Another prominently reported example of “evolution” illustrates just the opposite—and supports the creationist critique of Darwinian evolution.
NPR reports on tomcod fish living in heavily polluted New York and New Jersey rivers. General Electric companies discharged waste products into the rivers for years, and by the 1980s nineteen out of every twenty tomcod in some areas had liver tumors.
But a new study of tomcod populations in the rivers reveals that, surprisingly, some of the fish populations inhabiting the river today are doing just fine. New York University toxicologist Isaac Wirgin found in the course of his study that a number of tomcod populations were “very resistant” to the toxins that had been discharged in the river. In a perfect example of natural selection, a small group of fish who were resistant to the toxins thrived while fish without resistance died off, leaving populations of all-resistant fish.
Creationists emphasize that nearly all cases of so-called “evolution” are actually examples of natural selection, whereby the makeup of a population changes over time because some individuals survive better than others. This is considerably different from the “molecules-to-man” meaning of evolution, which suggests that new mutations confer new abilities in the population that did not exist before—and that, over millions of years, these new abilities can turn single-celled life into mammals. In fact, Wirgin specifically points out that the toxin resistance in the surviving tomcod is not due to genetic mutation.
Moreover, creationists make the argument that natural selection often comes with compromise: while the surviving individuals may be more fit in some ways, there is actually a reduction of fitness or overall genetic information in the population. Duke University toxicologist Richard Di Giulio, commenting on Wirgin’s research, notes that the resistance of killifish in Virginia to another pollutant made it harder for the fish to cope with “natural stressors,” including decreasing oxygen levels and rising temperatures in the water. Although evolutionists cannot deny that most mutations (even those with some benefit) carry a price, Darwinian evolution requires hundreds of millions of years of beneficial mutations accumulating. If all beneficial mutations we observe come with a price (some quite steep), that casts more doubt on the Darwinian story.
Thus, yet another headline about “evolution” in action actually serves to reinforce the creationist argument that natural selection—which is entirely compatible with biblical creation—works in the opposite direction of Darwinian evolution.
The differences in human skin color provide another example of how natural selection is different from evolution.
Penn State University anthropologist Nina Jablonski has told colleagues at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting that “The mechanism of evolution can be completely understood from skin color” and therefore “we can teach the principles of evolution using an example on our own bodies.” That is, school teachers should treat skin color as evidence of evolution and portray it as such to students.
Of course, creationists agree that differences in human skin color can be traced back to the process of natural selection. After humans were dispersed from the Tower of Babel, the emigrating populations would have encountered vastly different environments. Some headed closer to the equator, some stayed in the mid-latitudes, and others headed farther north. In the process, some populations gained increased exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun, while others (those moving north) had decreasing exposure to UV light.
UV light has both helpful and harmful effects in humans. A certain amount is required for vitamin D production, but too much can destroy folate. Dark pigmentation helps block UV light, while light pigmentation lets more radiation in. So it’s no surprise that in populations living closer to the equator, those with light-colored skin were overexposed to harmful UV effects, while darker skin offered protection. Conversely, those traveling toward the poles benefited from lighter skin, and those in the population with darker skin failed to produce enough vitamin D.
Human skin color is therefore a perfect example of natural selection, and understanding the basis for skin color differences is a strong antidote to views that wrongly make a sharp delineation between “races” (which have no basis in biology). But Jablonski explained, “The nice thing about skin color is that we can teach the principles of evolution using an example on our own bodies and relieve a lot of social stress about personal skin color at the same time” (our emphasis). Differences in human skin color can only be considered an example of “evolution” insofar as evolution means “change”—that the makeup of populations changed because of how skin color interacts with UV rays. It has nothing to do with molecules-to-man evolution, because no new information originates in the human genome. Otherwise, the implication would be that some humans are more highly evolved than others!
The Bible provides a foundation for understanding human history, including how human people groups branched out from Babel and how natural selection led to an increase in difference between those people groups. Sadly, racism is one reminder of this history—and for that reason, we generally shy away from even referring to different skin “colors,” since in fact all human skin is a different tone of the brown color of the pigment melanin.
What existed before the big bang? And can secular scientists and the Roman Catholic Church team up to answer that question?
A website run cooperatively by the Vatican and the Italian Space Agency aims to attract readers who are interested in a “greater understanding” of both scientific and religious answers to deep questions like, “If the [b]ig [b]ang was the start of everything, what came before it?”
Gianfranco Basti, dean of the philosophy department at Pontifical Lateran University, explained, “From the [Roman Catholic] Church’s point of view, this is about getting religious people to see that scientists are not the enemy and getting scientists to see that religious people are not the enemy. The aim is for both sides to come together for the good of humanity.”
Piero Benvenuti of the Italian Space Agency added, “Science . . . doesn’t have all the answers, and we must accept that,” an admission that might rile some.
Basti also told BBC News, “I can believe in God and at the same time accept Einstein’s theory that time has not always existed.” This strangely seems to imply that Basti is unfamiliar with Genesis 1:1. The Bible has always taught that time had a beginning; it is not difficult to reconcile belief in God with (the biblically grounded) belief that time had a beginning! Perhaps this illustrates that rather than starting from a biblical foundation and interpreting science in the light of God’s Word, the new website will start from a secular foundation and only have room for religious explanations on the topics where science still has unanswered questions.
A panel at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science tackled the often rocky relationship between science and religion.
“[A]re those who build creation museums hopeless ideologues whose Stone Age ideas should be buried once and for all?” asks the first paragraph of ScienceNOW coverage of the panel. (ScienceNOW is a publication of the AAAS.)
Apparently the panel, titled, “Evangelicals, Science, and Policy: Toward a Constructive Engagement,” was initially attacked by anti-evangelicals for supposedly kowtowing to religious interests. Perhaps surprisingly, it was evolution education proponent Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science Education, who responded to many of the attacks. “Science is religiously neutral. Whether you’re religious or not, you use the same method and rationale in the way you do science, and if you don’t, then you’re stepping outside of science.” (Of course, Scott believes that our view of starting with Scripture is outside of science.)
Panelists dealt with such topics as climate change, stem cell research, and even neuroscience. But while searching for a middle ground, one speaker, former pastor Richard Cizik, argued that “some people aren’t worth your time.”
Can science and religion get along? In this case, some secular scientists do seem to be making an effort to reach out; the problem is that they are only reaching out to religious individuals who won’t let their faith “get in the way” of science. But science is a way for fallen humans to try to learn about the world around us, and in the absence of relying on God’s infallible Word, human error and bias may lead us astray. That’s why science and religion can only “get along” when we recognize that science is always practiced against a backdrop of religious and philosophical assumptions—including naturalism.
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