Devolution

            One recent scientific discovery now illuminates our understanding of genetic mutations, which can be chosen by natural selection in the wild or by the artificial selection of human breeding. 

            Some genetic mutations produce helpful “variant traits,” which can now be tracked in a broad range of living organisms, thanks to the hard work of the 10-year project to map the human DNA genome.

            What took years of painstaking effort mapping the 3.5-billion letters of DNA letter-by-letter, now can map the DNA sequence of a particular breed of dog, for example, in an afternoon as a result of faster computers and specialized software programs.

            Thanks to improved technology, we are now able to track-down helpful changes/mutations in the DNA, and match these mutations to their actualized traits, the physical characteristics they produce.

            This new research has revealed that Darwin’s theory of evolution is in actuality a process of devolution.[1] 

            This is discussed in an interview by Eric Metaxas of biochemist, professor, and author Dr. Michael Behe in Socrates in the City, in March 2019.

            It turns out that genetic mutations do not add new information to the DNA strand that if so, might support Darwin’s theory that the mutation/selection process is capable over long periods of time of producing complex, innovative new features. 

            Developments like the fully functional winged flight of birds, the visual sight of an owl, the running speed of the cheetah, the underwater sonar capacity of a dolphin, bipedal upright walking, human speech, and the human mind…require vast amounts of complex, specified, and coherently integrated systems of information.

            Molecular biochemistry is now telling us that devolution is instead a process that breaks individual genes in the existing DNA sequence of chemical letters…not adding new creative information, but subtracting information from the DNA code.

            The human breeding of a prototype wolf to produce the variant forms of a Golden Retriever, Great Dane, or Black Labrador dog over many generations, involves at the molecular level in the cell the breakage of particular genes that code for specific characteristics. 

            Scientists can now identify and track these broken genes from wolf to new breed of dog…resulting in a reduction rather than an addition of genetic information…creating “damaged” genes that will not go back in the reverse direction to recover this original lost information.

            This means, according to modern genetic biochemistry, that the entire program of Darwinian evolution is in reality a process of conservative devolution, and not radically progressive macroevolution as originally theorized…instead having strict boundary limits around the change-effects of beneficial genetic mutations, which we can now track through empirical scientific investigation.

            These revolutionary new discoveries in molecular biochemistry invalidate Darwin’s mechanism of an ever-expanding, tree-of-life common descent of all living things, when this mechanism is solely based upon macro changes through mindless and undirected processes.

            The original Darwinian process of mutation/selection theorized to produce major macroevolution is refuted at the molecular level of biochemistry today, now seen to only produce minor variations of characteristics traceable in the DNA genome coding.  This is a catastrophic development for atheism in science, because this removes the very heart-and-soul, the main puzzle-piece of the naturalistic worldview, that gained so much momentum following Darwin’s 1859 book The Origin of Species.

            This does not mean that there isn’t a matter-and-energy, material mechanism to explain the vast diversity of life from A to Z.  Design information in-built into living cells can produce the growing number of different cell types as an index of ever-increasing complexity over time…from single-cell bacteria to human beings. 

            What it does mean is that the Darwinian hypothesis of mutation/selection as the driving force behind the vast diversity of life is empirically no longer valid.

            This new discovery in molecular biology simply removes the chance happenstance of random and undirected materialism from consideration…in the grand traditions of the Scientific Revolution of eliminating false possibilities.

            This replaces a mindless and undirected, naturalistic process with an information-based mechanism that guides the development of life towards the vast biodiversity we observe today on earth…which I sense we are getting close to formally identifying.

            Modern biochemistry at the molecular level of DNA and developmental gene regulatory networks (DGRN’s) are telling us that Darwin’s hypothetical extrapolation from micro to macro evolution…using random and undirected chance as the fueling mechanism…is in fact unsupported by the latest scientific fact-based evidence.

            This then undermines the entire atheistic program of Darwinian naturalistic macroevolution, including the attempts to close the gaps of discontinuity at the phylum level of classification between fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and mammals in the fossil record.

            This pulls down the secular story of the materialistic origin and diversity of life…like a house of cards.

            But this does not at all threaten the further scientific investigation into the matter-and-energy material mechanisms that truly do generate the vast biodiversity we see in the natural world.

            This will be information-based material mechanisms, more plausibly attributable to intelligent agency instead of random happenstance.

            The point here is that Darwin’s hypothesis was and is partially true.  But his approach to embrace the agnosticism or atheism of scientific materialism was in my opinion a mistake. 

            The real truth about the engineered biodiversity of life may be scientifically discovered to be found in information-based mechanisms in living cells starting with the adequate DNA information content front-loaded 3.8-billion years ago.  This then generated the future potential for the expanding number of cell types…building organisms ever increasing in complexity over time.

            Managed by the on/off switches of developmental gene regulatory networks and epigenetic systems, this all could be created through an intelligent designing agent in the same way that an architect designs a new building. 

            An architect starts with conceptually abstract information that is translated into a physical building on the construction site. 

            In living organisms the conceptually abstract information translates into physical reality starting in the cell progressing through the developing embryo…immerging into a viable organism able to grow from infancy to maturity to survive and reproduce. 

            In my opinion, this concept of theistic material mechanisms makes a lot more sense than the atheism of a purely random and undirected materialistic approach.  To my thinking this has no practical bearing upon the quality and integrity of the scientific inquiry and the data produced.

            Quoting two passages from Dr. Behe’s book:

“The molecular parts of the cell are elegantly arranged to fulfill many subsidiary purposes that must blend together in service of the large overall purpose of forming life.  As we’ll see in this book, no unintelligent, undirected process—neither Darwin’s mechanism nor any other—can account for that.”

“It seems, then, that the magnificent Ursus maritimus (polar bear) has adjusted to its harsh environment mainly by degrading genes that its ancestors already possessed.  Despite its impressive abilities, rather than evolving, it has adapted predominantly by devolving.  What that portends for our conception of evolution is the principal topic of this book.”[2] 

            The devolution that occurs in living cells that produces the suite of broken and damaged genes that in turn produce the variation of physical traits that changes a black bear into a polar bear…does not explain how a “bear” comes into existence in the first place.

            The information content in living cells that produces the architectural body-plan and lifestyle habits of a bear is much larger and more sophisticated than the microevolutionary processes that put-out variant traits for natural selection to choose from to enhance survivability…to create the differences between a black bear and a polar bear.

            Devolution will never bridge the gulf between the first single-cell bacteria 3.8-billion years ago and a polar bear today.

            The brilliant observations that Darwin made in the middle 19th century has been overtaken by the forward progress of technology and knowledge.  This is something that has occurred in enumerable cases throughout the history of the modern Scientific Revolution…that is inherent within the scientific method.  

            This recent discovery of evolution actually being devolution, discovered in the field of molecular biochemistry, has enormous implications in the very near future regarding the number of viable options remaining within the sea of multiple competing worldviews for human life…within the search for purpose and meaning in the universe.


[1] Michael Behe: Darwin Devolves…Socrates in the City interview, on You Tube dated March 29, 2019

[2] Michael J. Behe, Darwin Devolves (New York: Harper Collins, 2019), 9, 17.

Author: Barton Jahn

I worked in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have eight Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on more books on building construction.

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