Basics of biblical biology
Published: 26 December 2013 (GMT+10)
Evolution is wrong, but what do we replace it with? Many of us automatically think ‘design, of course!’ And they are partially correct. Design is certainly important, but it’s not the whole story. Design has to do with the origin of various structures in biology, as well as the origin of life itself. Naturalism can’t explain such features, and design is the only alternative. But there are more questions. What happened after life was first made? How long has life been around? What sort of history has it had? This is where we begin to see the real failure of the Intelligent Design movement: in focussing solely on the origins of function in biology it has paid little attention to the history of biology. Evolution tries to explain both—a naturalistic origin and history of life’s diversity. Therefore, design by itself will always be an incomplete answer to evolution.
This is why creation biology is so important. Since it is based on the Bible, it not only provides a coherent origin for life, but also a coherent history that describes how life has changed in various ways. But if we take the Bible as our foundation, how should we think about biology? What should we think about the origin and history of animals, plants, and microbes?
First, the Bible says that God created all things biological during the first week of history—Days 3–6 of Creation Week (Genesis 1:11–13, 20–31). Genesis 1 also says He created life according to kinds. These kinds must remain both recognizable and stable through time because they are a part of God’s revelation of his power and character in creation (Romans 1:20). If the message has no consistency, the message would be lost. Therefore, one kind of creature can’t go changing into something completely different if we’re supposed to be able to see God’s hand in biology. The pattern was set with the first life forms created, plants, which were to produce “seed, each according to its kind” (Genesis 1:11). That is, the seed produced that allows reproduction is according to the kind that produced it (e.g. a mango seed will produce a mango tree). And then other living things are described (nine times) as being created “according to their kinds”. This is the most established principle of biology, that like begets like: cats produce cats, bears produce bears, palms produce palms, and no one has ever observed anything different.
But neither can life be completely static. The Bible says creation was cursed because of sin, which means that the Fall allowed things like predation, disease, and suffering (see The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe). Creation is in bondage to decay (Romans 8:20–21). Moreover, since the Fall there have been some massive environmental changes at different times (e.g. Noah’s Flood, the Ice Age). Life had to be able to adapt to such changes, sometimes rather drastically and quickly, or it would have all died out ages ago (see How life works). We can summarise this with three words—design, variation, and degeneration.
Think about, say, a Boeing 747. A typical 747 has about 5 million non-flying parts. But put them together the right way—and they fly! Now, no-one thinks that if a tornado rips through a junkyard that it’s going to produce a 747, even if all the 747 parts were present. Nature is never going to produce a 747 on its own—it requires an intelligent designer.
Now, let’s compare the 747 to the foundation of all life—the humble cell. Or maybe it’s not so humble. A cell has billions of parts that can’t reproduce by themselves, and yet when they are put together in the right way—the conglomeration can reproduce itself!
And to what can we compare the cell, in terms of complexity? A 747? No. That’s an insult to the cell. Instead, imagine New York city, shrunk to microscopic size. Now imagine it being fully automated, and capable of reproducing itself. And that will give you some idea of what a cell is. Cells have libraries, translation services, maintenance systems, waste disposal systems, internal and external communication networks, food location devices, food processing plants, power plants, transportation systems, and all sorts of different production industries. And on top of this, it has an automated self-replication system. If a 747 is designed, and we’ve only seen such complex contraptions ever come about by intelligent design, then it makes no sense to say the cell made itself. Someone far more intelligent than us must have made the cell—someone like the God of the Bible. (see Design Features Questions and Answers)
Variation sounds like it’s an evolutionary concept, but it need not be. Think about it—if life could not adapt to different environments, then it would die out—especially in a fallen world. This is where evolution does have one thing right—life adapts or dies. But where evolution goes wrong is that it fails to see that life was designed to do this (see e.g. Evidence for the design of life: part 2—Baranomes, The design of life: part 3—an introduction to variation-inducing genetic elements, and Selection for a behavior, and the phenotypic traits that follow). This means that designed variation is not only created; it can also arise from designed adaptive genetic changes. And life has all sorts of ways in which it can adapt itself (including through genetic changes) to different conditions, and even pass on its adaptations to the next generation. But there have to be limits to this—any system designed to adapt still needs some sort of core structural stability (see Inheritance of biological information—part III: control of information transfer and change). If life’s core design isn’t maintained, then it couldn’t survive. This is why life needs a whole lot of maintenance systems—machines break down if they’re not maintained, and life is no different. But maintenance means keeping the core system the same—it does not tolerate core system changes. So life needs both a core structural stability and the ability to adapt some of its systems to survive.
Think of a car. Adaptation is like adding or subtracting accessories or modifying the tyres (e.g. special compound tyres for icy roads, or a bigger radiator for hot conditions). Its core design can’t change much without destroying the car. It needs to be maintained so that the car still works like a car should. Changing accessories or tyres in a car is fine, but we can’t let half the engine and the axles rust through and expect the car to still work!
Biological systems can’t be infinitely variable like evolution claims them to be. Neither have we seen them produce the sort of changes that evolution needs (see The evolution train’s a-comin’). Rather, life was designed to have a limited capacity for variation (see Molecular limits to natural variation). As such, the more life adapts, the more specialized it becomes. This is a process of weeding out (now) useless information, and it means the more life adapts, the less adaptable it generally becomes (see Muddy waters). It’s also why life can’t change from one kind into another—why, for example, cats don’t produce dogs, and never will. The cat core system would break down if too many changes were made without intelligent input, just like a car that doesn’t undergo maintenance. No amount of maintenance mishaps will turn a car into a jet plane, so neither will a lot of maintenance mishaps make humans out of apes (see Mutations and new information).
We started talking about maintenance mishaps—the proper term in biology is mutation—copying mistakes in our DNA (note that not all genetic changes are copying mistakes, some can be designed adaptive changes, as discussed above). These copying mistakes are accumulating at such a high rate that we can’t get rid of them (see Mutations: evolution’s engine becomes evolution’s end!). This is called genetic entropy. We produce up to 100 new mutations per person, per generation. That means I have up to 100 more mutations than my Dad, and my son has up to 100 more mutations than me. The key however, is that children will always have more copy mistakes than the parents, never the same amount or less. This means natural selection would have to get rid of all the children to keep mutations out of the population to avoid extinction. So the end result of avoiding extinction would be … extinction. To make matters worse, the individual effect of most mutations is so small that natural selection can’t even ‘see’ them to get rid of them. Actually, we’ve got way more chance of dying by dumb ‘luck’ than we do of dying by natural selection. And even if someone manages to get a good mutation, that mutation can’t be separated from the much more common bad mutations, so their effect gets drowned out amid all the bad noise (see The diminishing returns of beneficial mutations). What does all this mean? It means the human race is doomed to extinction, and we can’t do a thing about it. And it’s not just humans either. All life is doomed to the same fate! (see Genetic entropy and simple organisms) Extinction is our future, not evolution.
The end of biology?
Well might we cry—“who will deliver me from this body of death?” But biblical biology does have an answer to this problem—just not evolutionary progress. It’s resurrection! It’s restoration! But this is something only God can do. Only Christ can do. And He will—death is the last enemy to be destroyed by Christ (1 Corinthians 15:26). And He will destroy it just as He broke its bonds in the middle of history—with bodily resurrection. Biology does make sense in the light of the Bible; and it reminds us that the only hope for the restoration of life rests with its designer—the Triune God of the Bible.