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Creation Vs. Evolution: In the News

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Countering Biochemical Morons

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

Striking out is a common defense for animals who perceive a threat. This can be observed in reptiles or mammals that feel humans are threatening their environment or offspring. But this defense mechanism is also used by humans when we feel threatened—whether the threat is real or perceived. When faced with attacks or challenges, oftentimes we lash out in order to extinguish any fears or feelings of trepidation. The bigger the fear, the more some will lash out. Interestingly, the scientific community has lashed out repeatedly over the past few months. If their reaction is any indicator of anxiety, they are feeling extremely threatened by all of the attention given to intelligent design.

For instance, the two most prestigious science journals, Science and Nature, have both run editorials against intelligent design, all the while placing the evolutionary theory on the cover. Just this past week Science devoted three articles in eight days to the intelligent design controversy (see Bhattacharjee, 311:588-589; Culotta, 311:770; Holden, 311:769-771). In fact, “Evolution in Action” was designated the scientific breakthrough of the year in 2005 (see Harrub, 2006). However, the prize for lashing out against intelligent design would have to go to the March 2006 issue of Discover magazine. Against the backdrop of Charles Darwin’s face (made from a collage of virus images) a bold cover headline reads: “Unintelligent Design: Are Viruses the Mother of All Life?” Inside, they claim that a “monstrous discovery suggests that viruses, long regarded as lowly evolutionary latecomers, may have been the precursors of all life on Earth” (Siebert, 2006, 27[3]:33). Simply put, they propose that humans (and all life forms) evolved from viruses.

In an editorial letter, the author “welcomed” the verdict against the Dover, Pennsylvania school board which had voted to teach the intelligent design theory to students. The article noted: “Intelligent design is not science and should not be presented in science classes as a viable alternative to evolution” (“A Message From...,” 2006, 27[3]:31). The journal proceeds then to introduce the “latest and greatest” discovery in the field of evolution—“the largest weirdest virus in the world. Called the Mimivirus, it contains more genetic material than any virus yet seen” (27[3]:31). The author then suggested that this virus could well represent the roots of the evolutionary tree of life. The article remarked: “Increasingly, many scientists believe that viruses evolved very early on, possibly even earlier than everything else. If so, they are not merely some ornamentation on the tree of life but rather may compose its very roots” (27[3]:31, emp. added).

After suggesting that viruses are at the base of the evolutionary tree of life, the author lashes out with one of the vilest and most disgusting examples of the godless agenda to which many scientists have pledged their allegiance:

Now there’s news for intelligent designers, and the rest of us, to ponder. We humans, and all life on Earth, may well have evolved from the most unintelligent entities one can imagine, genetic shards that do nothing but copy themselves. We are nobody’s great idea; we are the fortunate mistakes of countless biochemical morons. That’s evolution. It is humbling, but somehow comforting (27[3]:31, emp. added).

Fortunate mistakes of countless biochemical morons? How ironic that we have designated ourselves Homo sapiens—which means “wise man”—and yet, some men would suggest we evolved from viruses. Have we forgotten one of the key facts about viruses? They require living cells to reproduce! How could viruses form the roots of the evolutionary tree of life and give rise to all living forms, when they themselves require living forms in order to replicate? After noting that “virus” comes from the Latin word for poison, Stedman’s Medical Dictionary explains that “unlike bacteria, they are incapable of growth or reproduction apart from living cells” (McDonough, 1994, p. 1104, emp. added). Viruses require life in order to reproduce! It is biologically impossible for them to have comprised the roots of any alleged evolutionary tree of life.

Charles Siebert admits as much when he noted: “Viruses, being dependent on these organisms to host them, are viewed as evolutionary latecomers: genomic scraps that fell out onto the floor back when life was assembling itself into more complex arrangements” (27[3]:33). Nevertheless, he notes that the “sheer prevalence of viruses, however, is forcing a reconsideration” (27[3]:33). The discovery of this large Mimivirus has scientists’ speculation working overtime. As Siebert explained:

Viruses, long thought to be biology’s hitchhikers, turn out to have been biology’s formative force. This is striking news, especially at a moment when the basic facts of origins and evolution seem to have fallen under a shroud. In the discussions of intelligent design, one hears a yearning for an old-fashioned creation story, in which some singular, inchoate entity stepped in to give rise to complex life-forms—humans in particular. Now the viruses appear to present a creation story of their own: a stirring, topsy-turvy, and decidedly unintelligent design where life arose more by reckless accident than original intent, through an accumulation of genetic accounting errors committed by hordes of mindless microscopic replication machines. Our descent from apes is the least of it. With the discovery of Mimi, scientists are close to ascribing to viruses the last role that anyone would have conceived for them: that of life’s prime mover (27[3]:34, emp. added).

After delineating that the DNA in the Mimivirus does not match eukaryotes (cells with a nucleus), bacteria, or archaea (a proposed, but not widely accepted, sixth taxonomic kingdom that would include the archaebacteria), scientists assumed that this must represent an ancient lineage that then gave rise to these other organisms. Jean-Michel Claverie, a bioinformatics specialist at the Institute of Structural Biology and Microbiology in Marseille, observed: “We have to confer to these guys a nobility, a genealogy. Not only a genealogy. They are very ancestral, and their ancestors are at least contemporary with ours and those of all present-day life-forms. Mimi is like the missing link (as quoted in Siebert, 2006, 27[3]:37, emp. added).

Charles Siebert concludes the article with a piece of melodrama that is targeted at anyone who might not believe in the evolutionary theory. He contends:

We have been looking for our designer in all the wrong places. It seems we owe our existence to viruses, the least of semiliving forms, and about the only thing they have in common with any sort of theological prime mover is their omnipresence and invisibility” (27[3]:39, emp. added).

Yes, viruses are invisible and plentiful. However, while the overwhelming majority of viruses are not harmful to their hosts, they require that host. According to Siebert, the Mimivirus “seems to infect only amoebas” (27[3]:34). If we owe the existence of life to the Mimivirus, then how did they survive without amoebas? Did these scientific investigators discover something new and important? Definitely. They found a new virus that is extremely large and has unique DNA. Does this qualify as the “missing link” or place it at the “root of the evolutionary tree of life”? Absolutely not! An open-minded evaluation of what was actually discovered would recognize that this was simply an extremely large virus that possessed a unique genetic makeup. To go beyond that conclusion is to enter the realm of speculation and make-believe.

This cover story is just one, in a long chain of articles written recently, to prop up the failing evolutionary theory and try to disparage the notion of an Intelligent Designer. Atheists, humanists, and evolutionists will not sit quietly by as more and more people rightly begin to question things like irreducible complexity. They feel threatened, and have joined forces to lash out. They suggest that we are the result of biochemical morons. I suggest that evolutionary theory is.

REFERENCES

Bhattacharjee, Yudhijit (2006), “Strategies Evolve as Candidates Prepare for Kansas Board Races,” Science, 311:588-589, February 3.

Culotta, Elizabeth (2006), “Evolution: Is ID on the Way Out?”, Science, 311:770, February 10.

Harrub, Brad (2006), “Evolution Inaction,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2823.

Holden, Constance (2006), “Evolution: Darwin’s Place on Campus is Secure—But Not Supreme,” Science, 311:769-771, February 10.

“A Message From the Mimivirus” (2006), Discover, 27[3]:31, March.

McDonough, James T. Jr., ed. (1994), Stedman’s Concise Medical Dictionary (Philadelphia: Williams & Wilkins), second edition.

Siebert, Charles (2006), “Unintelligent Design,” Discover, 27[3]:32-39, March.




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