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Darwin slayer

"Darwin slayer" Continued...

Issue: "When the base cracks," July 21, 2007

BEHE: Darwinian evolution can be pictured as a walk up to the top of a building. Without stairs, the climb is impossible. If stairs are continuous, the walk is easy. If several stairs are missing, that can be a difficult barrier for a middle-aged couch potato like me. But a younger, fitter person would have no trouble jumping the gap. In evolutionary terms, the larger the population of a species, the fitter it is. But, although Darwin didn't know it, there are many biological steps, called "amino acids," between biological floors, and many are missing. As I show, even plentiful microbes have great difficulty jumping missing biological stairs to go from floor to floor. So we can conclude that life did not ascend by Darwinian evolution.

WORLD: If macroevolution is like taking a gradual route to a distant pinnacle, why is it biologically unreasonable-given enough time-"to expect random mutation and natural selection to navigate a maze to get there"?

BEHE: Darwin's most radical claim was that evolution is utterly blind-unlike an intelligent agent, it can't "see" whether a mutation will be helpful in the long run. Random mutation and natural selection can only select whatever changes confer an immediate advantage, regardless of whether the changes are constructive or destructive. We see that starkly in human genetic responses to malaria, where many genes have been broken, diminished, or warped (like sickle cell). Yet in order to build complex coherent molecular machinery, evolution must avoid destructive changes and select ones that will be helpful in the future. A blind process can't do that.

WORLD: Many Christians will object to your defense of common descent, but you state, "When two lineages share what appears to be an arbitrary genetic accident, the case for common descent becomes compelling." Why do you think the existence of similar broken genes in the genomes of humans and chimps proves their common descent?

BEHE: I should first emphasize that on the question of common descent, I wear just my scientist's hat. So if a person has strong theological reasons to question descent, then he may weigh the evidence differently than I do. Here's the way I see it: When we study humans with a common genetic disease (such as sickle cell), we can often trace it back to a single mutation in a human forebear. With a few more assumptions, the same reasoning can be applied between species. We humans share with other primate species what look for all the world like common genetic accidents. If we inherited those from a common ancestor, it would neatly explain why we all have them now. I find that persuasive.

WORLD: Your concluding section gives readers "something to ponder long and hard: Malaria was intentionally designed," and children die in a mother's arms "because an intelligent agent deliberately made malaria, or at least something very similar to it." Some of your conclusions seem deistic, and others suggest that we might be in the hands of a very angry God. After your research and pondering, where do you personally come out?

BEHE: I'm no deist. I'm a Christian who believes strongly in an active, loving God. Yet as C.S. Lewis insisted, Aslan is "not a tame lion." God answered Job's complaint of suffering not by denying it, but by His majesty and transcendence. God did not place us in a toy world, with all the sharp edges smoothed. Rather, along with the pleasant, He designed a world containing real physical danger: tigers with claws, and remarkable parasites with sophisticated molecular technology. We Christians especially should expect to suffer in this life and, much worse, to witness those dear to us suffer. Yet our faith assures us that through the mystery of suffering with Christ, God will draw out much good.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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