Creation in the research lab
An interview with leading Australian molecular biologist and microbiologist Ian Macreadie.
We knew Dr Ian Macreadie to be a highly respected scientist at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)* (see some of his achievements). He is at the forefront of research in a field which, in many minds, is strongly linked to evolution. So it was significant to hear him say:
‘I’ve always believed the Bible’s creation account. It’s beyond my comprehension that things could have just developed from nothing, and that we could have developed from “ape” ancestors.’
Dr Macreadie said that during his education, evolution was just taught as ‘one of the options.’ However, he said:
‘even though nothing much has changed since then in the way of scientific advances, now we are barraged with information presenting it as undisputed fact.’
Apart from a slight wavering in his teenage years, Ian has been a committed Christian since he was about 10, after going forward at a crusade. He first heard a Creation Ministries International speaker in about 1990, at a church meeting. Some time later, he accepted our invitation to speak in his specialty area of science at one of our major seminars. He says:
‘Creation is an issue that is certainly relevant to the Gospel. Evolutionist thinking is one of the factors which keeps many people from even recognizing the existence of God.’
We asked him about the idea that fossils, with all their implied death and bloodshed, existed millions of years before man. He said, ‘You really can’t have death before the Fall, which means you can’t have death before man.’ Ian sees the authority of the Bible as a foundational issue. He said, ‘I think every Christian needs to take that on board right from the start—we’ve got to accept the Bible as God’s Word.’
We asked Ian about the evidence for creation in his own field. He said:
‘Evolution would argue for things improving, whereas I see everything falling to pieces. Genes being corrupted, mutations [mistakes as DNA is copied each generation] causing an increasing community burden of inherited diseases. All things were well designed initially.’
The origin of AIDS
As one of the leading AIDS researchers in the southern hemisphere, Ian was in a position to comment about viruses. He said:
‘I actually don’t believe God created viruses as separate entities, I believe they were a part of the DNA in cells. Some evolutionists put viruses down as a predecessor of cells, but that doesn’t work, because they need to have the machinery of cells to reproduce. I actually see viruses as genetic garbage, having escaped from cells way back, as a result of mutation, environmental damage—part of the Curse on creation [Genesis 3]. I would predict from that theory that we should find pieces of “virus” DNA in the human genome (DNA). And that’s starting to be found.’
A virus, being not much more than a packet of DNA, could jump from being hosted by one species to another. So did AIDS emerge from green monkeys, as one often hears? Ian replied:
‘The simian-immunodeficiency virus in African green monkeys is certainly the closest thing to the AIDS virus, but we really still don’t know. It’s interesting—you’d think if we were so smart about man’s alleged evolutionary origin, we’d be able to pick where this recently emerged virus came from.’
Molecular biologists have made some awe-inspiring discoveries, but how much is really known? Ian told us that all of the 6,000 genes in the DNA of a ‘simple’ yeast cell have now been mapped out. The function of only about half of these is known, he said, but probably less than 5% would be known in terms of a full understanding of the 3–D structure of the resultant protein (the molecule that is coded for by a particular gene). He said:
‘Interestingly, you can have all the components together, but you can’t yet create even a yeast cell, which has only a fraction of the genes of a human cell. Even with all the people working on it today, it has, so far, defied complete description—it’s just amazingly complex.’
So could such complexity all be coded for in the large, but finite, amount of information in a yeast’s DNA? Did he think we only needed to fine-tune our understanding about the information systems in living things, or were there likely to be some real surprises in store?
Dr Macreadie indicated that he doubted that the current understanding would prove adequate. He said:
‘There have been lots of surprises in yeast; for example, some of its genes are the same as some in plants, but with a totally different function. I’m sure there will be many more surprises in human cells. In yeast, it’s been discovered that the same stretch of DNA can code for different proteins, simply by shifting the “reading frame”, starting to read the code from a different point—an amazingly ingenious way of storing extra information. And we’ve known for some time how a gene can be “cut and pasted” to make several different proteins. And if that wasn’t mind-boggling enough, we’ve recently found that a protein, made by one gene, can also be spliced and directed to two different locations in the cell.’
We knew Dr Macreadie would be very familiar with the fact that the occasional mutation can make it easier for a microbe to survive attack by a particular antibiotic, for example. Since the belief that mutations can add new information is crucial to the idea of microbe-to-man evolution, we asked about this. He told us:
‘All you see in the lab is either gene duplications, reshuffling of existing genes, or defective genes (with a loss of information) that might help a bug to survive—say by not being able to bind the drug as effectively. But you never see any new information arising in a cell. Sometimes a bacterium can “inject” information into another one, so it’s “new” to that bacterium—but that information had to arise somewhere, and we just don’t observe it happening. It’s hard to see how any serious scientist could believe that real information can arise just by itself, from nothing.’
Dr Ian Macreadie acknowledged that being a biblical creationist ‘has led to a lot of difficulties in dealing with other scientists.’ Persecution, we asked?
‘I guess more ridicule. I think you’ve got to be selective about when and where to make a stand. Sometimes people in a group are just baiting you, waiting for you to put your neck on the line, and then not always being willing to give you a fair opportunity to present your point of view. Whereas one-on-one gives you more of an opportunity to talk through the issues effectively with people.’
We left the conversation greatly encouraged by Dr Ian Macreadie’s stand for God’s Word, while doing award-winning science at the highest levels of his profession.
* In this interview, Dr Macreadie is stating his personal opinions; he is not representing CSIRO, and claims no official endorsement of his statements. Return to text.