Sunday, June 30, 2024

Questioning Evolution; Exulting in Creation

The periodical cicada phenomenon is almost finished for 2024. It has inspired many conversations among our neighbors and friends. These insects are one of the most extraordinary animals inhabiting our planet.


Several decades ago our family purchased a set of Audubon Field Guides. These books call attention to phenotypes of many thousands of animals and plants. Field guides increase our ability to visualize physical design features and to study their behaviors. 

North American Insects and Spiders highlights arthropods, the most highly populated of 35 animal phyla. Insects and Spiders compose a majority of arthropods—animals with jointed appendages, segmented body, and an exoskeleton. The vast majority of millions of different animal species on Earth, about 75%, are insects. Recently I picked up this volume and could barely put it down. Its beautiful photographs and detailed descriptions of the unique behavior of hundreds of insect species, kept my attention for several hours. The field guide describes less than 1% of all insects known. 

It is difficult to study the literature of science without encountering the term evolution. With respect to the subject of periodical cicadas, some commentators have speculated that their incredible ability to remain underground for exactly 13 years or 17 years was somehow an evolutionary adaptation. Bio-scientists cannot explain the mechanism of their time keeping ability. Famous geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975) uttered a famous statement: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Our blog disagrees with this position. The concept of creation is diametrically opposed to evolution. 

Evolution is a theory introduced by Charles Darwin in 1859 in his epic volume On the Origin of Species.The tenets of the naturalistic theory of evolution have become ingrained in the minds of most professional bio-scientists. Currently the belief in evolution as a God-guided process has become part of the belief system of many Christians. It is termed theistic evolution. It proposes all life, including human life, originated with a single cell billions of years ago. That single cell was LUCA—the last universal common ancestor, the foundation of a “bottom up” tree of life.

As we read manuals such as Audubon Field Guides, we are unable to accept that the incredible array of insects and other living things are all products of evolution. Rather, we believe they are products of divine creation activity by the God of the Bible.

Stephen C. Meyer, advocate for Intelligent Design (ID) and director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture in Seattle, has made a powerful case in several recent publications casting doubt about the theory of evolution in the scientific community. In Darwin’s Doubt Meyer writes, “The technical literature in biology is now replete with world class biologists routinely expressing doubts about various aspects of Neo-Darwinist theory, and especially about its central tenet, namely, the alleged creative power of the natural selection and mutation mechanism.” In the book’s last chapter, Meyer goes a step farther in questioning how evolution can generate novel species.  Meyer continues, “The mechanism of mutation and natural selection does not have the creative power attributed to it and, thus, cannot explain all ‘appearances’ of design in life. The Neo-Darwinian mechanism does not explain, for example, either the new genetic or epigenetic information necessary to produce new animal body plans.”

Darwin’s Doubt is an important volume dealing with the weakness of evolutionary theory. It follows his important previous book Signature in the Cell concerning  Intelligent Design and the origin of life. His most recent book, Return of the God Hypothesis more explicitly presents scientific evidence for the existence of a personal God and divine Creator of All Things. 

Our world is populated with millions of beautifully designed, functional living species. Cosmic and geological wonders abound for our inspection. The evidence of divine creation surrounds us wherever we look. We may access many creation passages in Genesis, Job, Psalms, and Isaiah. We rejoice in the wonders of creation.




Sunday, June 16, 2024

Genotype v. Phenotype

 Animals and plants have genetic characteristics not visible to observers. DNA is the molecule in the nucleus of almost every body cell. It is responsible for the entire heredity of animals or plants. We speak of the DNA code—the ‘language of life.’ Genotype refers to this invisible ‘language of life.’ 

In contrast, phenotype refers to the traits of a living thing resulting from the genotype. These traits include morphology, the physical form or outward appearance, as well as behavioral characteristics of the living entity. The 17-year periodical cicada possesses a unique phenotype—appearing above ground every 17 years. In addition, it is a beautifully designed animal notwithstanding the fear and dislike they engender among the public.

Periodical cicadas, unique insects frequently highlighted in current news broadcasts and printed articles, are approaching the end of their lives above ground for this calendar year. Noted for their unique behavior, they emerge from underground every 13 or 17 years. We refer, therefore, to their unique phenotype. Brood XIII, inhabiting large portions of the Midwest, will not be seen again until 2041 after tunneling underground for the next 17 years. Its life cycle is the longest of any insect on Planet Earth. In second place is the 13 year periodical cicada.

Scientists and non-scientists alike study the behavior of these insects and also the behavior of all living things. Is their time-keeping behavior programmed by the Creator of All Things? Or is their behavior a result of an evolutionary process? This question is a relevant one in view of the ubiquitous citations of evolution in our society. Genetically hardwired traits include unusual behavioral abilities of many living things inhabiting our personal neighborhoods. Scientific researchers have speculated that evolutionary processes provide optimal survival strategies. We may ask if the process of evolution is responsible for the beauty and functionality of our environment and its inhabitants? Or should we credit the omnipotent skills of the divine Creator?

During our residency in Galena, Illinois, we were able to observe many traits of animals manifesting diverse behavioral phenotypes. We explained these fascinating behaviors to our grandchildren. “God had great ideas” was a statement we used many times.

Following is a list of several of the most interesting behavioral phenotypes we observed during our residence in northwest Illinois:

Cicada killer wasps: These large wasps primarily feed on dog-day cicadas present every summer. Our grandchildren were able to watch a wasp dragging a cicada across a field on its way to provision its underground lair with an anesthetized cicada to feed its larvae:

Digger wasps: Small wasps which feed mostly on grasshoppers and katydids. They anesthetize their prey and transport them to a previously constructed underground tunnel, replete with underground side tunnels. Their prey receives an egg which hatches into the wasp larva. YouTubes capture digging events in living color and high fidelity. Our blog link:

Monarch butterflies: This animal is remarkable for its ability to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to a specific forest in Mexico after producing several generations of Monarchs in North America over the summer. Its ability to pinpoint a tiny location on Planet Earth and undertake a perilous journey to that location is one of the outstanding miracles of the insect world:

Barn spiders (orb-weavers): The ability of barn spiders to construct a web of intricate beauty using incredible engineering skills also ranks at the top of the list of remarkable insect capabilities: 

Indigo Bunting: This remarkable migratory bird is also skilled in direction finding. We have evidence that the same bird returned to the same tree on our property several years running. The following post highlights several startling facts about the remarkable indigo bunting:

Science professionals present several conceptual pillars on which evolutionary theory is anchored. They state evolution is powered by natural selection and mutation which has merged with many theorized supporting concepts. It is a complex theory which supporters have termed a “brilliant theory.” In sharp contrast, creationism and Intelligent Design (ID) have been pronounced “unscientific” or “pseudo-scientific.” In response to this opinion, we quote from a devotional in Our Daily Bread  from 6-12-24: 

  “Although neuroscience has made great progress in understanding how the brain  works, scientists admit they are still in the early stages of understanding it. They understand brain architecture, some aspects of its function, and regions that respond to environment, activate our senses, generate movements, and contain emotions. But they still can’t figure out how all these interactions contribute to behavior, perception, and memory….”

The same devotional booklet quoted Psalm 139 concerning God’s action in creating living things, especially humanity. This powerful psalm is a clear citation of God’s role in creating man, and by extension, ALL living things mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis. As we study the genotypes and phenotypes of all living things, our intuition tells us that action of the divine Creator of All Things rather than evolution more effectively explains the traits of life on our planet.