Science and origins
Religion and origins
In Six Days
Why 50 Scientists Choose
to Believe in Creation
First published in In Six Days
John K.G. Kramer, biochemistry
Dr. Kramer is a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. He holds a B.S. (Hons) from the University of Manitoba, an M.S. in biochemistry from the University of Manitoba, a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Minnesota and completed three years of post-doctoral studies as a Hormel fellow at the Hormel Institute and as an NRC fellow at the University of Ottawa. Dr. Kramer has identified, characterized and synthesized the structure of numerous food, bacterial, and biological components and has published 128 refereed papers and numerous abstracts and book chapters. He was one of the core scientists who evaluated the toxicological, nutritional and biochemical properties of canola oil and demonstrated its safety. He presently serves as associate editor of the scientific journal LIPIDS.
Since completing my Ph.D. in 1968, I have spent 30 years doing lipid research. Although my work has not specifically addressed the “origin of life” or the “age of the earth,” I believe these issues have far-reaching implications in the area of lipid biochemistry and nutrition research.
I grew up in a Bible-believing home. Throughout high school I liked the sciences and excelled in these subjects. Therefore, it was natural for me to choose a career in scientific research. It was during my last year in high school that one of the pastors in our church approached me, concerned that I might lose my faith if I proceeded in a scientific career. He encouraged me to view the first chapter of Genesis without a timescale, since in his opinion it was more important to believe that God created all things, irrespective of how long it took. At first, this view seemed rather inconsistent with my interpretation of Scripture. But, I must admit, this thought raised sufficient doubt in my mind that I did not defend either position with much enthusiasm for several years. I was relieved that a critical confrontation never materialized in any of my classes throughout my B.S. (Hons) and M.S. program in chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Manitoba.
Confronted with a choice
In 1964 I transferred to the University of Minnesota for a Ph.D. program in biochemistry with a minor in organic chemistry. It was there I was confronted with this very issue in my second year in a course in endocrinology. We were asked to write an essay on how life began, based on evolutionary principles. Weeks of reading and studying this subject provided me with no logical mechanisms for evolutionary processes. I was looking for the type of evidence familiar to me in biochemistry and organic chemistry. It was obvious to me that life could not form or be sustained in either a reducing or oxidizing atmosphere, never mind the unlikely association of inanimate molecules to form highly ordered structures containing information, fragile biological cells, and processes where several parts all need to be working together simultaneously.
Finally, I had to write the essay. I did. I described a possible scenario which I thought could be tested experimentally. However, after rereading the essay several times, I continued to see the weaknesses of my arguments. In total frustration and confusion, I added a few sentences at the end to the effect that it would be easier to believe in a Creator who made it all, than in favorable conditions acting on inanimate matter over time. The low mark on the essay was most discouraging, and all attempts failed to change the score. I realized I was found out!
Although I had committed my life to Jesus Christ and made a radical profession of my faith at the age of 16, at which time I was baptized, I now faced “my hour of decision.” Should I believe in evolution or God? Having studied this area without the help of any Christian literature on this topic, I came to the firm conclusion that evolution lacked evidence to make it credible. I therefore determined to believe God’s account for the time being and continued looking for evidence, one way or another.
In retrospect, that low mark on the evolution essay was the best thing that happened to me. I learned to critically evaluate the facts, irrespective of outside pressures. It was then that I began to see clear evidence for creation (Rom. 1:19–20). I took every opportunity to study Scripture and read books on beginnings. It was at this time I came across books by MacKay1 and Morris and Whitcomb2 which impressed me greatly. On the other hand, I became very disillusioned with evolutionists who managed to give good science followed by irrational conclusions that complex systems and processes just happened by some unexplained evolutionary mechanism plus time. No evidence. No logic. Just wishful dreaming. It also became evident to me that both views were strictly a matter of belief. To me the creation scenario appeared more logical than an explosion followed by self-propelled organization of matter which does not possess these properties.
Throughout this search I experienced an interesting transformation within myself. The Bible became alive and meaningful to me, and my relationship to God became real. I began to see an amazing order and design in nature, which was completely consistent with Scripture. One area which really fascinated me was the laws in the Old Testament regarding foods and hygiene, with its implications for nutrition, biochemistry, and bacteriology. How could these authors have known about modern science without divine revelation?
The scientific snow job
In my scientific career I have observed an interesting principle. Whenever little is known on a subject, or is different from the norm, more speculations arise as to its evolutionary development. Instead of admitting “we do not know,” and working towards discovering the unknown, some evolutionary comments are usually made. On the other hand, the more that is known about a certain subject, the more eagerness there is to describe it in detail, and classify such systems “irreducibly complex,” as Michael Behe3 refers to it.
No one has ever demonstrated macroevolutionary changes on a molecular level, yet many people readily speculate evolutionary links between bacteria, plants, animals and man. Are the gross structures not made up of individual cells with complex molecules? If macroevolution is unlikely on a molecular level, how can the whole be changed? Endless DNA sequence comparisons do not explain evolutionary development. Furthermore, the changes (mutations) observed on a molecular level, such as DNA, are predominantly disruptive, and always with loss of, not gain in, information and complexity. This led Lee Spetner4 to conclude “Whoever thinks macroevolution can be made by mutations that lose information is like the merchant who lost a little money on every sale but thought he could make it up on volume.”
Evidence of design in my research
In the last few decades extensive work has been done on thermophilic and halophilic bacteria, which grow under extreme temperatures and salt conditions, respectively. These bacteria have been classified as archaebacteria because some scientists believe that these are earlier and simpler forms of life. The lipids of these bacteria have chemical linkages called ethers rather than esters, and the alkyl moieties are on position 2 and 3 of the glycerol backbone, rather than on the 1 and 2 positions, as in mammalian systems (see table below).
|Ether lipids||Ester lipids|
where R and R’ are alkyl groups, and X is H or a polar group
Furthermore, they produce their energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from a combination of sodium gradient plus a proton-motive force,5 instead of only a proton-motive force as mammalian cells.6 Fragile biochemical structures and processes in these bacteria, many of which are similar to mammalian cells, are protected. But how? Ether bonds are certainly more stable than ester bonds, but that may not be the whole explanation. From my research I believe an even greater stability is achieved by these ether lipids complexing with sodium ions. The integration of a sodium and proton gradient is still not understood, although the former initiates cell growth.7
Therefore, to view these bacteria as earlier and simpler forms of life is totally misrepresenting their complexity. These bacteria are just as complex as mammalian cells, and represent an amazing design suited for the extreme conditions of temperature and salt concentration. Each cell is produced according to the information in its respective DNA. Attempts to give these complex lipid structures common names containing the prefix “archae,” to denote their evolutionary hierarchy,8 does not provide scientific evidence. It states one’s belief, but adds no scientific knowledge. In fact, it may even be misleading by implying that lipid structures and energy mechanisms may evolve differently under different environmental conditions. The evidence shows that Methanobacteria thermoautotrophicum remain Methanobacteria thermoautotrophicum through millions of generations, according to their genetic information, and growing under favorable conditions of high temperature and salt concentration.
Scriptural principles provide helpful directions to solving scientific problems
In 1971 I was asked to participate in a research project on low erucic acid rapeseed oil (now known as canola oil) at Agriculture Canada, in Ottawa, Canada. A number of heart problems had been observed in rats fed rapeseed oil high in erucic acid, which continued to persist with the newly developed low erucic acid rapeseed oils.9 There was concern that humans may be equally affected, and therefore there were discussions to consider recommending the removal of this oil for human consumption. A multidisciplinary team was established at Agriculture Canada to urgently address this issue and “let the chips fall where they may,” as Dr. B. Migikovsky (director general of the research branch, Agriculture Canada) put it. I was faced with a choice. Should I approach this problem from the evolutionary point of view, development of animals to humans, or from the biblical point of view that animals and humans are created according to their kind? One’s “Weltanschauung” certainly influenced the approach to this research. I chose the latter.
Based on the biblical perspective, I wanted to know the results from a number of different animal species, find a common toxicological denominator, determine its mechanism of action, then determine if a similar process occurred in humans, and above all be super-cautious on extrapolations. I was fully aware that my view was different from that of many others in the group, who occasionally expressed the view of looking for an evolutionary trend from one species to another, even though we were all aware of the pitfalls of such reasoning. Thalidomide, for example, showed no harmful effects in rats, yet showed fetal abnormalities in rabbits, mice, and humans.10
I have often been asked whether these two approaches are different. Strictly speaking, they are. However, I have found that scientists do not maintain a strictly evolutionary approach in the biochemistry-nutrition area. Generally scientists take a pragmatic approach in research. They look for order, consistency, a biochemical basis, and differences between species. Hence this great commonality between researchers from both camps. It is as though they know better but are afraid to sound religious. I am delighted to see that scientists are becoming brave and pointing out the inconsistency of evolutionary thought,11 and suggesting that “intelligent design” might be a better conclusion to explain the physical and biological world.12 But I feel it is sad that these authors, who clearly demonstrate the inconsistency of evolution, leave the reader in a vacuum. How did things come to pass? If there is evidence for “intelligent design,” who is the Designer? The books by Gentry13 and Parker14 provide a more logical conclusion, by introducing the reader to the Designer.
The reason rapeseed oil affected the heart in such a unique way appeared to be a most challenging problem. I prayed that God would give me the wisdom to contribute to its solution. He did. The verse ruminating in my mind at the time was “For everything God created is good” (1 Tim. 4:4). I took this as a clue to consider the possibility that the observed phenomenon was possibly due to a nutritional imbalance because of the nature of the experiment. In toxicological studies a food component is generally fed to animals at the highest level possible. For a vegetable oil (such as rapeseed oil or canola oil, in this case) it meant giving the oil as the sole source of fat in the diet (20 percent by weight, or 40 percent of calories). Furthermore, was it possible that rapeseed oil contained a natural toxin which was exacerbated by the high content of this oil in the diet? These thoughts, together with testing for species differences, and checking for inappropriate methodologies used, became my driving force.
The answer to these questions took over ten years of intensive research with input by many scientists at Agriculture Canada. Proof accumulated slowly and in reverse order to the previous paragraph. As to the fourth point, yes, inappropriate methods were used to report the pathological findings, in the isolation of mitochondria, and the extraction of lipids. As to the third point: the fast-growing male rat was the only species which showed the characteristic heart problems. Female rats, pigs, monkeys, dogs, and a specific strain of rat which absorbs fat mainly via the portal system showed no specific response to canola oil. As to the second point, exhaustive fractionations and preparations of semi-synthetic oils led us to conclude that the so-called “toxic” factor was the oil itself. Therefore, after ten years, many experiments, thousands of analyses, and 50 publications, we arrived at the first point. We observed that these focal heart lesions in male rats were related to the fatty acid composition of the dietary oil. Fats high in saturated fatty acids showed the lowest incidence of heart lesions, while vegetable oils high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, specifically linolenic acid (one of the essential fatty acids), showed the highest incidence of heart lesions. I remarked at the time that we had developed a “biological gas chromatograph.” It is of interest to point out that these results were just the opposite to those observed for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Therefore, you may ask, what is the problem? The problem we believe is this: when we feed canola oil, the vegetable oil lowest in saturated fatty acids, to rats at 20 percent by weight (40 percent of calories), we depress the de novo synthesis of fats (mainly saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids) in the animal. But the growing animal requires saturated fatty acids for membrane synthesis, since the content of saturated fatty acids in membranes is about 40 percent. Therefore, by feeding on canola oil the animal becomes deficient in saturated fatty acids for membrane buildup during rapid growth. Saturated fatty acids are not provided by either the dietary oil or by de novo synthesis. The result is a more fragile membrane, more susceptible to break up during stress, resulting in focal heart lesions. These results also offer an explanation as to the reduced energy production observed in isolated heart mitochondria, and the high content of free fatty acids in the heart during lipid extraction.15 Other vegetable oils and fats produce similar types of focal heart lesions, but the incidence and severity decreases rapidly with increased saturated fatty acids and decreased linolenic acid in the oil, that is, soybean oil > corn oil > sunflower oil > olive oil > lard. For humans consuming a mixed fat diet, and human infants not given a single vegetable oil low in saturated fatty acids as the sole source of fat in the infant formulas, these heart lesions would therefore not present a problem.
It was a real encouragement for me to see that a scriptural principle was consistent with science and provided me with a perspective that contributed to resolving this problem.
Why I believe in Genesis 1
There is no one piece of evidence one can give. However, I believe the sum total of many facts would lead a person to reasonably conclude that the Genesis record may be the most plausible scenario. The Genesis record implies that this world is very young, possibly less than 10,000 years; that one should expect to see overwhelming evidence of design everywhere, in both physical and biological systems; and that there is a coherency and similarity between all systems, suggesting a common Designer.
The first evidence is that all life and nonlife processes obey the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Therefore, the present world had a beginning and is measurably going downhill. Secondly, numerous pieces of evidence fit a young earth. To mention a few: the historical records, the population growth, the helium content in this world, the missing neutrinos from the sun [please see recent findings on this topic], the oscillation period of the sun, the decline of the earth’s magnetic field, the limited number of supernovas, radioactive halos, the mitochondrial DNA pointing to one mother, and the increase in genetic diseases, etc. Thirdly, the complexity of nature clearly points to a Creator. Every biological and physical system, once understood, shows incredible complexity. Archeologists have no problem identifying man-made objects. Why then do we have problems identifying a Creator-made world?
The only question I have is: why did He take so long—“six days”? Throughout Scripture God is shown as an instant Creator, not in six days or 20 billion years. To give but a few examples: a fish to swallow Jonah, the sun turning back, the parting of the Red Sea, water turning into wine, stilling of the storm, raising the dead, healing, etc. Therefore, why did He use six days? Scripture gives us the answer. He established a blueprint for our life, six days of work and one day of rest (Exod. 20:8). It must have been painstaking for God to slow down to our pace, to six days. It would have been more His nature to create everything instantly. I have often considered belief in Genesis chapters 1 to 11 as the “acid test” of believing in God, and in the salvation through Jesus Christ.
Therefore, why do I believe in a six-day creation? I believe in a Creator because I see the Creator’s designs in nature everywhere and evidence of intelligence in the DNA of each cell. I believe in a “six-day creation” because I have experienced salvation from a truthful God, Jesus Christ, who has never disappointed me (Rom. 10:11). Therefore, why should I doubt Him if He said “I made it so”?
References and notes
- D.M. MacKay, Christianity in a Mechanistic Universe, The Inter-Varsity Fellowship, Chicago, IL, 1965.
- Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb, The Genesis Flood, Presbyterian and Reformed Co., Philadelphia, PA, 1961.
- Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, The Free Press, New York, 1996.
- Lee Spetner, Not by Chance! Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution, The Judaica Press, Inc., Brooklyn, NY, p. 160, 1997.
- F.D. Sauer, B.A. Blackwell and J.K.G. Kramer, Ion Transport and Methane Production in Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91:4466–70, 1994.
- Lubert Stryer, Biochemistry, W.H. Freeman and Company, New York, 1995.
- J.K.G. Kramer, F.D. Sauer and D.R. Bundle, The Presence of Tightly Bound Na+ and K+ in Glycolipids of Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum, Biochem. Biophys. Acta 961:285–92, 1988.
- Y. Koga, M. Akagawa-Matsushita, M. Ohga and M. Nishihara, Taxonomic Significance of the Distribution of Component Parts of Polar Ether Lipids in Methanogens, System. Appl. Microbiol. 16:342–51, 1993.
- J.K.G. Kramer, F.D. Sauer and W.J. Pidgen, eds., High and Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed Oils, Production, Usage, Chemistry, and Toxicological Evaluation, Academic Press, New York, 1983.
- G.B. Gordon, S.P. Spielberg, D.A. Blake and V. Balasubramanian, Thalidomide Teratogenesis: Evidence for a Toxic Arene Oxide Metabolite, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 78:2545–48, 1981.
- Michael Denton, Evolution, A Theory in Crisis, Adler & Adler Publishers Inc., Bethesda, MD, 1986; see also references 3 and 4.
- C. Thaxton, A New Design Argument, Cosmic Pursuit 1(2):13–21, 1998; see also reference 3.
- Robert V. Gentry, Creation’s Tiny Mystery, Earth Science Assoc., Knoxville, TN, 1988.
- Gary Parker, Creation: Facts of Life, Master Books, Inc., Green Forest, AR, 1994.
- Koga, et al., Taxonomic Significance of the Distribution of Component Parts of Polar Ether Lipids in Methanogens, System. Appl. Microbiol. 16:342–51, 1993.