#8 Switched-Off Genes are Often Useful

In certain circumstances the switched off version of a gene is useful.  When it is useful because it causes a beneficial modification, it is spread in the population. 

For example, the mutations that have changed a brown bear into a white polar bear in the Arctic could be described as advantageous mutations, but the actual basis to the change is loss of genes encoding the production of pigment in the fur.

Advantageous mutations and disadvantageous mutations are, in fact, exactly the same thing – they are both errors that cause dysfunction in the genome.  But the effect on the physical body of the switching off of some genes is beneficial, and in these cases they are qualified as advantageous mutations.

#7 What is Advantageous Mutation?

The key to this new understanding of evolution is the definition of advantageous mutation.

Mutations are errors in the replication of DNA. Disadvantageous or deleterious mutation is very easy to understand – they cause genetic diseases.  But what is advantageous mutation?

We know that when an advantageous mutation occurs, natural selection spreads the mutation throughout the population.  This is the basis to Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Is advantageous mutation the opposite to disadvantageous mutation?  If disadvantageous mutation is the incorporation of the wrong nucleotide base, is advantageous mutation a change to the right nucleotide base?

The answer to this is no. 

Whereas a gene can be rendered dysfunctional by a single mutation, a new gene with new function would require hundreds of mutations to occur simultaneously and be fixed for the new gene to be a viable gene. The new gene would also have to be fixed in the population.

I realized that the term ‘advantageous’ is a qualification, not a thing.  It is a way of describing what turned out, in hind sight, to be beneficial.

#6 Hundreds of Examples of Reduction Through Evolution

The natural world has hundreds of examples of the reduction of parts through the processes of evolution. 

An example of this is grass: grass has tiny green flowers that have lost their petals.  The reason for this is that these flowers are no longer pollinated by insects, but pollinated by wind so colourful petals are unnecessary to the survival of grass.

Another example is that moles have lost their eyes, if moles had eyes they would get infected due to dirt getting in as they burrow underground, so fur has grown over the empty eye sockets.

In this way I started to develop a new theory of evolution.

#5 The Human Genome Project Reveals the Details

The science of genetics has made huge progress with the Human Genome Project. This project was initiated in 1990.

These studies have started to reveal details about genes showing that mutations often cause dysfunction compared to the original function :  for example, tortoise shell cats have a patterning gene that inhibits the production of black pigment.  The gene is called agouti.  When this inhibitor is switched off, the result is black cats which have no tortoise shell pattern.  This occurs by a single mutation. 

What I realized was that evolution at the genetic level involves loss of information in the genetic code.  There is a move from function to dysfunction.  But at the physical body level there is either modification or loss of parts.

#4 Classic Examples of Evolution and Loss of Structures

Some of the classic examples of evolution given in biology textbooks involve loss of structures.

One of the examples was of the evolution of the horse, often cited as a classic example of evolution by evolutionists.  The horse started off as a small creature in the Eocene eating leaves in forests and walking on three toes on the back legs and four on the front legs. Later with the spread of grasslands, the horse grew larger so it could run faster; it developed teeth that could cope with tough grasses instead of soft leaves as its diet; and it lost toes.  The horse now runs swiftly on hooves that represent a single toe for each leg.  The horse’s evolution involved loss of digits.  Vestigial digits are still found part way up its leg.

You could say that the horse has ‘devolved’ – but devolution is a separate subject – what I mean is de-evolved.

You’ll notice that the yellow Alstrumeria in the photo has lost most of its stalk and leaves as it is adapted to desert conditions. This is a similar example of evolution in the plant world.

#3 Genetics is the Key

My first love was science, especially biology – from my earliest years.

In 1992 when I was 31 and by this time living in Chile something came to my attention that needed sorting out.  The upshot was that I decided that I would apply myself to discover through learning about scientific facts, what part divine creation and what part evolution played in the coming into being of life.

This became my passion and my life’s work.  It was as if I had found the spring of life that never runs dry – because inspiration welled up day after day and has not stopped.

An inner voice told me to start with genetics.  So I started studying genetics by reading scientific journals and buying textbooks in Cambridge when I went back to England to visit.

My studies soon showed me that random mutations to DNA could switch off the expression of genes.  I learnt that the non-expression of genes often underpins modifications in plants and animals. I knew than that I had the key to scientific understanding.

#2 History of the Idea of Evolution

Charles Darwin presented his theory of evolution through natural selection in 1859 here in Britain.  It was a controversial theory because it challenged the view that God had created all the species on earth exactly as we see them today.  This led to debate within the Anglican Church and in universities that were essentially run by the church.  The debate spread to the Catholic Church on the continent.

My first point is that debate is good and new ideas are good – if we all agreed on everything, we could not debate anything. Church parishes are a good place for debate since Christians are encouraged to think about things.

By the end of the 1860s, Thomas Huxley – sometimes called Darwin’s bulldog – was succeeding in separating the church from universities and making science into a secular occupation.

During the 19th century what was called the Materialist Philosophy was gaining support in some quarters.  It was the belief that matter had always existed and was eternal, and so it was not necessary to believe in God as the originator of matter and the universe.  This led to modern Atheism.

Through the 20th century the big idea of evolution started to replace God as the ultimate explanation for all things.  To the question where do things come from?  The answer was no longer that God created them, but that they had evolved.

The rise of Communism and the Soviet Union brought a new idea – that life had evolved from non-life in some kind of primeval ocean full of organic molecules.  (This idea was brought to Britain by Marxist biologists).  This idea was not the idea of Charles Darwin who believed in the original creation by God of multicellular life as a few or one basic type.

How was the church going to survive what appeared to be an onslaught on one of its core beliefs?  Namely that God had created life?

Anglican theologians in Britain and Catholic theologians in Europe were quick to get to work to sort out the church’s response to the new scientific theory.

They adopted a new theology: that God is still the Creator, but he had created life through the processes of evolution.  Christians who believe this are called Theistic Evolutionists.  Historically there have been two types of Theistic Evolutionists:

  • By the 1950s Theistic Evolutionists were claiming that God guided evolution according to his own purposes.  Thus, God caused evolution to lead to the evolution of human beings from apes. Many Christians who held this view worked in biology. 
  • More recently Theistic Evolutionists inspired by observations of constraints on the natural world and on evolution, changed their belief to state that natural processes are constrained such that humans would evolve anyway whatever happened.  So God had to just wait for it to happen, and it was not necessary for him to intervene at all.

This is where we’re at now.  Most Christians see no conflict between their Christian faith and the theories of modern science. They believe that God metaphorically created the universe with its galaxies and stars, and life on earth.  However, the real active principle was the natural processes of evolution as described by science.

Why do we Christians still need a God if everything was going to happen under its own impetus anyway?

Possible answers are:

  • God is present in people’s personal lives
  • God lends meaning to the whole in a theological way

Theology has embraced modern secular science almost without question. Science is equated with truth, and theologians tag along behind. This certainly makes life easy and comfortable.  It allows us to avoid conflict with the secular world around us. But do we now worship a pocket-sized God? A little God who we don’t need often?

#1 Genetics And The Incarnation

Did life come into being through evolution?

My answer is categorically no, it did not. Evolution does not create DNA, it only modifies what is already there.

So what evidence is there that God created DNA and by this means created life?

Understanding genomes and how mutation modifies them give the main clues to answering this question. But in addition to this, for the Christian, there is proof in the fact of a male Messiah. This article gives the details of genetics that throw light on what is clearly evident: God can and did create at least one gene, a genetic code made of DNA.

This article, written in 2018, was the text I used for a talk given in a church parish on this subject.

The Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ was a unique event in history and nothing was the same again.

Creation of At Least One Gene

Haven’t we all met someone who has said, ‘I can’t believe in Christianity or go to church because I believe in science’?

And what do we say?  We fumble about for some kind of answer – that we also believe in science – but then we appear to abandon our faith to some obscure private domain of irrationality.  Do we really sell the Good News to anybody with regards to science and faith?

I want to use these few words to present to you a new view of creation and a new understanding of evolution.  Genetics is the key to this new idea and Incarnation is the sign.

Science today tells us that everything has simply evolved.  No need of a Creator God.  No need of purpose, no meaning and no message.

Over the past 150 years the church has, by and large attenuated this stark conclusion by claiming that evolution was God’s method of creation.  Each Sunday we proclaim God as maker of heaven and earth, but it is unclear to most people what this means.

I had been studying science, genetics and biological evolution, and reflecting upon creation for 14 years when the Lord showed me the implications of the Incarnation: 

At the overshadowing of Mary by the Holy Spirit, God performed a miracle that allowed Jesus to be fully human and yet be born from a virgin.  Mary provided an egg that started to develop without fertilization from a human father.  This means that Mary provided all of Jesus’ DNA and all of his genes.  But there was one gene that no female can provide.  It is a gene on the Y chromosome called TDF.  If God had not directly created this one gene, TDF, as a minimum requirement, the Messiah would have been female, not male.

This shows – at least to us Christians – that God is able to create genetic codes – genes made of DNA.  I am not a six literal days Creationist, but I know this great truth: God created life. 

I propose that God created life by creating the genetic code at the microscopic, nanoscale level of cells.  This new way of seeing creation opens the way to a new understanding of evolution.  The science of genetics is now revealing – and this was not known before – that modification of traits through the processes of evolution is almost always based on mutations that switch off genes.  Mutation is error in the replication of DNA.  However, and this is the very big however – switched-off genes can sometimes bring about useful traits in the physical bodies of plants and animals.  When these new traits are useful, they are selected by natural selection.  The natural processes of evolution allow plants and animals to adapt, be modified and diversify into many different species. 

God does not create through error.  Mutation which is error simply modifies what God has created in perfection.

A new understanding of evolution shows that its source is in creation, and a new view of creation shows that life was created to adapt and evolve.  The genetics of the Incarnation shows that the genetic code within cells is the message, the message that carries life and the message that proclaims God as Creator. 

October 2018

Read more in the article ‘Genetics and the Incarnation’ on the Incarnation page of this website.