examinescience

A personal journey into the world of Science and Human History

Month: January, 2016

The Heart of the Impasse

Evolutionary Science and Creationism appear to be at an impasse. Like most ideologies in America today (such as the race and political divides), the two main sides of science are also standing on opposite sides of a great chasm. While we may end up the same way we started, with the two sides still opposing one another, it is my hope that Christians will be able to learn something from modern science through this research project and the research of many others.

It will never be my desire to give up my faith in God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, or the Bible that describes them and their power. I believe that the triune God created the world. What I also believe is that evolutionary theory may just show us how. By filling in the gaps that Genesis leaves us with, we will increase our learning vastly.

More importantly, we’ll be able to help our children understand what’s really being taught in schools. We’ll create a smarter, better adjusted Christian youth that won’t have to decide between the young earth creation (YEC) they grew up with in the home and the old earth evolution they learned in school and were taught almost exclusively in college.

My children, nearing high school age, will be able to competently present their cases before classmates and teachers. They will be able to articulate what the truth of scripture lays out and what modern evolutionary science does to fill in the gaps.

This is only possible if we can bridge the divide. Evolutionary scientists, by the way, are probably not going to be the ones who do this. They may play a role, and a big one, but most will be unwilling to risk their statuses to do so. And YEC professors at Christian universities will most likely be just as hesitant.

It will be, in the end, parents like you and me who do this, which is why I start. If you want to keep abreast of this idea and receive information through email, please click HERE.

Creation, Evolution, and Cystic Fibrosis (Part Three)

In our last post, I mentioned in passing that the cystic fibrosis mutation is estimated to be at least 50,000 years old and the tuberculosis bacteria is roughly 40,000 years old. For the creationist, this might be difficult to accept, especially in light of what groups like Answers in Genesis and the like tell us.

The simple fact is that I don’t think the Bible tells us anything about how long we’ve been here, so seeing time estimations like that isn’t anything to be concerned about in my opinion. Furthermore, seeing that humans have been on the earth for an estimated 150,000 years is not worrisome.[1]

Yet for some, it might just be too much to grasp. I understand that. I’m not even saying modern science is right. I believe it may be that modern science enjoys those spans of time because it gives scientists the ability to support evolution. The single most important element in evolutionary science is time. It must have been billions of years…it took that long to make us from nothing!

So it is entirely possible that the age of the earth, the length of time that man has been around, and the age of cystic fibrosis and tuberculosis are all overestimated. However, the math seems to work out. In the absence of any real timeline from Genesis or the rest of the Bible, I believe it’s safe to assume we’ve been here longer than my fellow fundamentalists suggest.

I will get into the age expectations and allowances in the Bible at a later date. Suffice to say, some will be very upset by my writing and I understand that. All I’m attempting to accomplish is to open up the valve of our understanding a little. We cannot be afraid of what we’ll find.

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Notes:

[1] Smith, Cameron M, The Fact of Evolution. Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY. 2010. P 215.

Creation, Evolution, and Cystic Fibrosis (Part Two)

This post represents the conclusion to the previous post on my initial cystic fibrosis genetic evolution research.

Tuberculosis (TB) is another “underappreciated” option.[1] This is the closest of all options in actually being the evolutionary cause of cystic fibrosis. TB occurs in the right geographical area, thus it can pass that part of the test, though I submit that the data does not show it passing the historical method because most research is from historical models as recently as the 1600s. That doesn’t mean that heterozygote CF carriers don’t possess an advantage in not contracting TB. It just means that it is too recent a development to be the cause of CF mutations.

So while I can accept that TB presents the best case for evolution as it relates to cystic fibrosis, it has a significant issue. The study points to the epidemic of the 17th century in Europe as evidence that CF has an evolutionary heritage associated with the disease. CF has been around for 50,000 years, according to scientists. Researchers don’t know the exact age of TB (estimated to be roughly 40,000 years old), but I’ve yet to find anywhere that suggests it’s as old as CF. By their own research, CF cannot come from nature’s response to TB. At best, the research points to its prevention of TB as a happy accident.

In short, either CF is much younger than first thought or it isn’t nature’s response to TB.

Natural Selection’s Failure

The reality is that, as of current research, CF has no known cause outside of the religious contention that it was caused by the fall of man. So, since it has no provable cause, nature should have been able to eradicate it. Yet it hasn’t, and only recently has any eradication occurred at all, and a very small percentage at that.

Here’s why CF wasn’t eradicated by natural selection: Nature can’t eradicate recessive genes. They can lie dormant for generations. I have no known deaths in my familial history from cystic fibrosis, yet I have a daughter with cystic fibrosis, so I am a carrier. Only God knows how long it’s been sitting in some part of my family tree, dormant, until produced with another like mutation in the life of our daughter.

In the next post, I will be following up my research with some thoughts on the age of cystic fibrosis. Sign up HERE to stay up to date with this research.

[1] Poolman, Eric M, and Alison P Galvani. “Evaluating Candidate Agents of Selective Pressure for Cystic Fibrosis.” Journal of the Royal Society Interface4.12 (2007): 91–98. PMC. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.

 

Creation, Evolution, and Cystic Fibrosis (Part One)

While I have always been fascinated with the issue of creation, the reason for my recent dive into the creation/evolution debate is because of my daughter. It hasn’t been a short-term project either. My first debate on the topic took place several years ago. I worked with a devout atheist and evolutionist in North Chicago, IL at Navy Station Great Lakes. I proposed an idea there around 2012 that I will discuss briefly here and develop in the future.

The idea that I proposed was that cystic fibrosis mutation is a result of the fall of man. After doing some research, and reading the theory proposed by biologists, I’m actually more convinced now than I used to be.

Remember that there are two types of evolution: Macro and Micro. CF is a microevolutionary adaptation, theoretically to help the carrier survive something in nature. However, after conducting my research, I am ready to suggest the following: Cystic fibrosis, and other autosomal recessive genetic diseases, is the product directly, or indirectly, of the fall of man spoken of in Genesis chapter three.

What you are about to read is a very stripped down version of the research I’m conducting. It is my hope to publish my paper on cystic fibrosis and evolution later this year in a scientific journal. If and when that gets published, I’ll be sure to point everyone to it so you can read more in-depth.

Introduction to Cystic Fibrosis (CF)

So here is a basic rundown of cystic fibrosis as it relates to my daughter and the creation/evolution debate:

First, my daughter is a double delta, which means that she carries two copies of the delta F508 mutation for cystic fibrosis. Most CF patients have this mutation in at least one form. Delta F508 is the biggest problem we face in cystic fibrosis. When I talk about curing CF, I think of curing the delta F508 mutation.

Second, my wife and I both gave our daughter one copy of the delta F508 mutation. Alicia and I both carry a good copy of the gene as well, which is why we are symptomless carriers of the genetic disease. There will be more on this in a bit as the research project I’m working on is geared toward understanding this reality.

Third, cystic fibrosis is an autosomal recessive disease, much like sickle cell anemia, tay-sachs disease, and other genetic diseases. That means that our youngest child, who has one copy of the delta F508 mutation and one good copy of the gene does not have cystic fibrosis. It also means that, should she marry someone someday who does have a cystic fibrosis mutation, then she has a 1 in 4 chance of producing a CF patient through her offspring.

Fourth, cystic fibrosis mutations are supposedly 50,000 years old.[1] This information, and more general information about CF, is found in a good New York Times Article on the subject. I’m reviewing other sources as well, but the NYT article does a good job of laying out the basics.

Fifth, it is believed, or at least was believed, by many of the same evolutionary biologists that CF was nature’s designed response to bacterial infections like cholera.[2] Cholera affects how salt moves through cells, which creates loose bowels and ultimately, diarrhea which if untreated can cause death. Since CF does the exact opposite of that, biologists believed, at least until 2000, that asymptomatic carriers might have had an advantage over “normal” humans when it came to cholera and other diseases of the type. More information on this in my findings below.

Creationist Research Results

Below are my findings from the research completed thus far:

First, the cholera/typhoid hypothesis is wrong. Studies have been conducted that show cystic fibrosis does not prevent cholera from doing damage in mice or humans. A study conducted in 1995, concluded that, “As given in the introduction, the most favoured hypothesis for the genetic advantage in CF heterozygotes is their ability to deal with the debilitating effects of secretory diarrhoea. Only modest evidence is available in support of the hypothesis.”[3]

That modest support, as I read on, was really no support at all. And combined with another study, conducted five years after the first, it became even more definite that the CF mutation didn’t assist our ancestors at all. The second study stated that, “Our results provide evidence against the theory that CF heterozygotes have a survival advantage when they contract diarrhea mediated by stimulation of active intestinal chloride secretion.”[4]

Second, that even if they were right, they were barking up the wrong biological tree, as it were. This is called historical-geological line of evidence. Passing this test is a requirement for scientists to accept a scientific model. Cystic Fibrosis was and still continues to be a predominately European and Middle Eastern problem, much like sickle cell plagues the those of African descent. Cholera, however, is a bacteria which came from Africa originally (according to modern biology). Therefore, evolutionary biology suggests that cystic fibrosis gave people who had no real contact with a bacteria protection against it. I can grant that nature is a haphazard designer, but even I can see significant problems with this line of thinking, as have most researchers. Again, cholera and typhoid have been largely dismissed as agents causing cystic fibrosis advantage.

Typhoid is another option, but it must be rejected as it is most prevalent in Indonesia, where CF is virtually nonexistent, and a research project in that country failed to prove anything close the evolutionary hypothesis for CF.[5]

According to evolution, CF should present its carriers with an advantage over non-carriers. The two flaws are obvious. First, the studies don’t bear this out. Second, it prevents the wrong disease. Nature wouldn’t have developed cystic fibrosis mutations to prevent cholera in Europe because cholera developed in Africa. Typhoid is an Indonesian disease, yet delta F508 is essentially non-existent in the archipelago. One would expect that the most prevalent mutation would be present where its agent was located. The research did not bear this out.

Naturally, scientists also offer other ideas on why CF developed and why it wasn’t eradicated via natural selection. They have to. Evolutionists must explain why things are the way they are in nature just like creationists must. We will discuss this in Part two later this week.

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Notes:

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/1994/06/01/us/cause-of-cystic-fibrosis-is-traced-to-the-stone-age.html

[2] Lewis, Ricki. “Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications (Second Edition, 1997) pp 247-248.

[3] Cuthbert, A W et al. “The Genetic Advantage Hypothesis in Cystic Fibrosis Heterozygotes: A Murine Study.” The Journal of Physiology 482.Pt 2 (1995): 449–454. Print.

[4] Högenauer, Christoph et al. “Active Intestinal Chloride Secretion in Human Carriers of Cystic Fibrosis Mutations: An Evaluation of the Hypothesis That Heterozygotes Have Subnormal Active Intestinal Chloride Secretion.” American Journal of Human Genetics 67.6 (2000): 1422–1427. Print.

 

[5] Poolman, Eric M, and Alison P Galvani. “Evaluating Candidate Agents of Selective Pressure for Cystic Fibrosis.” Journal of the Royal Society Interface4.12 (2007): 91–98. PMC. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.

Hostility in the Evolution/Creation Debate

I actually thought evolutionists just taught evolution. I thought that we fundamentalists were just rattling sabers when we said that evolutionists are hostile to religion.

I was wrong.

It turns out that evolutionary scientists, or at least several of them, seem very hostile to any other theory besides evolution. I got my head nearly taken off by a chapter in the book Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters, by Donald R. Prothero.

The chapter is called, “Why it matters” and Prothero begins by stating several reasons why creationists are horrible people, including blaming them for why America is falling behind in science and technology and that we are the reason Americans are largely illiterate in the world of science. By the way, Prothero also relates Christian Science with Neo-Nazis who pretend the holocaust didn’t happen.[1] I’m sure he’s a friendly guy though, maybe.

And this is how’s its been since evolution began creeping into the minds of mankind. As soon as it became a viable thought, anyone wanting to have an option other than God in their lives jumped on board. “Materialists, atheists, and radical secularists had long displayed a certain fondness for evolutionary theories of origins such as Lamarckism – anything to dispense with God.”[2]

Yep, easy as that. It’s not poverty, problems in race relations, bad science teachers, or the like…it’s fundamentalists.

He is right though, in a way. As a graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary (now called Liberty University School of Divinity), I’ve become extremely concerned about several maneuvers by the school. Of course we all know that the founder was known for railing against things that weren’t Christian. Jerry Fallwell was a true Christian fundamentalist. The school has continued in this vein under the leadership of his son. I’ll be forever grateful for that school because it helped me learn how to conduct academic research, but it does represent a very closed-minded approach.

I believe there is also a political agenda in the Young Earth Creation (YEC) community. Not in the mom-and-pop amateur theologian/scientist world, of course, but in the overall community yes. There is a power struggle going on. Just like most issues in America right now, the divide is great in science. You’re either a creationist or an evolutionist. There is no middle ground, and the power struggle is a political nightmare. Our kids, of course, are the losers in this debate.

So let me end this post with a dose of reality: Evolution is not a friend to Creation, and vice-versa. They are two ideologies, theories really, that are at eternal odds to each other. Whether the ideas can be cross-incorporated is yet to be seen, but what I can know for sure is that creationists loathe the idea of evolutionists being right and evolutionists think creationists are keeping America in the dark ages, or at least want to.

And before anyone writes me to say I’m grossly generalizing, let me say this: Pick up a random book on the evolution debate and see if I’m right. Then read through Answers in Genesis or another site in that vein. See if it’s largely the same. Sure, there are plenty of people on both sides who are nice, normal people. It doesn’t take many suicide bombers to spoil the entire community though, does it?

As a father, I want to know why my kids are being taught that man came from apes, when on Sunday (and actually every other day of the week in my house) my kids learn that they came, ultimately, from God’s hand. I don’t want evolution removed from schools, not that it’s even possible at this point, but I do want my kids to have a foundation that let’s them have good, scientific answers for what comes up.

This is the overarching goal of ExamineScience. My desire is to research the best of both sides (and even some of the worse undoubtedly) and start drawing some conclusions.

Notes:

[1] Prothero, Donald R. Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters. Columbia University Press, 2007. pg 44.

[2] Larson, Edward J. Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory. Modern Library Edition, 2004. pg 135.

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Methodology for the ExamineScience Project

If you look at many of the organizations defending the traditional (fundamentalist) POV regarding the evolution/creation debate, you’ll most likely notice an apologetic reading of science. What I mean by that is that creation researchers read the evidence in light of what tradition teaches us is the creation story.

Here’s an example: Creation scientists tend to talk about how radiocarbon dating doesn’t work on fossils. They state that scientists must be lying to you if they tell you the earth is millions of years old because radiocarbon dating only works to somewhere around 40,000 years or so (and that’s being very generous for most creationist organizations).

Well, the fact is that radiocarbon dating is only good until around 40,000 years, give or take.[1] Yet the problem for “us” is that we leave it at that. Scientists don’t use radiocarbon dating for objects estimated to be over 40,000 years old. Carbon14 doesn’t have enough half-life to make that work.[2] Instead, scientists use radiometric dating, which measures the known half-life of uranium as it breaks down to lead, which breaks down to potassium.[3]

To be sure, there is still a margin of error. In any dating method you’ll find it, including the 6,000-10,000 year margin creationists allow for. Nevertheless, you’ll find that creation scientists tend to use science only as it fits the traditional reading of the Bible. This must change.

The ExamineScience Project seeks instead to read the modern scientific data in terms of what it provides on it’s own merit. This isn’t the same as giving in to evolutionists. Instead, it is accepting that science tells how God carried out his creative act. This method shows us the role nature plays in telling us about our Creator God (Romans 1:20).

Instead of rejecting science when it doesn’t fit the traditional model of faith, or reading into the scientific record what we want it to say, I’m proposing a methodology that seeks to discover what modern science tells us without any more bias than is absolutely necessary. I do not expect to lose my faith, and I expect that we’ll find our faith strengthened through this process as we come to terms with what the scientific record shows us.

Furthermore, ExamineScience will also evaluate the creation story on its own merit, without trying to read in scientific evidence to make it work. This is, I believe, a good work. I believe it will arm my children for their course work in the lower and high school grades as well as college and beyond. I expect it will ground their faith as well as mine.

So let’s be clear: I am out to get to the bottom of how we all got here and how it all began. We begin with really no assumptions, except that God has revealed himself in nature as well as the written word. The rest is the adventure!

To stay up to date with the ExamineScience Project progress, click HERE.

Notes:

[1] Shapiro, Beth. How to Clone a Mammoth. Princeton University Press (April 6, 2015) p6.

[2] Berra, Tim M. The Earth is Very Old (in Evolution Fact or Fiction). Greenhaven Press, Farmington Hills, MI, 2003. pp107-111.

[3] Ibid.

Can Christians Accept Evolution?

Is the theory of evolution plausible for Christians? Before we attempt to go down this particular rabbit trail, some important things must be understood. First, there are actually two types of evolution: micro and macro.

Adaptation is a shorter-term prospect and one that we can readily see in every day life. This represents a microevolution in that it doesn’t have to, or even usually, result in a new species from a previous one. An obvious example is that we know, from the Bible, that God created Adam and Eve, yet we have numerous races, all with advantages and adaptations for their climates and locations. Each ethnicity also, unfortunately, has its own autosomal recessive genetic diseases, which we will discuss in detail over the process of this project.

Natural selection, representing at its grandest concept macroevolution, tends to take much longer. This is the issue that Christians, including myself, have a lot of trouble with. Evolutionary scientists don’t tend to make this process easier either, in that many seem to dismiss religion as the very thing that keeps them from progressing in their theory. One cannot read men like Dawkins and believe that religion has a place in modern science. The battle lines, sadly, are drawn.

At any rate, natural selection (macro) is how Neanderthals died out and humans lived on, according to evolution.[1] This is also how the dinosaurs lived millions of years ago. I think dinosaurs are one of the major problem points in the debate between evolution and creation. While there are many things we have to figure out (light from the stars, genetic mutations, etc), dinosaurs are a key sticking point.

This is obviously an expanded issue for future discussion. As we move on, we’ll deal substantially with the issue of the thundering lizards. What we’re working on here is the two major themes in evolution. Microevolution (adaptation) happens, has happened, and is acceptable by Christians. It’s everywhere and our own human ethnicities suggest it. Macroevolution, which explains how one species becomes another in some way, is much more difficult for a Christian to accept and must be wrestled with in greater detail. That is one of the main focuses of ExamineScience.

We will continue to deal with this in the weeks and months (years?) to come. To keep up with the research, click HERE and sign up for email alerts.

[1] Shapiro, Beth. How to Clone a Mammoth. Princeton University Press (April 6, 2015) p6.

A Grand Starting Point

Every journey has to start somewhere. Many will want to start at the “beginning.” While I have started conducting a review of literature of the beginning of our time, my energy has been focused on a different, more recent development. That’s a relative term, of course, as I’m still beginning several tens of thousands of years in our past.

As you already know from a previous post, I am curious about the development of cystic fibrosis. As I have a daughter who has the genetic disease, and another daughter who carries the mutation, and as my wife and I also carry the mutation, I feel a special connection to the disease. I also share a connection to the approximately 25 million people in America who carry a mutation and the 30,000 who suffer from its effects.

I could expand that too, to the thousands who suffer from Tay-Sachs disease, sickle cell anemia, and a host of other autosomal recessive genetic diseases. We all share two things in common. The diseases are recessive in nature, and they are deadly. They also all have a common beginning in that they were mutations of good genes.

Therefore, while I start with the science of evolution in general in determining how nature speaks God’s creative acts to us, I focus in particular on the thing that matters most to me, my daughter and her disease. If I’m to help my children understand life around them and how their genetic makeup affects who they are, I start here.

I hope you will join me. You may very well be a carrier of the disease even if you don’t suffer from it, or you may carry any number of other genetic mutations. Cystic fibrosis offers an amazing case study into the evolution (micro) of our gene pool. Therefore, over the next several posts, we will be exploring cystic fibrosis before going more generally into the study of evolution.

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Welcome to the Examine Science Project

Thank you for stopping by. I am so grateful you’re here! I started Examine Science Project as a personal research endeavor with the following mission:

1. To help my children understand the differences between what we believe and what they are taught in school, and to see if there is any common ground.
2. To help my children understand the genetics that make them who they are.

Here’s why I got started: My daughter has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that affects several organs in her body, most notably the lungs and pancreas. As of the most current data available, her life expectancy is 41 years. I want to help my daughter understand what makes her cystic fibrosis so deadly and what we’re doing about it. That has led to several hours of research into the supposed evolutionary history of the disease. I want to know if that history is true. I certainly have my doubts.

Theologically, I am a fairly conservative Christian. I would, at times in my life, describe myself as a fundamentalist. For example, I want creation taught in schools as an alternate to evolution. However, this is no agenda to that end. I have neither the political pull nor the money to make that happen. I leave that task to someone else.

Instead, I want to know if the Genesis One reading of creation is defensible. If it is not, then I have a decision to make. I can accept God’s creative act or the one proposed by evolutionary scientists. But I have to know for myself. I can’t remain blind to the facts and theories and let other people debate it any longer. I hope this is your desire as well.

This is the story of my research and my longing to see my daughter cured. My hope is that you also have a longing to really wrestle with this topic as well. Join me today by subscribing to the list and get updates for the ExamineScience Project. Sign up HERE.