Brain scientist helps develop young Christian minds
Jonathan Sarfati chats with neuroscientist and cell biologist David DeWitt
Dr David DeWitt has a B.S. in biochemistry from Michigan State University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience for research in Alzheimer’s Disease from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. He has published a number of papers in this field in secular science journals. For the last 12 years, Dr DeWitt has been teaching biology and creation apologetics at Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia, USA. He is married to Marci and they have three daughters.
David Dewitt is a leading researcher in his field, but even more important to him is his Christian faith. He says that he grew up attending church and always believed in God. “However, it wasn’t until I was halfway through college that I really understood what the Gospel meant and that salvation was by grace through faith in Christ Jesus rather than works. At that point, faith became very real to me.”
Did God use evolution?
Like many Christians who studied naturalistic science, he explains that at first, “I believed that God used evolution to create and I also believed in billions of years in a harmonizing fashion.” So what changed his mind? He tells us:
“One day, I read Psalm 18:30 and was struck by ‘the word of the Lord is flawless.’ The same is repeated in Psalm 12:6 which I also read the same day. The impact of those verses weighed very heavily on me as I considered the compromise with the Word that I was trying to promote. If the word of the Lord is flawless, then who am I to depart from what it so plainly says? If I claim to believe the Bible and that it is flawless, then I should believe every single word and not pick and choose.”
The other vital issue for Dr DeWitt was the origin of death and suffering, as he explains:
“Evolution requires millions of years of death for natural selection to work its magic for amebas to evolve into college students. But the Bible was clear that death came as a result of Adam’s sin. Therefore, death came after man rather than as a means to make man. I trusted the Bible first and then began to study the scientific evidence more closely.”1
Is there evidence for creation?
So I asked David about this scientific evidence, especially in his own specialist field. He replied:
“It has been said that there is probably nothing in the physical universe that is more complicated than the human brain. I think this is probably correct. At Liberty University I teach our cell biology course. It is so exciting because there are so many wonderful examples of integrative complexity which cannot be the result of natural selection.”
So what examples are especially compelling? David said:
“One of my favorite examples is the potassium ion channel. This protein allows many potassium atoms to pass through a cell membrane when needed, but it doesn’t let sodium through—even though sodium is smaller. In addition, the protein has a peptide chain attached which is like a ball and chain. The ball can plug the channel and thus shut off the flow of all ions.
“Another one of my favorite examples is the process of apoptosis, also known as programmed cell death. During development and at times of cell stress, the cell can undergo apoptosis. It is an orderly process involving dozens of different proteins allowing the cell to self-destruct in a manner that does not lead to tissue damage. The process must be tightly regulated to be triggered when necessary, but only when necessary. It is rather difficult to account for the production of a cell suicide program via natural selection.”2
What about “evidence” for evolution?
Many evolutionists try to dismiss such amazing examples of design by pointing to what they claim is “bad design”. One of the most widespread ideas is that much of our DNA is “junk”. But Dr DeWitt has studied the topic in depth, and firmly rejects this notion. He explains:
“‘Junk’ DNA only received this nickname because of evolution. Scientists expected that mutations and junk would accumulate through time. There was a lot of DNA which had no apparent function. Rather than assuming a function and trying to find it, they just considered it junk. We have since been finding a lot of functions for ‘junk’ DNA. Some of it plays important regulatory roles while other parts have different functions. Some of the repeating DNA helps repair or protect DNA while some of it is important during development.”3
Neandertal Man and his DNA
Then what about claims of “ape-men”? One of the most famous is Neandertal Man, but David firmly rejects the idea that this type was any sort of evolutionary ancestor. In fact, he says:
“Neandertals were fully human descendants of Adam and Eve, just as we are; they merely had slightly different morphological features. We have good evidence that Neandertals cared for each other, hunted with weapons, used musical instruments and, most importantly, buried their dead with rituals. The latter is uniquely a human characteristic.”4
But what about the claimed differences in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) between modern humans and Neandertals? Based on the number of presumed mutations, some researchers suggest that Neandertals were on a side branch and not in the direct line leading to modern man. However, Dr DeWitt has performed original research on Neandertal mtDNA.5,6 He summarizes this as follows: “We found that the mtDNA sites where Neandertals differed from modern man tended to be at mutational hotspots—sites where many modern humans also differ. In addition, at the sites where Neandertals differed from each other, one of them would match the modern human. This indicates a much closer relationship than implied by evolutionists. In fact, I believe that it shows that Neandertals were descendants of Adam and Eve just like us.”
The role of assumptions
However, although there is very strong evidence for design and against the usual evolutionary “proofs”, Dr DeWitt agrees that there is a deeper issue involved. Indeed, he has just written a book, Unraveling the Origins Controversy. He explained:
“I really focus on presuppositional apologetics rather than evidential.7 This book covers the creation/evolution debate by dealing with the assumptions on both sides. In some ways, this is probably the best approach, because both sides actually have the same data. The difference is not the data but how the data is interpreted. And the reason that both sides interpret the data differently is that they start from different assumptions. While evolutionists often claim to be unbiased, in reality they have an underlying key assumption that only material causes are admissible as an explanation. Creationists, who start from a biblical perspective, are free to propose logical causes, rather than being dogmatically restricted to materialism.”
Alzheimer’s Disease and a God of love
Back to the issue of death and suffering, it’s clear that one of David’s own fields is highly relevant. So I asked, how would he explain Alzheimer’s Disease if there is a God of love? He answered:
“The fact that we live in a fallen world is best evidenced by disease. God is love, but He is also holy and just. Since God had given Adam dominion over creation, when Adam sinned, God cursed the whole creation (Genesis 3:19, Romans 8:19–23). I believe that Alzheimer’s Disease is really caused by a breakdown of cellular systems in the brain; a consequence of living in a fallen world. However, Jesus’ example of healing showed that it’s a blessing to alleviate the effects of the curse, which is a great motivation to seek cures for diseases.”
Why would a Christian university have a compulsory course on creation?
This is a topic close to Dr DeWitt’s heart. He laments, “Few Christian universities actually uphold biblical creation and fewer still have courses addressing the subject.” Indeed, many are actively hostile to it. But he explains its vital importance:
“Liberty University recognizes this issue is foundational to a biblical worldview and we want to make a difference. Origins has always been a hot topic, but it is even more so today. We want our students to be informed about the issues and evidences that are used on both sides of the debate so that they can better defend their faith, as commanded by 1 Peter 3:15.
“In Romans 1:18–25, Paul describes the significance of creation and the result of rejecting God as Creator. We want to help our students understand why the doctrine of creation is foundational to the Christian faith. Some of the students who enter the course have been influenced by others to adopt one of the various compromise positions. We have done studies to document the impact of our course to help students develop a more consistent biblical creation worldview.”8
Thanks David, we wish you all the best in this worthy aim.
References and notes
- For more, see DeWitt, D., Why I rejected theistic evolution , <creation.com/not-te>, 12 January 2004. Return to text.
- See also Bell, P., Apoptosis: Programmed cell death reveals creation, Journal of Creation 16(1):90–102, 2002; The non-evolution of apoptosis, Journal of Creation 18(1):86–96, 2004. Return to text.
- See also the articles under: What about Vestigial ( junk ) DNA that evolutionists claim is a useless leftover of evolution? <creation.com/junk>. Return to text.
- See also Oard, M., Neandertal Man the changing picture: An overview of how this alleged subhuman is being progressively rehabilitated, despite the evolutionary bias resisting the trend, Creation 25(4):10–14, 2003; <creation.com/neandertal>. Return to text.
- Skinner, W. and DeWitt, D., The Neandertal’s place in human history, Virginia Journal of Science 51(2):83, 2000. Return to text.
- DeWitt, D. and Skinner, W., Rate heterogeneity and site by site analysis of mtDNA suggests neanderthals and modern humans share a recent common ancestor, Discontinuity, p. 31, 2001. Return to text.
- See also Presuppositionalism vs evidentialism, <creation.com/presupp>, 6 June 2005. Return to text.
- DeWitt, D., Creation teaching makes a difference, Creation 28(2):41, 2006; Deckard, S., Berndt, C., Filakouridis, M., Iverson, T., and DeWitt, D.A., Role of educational factors in college students creation worldview, Journal of Creation 17(1):70–72, 2003, <creation.com/role>; Teaching College Students About Creation, <creation.com/teach>; Deckard, S., DeWitt, D.A., and Cargo, S. Effects of a YEC Apologetics Class on Student Worldview, 5th International Conference on Creationism, pp. 529–537, 2003. Return to text.