#11 Created Life Undergoes Natural Selection

Evolution most certainly is about survival, and it is about adaptation to new environmental conditions.  But this adaptation is based on the switching off of certain genes by mutation, not on the evolution of new genes or new levels of complexity.

I uphold that natural selection allows modification of existing forms of life, but it does not cause those forms of life to exist in the first place.

I call my theory of evolution ‘Entropic Evolution’ because it involves a loss of information at the genetic level. 

Entropy in this sense is about the loss of information that occurs during transmission of the message.

Therefore, I do believe that evolution through natural selection takes place, and to a very high degree but it starts with the creation of basic forms of life.

Life was created able to evolve.

#10 A Third Meaning of Natural Selection

A third meaning to natural selection is the idea that life can become more and more complex by the building up of complexity bit by bit.  This is the belief that new body plans, new organs and new structures can develop when an animal needs them.

The problem with this is that there is no actual explanation to show how a natural process could cause new proteins to come into existence to accomplish this.

Secular scientists just observe the natural world with all its levels of complexity and say because it is there, it has evolved.  The building up of complexity through natural selection is based on belief in the theory, but lacks a real scientific basis or explanation.

#9 Two Meanings of Natural Selection

Charles Darwin wrote about natural selection in On The Origin of Species.  Natural selection, in fact, involves more than one concept.  Darwin was ambiguous about what natural selection actually meant.

A well-known explanation for natural selection is that it involves the survival of the fittest.  The weak die while the strong reproduce and leave more offspring.  In nature many more offspring are produced than survive, and even a small advantage can give the edge to the lucky individuals.

If selection pressures are strong, a change can be observed in a short space of time, may be even as little as 30 years.  For example, Darwin’s finches show different shapes and lengths of beaks depending on which seeds they eat.  If there are droughts year after year birds with short beaks die out while birds with stronger beaks live because the food source has changed.  Environmental change drives species change.

Another meaning of natural selection is the selection of modified traits such that plants and animals become adapted to new conditions and thus avoid extinction.

I fully endorse both of these meanings.

#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?