Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
A blessed Feast of Epiphany!
As we enter a New Year, and the internet hums with chatter about all that is “new,” it is worth taking a few minutes to revisit the evolutionist claim that material processes can produce “new” biological functions. Theistic evolutionists, like Dr. Kenneth Miller, insist that everything from the first living things to the body of the evolved sub-human primates that received the first human souls, evolved through the same natural processes that are going on now, without any direct intervention from our Creator.
We have pointed out elsewhere that this view bears an uncanny resemblance to the view of the Albigensian-Catharist heretics of the Middle Ages who held that God created some material elements in the beginning but had nothing to do with specially creating the various kinds of corporeal creatures. In so doing, theistic evolutionism destroys the intimate relationship between God and His corporeal creatures, a relationship that the Fourth Lateran Council sought to safeguard by defining that God created “all things,” “the corporeal and the spiritual” by “His omnipotent power, at once, from the beginning.”
In trying to defend the true Catholic doctrine of special creation, we have often said that there are no examples of the production of new functional biological information through a process of mutation and natural selection. While this claim is certainly true in regard to the production of functional information at anything above a very low level of complexity, it is important to acknowledge that at a very low level of complexity it is possible to find examples of new and beneficial functions that can arise through mutation and natural selection. In an excellent article in Creation Matters, Dr. Sean Pittman explains:
Have any novel enzymatic functions ever been shown to evolve in real time? Interestingly enough, several enzymes with entirely new and beneficial functions have been shown to evolve in real time. For example, Kenneth Miller, in his book, Finding Darwin’s God, references a very interesting research study published by Barry Hall, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Rochester. In this study, Hall deleted the lactase genes in certain E. coli bacteria. These genes produced and regulated the production of a lactase enzyme called B-galactosidase. What this enzyme does is break apart a type of sugar molecule called lactose into two smaller sugar molecules called glucose and galactose—both of which E. coli can use for energy production . . . In just one or two generations these E. coli evolved a brand-new gene that produced a new lactase enzyme . . .
Although most descriptions of Hall’s experiments stop right there, including the one found in Miller’s book, what Hall did next is most interesting. He deleted the newly-evolved gene as well, to see if any other gene would evolve the lactase function . . . and nothing happened! Despite tens of thousands of generations with large population numbers and high mutation rates, no new lactase enzyme evolved. Hall himself noted in his paper that these double mutant bacteria seemed to have “limited evolutionary potential.”
Other unfortunate bacteria seem to be just as limited in their evolutionary potential. Even though they would significantly benefit, many types of bacteria, after more than a million generations, have not been observed to evolve a relatively simple lactase enzyme . . . One should also note that these same bacteria, unable to evolve a lactase enzyme, are all able to evolve, in relatively short order, resistance to any antibiotic that comes their way.
So what is it that “limits” the evolutionary potential of living things, like bacteria, in their ability to evolve some functions but not others? I propose that the answer can be found in the number and density of beneficial “stepping-stones” available (in the form of genetic sequences) . . . This prediction is reflected in real life by an exponential decline in the ability of mindless evolutionary processes to evolve anything beyond the lowest levels of functional complexity. Many simple functions, such as de novo antibiotic resistance, are easy to evolve for any bacterial colony in short order. Moving up a level of complexity, there are far fewer examples of single protein enzymes evolving where a few hundred amino acids are required (and many bacteria cannot evolve even at this level).
However, there are absolutely no examples in the scientific literature of any function requiring more than a thousand or so amino acids working at the same time (as in the simplest bacterial motility system) ever evolving – period. The beneficial “stepping-stones” are just too far apart due to all the junk that separates the few beneficial islands of function from every other island in the vast universe of junk sequences at such levels of informational complexity. The average time needed to randomly sort through enough junk sequences to find any other beneficial function at such a level of complexity quickly works its way into trillions upon trillions of years—even for an enormous population of bacterial with a high mutation rate.
At this point the mindless processes of evolution simply become untenable as any sort of viable explanation for the high levels of diverse complexity that we see within all living things. The only process left that is known to give rise to functional systems at comparable levels of complexity involves human intelligence or beyond.
As we work together to defend the true doctrine of creation as it was handed to us from the Apostles and defined in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, it is important for us to be able to distinguish between what mutation and natural selection can do to produce a very limited array of novel biological functions and what is required to achieve the higher levels of complexity that fill the biosphere. It is also important to recognize that the only reason why mutation and natural selection can produce a very limited array of new functions at a very low level of complexity is because of the intelligently-designed components of even the simplest living things, such as a genetic code and machinery to repair and replicate that code. Without these specially-created, intelligently-designed components, even the low-level innovations that can be observed in certain bacteria, would be impossible.
Let us remember that it is only God who “makes all things new,” and that He who made all things perfect in the beginning constantly invites us to cooperate with Him in “restoring all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.”
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata in union with St. Joseph,
P.S. I will be giving two presentations in Florida in January. Please see the Events Page for details.