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Creation 29(1):16–19, December 2006

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Exposing Evolution’s Icon

World leader on sickle-cell anemia: ‘Nothing to do with evolution!’

Jonathan Sarfati interviews Felix Konotey-Ahulu

Dr Felix Konotey-Ahulu, M.D. (Lond.), FRCP, DTMH, is one of Ghana’s top scientists (now living in the UK), and one of the world’s leading experts in sickle-cell anemia. He has lectured all around the world, published numerous papers, treated several thousand sickle-cell patients, and wrote a major 643-page text, The Sickle Cell Disease Patient.1 Dr Konotey-Ahulu is married to Rosemary, and their marriage celebrant was the great physician turned expository preacher Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

At a creationist conference in the UK (April 2006), I had the honour of meeting Dr Felix Konotey-Ahulu (pictured).

Sickle cell anemia

Dr Konotey-Ahulu’s speciality is a serious, chronic and painful blood disorder called sickle-cell anemia, which is supposed to be proof positive of Darwinian evolution. He explains:

‘It is caused by inheriting—from both parents—a defect in the instructions which code for the production of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying pigment in red blood cells. Inheriting the defect from just one parent is “silent”, and produces no disease whatever, but may pass on the genes to their offspring. Such “carriers”, such as my mother, do not know they are carrying anything until their blood is tested.

‘Under certain conditions (like lack of oxygen) the double inherited defect deforms the red cell to change from round to “sickle” shape. These mis-shapen cells can block the smaller blood vessels, depriving tissues and organs of oxygen. However, sufferers have done very well with proper treatment, becoming doctors, lawyers etc.

‘Since all of us must have two genes for any of our characteristics (one from father, the other from mother), it is quite common for one parent (like my maternal grandmother) to give a good hemoglobin gene to one child, while the other (my maternal grandfather) gives a sickle hemoglobin gene to the same child.

‘That was how my mother became a sickle carrier. She in turn had 11 children, and must give just one (not both) of her genes to each child, so she passed on five sickle genes and six ‘normal’ genes to us, with our father also donating half his hemoglobin genes to make us end up with “pairs” of genes. It is important to realise that traits like my mother are not half sick because they are carrying one defective and one good gene. Indeed, they are not sick at all from “sickling”. Rather, in a malarious environment, they have been proven healthier than those without any sickle cells at all.’

So why is this such a Darwinian poster-child? Dr K-A answers:

‘The sickled hemoglobin is less appetizing for the malarial parasite, so carriers are less likely to develop malaria, which is often fatal. People who have both the sickle gene and the “good” gene (heterozygosity is the technical term) will have the benefit of suffering neither from sickle-cell anemia nor dying from malaria in childhood. They are therefore more likely to pass on their genes to the next generation than those with both of the “good” genes. Thus the sickle gene is much commoner in malaria-infested places, especially in Africa. This phenomenon is known in evolutionary circles as “balanced polymorphism”.’

But does this mean that Darwinian evolution is a fact? Dr Konotey-Ahulu firmly rejects this. ‘Observing selection/adaptation involving a mutation (an inherited random change or defect)’, he said, ‘does not indicate that the more complicated forms seen today arose from simpler forms traced back ultimately to one-cell organisms.’

He had no dispute that ‘natural selection plays a part in maintaining a higher frequency of this carrier state. If you are resistant to malaria, you are more likely to survive to pass on your genes.’

However, he cautions, ‘Demonstrating natural selection does not demonstrate that “upward evolution” is a fact, yet many schoolchildren are taught this as a “proof” of evolution.’ He pointed out that ‘the sickle-cell gene is still a defect, not an increase in complexity or an improvement in function which is being selected for’. And he pointed out the unhappy downside, that ‘having more carriers of the sickle-cell genes results in more people suffering from this terrible disease.’

Is Darwinism helpful for research?

Despite the lack of evidence, evolutionary propaganda claims that all science would return to the (non-existent) ‘Dark Ages’ without evolution. But real scientists such as Dr K-A say that science would be far better served by scientists working on ‘factual lines rather than theoretical evolutionary concepts.’

In his speciality, he proposes that the focus on Darwinism may have caused scientists to overlook a more fruitful line of enquiry, namely the fact that polygyny (having more than one wife) was common in indigenous African and Islamic populations.2

He backed this up by research into his own family tree over the past three centuries, since there is both sickle-cell anemia and polygyny in his own ancestry.3

This required knowledge of the specific names that African tribes had for the disease, long before it was first described in the USA in 1910. Dr K-A says that ‘this exercise in genetic genealogy, rare in medical archives’, enabled him to invent the Male Procreative Superiority Index (MPSI) to provide a mathematical basis for the sickle gene frequency. This research was published as the ‘African Viewpoint’ in an International Symposium on The Human Genome Diversity Project in 1999.4

[Ed. note: see also Dr K-A’s earlier Creation magazine article Sickle-cell anemia does not prove evolution!]

Language studies

However, despite Dr K-A’s work in sickle-cell disease, he says that the greatest of all his discoveries is ‘the quantification of the pitches found in African Tonal Languages, which has not been described before.’ This enabled him to develop a method for writing African tonal languages.5 Dr K-A argues that the perfect mid-pitch of an African tribe, required to understand the language, including a 3-semitone gap, defies Darwinian evolutionary explanation.

Christian faith

Dr Konotey-Ahulu is an outspoken Christian, and has ably defended his faith in the Ghanaian Times and the British Medical Journal.6 But it was not always so. Like many people with church upbringings, he had wrongly thought he was saved, thinking that he had been ‘born a Christian’. A pastor’s son, he was even General Secretary of the SCM (Student Christian Movement), but he says he was not truly converted till 8 pm, Friday 24 October 1952:

‘I was reading the day’s Scripture portion in the Gospel of Matthew, which said that the Lord Jesus did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. I was stung! Surely, HE did not come for me, because I was not a sinner; certainly not as bad as So-and-so, or So-and-so … .’

So Dr K-A came to realize that ‘the One who made the diagnosis of “Sin” in me (and I thoroughly agree with that diagnosis), is so holy that the only just punishment would be my total banishment out of His sight.’

Yet, at Calvary, Jesus made ‘the reverse transfer of righteousness to me the sinner. Not only are my filthy rags of sin placed on the Lord Jesus Christ and punished on Him (as prophesied long ago in Isaiah 53), but also the Lord’s beautiful robe of righteousness is transferred to me the moment I believe on Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).’

But is Christianity merely a Western tradition?

‘Africans often tell me that I should have nothing to do with Christianity because it is a European religion,’ said Dr K-A. But, he says:

‘I take it upon myself to educate them. First, I tell them the Lord Jesus learnt to walk, not on the continent of Europe, but in Mizraim (Egypt), in Africa. Secondly, when the Ethiopian eunuch, Chancellor of the Exchequer of Queen Candace, became a Christian while reading the prophet Isaiah chapter 53, and Philip helped him to understand what he was reading, the natives of the British Isles were only just in the process of being educated by the Romans to read and write. So let nobody tell you that the Gospel of The Lord Jesus Christ is a European invention.’

Furthermore, he pointed out that it was Christian conviction that overthrew the slave trade. Dr K-A points out:

‘John Newton (1725–1807) was a nominal Christian, and captain of a slave ship, and threw those who were sick overboard to perish in the sea. Very wicked, he was. But then John Newton was convicted of sin. He heard this Good News that though God hated his sin, He loved the sinner (John 3:14–16). Newton repented, understood the meaning of Grace, became a leading anti-slavery activist, and wrote this hymn: “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”’ [Ed. note: see also Anti-slavery activist William Wilberforce: Christian hero]

How does Creation impact the Gospel?

Many preachers claim that creation is a mere side issue. But Dr K-A pointed out that it is crucial:

‘The baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas is the Creator of the world! See John 1:1–5, especially v. 3: “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” The world, you see, is no cosmic accident. This world was created by the Triune God, and through this Lord Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem.’

But are the details of creation important? ‘So why did Jesus have to be born?’ asked Dr K-A. He answered his own question:

‘The world God created was perfect, flawless, and sinless. Adam and Eve knew God intimately in the Garden of Eden. But then came the Fall, when God’s arch-enemy the Devil, Satan, Lucifer, the Deceiver, deceived our ancestors and spiritual representatives, Adam and Eve, who were then thrown out of Paradise and lost the knowledge of God and forfeited communion with The Creator.’

People might ask, ‘Do you still believe this Sunday school nonsense?’ ‘This is no nonsense,’ Dr K-A affirmed.

He explained:

‘Nothing makes sense of life as I know it—wars, rumours of wars, strife (domestic and international), wickedness, injustice, sin and its consequences, pain and suffering, disease (hereditary and acquired)—until I see it through the history of perfect Creation, the Fall and its terrible consequences, the promise of God not only to undo the damage Satan has wrought, but also to restore man’s communion with Himself through His Son who would become Incarnate (God becoming Man).

‘The Son, unlike Adam and Eve, would perfectly obey God’s laws. He would satisfy the full justice of God (which Adam and Eve could not do), and pay the eternal punishment for sin, so that those offspring of rebellious Adam who believe on Him would not perish, but have eternal life.

‘And He proved all this by His glorious Resurrection. Frankly, if I did not believe all this, I would find it impossible to get a satisfactory explanation for life after death.’

Dr D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Mountain High Maps © www.digiwis.comGhana map
The Republic of Ghana is named after kings known as the ‘Ghana’ who ruled in West Africa from the 4th to the 13th centuriesAD. Ghana is today part of the British Commonwealth.

When I first met Dr Konotey-Ahulu, it was after a talk where I had cited the great preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981) as pointing out that Christianity depends on historical facts, including Eden, the Flood and Babel.1 Dr K-A informed me that Dr MLJ was the one who had married him and his wife (pictured). [Update: they recently celebrated 50 years of marriage—see clip below—so congratulations on this milestone.] He added, ‘While other evangelicals were hesitating about Adam and Eve, saying “it is not really necessary to bring them in to tell someone he/she is a sinner, because they already know they are sinners”, Dr Lloyd-Jones would always start with Adam and Eve.’ Later, Dr K-A had the honour of being the only person that Dr MLJ ‘gave 200 of his sermons to, to take to Africa when I was leaving London with my family after post-graduate studies.’

Dr K-A said, ‘I loved going to hear Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, previously a cardiologist at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, but who now preached powerful sermons at Westminster Chapel, near Buckingham Palace.’ In 1957, he brought a colleague, the sceptical Brian Williams, along. Afterwards, ‘Brian said to me: “Felix, Dr Lloyd-Jones said all that needed to be done for my salvation has been done. Is it true?” “Yes,” I said’, and Brian gave himself to the Lord Jesus Christ. He went on to become Professor of Epidemiological Medicine in the Universities of Sheffield and Nottingham. In 2005, Dr Williams was ill, and requested a particular tape-recorded sermon of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones (far right, Mrs Lloyd-Jones on left). While listening to it, Brian Williams passed from time into eternity.’2


  1. See Batten, D., Famous preacher: ‘Creation, not evolution’, creation.com/mlj, 14 August 2004.
  2. Konotey-Ahulu, F., Historicity of The Lord Jesus Christ (2): Significance of Easter; Ghanaian Times, Saturday 8 April 2006, p. 6.
Posted on homepage: 4 February 2008

References and notes

  1. Macmillan, ISBN 0333-39239-6, 1991; Tetteh-A’Domeno Co., Watford, UK, ISBN 0-9515442-2-5, 1996. Return to text.
  2. Bonney, G.E. and Konotey-Ahulu, F.I.D., Polygamy and genetic equilibrium, Nature 265(5589):46–47, 6 January 1977; Konotey-Ahulu, F.I.D., Maintenance of high sickling rate in Africa—role of polygamy, The Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 73(1):19–21, January 1970; Konotey-Ahulu, F.I.D., Male procreative superiority index (MPSI): the missing coefficient in African anthropogenetics, British Medical Journal 281(6256): 1700–1702, 20–27 December 1980. Return to text.
  3. sicklecell.md/images/generation.jpg: Dr K-A explains: ‘I traced, name by name, generation by generation, back to AD 1670 of my ancestors and their phenotype. Anyone in my genealogical tree where I marked ‘R’ is rheumatic, meaning two abnormal genes.’ Return to text.
  4. Konotey-Ahulu, F.I.D., The human genome diversity project: Cogitations of an African Native, Politics and the Life Sciences 18(2):317–322, September 1999. Return to text.
  5. Mother Tongue—Introducing The Tadka Phonation Technique For Speaking An African Tonal Language: Krobo/Dangme-Ga of South-East Ghana, Watford, UK, 2001. Return to text.
  6. Thus Dr K-A is staunchly pro-life, so has strongly denounced selective abortion of sickle-cell babies. Return to text.

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