ArticlePDF Available
more aware of what is happening at the Christianity/sci-
ence interface and present alternative viewpoints. Perhaps
the proponents of ID themselves need to be extra vigilant
in providing a fair summary of different ideas in their
articles.
Given the nature of the problem, none of these poten-
tial solutions is likely to occur to a great extent, nor is it fair
to hold the involved parties responsible to fix the problem
(except, perhaps, the editors). Ultimately, it is incumbent
on those of us who do have exposure to a broad range of
ideas to keep reading, writing, and talking about all the
options. For the time being, this vigorous discussion may
have to occur only in more specialized venues. However,
over time, the best model will slowly emerge, and once
generally accepted by our community, it will come to the
attention of the broader Christian community. |
Creation Versus
Creationism
Graeme Finlay,* Bernard Choong, John Flenley, Nishi
Karunasinghe, Graham O’ Brien, Ross Prestidge, Cris Print,
Andrew Shelling, and Mark West
Many religious people think that evolutionary
science and Christian faith are enemies. In the
USA, they expend energy, time, and good will
by attacking the teaching of evolution in schools. Recent
battles have raged in Louisiana, Kansas, and Ohio.1
The issue simmers in New Zealand, too. The NZ Listener
(in 1995) commented that “God and Darwin are still
battling it out in New Zealand schools” and (in 2000)
that “the teaching of evolution remains under siege from
Creationists.”2
We are Christians who work in the sciences, and regard
this controversy as a tragedy. We are committed both to
the scientific enterprise (including evolutionary science)
and to the Good News that God has revealed himself as
a person, Jesus of Nazareth. The issue is resolvable by
accepting two considerations:
1. We are an evolved species. Unprecedented develop-
ments in genetics show beyond reasonable doubt that
we and other primates are the descendants of common
ancestors. Just as DNA is used in courts to establish pater-
nity, or to identify people involved with crimes, so partic-
ular features of DNA sequences establish evolutionary
relatedness.
2. The science of evolution and the theology of creation
differ in their vocabularies, subject matter, and concerns.
Evolutionary science and the biblical concept of creation
(regardless of whether someone believes in it) should be
seen to address different aspects of human experience.
They are not mutually exclusive.
Today we are witnessing momentous scientific devel-
opments. An international consortium has determined the
order of (most of) the 3 billion DNA bases (chemical units
of information) that comprise the chimpanzee genome.
Comparison of the base sequences of chimp and human
DNA shows that they are very similar. This indicates that
humans should be classified as a species of ape. Our clos-
est relatives (in order) are chimps, gorillas, and orang-
utans. The differences between chimp and human genetic
sequences reflect natural genetic processes. Bases have
been changed, and segments of DNA rearranged.
Genetic history is inscribed in DNA sequences. Our
DNA sequence includes thousands of derelict genes.
These are either ancient relics of once-active genes, or ran-
domly generated copies of genes.3It is extraordinary to
view large segments of chimp and human DNA, aligned
side-by-side, and see the same sequence of genes and dere-
lict genes. Both species are products of the one lineage in
which these scrambled genes were generated.4Fascinating
examples are known. Most mammals make their own
ascorbic acid (vitamin C), but higher primates like us need
ascorbic acid in their diet. This is because a gene required
to make ascorbic acid became inactivated in an ancestor of
the higher primates. Chimps, humans (and other higher
primates) retain in their DNA derelict copies of this gene.5
Most mammals wage war and make love in response to
chemical signals (pheromones) that they detect with the
vomeronasal organ. But Old World primates (including
chimps and humans) lack this structure. The gene for a key
signaling protein is defunct, although still present in our
DNA (and containing the original inactivating mutation).
Pheromone-sensing receptor proteins cannot now signal,
and their genes (about 100 of them) have fallen into disre-
pair.6
236 Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
News & Views
Creation Versus Creationism
*Corresponding author
Michael Everest received his B.S. from Wheaton College (IL) and
Ph.D. from Stanford University. Currently, he is an associate pro-
fessor of chemistry at George Fox University, Oregon, where he
teaches physical chemistry, analytical chemistry, and instrumental
analysis and also directs students in chemical research.
We have 1,000 “olfactory receptor” genes that encode
proteins needed for our sense of smell. About 600 of these
can no longer make functional proteins, and many are
defunct also in chimps, gorillas, and orangutans—and
have the same inactivating mutations in each species. Such
mutations occurred in an ancestor of all the species that
currently own (by inheritance) the common mutation.7
Similarly, humans and chimps have 33 genes that make
proteins used to sense bitter taste. Some of these genes are
derelicts (with the same inactivating mutations) in both
humans and chimps, scrambled in a common ancestor.8
What compensates for our loss of pheromone and
olfactory sensitivity? New World primates have 2-color
vision, but Old World primates (including humans) have
3-color vision. This arose when a segment of DNA contain-
ing one of the original visual pigment genes was dupli-
cated. Old World primates inherited the same duplicated
gene from the one ancestor in which the unique copy-and-
paste event happened.9Copying-and-pasting has repeat-
edly produced new genes. Primate genes that control the
immune system10 and sexual function11 have arisen by
multiple cycles of DNA duplication. Many copied-and-
pasted DNA segments occur on the X- and Y- (sex) chro-
mosomes, and have been inherited by humans, chimps,
and gorillas. Large-scale changes to DNA continue.
Humans differ from chimps by about 200 large duplicated
or deleted segments. Any two humans differ by some ten
large duplications or deletions of up to 400,000 bases.12
We and other primates have emergency patches on our
DNA, marking sites where radiation once caused DNA
breaks. Many patches are common to chimps and humans.
Our DNA has the scars of radiation damage that occurred
in reproductive cells of long-extinct ancestors.13
Chimps and humans are related genetically. This indi-
cates that we are the products of a common lineage.
We marvel in these scientific discoveries, and affirm our
conviction that the discoveries of science reveal the work
of God.
We regret the efforts of religious groups that seek to
debunk evolution. We regret the wastage of resources and
good will arising from ongoing confrontations. We fear
for generations of children whose minds are being turned
against science by anti-”evolution” indoctrination. Does
acceptance of human evolution consign the book of Genesis
to the rubbish bin? We affirm fervently that the Bible is our
authority in all matters of faith and conduct. But we do
urge that it be read responsibly.
The Bible describes how God has revealed himself in
the history of Israel and supremely in a person called
Jesus. It shows us our significance, our responsibilities,
and the possibility of a relationship with the Maker of
heaven and earth. The early chapters of Genesis do not
address scientific questions. They are concerned with
something more fundamental than science. They intro-
duce in richly figurative language the magnificence of
Israel’s God.
The Genesis creation story has a carefully crafted, semi-
poetic structure. It is rich in symbolism and in allusion to
religious concepts current in the ancient world. It sets out
to undermine the assumptions upon which the religions of
Israel’s neighbors were based. Its meaning is strikingly
illuminated by the socio-religious context in which it was
written.14 Israel was surrounded by mighty empires that
worshiped crowds of gods. Israel was almost alone in the
ancient world in its vision of a God who was all-powerful,
rational, consistent, righteous, faithful, and good. The gods
of the ancient empires were nothing like this. As C. S.
Lewis said, “’gods’ is not the plural of ‘God.’”15
Genesis does not set out to present the age of the uni-
verse, the definition of “species,” or the biological origins
of humanity. But Genesis presents a God who makes sci-
ence possible. Science took root in Europe because the
early scientists recognized the character of God as the
guarantee that nature was lawful, intelligible, and consis-
tent.16 What the Bible says about creation was vital for
the development of science.
Remarkably, people at the extreme poles of the science-
religion debate are united in their insistence that “evolu-
tion” and “creation” are competing concepts. To bedmates
like Richard Dawkins and biblical literalists, you have to
believe one or the other. This “either-or” dichotomy shows
a lack of understanding about what these words mean.
Evolution is a process. The concept of creation (wherever
or not you believe it) refers to an act of an agent, God.17
The concerns of evolutionary science are impersonal
(interactions between organisms and environment). The
concerns of creation are personal (relationships between
God and his creatures, and God’s intentions for his world).
The language of evolution is about genes, duplications,
and base substitutions. The language of creation is about
value, purpose, and destiny.
So we reject the claims of Dawkins and biblical literal-
ists that “evolution” and “creation” are mutually exclusive
terms. “Evolution” describes dynamic change within the
created order. “Evolution” is an aspect of “creation.”18
Christians who oppose evolution regard themselves as
a part of creation. They accept that they came to exist by
the biological processes of conception, birth, and growth,
and that God uses his biological processes to create them.
Could they not accept that God used another of his biolog-
ical processes to create their species? When thinking about
the astonishing processes involved in the development of
the foetus, we can only concur with the author of Ps.
139:13, 14, “You created every part of me … I praise you.”
The same sense of wonder and worship arises from the
astonishing biological processes by which our species
developed.
Volume 58, Number 3, September 2006 237
News & Views
Creation Versus Creationism
Given that human DNA is so similar to that of the
chimps, is our status any different from that of other ani-
mals? People at both extremes of the debate argue that
an evolutionary past denies current value to humanity.
Genesis does not give the mechanism by which we got
here. It simply describes our physical substance as “earth”
and ascribes our being to the work of God. It gives our
status as creatures in the “image of God.” “Image” means
that we should reflect what God is and does.19 The concept
refers not to biological properties but to personal response
to God.
The geneticist Ajit Varki has said that genes alone
cannot explain the human brain. The human brain owes
many of its sophisticated abilities to an intimate synergy
between nature (genes) and nurture (environment). The
human mind will ultimately be explained only as “Nature
via Nurture.”20 We are human not only because of our
genes, which provide the necessary biological framework
for our humanity. We are human also because of our
nurture. The Christian believes that vital to this nurture is
the call and care of God, who has shown us his goodness,
justice, and liberating love. |
Acknowledgment
We are grateful for helpful comments from Paul Wraight,
Ph.D., who lectured in physics at the University of
Aberdeen.
Notes
1For comment by scientists, see E. C. Scott and G. Branch, “Evolu-
tion: What’s Wrong with ‘teaching the Controversy,’” Trends in
Ecology and Evolution 18 (2003): 499; R. T. Pennock, “Creationism
and Intelligent Design,” Annual Review of Genomics and Human
Genetics 4 (2004): 143.
2NZ Listener July 1–7,1995, p.42; April 22–28, 2000, p.16.
3Z. L. Zhang and M. Gerstein, “Large-Scale Analysis of Pseudo-
genes in the Human Genome,” Current Opinion in Genetics and
Development 14 (2004): 328. For an analysis of recently arising
pseudogenes, see the update on the human genome: International
Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, “Finishing the Euchro-
matic Sequence of the Human Genome,” Nature 431 (2004): 931.
4In a genetic region concerned with immunity (1.9 million bases)
chimps have 41 genes and 59 scrambled genes, almost the same as
humans. The main difference is that a stretch of 95,000 bases has
been deleted from chimp DNA. This resulted in the loss of one gene
and three scrambled genes that remain in human DNA. Sequenc-
ing work on chromosome 21 has ordered 33 million bases. Essen-
tially the same set of genes and fossil genes is found in chimp and
human DNA. In many cases, the fossil genes are the same length
in the two species. They have hardly changed since the species
diverged. See T. Anzai, T. Shiina, N. Kimura, et al., “Comparative
Sequencing of Human and Chimpanzee MHC Class I Regions
Unveils Insertions/Deletions as the Major Path to Genomic Diver-
gence,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA 100
(2003): 708; The International Chimpanzee Chromosome 22 Con-
sortium, “DNA Sequence and Comparative Analysis of Chimpan-
zee Chromosome 22,” Nature 429 (2004): 382.
5Y. Inai, Y. Ohta and M. Nishikimi, “The Whole Structure of the
Human Nonfunctional L-Gulono-g-Lactone Oxidase Gene—The
Gene Responsible for Scurvy—and the Evolution of Repetitive
Sequences Thereon,” Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology
49 (2003): 315.
6E. R. Liman and H. Innan, “Relaxed Selective Pressure on an Essen-
tial Component of Pheromone Transduction in Primate Evolu-
tion,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA 100
(2003): 3328; J. Zhang and D. M. Webb, “Evolutionary Deteriora-
tion of the Vomeronasal Pheromone Transduction Pathway in
Catarrhine Primates,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
of the USA 100 (2003): 8337.
7Y. Gilad, O. Man, S. Paabo, and D. Lancet, “Human Specific Loss of
Olfactory Receptor Genes,” Proceedings of the National Academy
of Science of the USA 100 (2003): 3324; Y. Gilad, V. Wiebe, M.
Przeworski, et al., “Loss of Olfactory Receptor Genes Coincides
with the Acquisition of Full Trichromatic Vision in Primates,” PLoS
Biol 2 (2004): 120.
8C.M.Parry,A.Erkner,andJ.leCoutre,“DivergenceofT2RChemo
-
sensory Receptor Families in Humans, Bonobos, and Chimpan-
zees,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA 101
(2004): 14830.
9K. S. Dulai, M. von Dornum, J. D. Mollon, and D. M. Hunt, “The
Evolution of Trichromatic Color Vision by Opsin Gene Duplication
in New World and Old World Primates,” Genome Res 9 (1999): 629.
And the process of duplicating (and deleting) opsin genes on the
X chromosome continues, as evidenced by the abnormal patterns
that are found in cases of color blindness. See H. Ueyama, R. Torii,
S. Tanabe, et al., “An Insertion/Deletion TEX28 Polymorphism
and Its Application to Analysis of Red/Green Visual Pigment Gene
Arrays,” Journal of Human Genetics 49 (2004): 548.
10T. Shiina, G. Tamiya, A. Oka, et al., “Molecular Dynamics of MHC
Genesis Unraveled by Sequence Analysis of the 1,796,938-bp HLA
Class I Region,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the
USA 96 (1999): 13282; H. Sawai, Y. Kawamoto, N. Takahata, and Y.
Satta, “Evolutionary Relationships of Major Histocompatibility
Complex Class I Genes in Simian Primates,” Genetics 166 (2004):
1897; J. K. Kulski, T. Anzai, T. Shiina, and H. Inoko, “Rhesus
Macaque Class I Duplicon Structures, Organization, and Evolution
within the Alpha Block of the Major Histocompatibility Complex,”
Molecular Biology and Evolution 21 (2004): 2079.
11These duplications have a structure in which the copied segment
faces the opposite direction from the original segment, and is
separated from it by a spacer segment. S. Rozen, H. Skaletsky,
J. D. Marszalek , et al., “Abundant Gene Conversion Between Arms
of Palindromes in Human and Ape Y Chromosomes,” Nature
423 (2003): 873; P. E. Warburton, J. Giordano, F. Cheung, et al.,
“Inverted Repeat Structure of the Human Genome: the X-chromo-
some Contains a Preponderance of Large, Highly Homologous
Inverted Repeats That Contain Testes Genes,” Genome Research 14
(2004): 1861.
12A. Fortna, Y. Kim, E. Maclaren, et al., “Lineage-Specific Gene
Duplication and Loss in Human and Great Ape Evolution,”
PloS Biology 2 (2004): 937; J. Sebat, B. Lakshmi, J. Troge, et al.,
“Large-Scale Copy Number Polymorphism in the Human
Genome,” Science 305 (2004): 525; A. J. Iafrate, L. Feuk, M. N.
Rivera, et al., “Detection of Large-Scale Variation in the Human
Genome,” Nature Genetics 36 (2004): 949.
13The patches in our DNA can identified as interstitial telomeric
repeats, (TTAGGG)npossibly put in place by telomerase, and
as nuclear mitochondrial pseudogenes. See S. G. Nergadze,
M. Rocchi, C. M. Azzalin, et al., “Insertion of Telomeric Repeats at
Intrachromosomal Break Sites during Primate Evolution,” Genome
Res 14 (2004): 1704; M. Richetti, F. Tekaia, B. and Dujon, “Contin-
ued colonization of the Human Genome by Mitochondrial DNA,”
PLoS Biology 2 (2004) 1313.
14J. Drane, Old Testament Faith (Tring: Lion, 1986), 62f; E. Lucas, Gene-
sis Today (London: Stirling University, 1989), 89f; A. Konig, New and
Greater Things (Pretoria: UNISA, 1988), 9f. The authors were respec-
tively, Lecturer in Religious Studies, Stirling University; research
chemist-(University of Oxford)-turned-theologian; and Professor
of Theology, University of South Africa.
238 Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
News & Views
Creation Versus Creationism
The genre of the Genesis creation stories is very different from
that of the New Testament records that describe the life of Jesus.
The New Testament authors emphasized that what they wrote
about Jesus—his life, death, and resurrection—was based on direct
observation. Paul did not allow that his message could be taken
figuratively (1Cor. 15:1–8); Luke stressed that he wrote as an inves-
tigative historian (Luke 1:1–4; Acts 1:1–2) and John, although
considered the most “spiritual” of the Gospel writers, emphasized
his reliability as an eyewitness (John 19:35; 1 John 1:1–3). The “sec-
ond generation” believers made it clear that they understood the
Good News as describing history (John 21:24; Heb. 2:3). That the
earliest Christian preaching about Jesus was to be taken in concrete
historical terms was made plain by reports of Roman (Tacitus),
Jewish (Josephus, Talmudic writings) and early Church (Ignatius,
Clement) writers. See P. Barnett, Is the New Testament History? (Lon-
don: Hodder and Stoughton, 1986); E. M. Blaiklock, Who Was Jesus?
(Chicago: Moody Press, 1974); F. F. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Ori-
gins Outside the New Testament (London: Hodder and Stoughton,
1974); M. Staniforth, trans., Early Christian Writings (Harmonds-
worth: Penguin, 1968).
15C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (Glasgow:Collins, 1961), chap. 8.
16H. Turner, The Roots of Science (Auckland: DeepSight Trust, 1998).
17M. Poole, Science and Belief (Oxford: Lion, 1990), 110.
18A debate between Dawkins and a science educationalist is hugely
instructive for understanding the issues. See M. Poole, “A Critique
of Aspects of the Philosophy and Theology of Richard Dawkins,”
Science and Christian Belief 6 (1994): 41; with the replies in the same
journal, vol. 7, pp. 45, 51. Dawkins insists that “I pay religions the
compliment of regarding them as scientific theories … I see God as
a competing explanation for facts about the universe and life.”
Dawkins and Creationists see “God” and “evolution” as compet-
ing explanations. This is as illogical as seeing “God” an alternative
to “star formation,” “plate tectonic movement,” “pollination,”
“fruit set,” or “cell division.”
19J. I. Packer, “Reflected Glory,” Christianity Today 47 (2003): 56.
“Image” means “representative likeness.” This requires that, like
God, “we should always act with resourceful rationality and wise
love, making and executing praiseworthy plans …” We should
generate value by producing what is truly good. “We should be
showing love and goodwill towards all other persons … And in
fellowship with God, we should directly honor and obey him
by the way we manage and care for that bit of the created order
that he has given us to look after.”
20A. Varki, “How to Make an Ape Brain,” Nature Genetics 36 (2004):
1034.
Mounting Evidence for
Theistic Evolution against
Intelligent Design
David F. Siemens, Jr., ASA Fellow, 2703 E. Kenwood St., Mesa,
AZ 85213-2384
Two reports in a single journal challenge the notions
presented in opposition to theistic evolution (TE).
Daniel M. Weinreich et al., “Darwinian Evolution
Can Follow Only Very Few Mutational Paths to Fitter
Proteins,” [Science (7 April 2006): 312: 111–4] challenges
the notion that evolution functions by totally random
mutations. The report describes five mutations in a stan-
dard bacterial b-lactamase that confer high resistance to
cefoxtamine, a recently introduced cephalosporin antibi-
otic. Five mutations theoretically allow 5! or 120 paths.
However, 102 of the 120 trajectories are “inaccessible to
Darwinian selection,” with several of the remaining ones
unlikely. They indicate that no more than four, and possi-
bly only two, are viable. This means that the actual evolu-
tionary sequence will be more nearly linear than random.
Reality markedly restricts logical possibility.
I must add two further points. First, not all the bacteria
will change to the new enzyme because many other
b-lactam antibiotics (the penicillins, cephalosporins, and
carbapanems) are still in use, with the original forms still
found in nature. So, while some strains will develop resis-
tance to the one cephalosporin, others will develop differ-
ent resistance. Some will retain the original gene. Second,
what looks very much like guidance is built into living
things at a very basic level.
The second report, Jamie T. Bridgham, et al., “Evolution
of Hormone-Receptor Complexity by Molecular Exploita-
tion” [ibid., pp. 97–101] is accompanied by an analysis,
Volume 58, Number 3, September 2006 239
News & Views
Mounting Evidence for Theistic Evolution against Intelligent Design
*Graeme Finlay, Ph.D., is a cell biologist who lectures in scientific
pathology at the University of Auckland. He can be contacted at:
g.finlay@auckland.ac.nz
Bernard Choong, Ph.D., is a biochemist involved in research in
the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland.
John Flenley, Ph.D., Sc.D., is a natural scientist and professor of
geography, Massey University.
Nishi Karunasinghe has a Ph.D. in population genetics and is
doing research in nutrition at the School of Medical Sciences,
University of Auckland.
Graham O’Brien, Ph.D., is a molecular geneticist who is training
for the ministry. He is a member of the Inter-Church Bioethics
Council.
Ross Prestidge, a Ph.D. biochemist, is a senior staff scientist
at the Genesis Research and Development Corporation Ltd.,
Auckland.
Cris Print, a Ph.D. molecular biologist with a particular interest
in bioinformatics, is associate professor in the Department of
Molecular Medicine and Pathology, University of Auckland.
Andrew Shelling, a Ph.D. molecular biologist, lectures in Repro-
ductive Science at the University of Auckland, and is currently pres-
ident of the Human Genetics Society of Australasia (NZ Branch).
Mark West, a Ph.D. biochemist, was in the School of Biological
Sciences, University of Auckland, until December 2004.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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Short blocks of telomeric-like DNA (Interstitial Telomeric Sequences, ITSs) are found far from chromosome ends. We addressed the question as to how such sequences arise by comparing the loci of 10 human ITSs with their genomic orthologs in 12 primate species. The ITSs did not derive from expansion of pre-existing TTAGGG units, as described for other microsatellites, but appeared suddenly during evolution. Nine insertion events were dated along the primate evolutionary tree, the dates ranging between 40 and 6 million years ago. Sequence comparisons suggest that in each case the block of (TTAGGG)n DNA arose as a result of double-strand break repair. In fact, ancestral sequences were either interrupted precisely by the tract of telomeric-like repeats or showed the typical modifications observed at double-strand break repair sites such as short deletions, addition of random sequences, or duplications. Similar conclusions were drawn from the analysis of a chimpanzee-specific ITS. We propose that telomeric sequences were inserted by the capture of a telomeric DNA fragment at the break site or by the telomerase enzyme. Our conclusions indicate that human ITSs are relics of ancient breakage rather than fragile sites themselves, as previously suggested.
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