Furor Over Article in New Scientist

Posted by on Dec 20, 2013 in Think & Believe Newsletter | 0 comments

New Scientist (1/21/2009) carried a feature article and a cover illustration declaring, “Darwin Was Wrong.”  Whoa!  That caught the attention of some very irate evolutionists.

The article centered on Darwin’s ideas of the tree of life, and challenges to this traditional view because of modern genetic research.  Included in the article was a reproduction of a simple tree of life sketched in Darwin’s 1837 journal with his words, “I think” inscribed above it.

The traditional tree of life is being challenged as DNA studies bring to light many contradictions between supposed evolutionary relationships based primarily on external form (morphology) and those relying more heavily on genetic similarities (or molecular homologies).  It has also been noted that similar “chunks” of DNA are found in widely diverse species.  The textbook “tree” of evolution is starting to look more like a “web” of traits – a real enigma to evolutionists.

The article highlighted a process called “horizontal gene transfer” (HGT) as a possible explanation of these observations.  HGT involves the transfer of chunks of genetic information from one organism to another.  However, it is unclear from the article how much of this HGT has actually been observed and how much is just speculated to have happened simply because similar gene patterns occur in widely diverse organisms.

If HGT has occurred on a wide scale in the past, it muddies the water a great deal for evolutionists who are trying to deduce evolutionary relationships, and the traditional “tree of life” appears to be a gross simplification.

From a creationist perspective, finding similar chunks of genetic material in diverse organisms certainly does not “prove” evolution.  However, the web, or mosaic of traits, fits nicely with the creation perspective.  Just as human engineers use raw materials in a variety of applications, so too might the Designer of life.

The deeper issue concerns the origin of these chunks of genetic material in the first place.  After all, HGT is merely a transfer of existing material.  It does nothing to explain the origin of the complex, highly ordered code found in living organisms.  Intelligent design seems to be a more powerful explanation of this than naturalistic chance.

But all of that aside, it is interesting to note the response by some evolutionists to the article.  Comments on one website called for cancelling subscriptions and boycotting the magazine, while the magazine and its editor were indignantly ridiculed.  Others were irate because this scientific journal was giving fuel to the creationists.  Why this response over a “scientific” issue?  Where is the objectivity of science – the scholarly investigation and debate of differing hypotheses?  Where is calm, rational evaluation leading to the “progress” of science?  Not all evolutionists responded in this way, but for those that did, their response seems more like a radical clinging to religious dogma or an impassioned defense of a cherished philosophical point of view than a truly scientific debate.  Clearly, their response does nothing to further the cause of science.

By Dave Nutting

Originally published in the May/June 2009 issue of Think & Believe newsletter.

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