New Research and "The Fountain of Youth" - Part 2
New Research and "The Fountain of Youth" - Part 2
Let's consider how the creation and evolutionary models explain the curious actions of telomerase (more active in "lower" creatures than "higher," and continuing the human race while allowing individuals to die). The Biblical creation model tells us that people (and most or all animals) were originally designed for immortality, but subsequently cursed with death. So, we wouldn't be surprised to find a cellular mechanism that can extend life considerably or even indefinitely, and also find that this mechanism is tuned way back in its function. So, what we know about telomerase is highly consistent with Biblical history. But, how does telomerase fit into the evolution model? Not nearly so well.
Telomerase is a hot topic today, and a lot is being written about it. Aging researchers and people who hope to benefit from it are more excited than ever about its prospects. Articles about it often include a customary "bow" to the god of evolution, with some slant on the alleged evolution of telomerase. Such things can sound convincing to people accustomed to wearing their evolutionary "glasses." However, if one looks at the whole picture it's not hard to spot the problems and overstretched claims. Here are the major ones:
1. In the first place, no cellular protein machine (like telomerase) has ever been shown to appear by random chemical reactions. In fact, nothing has ever come remotely close to it. The Miller-Urey experiments which evolutionists say show how life formed actually show only a few tiny and crude building blocks surrounded by a lot of debris. Their products are as much like a functioning cellular protein machine as a pile of rough-hewn stones is like the space shuttle. Until Darwinists show how real working proteins can arise from random chemicals, they have no business making the flagrantly false claim that biochemical evolution is a "scientific fact."
2. Secondly, according to the Darwinian hypothesis, development of new biological traits must be driven by a survival advantage. By this standard, the existing function of telomerase is the exact opposite of what Darwinism would lead us to expect. Telomerase should give a survival and reproductive advantage to cells which express it; so, if evolution produced it, it should be universally expressed and fully operational. A big and embarrassing question still remains for evolutionists: why is telomerase selectively repressed in most of the cells of "higher" organisms, and more freely expressed in "lower organisms"?
Darwinians have tried to address this issue. They say that telomerase-repression systems evolved in order to control cell growth in multicellular organisms. At first glance, this seems somewhat plausible. Uncontrolled cell growth in multicellular creatures means cancer, and there is an association between cancer and telomerase activity. Many human cancer cells have been shown to reactivate their telomerase, thus achieving cellular immortality. Still, this does not prove that telomerase expression actually causes cancer, or that telomerase-repression systems evolved to reduce cancer. (Remember the old scientific rule that association does not prove causality.) On the contrary, cells have whole banks of genes that directly control cell division. Some drive it forward ("oncogenes") and others hold it back ("tumor suppressor genes"). Mutations of these genes have been shown to be the main cancer-starters. Cancer cell multiplication can be compared to a car that has a stuck accelerator and has also lost its brakes. It's important to remember that telomerase is concerned with cell maintenance, not direct control of cell growth and division. To continue the car analogy, telomerase could be thought of as like a built-in oil-changer to keep the car from wearing out. So, while telomerase is important in maintaining both normal and cancer cell populations, it doesn't seem to "switch on" the abnormal cell growth in cancer. As a practical example of how this works, if high telomerase activity was really important for cancers to start, we would expect to see in humans many more germ cell tumors relative to somatic tissue tumors. However, this is not the case--somatic tissue tumors are far more common than germ cell tumors, and the latter make up only a tiny fraction of all human malignancies.
The relationship between telomerase and other cell functions is a very complex and "evolving" area of medical knowledge, and new connections continue to emerge. The evolution pushers always stand ready to force new data into some sort of evolutionary framework. However, the bottom line is that no evolutionist has ever shown experimentally a natural selection path that would lead to either creation or repression of telomerase. All their assertions on this subject are speculations with huge biochemical gaps and uncertainties.
So, we are still left with a big and unanswered question, "Why do we see this highly selective repression of telomerase in "higher" creatures?" Darwinism has no reasonable answer to offer. The simple story of life and death in Genesis 1 - 3 gives us a much better explanation. We were created for unending life and fellowship with our great and wise Creator, but our first father Adam rebelled and was justly cursed with death. With the curse, a limit was put on human lifespan, which at first was about 900 years. After the Flood maximum lifespan declined and levelled off at about 120 years. The currently observable action of telomerase as a "life clock" may be a haunting echo of God's additional word of judgment in Genesis 6:3, just before the Flood: "My spirit shall not always strive with man; he for his part is mortal; his days shall be 120 years." It may be more than coincidence that the upper limit of natural human lifespan at the present time is very close to 120 years.
While advances in treatment of aging may still be made, the incredible microtechnology of our cells reminds us that the basic issues of life and death are still far beyond our grasp. The discovery of telomerase brings us inexorably back to Genesis. The conclusion is this: only our Creator, our God and Savior Jesus Christ, who came to earth and took our curse upon himself so that we might live, holds the keys of death and hell. Christ has promised his followers the right to eat from the Tree of Life (the real elixir of life and fountain of youth) in God's restored paradise (Rev. 2:7). The goal of eternal life, elusive by human means, can be achieved through faith in Christ's life-giving power.
1. Bergman, Jerry, "The Life Clock and Paley's Watch: The Telomeres",
Creation Research Society Quarterly, v. 37 (2000), p. 176-182.
2. Krupp, Klapper, and Parwaresch, "Review: Cell Proliferation, Carcinogenesis,
and Diverse Mechanisms of Telomerase Regulation, Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, v. 57 (2000), p. 465.
By Dr. Dave Demick
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