Adam and the Genome, pt. 3

I always assume that when I’m encouraged to read something with an open mind, that what that really means is: draw the same conclusion as the writer or prove that you are close-minded. In that vein, I am not really reading Adam and the Genome with an open mind. The book proclaims that its starting point is that everything that is known about the human genome that supports Darwinian evolution is the starting point for coming to a true understanding of the Bible. That is the presupposition; not, the fear of the Lord, but the fear of offending science students.[1]

And I am not a genetic scientist so I don’t fully understand all that is being said. I think it is a point well-taken to remember when Christians have used the assumed meaning of the text to counter what has become generally accepted knowledge (like the sun at the center of the solar system). What genetic science has apparently come to understand is that there is simply too much information in the human genome for it to be the case that humanity descended from just two beings, and the number is much closer to 10K. This is based on the idea that species evolve in groups, not individually, and so the same is true of humans. Some interesting data is presented that certainly seems to support what is being postulated. No contradictory data is presented. I would be surprised if it turns out that there is absolutely no discovered genetic understanding that has not yet been reconciled with evolutionary theory. When Venema is confronted with evidence that could be explained by special creation, he uses the following type of reasoning: If you were designing something (like genetic code) “Would you design them in such a way that they appear to be closely related to each other, especially if your prowess as a designer is such that you can effortlessly design languages in any way you wish? … Would you make it appear that your two languages are related to each other, if indeed you wanted to convince others that they were separate, independent creations?” (p. 32). I don’t know, one (or One) might write down that such beings were separate, independent creations and use that to try to convince others.

One thing that I think is a major puzzle for the creationist model starting with the idea of “kinds” as the created class (not species), is how to explain the incredibly rapid speciation of so many species, particularly after the flood. And actually Venema provides an interesting hint to an answer: There is “a bacterium that could use nylon as its sole source of carbon and nitrogen” (p. 84). That is astounding considering nylon was just invented in the 1930s! “This indicated that these bacteria had adapted to use it as a food source in a mere forty years” (p. 85). “Evolution, as a mechanism, works wonderfully to adapt populations to their environments—to allow them to ‘self-assemble,’ as it were’ (p. 90). We probably mean different things by evolution but I agree completely!

Again, I don’t accept the conclusion of God solely using evolution as the means of creating. There are just too many theological problems which that creates (much more than accepting an earth that goes ‘round the sun, even if that’s not how it appears from our perspective). Still, I appreciate Venema’s wonder at the God of creation and how he is getting to know that Lord better in his work as an evolutionary biologist. “Could it be that God, in his wisdom, chose to use what we would call a ‘natural’ mechanism to fill his creation with biodiversity adapted to its environment? And to use evolution to all his creation to continue to adapt as that environment’s conditions shifted over time? If he did, would he be any less a creator than if had done so miraculously?” (p. 89). I think either way it is miraculous but the amazing adaptability of God’s creatures is something indeed to wonder at.

[1] McKnight’s Four Principles for reading the Bible are: Respect, Honesty, Sensitivity to science students, and the primacy of Scripture (p. 97). Notice that “the primacy of Scripture” is mentioned last!

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