Soil microbiologist: Evolution no help in research
Don Batten interviews Professor ‘Skip’ Skipper
Horace D. Skipper is Professor Emeritus, Soil Microbiology, College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, Clemson University, South Carolina, USA. He has a B.S. from North Carolina State University, M.S. from Oregon State University and a Ph.D. from Oregon State. His main field of research and teaching concerns microbes that benefit plant growth. He was also honoured to be elected President of Clemson University’s Faculty Senate.
I met Dr Skipper when I spoke at the Creation Study Group meeting in Greenville SC last year. Dr Skipper’s research includes the role of beneficial soil organisms in plant growth and also the degradation of pollutants and pesticides.1
Skip got saved at the age of 30 when he turned away from his sins and recognized that Jesus died on his behalf to take the punishment he deserved. He recognizes that he could not earn this salvation; it is undeserved. He says, “There is no way I can work hard enough or be good enough to merit eternal life.” He totally accepts the Bible’s teaching on Jesus’ supernatural conception, resurrection, ascension, as well as creation in six days, the global Flood of Noah’s day, etc. Dr Skipper sees no conflict between believing the Bible and his scientific research and knowledge.
Skip became particularly interested in the creation-evolution debate in the early 1990s after hearing Dr D. James Kennedy (Coral Ridge Ministries) on a DVD, where he showed the link between abortion and other social issues and evolutionary dogma. Dr Skipper is active with the Creation Study Group2 in Greenville SC.
Dr Skipper researched nitrogen fixation in plants, where bacteria stimulate the formation of nodules on the roots of plants and the bacteria then reside in those nodules, living on food provided by the host plant. The bacteria take nitrogen from the atmosphere and make it available to the host plant in a suitable chemical form. This marvellous ability3 means that plants such as soybeans and cowpeas (legumes) do not need nitrogen fertilizer. Dr Skipper: “Since there are about 50 genes in the root-nodule bacterium and another 50 or so genes in the host plant involved in nodule formation and nitrogen fixation in legumes, the process speaks loud and clear of design and not evolution by random changes called mutations. The probability of multiple genes coming together accidentally to fix nitrogen is beyond comprehension.”
“If mankind could develop corn (or wheat or rice) with a bacterium partner to fix nitrogen, it would be a great scientific breakthrough that could save billions of dollars for producers and consumers. Such an accomplishment would come from intelligently-designed experiments, proven by the scientific method, not chance mutations.”
Dr Skipper has also researched mycorrhizae, which are beneficial fungus-root associations: “Again there are multiple genes involved in the host plant and the associated beneficial fungus to promote nutrient uptake, especially phosphorus, and water, and in some cases to provide protection from root injury by pests. Plants like onions, peaches, pine trees, orchids, and many others will not grow without this beneficial fungus-root association. To me this is another great example of designed function by our Creator and Redeemer.”
I asked Skip if evolution played any role in his real-world scientific research. “In my years of research on biological nitrogen fixation with emphasis on soybeans and cowpeas, evolution was not a factor in our studies. Interestingly, my student textbook on plant breeding in the 1960s did not even have the term evolution.”
Diverse microbes are essential for the health of the planet. Dr Skipper: “In my research on microbes that break down pollutants and pesticides, I have always been fascinated by the many microbes that could detoxify and even use toxic chemicals for energy or carbon sources. There are some chemicals that can persist for years in the environment, but even with PCBs [a type of toxic, persistent organic pollutant], native microbes can slowly detoxify these products.”
“Soil microbes perform a major role in decomposing organic materials; otherwise we would be buried up to our eyeballs in organic waste. Some are pests to humans since the Fall, but the many beneficial ones are a very necessary part of God’s creation.”
Where did the first microbe come from?
Dr Skipper: “God must have created a wide range of microbes at the beginning for the world to function properly. Of course evolutionists want us to believe that one type of microbe just popped into existence by some unknown natural process. The first living cell thus had to come from spontaneous generation from non-living matter; but the famous creationist scientist Louis Pasteur disproved this notion in 1859. There is not one shred of evidence to support the ‘blind faith’ precept of spontaneous generation.4 And yet, the general theory of evolution depends on this to get started.
“Theories on the origin of life and its diversification are outside the scope of operational / experimental science. What scientist was present to observe the origin of life? What scientist has created life from nonliving materials in his or her laboratory by random chance (just physics and chemistry with no intelligent design)? How does one experimentally test a hypothesis of origin? When one moves away from operational sciences that are based on the scientific method and moves to historical science of origins, then multiple, alternative theories are appropriate to fully inform the public. Since all hypotheses on origins are outside of the scientific method, origins should be addressed in historical science or philosophy of science courses and textbooks, not mainstream science classes.”
I asked Dr Skipper if he saw any evidence for large-scale change in microbes that could support the idea that microbes could change into mankind. “Not one scientist has ever created a model that can account for the generation of the staggering quantities of genetic information required for a microbe to change into all the other life forms on earth.”
“Even though laboratories have cultured some bacteria for thousands of generations, no one has reported seeing even the rudimentary beginnings of something more complex coming out of the incubators. Perhaps that is the eternal hope of the evolutionists rather than in Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created.”
Could mutations and natural selection explain the transformation of microbes into microbiologists (evolution)? Dr Skipper: “The last things potential parents and also most evolutionists want to see with the birth of their child are mutations, because nearly all mutations are at least slightly harmful (and they cause a lot of diseases). Geneticist Dr John Sanford has shown how mutations are destroying us, not creating us.5
“The observations are consistent with biblical history. The Bible teaches that God created the animals and plants to reproduce after their kind. After death and mutations entered the world when Adam sinned against God, natural selection helped prevent deterioration by removing harmful mutants. That is, some organisms survive and reproduce, whereas others die and don’t reproduce. That’s natural selection, but it does not create anything. Mutations are the only game in town for that and they are not up to the job.”
And the fossils?
“The fossil record does not support the microbe-to-microbiologist dogma, or even the ‘deep time’ idea. Stephen J. Gould, a vocal evolutionist, often stated that the fossil record did not support the Darwinian theory of evolution. He said that this lack of support was a ‘trade secret’ for paleontologists and curators of museums. In other words, the public has been misled / deceived.
“Fossilization does not speak of millions or billions of years either. Fossilization has to occur in a relatively short time span; otherwise, the dead plant or animal would be scavenged or decomposed (by microbes) before it could become a fossil.”
Evolution a religious notion?
Skip spoke of education and science being like false gods today: “Unfortunately, many people, including educators and scientists, have elevated education and science to the ‘king of the hill’ and even allow them to displace the God of the Bible as the ultimate authority. To me, education and science are two pillars for the advancement of human welfare. But many educators and scientists have ignored the data in many areas to push their agenda that evolution has all of the answers and thus, there is no need for the triune Creator-God.”
“It seems to me that evolution is very much a religion and not the pure science claimed by followers of Darwin. Evolutionist philosopher Michael Ruse wrote, ‘Its practitioners promote evolution as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion, a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality … . Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.’”6
Dr Skipper is concerned about the social effects of Darwinism. He cited Dr Will Provine as illustrating the devastating effects on individuals and society:
“Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposeful forces of any kind, no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be completely dead. That’s just all—that’s gonna be the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.”7
Is evolution a scientific issue supported by objective data? Dr Skipper: “I think not, as do many others as well in the scientific community and especially the general public.”
- The scope of Dr Skipper’s research can be seen at: www.clemson.edu/cafls/departments/esps/faculty_staff/soils/skipper.html. Return to text.
- http://creationstudygroup.org. Return to text.
- For more on the sophisticated chemical machinery, see Demick. D., The molecular sledgehammer, Creation 24(2):52–53, 2002; creation.com/sledge. Return to text.
- See the articles at creation.com/origin. Return to text.
- Plant geneticist: ‘Darwinian evolution is impossible’, Creation 30(4):45–47, 2008; creation.com/sanford. Return to text.
- Ruse, Michael, Saving Darwinism from the Darwinians, National Post , p. 54, 13 May 2000. Return to text.
- Provine, W.B., Darwinism: Science or Naturalistic Philosophy? The Debate at Stanford University, William B. Provine (Cornell University) and Phillip E. Johnson (University of California, Berkeley), videorecording © 1994 Regents of the University of California. (See also: Origins Research 16(1):9, 1994; arn.org/docs/orpages/or161/161main.htm.) Return to text.