Since Bill posted a little bit about Maciej Giertych in Evolution Ã¢â‚¬â€ No longer inspiring the confidence it once did, I thought I’d take the opportunity to highlight Maciej’s own saga. He details it in his review of Creation Rediscovered, by Gerard J. Keane
Sometime in 1955, when I was taking Honor Moderations in Science (Botany, Chemistry and Geology) at Oxford University, the O. U. Biology Club announced a lecture against the theory of Evolution. The largest auditorium in the Biology Labs was filled to capacity. When the speaker was introduced (I regret I do not remember his name), it turned out he was an octogenarian with a Ph.D. in biology from Cambridge, obtained in the 19th century.
He spoke fervently against the theory of Evolution, defending what was for us an obviously indefensible position. He did not convince anybody with his antique arguments; he did not understand the questions that were fired at him; he rejected science as we knew it. We all had a good laugh hearing this dinosaur. He fought for his convictions against a sophisticated scientific environment, deaf to any opinions inspired by religious beliefs. Today his views are being vindicated by new evidence from natural sciences. May his soul rest in peace.
In 1955, like all in my generation, I was fully convinced that Evolution was an established biological fact. The evidence was primarily paleontological. We were taught how to identify geological strata with the help of fossils, specific for a given epoch. The rocks were dated by the fossils, the fossils by the strata. A lecturer in stratigraphy, when asked during a field trip how the strata were dated, explained that we know the rate of current sedimentation, the depths of strata and thus the age of rocks. In any case, there are new isotopic techniques that confirm all this. This sounded very scientific and convincing.
In my studies I went on to a B.A. and M.A. in forestry, a Ph.D. in plant physiology and finally a D.Sc. in genetics. For a long time I was not bothered by geology, Evolution or any suspicious thoughts. I had my own field of research in population genetics of forest trees, with no immediate relevance to the controversy over Evolution.
Gradually, as my children got to the stage of learning biology in school and discussing their problems with Dad, I realized that the evidence for Evolution had shifted from paleontology and embryology to population genetics. But population genetics is my subject! I knew it was used to explain how Evolution progressed, but I was not aware it is used to prove it. Without my noticing it, my special field had become the supplier of the most pertinent evidence supporting the theory.
If Evolution were proved in some field I was not familiar with, I understood the need to accommodate my field to this fact, to suggest explanations how it occurred in terms of genetics. But to claim that these attempted explanations are the primary evidence for the theory was quite unacceptable to me. I started reading the current literature on the topic of Evolution. Until then I was not aware how shaky the evidence for Evolution was, how much of what was “evidence” had to be discarded, how little new evidence had been accumulated over the years, and how very much ideas dominate facts. These ideas have become dogma, yet they have no footing in natural sciences. They stem from materialistic philosophies.
My primary objection as a geneticist was to the claim that the formation of races, or microevolution, as it is often referred to, is a small scale example of macroevolution – the origin of species. Race formation is, of course, very well documented. All it requires is isolation of a part of a population. After a few generations, due to natural selection and genetic drift, the isolated population will irreversibly lose some genes, and thus, as long as the isolation continues, in some features it will be different from the population it arose from. In fact, we do this ourselves all the time when breeding, substituting natural with artificial selection and creating artificial barriers to generative mixing outside the domesticated conditions.
The important thing to remember here is that a race is genetically impoverished relative to the whole population. It has fewer alleles (forms of genes). Some of them are arranged into special, interesting, rare combinations. This is particularly achieved by guided recombination of selected forms in breeding work. But these selected forms are less variable (less polymorphic). Thus what is referred to as micro-evolution represents natural or artificial reduction of the gene pool. You will not get Evolution that way. Evolution means construction of new genes. It means increase in the amount of genetic information, and not reduction of it.
The evolutionary value of new races or selected forms should be demonstrable by natural selection. However, if allowed to mix with the general breeding population, new races will disappear. The genes in select combinations will disperse again; the domesticated forms will go wild. Thus there is no evidence for Evolution here.
Mutations figure prominently in the Evolution story. When in the early ’60s I was starting breeding work on forest trees, everyone was very excited about the potential of artificial mutations. In many places around the world, special “cobalt bomb” centers were established to stimulate rates of mutations. What wonderful things were expected from increased variability by induced mutations. All of this work has long since been abandoned. It led nowhere. All that was obtained were deformed freaks, absolutely useless in forestry.
Maybe occasionally some oddity could be of ornamental value, but never able to live on its own in natural conditions. A glance through literature on mutations outside forestry quickly convinced me that the pattern is similar everywhere. Mutations are either neutral or detrimental. Positive ones, if they do occur, are too rare to be noticeable. Stability in nature is the rule. We have no proofs for Evolution from mutation research.
It is sometimes claimed that strains of diseases resistant to antibiotics, or weeds resistant to herbicides, are evidence for positive mutations. This is not so. Most of the time, the acquired resistance is due to genetic recombination and not due to mutations. Where mutations have been shown to be involved, their role depends on deforming part of the genetic code, which results in a deformed, usually less effective protein that is no longer suitable for attachment by the harmful chemical.
Herbicides are “custom made” for attachability to a vital protein specific for the weed species, and they kill the plant by depriving the protein of its function when attached to it. A mutation that cancels attachability to the herbicide and does not totally deprive the protein of its function is in this case beneficial, since it protects the functionality of the protein. However this is at a price, since in fact the change is somewhat detrimental to normal life processes. At best it is neutral. There are many ways in which living systems protect functionality. This is one of them. Others include healing or eliminating deformed parts or organisms. Natural selection belongs here. So does the immunological adaptation to an invader. Of course such protective adaptations do not create new species, new kinds, new organs or biological systems. They protect what already exists, usually at a cost. Defects accumulate along the way.
Within the genome of a species, that is, in the molecular structure of its DNA, we find many recurrent specific nucleotide sequences, known as “repeats.” Different ones occur in different species. If this variation (neutral as far as we know) arose from random mutations, it should be random. How then did the “repeats” come to be? If mutations are the answer, they could not have been random. In this context “genetic drive” is postulated, as distinct from “genetic drift.” But Who or what does the driving? The empirical science of genetics knows only random mutations.
Currently there are new suggestions that molecular genetics provides evidence for Evolution. Analyses of DNA sequences in various species should show similarities between related ones and big differences between systematically far-removed species. They do exactly that. Molecular genetics generally confirms the accuracy of taxonomy. But at the same time, it does not confirm postulated evolutionary sequences. There are no progressive changes, say from fishes to amphibians, to reptiles to mammals. Molecular genetics confirms systematics, not phylogeny; Linnaeus, not Darwin.
No. Genetics has no proofs for Evolution. It has trouble explaining it. The closer one looks at the evidence for Evolution, the less one finds of substance. In fact, the theory keeps on postulating evidence and failing to find it, and moves on to other postulates (fossil missing links, natural selection of improved forms, positive mutations, molecular phylogenetic sequences, etc.). This is not science.
A whole age of scientific endeavor was wasted searching for a phantom. It is time we stopped and looked at the facts! Natural sciences failed to supply any evidence for Evolution. Christian philosophy tried to accommodate this unproved postulate of materialist philosophies. Much time and intellectual effort went in vain, leading only to negative moral consequences. It is time those working in the humanities were told the truth.