Last time we discussed what is called phenotypic plasticity. As I explained, phenotypic plasticity is the ability of an organism to develop a particular body type in response to environmental change. An organism's phenotype is simply its set of features, and to be plastic means to be moldable or changeable. This process is sometimes referred to as developmental plasticity. Phenotypic or developmental plasticity simply means an organism's features or behavior can be molded, or influenced by its environment. It also means a single genotype (genetic code) can produce more than one form of structure or behavioral pattern.  A genotype is the collection of genes responsible for the various genetic traits of a given organism.

       Phenotypic plasticity provides us with an observable alternative to the non-observable neo-Darwinian concept of random genetic mutation which is believed by much of the scientific world to be responsible for the evolution of life forms over millions of years of gradual development.  As already discussed in this series, genetic mutation is seldom advantages to an organism and therefore it is highly problematic that it could be the primary mechanism whereby organisms have evolved. Not only are mutations disadvantages to an organism, they are in most cases outright destructive.  They do not increase useful genetic information but are often seem to diminish useful genetic information.

       We saw last time that it is information within the genes of cells that lead to their development into the various body parts that make up a particular phenotype. We asked the question as to how this information comes to be.  As explained last time, atheistic evolutionists believe this information comes to be through the gradual evolution of chemical elements coming together by chance over millions of years to produce information systems that become the genetic code of organisms.

       The information contained in the genetic code is seen as leading to the development of body parts through natural selection. All this is seen to occur devoid of any supernatural involvement. Is this approach at all creditable? Let’s take a brief look at the subject of genetic information

     Genetic information: 

       Genetic information is seen as arrangements of the letters of the genetic code. These letters are called nucleotides or nucleotide bases and are represented by the letters A, T, C and G. It is the various combinations of these letters that make up the genetic code which is found in the DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) which is largely found in the nucleus of cells. Here is where all the information necessary to build, maintain and reproduce an organism is found. Strands of DNA are called chromosomes. In most cells, humans have 22 pairs of these chromosomes plus the two sex chromosomes (XX in females and XY in males) for a total of 46.

       It is the various arrangements of the four nucleotides that carry all the information necessary to build cellular machinery. This information is carried in the genes which are segments of DNA and other chemicals.  The nucleotides are not the information but are the carriers of the information.  This is analogous to a fax.  Information is typed unto a piece of paper and sent via a fax machine to another person. The paper, ink, fax machine, etc. is not the information.  It is what carries the information from one place to another. Similarly, when human thought generates information and such information is transferred to an audio tape, the tape is not the information but the carrier of the information.  Likewise, the nucleotide is not the message but the medium carrying the message.

       Does the information containing genetic code develop from the fortuitous arrangement of physical chemicals that make up the nucleotides or is there a non-physical component involved?  Is there a non physical intelligence involved and at what point can a distinction be made between such non-physical intelligence and the physical components that appear in the information system called the genetic code.  

       We know that all humanly constructed information systems result from the application of human intelligence. Therefore, it would appear to logically follow that intelligence is also behind the information systems found in the genome.

       Most evolutionary biologists, however, reject this conclusion.  While often admitting that biological organisms have the appearance of intelligent design, it’s concluded that such design is only illusory. They conclude life only looks designed but really results from fortuitous arrangements of chemicals that have always existed in space and time. 

      This conclusion rests on the foundation of Darwinian and modern Neo-Darwinian belief that natural selection acting on random variation (classical Darwinism) or random mutations (Neo-Darwinism) can mimic the effects of intelligence and produce replicating living organisms devoid of  conscious intelligent design.

       Evolutionists point out for example that while human intelligence can breed faster horses by simply mating faster males with faster females, the same thing can happen naturally in nature without intelligent direction. Faster horses can out run predators while slower horses cannot.  Therefore, slower horses diminish in number while faster horses increase in number.  It’s called survival of the fittest and seemingly has nothing to do with intelligent direction or design. 

       Darwin taught that given enough time, all life forms gradually came to be through this process. Darwin saw environment naturally selecting variations in organisms and therefore being the driving force behind the occurrence (evolution) of the great diversification of life forms. Upon discovery of genetics, evolutionists concluded genetic mutation is responsible for the random variation postulated by Darwin and it is this mutation produced variation that is acted upon by natural selection.  Thus Darwinism became known as Neo-Darwinism as I explained last time. 

       Darwin readily admitted to not knowing how life began.  His focus was on how life developed after having begun.  Many early evolutionists believed life began through intelligent design with there being a variety of perspectives as to who or what the designer is or was.  It was believed that mind or intelligence preceded matter.  However, with the advancement of chemistry and the discovery that organic chemical compounds found in living organisms could be synthesized from inorganic elements, it began to be believed that science could experiment with combining various chemical elements and ultimately produce self replicating life. 

       The science community began to believe that matter preceded mind rather than mind preceding matter.  It came to be believed that everything that exists has come about as a result of chemical elements fortuitously coming together.  Intelligence came to be seen as the interaction of chemical elements as well. This view is often called scientific materialism as it is believed to be supported by scientific evidence. This view postulates it is matter, and not a supernatural intelligence, that has always existed and is eternal. Under this view, all existence, including the existence of intelligence, is the result of the fortuitous activity of chemical elements that exist independent of a supernatural intelligence. 

       A 1998 survey based on a self-selected sample of biological and physical scientists of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States found that 7% believed in the existence of God, 72.2% did not, and 20.8% were agnostic or had doubts.  More recent surveys indicate more of a 50/50 split in scientists who believe in a supernatural power and those who do not.

     Genetic mutation:

       Nucleotides appear in a particular sequence in the DNA and when that sequence is in some manner rearranged, it is said a mutation has occurred. Mutations are analogous to word processing errors that may occur when copying a text.  In copying a text, words are sometimes misspelled, left out, substituted with other words, etc.  Depending on the extent of such copying errors, the text could end up saying something different from what was originally intended.  Mutations are substitutions, deletions, insertions, duplications and inversions of the nucleotides as they are being copied to create new cells.  Remember, nucleotides are the letters that make up the genetic code of both plants and animals.

       When cells divide, they make a duplicate set of their chromosomes which are passed on to the newly created daughter cells. When the chromosomes duplicate, they don’t always do a perfect job copying the encoded information (nucleotides) on the DNA. Therefore, errors are produced. These are called point mutations as they involve rearrangement of specific nucleotides in the DNA. It is believed by Neo-Darwinists that it is these copying errors (point mutations) that are responsible for evolutionary development of organisms. Is this the case?  Is this even possible?

       There are over three billion nucleotides in the human genome. Over three billion occurrences of the four letters A, T, C and G.  It has been experimentally shown that each nucleotide contributes in a tiny way to the overall construction of the genome. Every letter plays some role in genetic construction. At the beginning of genetic research, it was believed that much DNA was neutral because no identifiable function could be found and therefore no contribution to the viability of the cell could be identified. It was even given the name, “junk DNA.”  As genetic research has continued, more and more DNA has been identified as having specific function and therefore not neutral.       

       Evolutionists have often criticized creationists by pointing to “junk DNA” as an example of a very imperfect genome which is filled with useless information, mistakes and fragmentation's and therefore reflects millions of years of random genetic activity rather than the product of intelligent design. It is asked why an intelligent designer would produce such an imperfect product. 

       In June of 2007, a group of geneticists concluded the human genome is more complex than previously thought and most nucleotides not only have specific function but are poly-functional in that they play multiple functional roles. For example, non-protein coding DNA that was previously thought to be “junk DNA” has since been found to direct the production of RNA that regulates the activity of protein coding DNA, controls RNA processing editing and splicing, regulates DNA replication, repairs DNA and provides a host of other functions.

       There doesn’t appear to be any such thing as “junk DNA.”  I highly recommend reading the 2009 published book entitled Signature in the Cell, by Stephen C Mayer for much greater elucidation of this issue. 

       In 2003 the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project was initiated.  This project was designed to examine the function of the billions of letters that make up human DNA. By 2012 they had determined that 80% of the letters making up the human genome had significant levels of biochemical function and were not useless non-functional remnants of an evolutionary past as evolutionists had originally claimed.  In view of these findings, the head of ENCODE has predicted that the human genome will prove to be 100% functional.   

       Geneticists are coming to believe there is no such thing as an entirely neutral DNA where nucleotides have no specific function.  Every nucleotide interacts with some other nucleotide in the formation of code.  This would be akin to every letter of the words I am speaking to you having function in the overall production of what I am saying.  We humans learn language which we then use to express thought. The language is not the thought itself but is the vehicle whereby thought is expressed. 

       Darwinists conclude that human thought is simply generated by physical elements behaving in a certain manner in the physical brain and nothing more. Thought is seen as brain chemistry in action. Now it is true that brain chemistry is necessary to experience and express thought. When brain chemistry is altered through injury or disease the thought process can be greatly altered. Alzheimer’s disease is an example of this. We physical Beings use brain chemistry to experience and facilitate thought.

       But from where is thought generated? From where does thought come from? How are ideas generated that lead to the design and creation of countless material objects, events and procedures by we humans? Where do emotions come from?  Is anger, hate, jealousy, love, compassion and mercy simply the result of the random activity of nucleotides that make up our genetic code?    Darwinists would have you believe this is the case.  Darwinists totally dismiss the possibility that there is a non-material component to cognitive function. It is instructive that the Scriptures speak of there being a spirit in man.

       Job 32:8: But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.

       Ecclesiastes 12:7: and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

       Acts 7:59: While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

       Zechariah 12:1: This is the word of the LORD concerning Israel. The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him.

       Romans 8:16: The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.

      1 Corinthians 2:11: For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 

      2 Timothy 4:22: The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.

       It is apparent from Scripture that we have a non physical component called spirit and it is this non physical component facilitated by the physical components of brain chemistry that express thought that results in ideas that result in the design and creation of material things.  It apparently is this component called spirit that generates emotions that are expressed through brain chemistry. Is this brain chemistry the result of the fortuitous coming together of chemicals?

       In a previous sermon in this series we discussed irreducible complexity. Irreducible complexity is where all the components of a body part must be present at the same time to in order for such body part to work in the manner it needs to work to perform a particular function. I used the mouse trap to demonstrate how all its components must be present at the same time and work in a certain way for it to catch mice.  We looked at the bacterial flagellum and how all its parts must be present at the same time for it to work as it does.

       The flagellum is a motor driven propeller found on the backs of certain bacteria. It spins at tens of thousands of rpm’s and can change direction in a quarter turn as it propels a bacteria through a watery environment. Darwinian evolution teaches that the flagellum is composed of parts that previously were targeted for different uses and that through natural selection these parts at some point in evolutionary history came together to form flagellum.  However, probability studies have been done that shows this to be mathematically impossible. 

       Living organisms are largely made up of numerous irreducible complexities, body parts that must have all their components together at one time in order to work and contribute to the overall functionality of the organism.  Darwinism teaches that all the components that make up living organisms have come about gradually over millions of years of evolutionary development. Therefore, a body part like the bacterial flagellum is seen as coming together little by little over vast amounts of time. 

       If this indeed is the case, there should be millions of organisms in the fossil record that show these various stages of evolutionary development. Yet such transitional stages of evolutionary development cannot be found. In a previous sermon we looked at the Cambrian expulsion where millions of organisms are found to be completely developed with no hint of the transitional stages that should be there if indeed Darwinian evolution is the means by which life has come to be.

       The identification of irreducible complexity of body parts makes it quite evident that slow gradual appearance of the components that make up irreducibly complex body parts as required by Darwinian evolution cannot be how life forms have come to be.  I have read a number of scientific objections to the concept of irreducible complexity but have yet to see one that convincingly negates this concept.

       When all is said and done, it appears that basic body parts having irreducible complexity were designed and created by a supernatural intelligence. These basic body parts were used by this supernatural intelligence to make basic kinds of organisms from which additional organisms have developed through the dynamics of natural selection, mutation, hybridization, phenotypic plasticity and other such dynamics. The idea of organisms being made after their kind is basic to the Genesis creation account which we will return to later in this series.  This brings us to the issue of intelligent design which we will discuss next time.