. Bahl researches, to plants, to trout and more. To a creationist though, “rapid evolution” is mainly just adaptation, and the more we learn about it, the more it confirms what creationists already knew, that life was designed to adapt! Also, “rapid evolution” is what creationists sometimes refer to as “microevolution.”

Evolution and History

Creationists have no objections to testable, repeatable science. So what is this creationism/evolutionism battle about then? Well, it is a battle over how to interpret history. Scientific research is about conducting experiments and verifying the results with further experimentation. Natural history research is ultimately about interpretation, not verification. It really boils down to storytelling. In fact, a common phrase geologists like to use is “every rock has a story.” Under what conditions was it formed? What is it composed of? When was it formed? Geologists and other naturalists can perform a variety of scientific tests that can then be used to help them write a story about the past. However, any story they come up with, creationist or otherwise, is still an interpretation, not a verification, of the past.

But if history is about interpretation and storytelling, while scientific endeavors are about repeatability and verification, then why is history part of a supposedly scientific course like biology? Well, history does matter, so you cannot completely exclude it. However, when a biology textbook writer inserts the unscientific “universal progression” idea of common descent from single-celled organisms, to the exculsion of ideas related to uncommon descent, then that’s a problem. In a biology textbook, the natural history component should be very minor, and should not dogmatically assert the “universal progression” idea, using descriptions like “animals arose from bacteria,” etc. One focus of any historic component in a biology course should be on using the body of past scientific research to further unlock the mysteries of the various mechanisms of inheritance.

Evolution and Religion

Ironically, while confused scientists like Dr. Bahl are making false claims that creationists are “anti-science,” it is actually the evolutionists who are stifling scientific progress! A glaring example is Eugenie Scott, the soon-to-retire director of the evolutionist propaganda mill known as the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Behaving like a villain of science, Scott recently proclaimed that the 21st Century Science of epigenetics was too hard for high school students  to learn! This is completely false. Epigenetics relates to the set of biological information that directs the genes, switching them on and off at certain times and places. Epigenetics is like the captain that directs the “ship” known as the genome. This is an analogy a 5-year old could understand! Epigenetics is also another mechanism of inheritance that is contributing to our understanding of human health-related topics like those Dr. Bahl studies.

But why would an organization like NCSE, whose purpose is supposedly to defend the teaching of evolution, be opposed to teaching evolution? Once again, it depends on what you mean by “evolution”. The evolution NCSE is defending is the “universal progression”, naturalistic form, and they make this abundantly clear. As dogmatic Darwinists, they presuppose a simple cell filled with one-dimensional (linear) DNA that randomly mutates and magically generates new information.

But 21st Century science reveals that the cell is anything but simple, and DNA actually works in 3-dimensions (4 if you include time), not one! To say a cell is “simple” is as false as saying the infrastructure running New York City is “simple.” Since dogmatic naturalistic beliefs also presuppose gradualism, they often feel a need to suppress new discoveries related to cell complexity.

And yes, naturalism is a religious belief system. As a recent lawsuit filed in a federal court states, naturalism directs one to ask “ultimate religious questions” such as “where do we come from?” Ultimate questions like this are not scientific questions, because we can’t use scientific methods to answer them. There really is no conflict between science and religion. The “battle” is about religious belief systems, like naturalism and Christianity. And it is a battle, not a war, because the war has been won through Christ!

While secular humanists and atheists almost always have naturalism and its related components like evolutionism as core tenets of their religion, many other religious people view God as using evolutionism to bring about life. So, it is not just atheist/humanist folks who incorporate the “universal progression” form of evolution into their religious beliefs. Many theists do as well, which is why it is right to say that it is a violation of the 1st and 14th amendments when a public school uses naturalism in an effort to address origins questions.

Should scientists drop the word “evolution?”

Journalists, who are typically not scientists, are almost always confused about evolution, to the point that some even think Texas has banned the teaching of evolution! Of course, that is as false as Dr. Bahl’s claims that creationists are against the study of diseases. But, because so many are so confused about evolution, mainly because it can mean so many different things, wouldn’t it be better to just stop using the word in scientific circles? Instead of “evolutionary biology”, we could have “hereditary biology.” This wouldn’t change Dr. Bahl’s job a bit, as he would still be studying how pathogens use different mechanisms of inheritance to develop drug resistance. And instead of studying “rapid evolution”, scientists could study “adaptation” instead, as this is mainly what is happening. Environmental conditions change, and organisms adapt.

So yes, scientists should drop the word “evolution,” and put the “universal progress” form of it in a philosophy, history, or religion class. In America, the time is past due to take the religious, “universal progress” form of evolution out of the public school science classroom where legally, it doesn’t belong.

Is the NCSE good for the world?

November 11, 2011

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No.

A name like the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) gives  the impression of an organization with a vision for improving science education. If NCSE were good for the world, it would be a clearinghouse of information for helping science educators stay updated on the latest advances in science, which they could pass on to students. It would cover all the sciences, and give helpful tips on science fundamentals such as the scientific method and the limitations of this inductive approach to studying our world. And of course it would focus heavily on mathematics, the language of science, with helpful resources to improve mathematics teaching. It would also have a special mission for helping the worst-performing schools, providing hope and encouragement to educators and students to study and apply science in ways that will help them be more productive for the glory of God and the service of others.

Unfortunately, the NCSE is none of these things. In fact, their mission is simply this: defending the teaching of evolution in public schools. Instead of being our national cheerleaders for advancing real science education, the NCSE instead is only about defending a single, faith-based natural history topic known as evolutionism. They confuse natural history with science, which in turn confuses others into thinking that science can answer all questions about the past. The reality is that natural history is a mixed question, and it requires inputs from other areas, such as historical documents like Scripture. Unlike normal scientific research, whose conclusions can be verified, conclusions made from natural history research cannot be verified. Treating origins topics as history instead of science causes people to realize that we all have the same evidence, the differences come in the interpretations, and some interpretations are definitely better than others. It also helps people realize that the creationism vs. evolutionism battle is not primarily a religion vs. science battle, but a battle of one religious belief vs. another. Many individuals, including those at NCSE, confuse the boundary between real science and natural history research.

So, the NCSE is not about promoting science, but evolutionism. Evolutionism is the faith-based idea that somehow, through a very long series of genetic copying errors, bacteria turned into people. And thanks in part to the NCSE’s dogmatic approach to education, this idea is the only major premise used in most biology curricula on the market today. Fortunately, not everyone believes the unverifiable claims of evolutionists.

The more we learn about cells, the more improbable evolutionism sounds. But the NCSE marches on, blind to the advances in 21st Century science, because real science naturally opposes their mission. And if you still don’t believe that the NCSE would choose evolutionism over testable, repeatable science, please, read on.

From June 13-17, 2011, I was able to participate on a Texas review panel for adopting new high school biology curricula in public schools. This process is designed to allow public participation in the review process, and State Board of Education members are allowed to appoint members of the public to a week-long review process. I was nominated by my State Board Representative, Mrs. Barbara Cargill. Texas adopted new high school biology teaching standards in 2009, and the review panels analyzed and evaluated the  new supplemental science curricula to determine if the standards were being met. We also checked for factual errors, but that’s another story.

One of the new standards approved in 2009 is called TEK 7G (TEKS = Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), which required students to “analyze and evaluate scientific explanations regarding the complexity of the cell.” I thought publishers would jump on this opportunity to teach high school students about 21st Century research involving cell complexity, but I was sadly disappointed. I was also disappointed with the poor quality of some of the curricula, but a curriculum we reviewed by Holt-McDougal was better than most. Unfortunately, the presentation of TEK 7G was extremely weak, and consisted of an evolutionary explanation called endosymbiosis. Endosymbiosis, the turning of a prokaryote into a eukaryote (cell with a nucleus), has never been tested. It is an idea about cells eating other cells, and instead of becoming dinner, the consumed cells turn into highly specialized and purposeful cell organelles. Kind of like if you ate a hamburger, and, instead of being digested, it turned into a dolphin. Or something like that.

The review panels consisted of teams of 3-4 people, and I actually had to go against my other team members and reject Holt’s weak effort to address TEK 7G. One excuse a team member gave for approving it as-is was that what I had proposed would be “too hard” for students to learn! But a mark of a good educator is finding simple ways to explain complex concepts.

Fortunately, the only way for Holt’s weak attempt at addressing TEK 7G to gain approval was if our review panel voted unanimously in favor of it. So I rejected it, and you can read my reasons and suggestions here. I was pleasantly surprised when Holt accepted many of my suggestions. They could have disputed all of my suggestions, as they did with several factual errors our team presented, but they didn’t.

So now, besides endosymbiosis, students who use the Holt curriculum can also learn about 21st century science concepts like genomes, proteomes, and interactomes. Holt added a beautiful section titled 21st Century Cell Complexity, and presented it simply and clearly. And as I had hoped, they also directed teachers to the National Center for Dynamic Interactome Research, where, if you look, you can find an easy-to-understand laboratory activity that uses cell phones to explain interactomes.

While public school biology curricula have a long way to go, the ones from Texas are definitely better than ever at presenting students with alternatives to evolutionism. After Holt made some, but not all of the changes I had hoped for (I wanted them to include a “tree of life” that had multiple “trunks”), the changes still needed to be approved by the State Board of Education. Thankfully, they were adopted on July 20-21, 2011. Not surprisingly, the NCSE sent someone to promote censorship of the self-evident truth that living organisms were designed. Programs and Policy Director Josh Rosenau testified, and I later had the opportunity to meet him. In our brief but friendly conversation, I asked him what he would do if he had to choose between teaching endosymbiosis or teaching 21st century science on cell complexity. Without hesitation, Josh said he would have to go with the non-scientific idea of endosymbiosis! Oh well, at least Texas public school students will have a choice now on what to believe. Are cells specially created, multi-dimensional super machines and is there evidence to support this, or are they cannibalistic bags of salt? I’ll choose the former, what about you?

And that is just one of many reasons NCSE is not good for the world. Now they have a new documentary out that is the closest thing I have seen to white elitism in a long time. Like, since Hitler. Or Sanger. You have to watch the trailer, and see if you notice a seemingly white elitist message  proclaiming that portly, toothless, dark-skinned people with thick accents are the only ones who would consider teaching about alternatives to evolutionism. Immediately following the non-white man, a white woman explains how people who don’t believe in evolutionism are like people with severe handicaps. It could just be bad filmmaking, but the disrespectful, white-elitist message seems pretty clear to me. But then again I’m not sure if I would expect much different from people who have so much faith in Darwin, who based his ideas on Thomas Malthus’ 1800’s human population myths. And it was Malthus who proposed moving poor people to disease infested swamps so that they would be more likely to die, and this would keep their population in check!

Hopefully, this little blog post will open a few eyes to the censorship, misrepresentation of science, and possible white elitism that are NCSE’s agenda. Pray for their leaders to have a change of heart, and to no longer be deceived by hollow, deceptive and unscientific philosophies about origins that are based on the traditions of men, rather than on Christ(Colossians 2:8). Perhaps someday, instead of their current non-scientific mission, NCSE’s leaders will instead pay more attention to the words of Francis Bacon, founder of the scientific method, who wrote in his book, New Atlantis, of a place

sometimes called Solomon’s House, and sometimes the College of the Six Days’ Works, whereby I am satisfied that our excellent King had learned from the Hebrews that God had created the world and all that therein is within six days: and therefore he instituted that house, for the finding out of the true nature of all things, whereby God might have the more glory in the workmanship of them, and men the more fruit in their use of them, did give it also that second name.

Wow, a National Center for Science Education like that really would be good for the world!

Adaptation

October 13, 2011

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Life does not evolve, it adapts. Watch my YouTube video, Adaptation, and learn more about what 21st Century science is revealing regarding epigenetics, and what God’s word and works have always revealed. The only reason evolutionism exists is because some people think God is a liar. I say let God be true, and every man a liar (Romans 3:4)!

One thing I mention in Adaptation is that genetic mutations have never been observed to create new information. In this article by Dr. Rob Carter, he states that our increased understanding of cell complexity means “We have to make a distinction between mutation and ‘designed variation’.” Dr. Carter understands cell complexity better than most (including me!), and he argues that our genomes contain some ability to generate “new” information via genetic change. In other words, there is some built-in variation via genetic change that may seem to create “new” information to us, but in reality God designed it in. In my book, Exchange of Truth, I use the word “genoversity” to describe the diversity within a genome. When God said He created different kinds of things, he meant it, and now more than ever our understanding of cell complexity is revealing to us the limited flexibility He programmed into each genome for each original created kind. Diversity within a created kind is an attribute of God (Romans 12:4-5), allowing organisms to adapt, within limits, as their environments change.