A distinguished zoologist ‘tells it like it is’ about evolution.
At the time of writing, Dr Walter J. Veith, B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. (cum laude), Ph.D., was a (full) Professor at the University of the Western Cape (Republic of South Africa) and held the chair of Zoology.
Carl Wieland/Jonathan Sarfati: Ours is an age of incessant pro-evolution media tub-thumping. Some have even declared that ‘all of biology’ depends on the truth of evolution. So it was refreshing to talk to Professor Veith (pronounced ‘fight’), a zoologist of the highest academic rank, who is firmly convinced of the truth of Biblical creation.
When we asked how he became a Christian, he said:
‘It’s a long story, but I was an evolutionist, and an atheist. I started to get interested in the subject of Biblical prophecy—for example, prophecies in the book of Daniel, chapter two. They were written long before the events portrayed there, and the kingdoms came in succession just as it says. And the Dead Sea Scrolls seemed to confirm the authenticity and antiquity of the Book of Daniel. So I started to get interested in the rest of Scripture, including Genesis.’
Dr Veith said that he had already been undergoing some ‘evolution’ himself—he started off as a classical Darwinian ‘gradualist’, believing that evolution happened by the slow accumulation of little changes. But because the fossil record does not show creatures gradually changing into others, he was drawn to the later idea that evolution must have happened ‘in spurts and bursts’. He noticed also that evolutionists were conceding that in the so-called Cambrian rocks, supposedly not long after the dawn of multi-celled life:
‘Even the chordates were there before they were supposed to be. Articles were appearing in the literature about “explosive evolution” in the Cambrian, in which there were already chordates, the phylum to which man belongs. So basically it was just one logical step to believing in Creation.’
There were other problems with evolutionary theory to which Walter Veith’s training and experience alerted him—for instance, natural selection. He said:
‘The very name “selection” implies that you’re choosing between two or more variants. So that means that the end result is extinction of one in favour of the other. Natural selection never increases the number of variants; it only decreases them. So my problem with it was, “how does a mechanism that makes less and less end up making more and more”?The very name “selection” implies that you’re choosing between two or more variants.
‘The answer obviously is, it doesn’t. That leaves chance mutations as the only source of the new information. You have to have all these new genes coding for new features, all interacting precisely with one another, continually arising as animals get more complex, by chance. To believe that, you have to have a lot of faith. It’s certainly not something I see in my work as a zoologist.’
Some fascinating comments by Dr Veith concerned the tremendous built-in ability of some animals to adapt to changing conditions, much too rapidly to have anything to do with any proposed evolutionary mechanisms or millions of years. For example, island deer have been seen to respond to a scarcity of resources by decreasing their body size, by as much as two-thirds. He also pointed out:
‘Naked mole rats, if the ecological circumstances get tough, respond with a whole host of drastic rearrangements of their genetic material, so-called “jumping genes” doing their thing. This creates a far greater variety in the offspring, which of course has an effect on selection.
‘I think that organisms were endowed with a great capacity for variation, and that we haven’t begun to figure out all the mechanisms in the latent DNA. Evolutionists have tried to write this DNA off as leftover “junk”, but it is increasingly recognized as playing an important (though still largely unknown) role.’
After the Flood
We asked Prof. Veith whether such built-in mechanisms for rapid variation could be the remnants of mechanisms from the original kinds which, after the Flood, enabled populations such as the original ‘dog kind’ to rapidly diversify into wolves, coyotes, dingoes, etc? He replied:
‘Absolutely. A lot of the rearrangement can simply come about by playing different tunes on the same piano, as it were. There are organisms where there appears to have been a fusion of chromosomes, but basically the same information is there, just the order in which it is arranged is different, which has tremendous effects on the organisms themselves.’1
So what happened after he became a believer in creation?
‘When I started lecturing to my students (about creation evidences) at my previous university, it caused havoc, and I had to leave because of it.’
How about the present university?
‘It’s still very secular and evolutionistic, but it’s much more tolerant of other views. They’re a bit reticent to let me lecture on the question of evolution, but I get opportunities to put the counter view. The occasional creation/evolution lecture after hours is normally well attended and appreciated. The students here tend to have more religious roots, so they are not as evolutionarily inclined. We have a large number of the previously disadvantaged community, and when people have been through tough times like they have, there tend to be closer ties with God.’
Here was an obvious opportunity to raise the subject of apartheid, etc. Dr Veith agreed totally that if people had taken the Genesis history of mankind seriously, they would have realized that we were all closely related, anyway, so the differences between ‘races’ must be trivial (which is now confirmed by genetic and molecular studies). He said:
‘The paradigm of evolution (even in its pre-Darwinian manifestations) is one of the root causes of racism.’
We asked him about the way in which some in the former South African regime had actually tried to base their racism on the Bible. Dr Veith replied,
‘Yes, and that is a gross distortion of the Scriptures. My Bible tells me that God made all people from one man [Acts 17:26] and that the Gospel is for every nation, tribe, and people [Rev. 14:6].
‘Some even used the account in Genesis about the “curse on Ham” to justify discrimination. But it was not on Ham, but on Canaan [Genesis 9:25–26], and there is no evidence whatsoever of any discrimination on the basis of race—on the contrary, that is against the whole thrust of the Bible.’
Animals without death?
With his experience in ecological matters, we asked Dr Veith about a common argument raised against the clear Biblical teaching that death and bloodshed among animals2 only commenced after the Fall of Adam. I.e., that looking at today’s world, it appears that one needs death in order to have a finely balanced food chain.
‘But that’s looking at what we have today, not what we had in the beginning. We only have a fraction of the flora and fauna that were there at first—the fossil record bears that out. We don’t know what animals ate in the past. Tooth structure is not a good indicator. The panda bear is classified on the basis of its tooth structure as a carnivore, but it eats bamboo. An animal that has the tools for the original diet may also find them suitable for a more carnivorous diet if a need arose. There are many examples of that. With the destruction of northern hemisphere forests by acid rain, for instance, animals like chipmunks, normally seed-eaters, will now eat animals run over on the road.We don’t know what animals ate in the past. Tooth structure is not a good indicator.
‘New Zealand’s kea parrots started to attack and eat sheep. They have the same talons and beak structure as a bird of prey but weren’t using them for this until their food source ran out. And most bears—even fish are only eaten by them at the time of the salmon run, because there are no berries around in that early season. Later, they become 70–80% herbivore, even though they have the “equipment” to be carnivorous.
‘Even the venom apparatus in snakes may have been used to inject an enzyme to soften food. So, many things may not necessarily have been designed for killing other animals. But it does indicate in the Bible that God restructured some organisms.
‘I think He used the existing genetic material and just reorganized the way it was expressed. For instance, a thorn is a modified leaf, just curled tightly upon itself. So the gene didn’t necessarily change; the way in which it was expressed changed. Or perhaps some latent genetic information switched on after the Fall.’
Dr Veith’s current research appears to be showing that herbivorous animals fed with large amounts of animal protein are in danger of osteoporosis from excess calcium excretion.3 He said:
‘They lock up these animals and feed them anything from edible plastic to manure and ground-up animals. That’s one of the factors behind the spread of mad cow disease,4 one of the things I am working on. People treat farm animals like commodities, because they think they are just chance accumulations of evolved genes. So if you think an animal doesn’t have everything it should have, why not just play God, and take a couple of genes from something else and add them? Animals were also created for man’s pleasure and companionship, not as mere food factories. Today, there is of course also the opposite side of the evolutionary coin, the animal rights movement, which elevates animals to the level of humans, since all are seen as just chance evolved entities.’
We asked him if, in the light of man’s dominion mandate over other creatures in Genesis, he would have problems with all forms of ‘genetic engineering’ in animals. He said:
‘No. But I would have a major problem transplanting genes that totally changed the physiology. For example transgenic pigs, where the gene for human growth hormone is engineered into pigs. You get very large pigs, but they are also incredibly diseased—because these are not “add-on” genes, they alter something integral to the normal developmental process of the animal.Animals were also created for man’s pleasure and companionship, not as mere food factories.
‘You need proper research to be able to make the decisions as to where to draw the line.’
Dr Veith is also convinced about the evidence for a young world, and a global Flood. He said:
‘I gave a lecture at the University of Cape Town once, and presented the evidence from my slides that the famous Yellowstone petrified “forests” were not a succession of separate forests over vast ages, but were the result of a catastrophic event.5
‘The geologists were so furious they exploded and called me a liar, that such research had never been done. Knowing where it had been published, I asked them, “What journal would you like it to be published in?” They said, “If it was in something like The Journal of Paleontology it would have been acceptable.” I said, “That’s exactly where it is, and you’ll have a copy on your desk.”6 So I sent them a copy, with the article by a creationist scientist. And the next day they came back and said, “But it says nothing about a world-wide Flood.” I said, “Exactly. If it said it was a world Flood, nobody would ever publish it. But it’s clear that these logs were deposited by massive catastrophism.”’
We asked Dr Veith for a final comment to leave with readers. He said:
‘Read Genesis just as it stands. There’s a lot of evidence to favour the words written there. For evolution and long ages, there’s nothing but propped-up theories that have to be re-propped and re-propped every so often to be maintained. But God’s Word is timeless.’
References and notes
- Since no new information is added, this has nothing to do with ‘fish to philosopher’ evolution, for which one needs processes capable of adding new information. Return to text.
- Only creatures which have the nephesh (‘soul’ or psyche) have life in the way in which the Bible refers to it. So plants, for example, may ‘die’ biologically, but do not die in the Biblical sense. The same is probably true for bacteria, fungi, and perhaps even insects. Return to text.
- This calciuresis appears to be caused by the fact that animal protein has more sulfur-containing amino acids. Return to text.
- The disease can be spread when infected animals are ground up as part of the feed for other cattle. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., The Yellowstone petrified forests, Creation 21(2)18–21, 1999. Return to text.
- Coffin, H.G., Orientation of trees in the Yellowstone petrified forests, J. Paleontology 50(3):539–543, 1976. Return to text.