Adaptation: Designed by God, Not From Evolution

by Mario Seiglie Estimated reading time: 10 minutes. Posted on 5-Mar-2024
Genetic adaptation to environment has been attributed to natural selection for advantageous mutations. But scientists have recently learned that adaptations come mostly from genetic switches responding to circumstances—proof of design, as attested by the Bible.

Naturalist Charles Darwin, on his five-year voyage around the world back in the 1830s, observed that species adapted to their environments. He came to believe that, over sufficient time, all living creatures developed through a process of variation and natural selection (or forces of nature working on them).

Yet he was not aware of the mind-boggling complexity of the cell known today. A human cell has an exquisitely written genetic code making up a digital instruction manual that, according to Wired magazine, is comparable to “4,200 average-sized books” (Rachael Pells, “Everything You Need to Know About Getting Your Genome Sequenced,” Sept. 21, 2023, emphasis added throughout).

In fact, if you put the 4,200 volumes of this “genetic manual” end to end, it would span around 116 yards, longer than a football field! Scientists are stumped at how such a precise and extensive code, written in a four-letter chemical “alphabet,” could have “evolved” on its own. And they’re further stunned at discovering that embedded in life, from the humble bacteria to human beings, are layers of complex systems within systems—including built-in adaptations for changing environments.

Preset adaptation within species validates the biblical witness of divine creation.

Two great biological principles in Genesis 1

Darwin in his day concluded that if lifeforms were produced by a Creator, they would remain fixed and unable to vary to adapt. He disparaged the Bible for apparently not being able to explain the teeming variety of life around the world.

Yet Darwinian evolution has not been able to explain many basic aspects of life—such as the origin of life, the origin of self-replication, or, as already noted, the origin of the genetic code, a complex language that even includes punctuation! Moreover, it has not presented fossil evidence of plants or animals gradually transforming from one “kind” or species type into another. Scientists have instead discovered genetic barriers in each cell that ensure living organisms replicate only according to their own kind.

Regrettably, Darwin did not consider what the Bible reveals regarding explanations of biological features. For example, he was not aware of the two great biological principles laid down in Genesis 1 that still govern the basic rules of the animal and plant kingdoms.

The first is found in Genesis 1:11-12: “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth’; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

So God here at the beginning introduces the first great biological law (repeated here 10 times!)—that living things reproduce according to their own kind. All plants and animals, from bacteria to human beings, have a specific body plan, a strictly followed blueprint programmed into their genes.

Scientists have learned that living things don’t engender offspring of different body plans and development (unless something goes terribly wrong in the genetic code, creating inferior mutated creatures). For instance, have you ever seen a dog reproduce into anything but a dog? What about a cat? A bird? In fact, the fossil record, the historical registry of life on earth from the beginning to now, does not show plants or animals transforming generationally into other body types. They have the capacity to vary somewhat, but only within their own body plan.

And that capacity for variance brings us to the second great biological principle in Genesis 1—that life has the means to adapt to its environment. God said He would create living things to completely fill the earth. We read: “So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth’” (Genesis 1:21-22).

Here we see that life was given the capacity from the start to not only reproduce according to its kind, but also to “multiply” and totally “fill” the earth, which means giving various species the adaptability to occupy every nook and cranny of it. This is what has happened—even inside the famous and boiling-hot Yellowstone geysers, bacteria, viruses, and fungi have the means to adapt to the extreme environment.

Millions of genetic switches in once-dismissed “junk” DNA

Surprisingly, biologists and geneticists have discovered that adaptation comes mostly from preexisting genetic switches in the cell rather than minor changes from natural selection working on mutated cells—demonstrating design, not evolution.

As The New York Times has reported: “The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as ‘junk’ but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave . . . It includes the system of switches that, acting like dimmer switches for lights, control which genes are used in a cell and when they are used, and determine, for instance, whether a cell becomes a liver cell or a neuron . . .

“The system . . . is stunningly complex, with many redundancies [backup systems]. Just the idea of so many switches was almost incomprehensible, Dr. [Bradley] Bernstein [Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (Encode) project researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital] said. There also is a sort of DNA wiring system that is almost inconceivably intricate. ‘It is like opening a wiring closet and seeing a hairball of wires,’ said Mark Gerstein, an Encode researcher from Yale” (Gina Kolata, “Bits of Mystery DNA, Far From ‘Junk,’ Play Crucial Role,” Sept. 5, 2012).

So Darwin was wrong when he supposed that adaptation from undirected variation (now called mutations) and natural selection could create and change body plans. Mutations—the equivalent of typos or errors in the genetic code—are either neutral or degenerative in effect, not beneficial.

The set of genetic switches in the cell enabling adaptation is called the epigenome—found not only in the DNA but also in areas outside of it. In The Mysterious Epigenome: What Lies Beyond DNA, authors Thomas Woodward and James Gills state: “This strange new realm of functional information, written into parts of our cells that are distant from DNA, can be startling . . . It’s a bit like discovering that the digital memory in a computer is not confined to the hard drive, but that millions of bits of vital data are inscribed in other specialized languages and codes which are embedded in the keyboard, screen, outer casing, and many other parts of the computer” (2012, pp. 16-17).

Why is this discovery not better known? The short answer is that it would undermine evolution and atheism, hampering people’s freedom to live as they wish. Aldous Huxley, best known for his 1932 dystopian novel Brave New World, admitted why he and others embraced atheism and evolution with such fervor: “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning . . . The liberation we desired was . . . from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom” (Ends and Means, 1946, p. 70).

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor, an intelligent design advocate, points out the scope of the problem: “To understand the stranglehold that blind recalcitrant atheism has on many modern scientists, consider that with the discovery of the genetic code in DNA, scientists didn’t immediately acknowledge the evidence for intelligent design . . . It is a scandal that atheism has such an emotional and intellectual hold on so many scientists that it corrupts their science and leads them to deny what is obvious to any objective scientist” (“The God Hypothesis Versus Atheist Science Denial,” Evolution News, April 5, 2021)

Adaptation in action—blind cavefish

Let’s note a case of adaptation through such genetic switches.

One of the most difficult places for fish to live is a deep subterranean cave—but we find them there, such as the blind cavefish of the Mexican tetra variety. What scientists have discovered is astounding! It adapts through genetic switches that turn on or off to promote survival.

A normal tetra fish might end up in such a cave, with its sensors then triggering gene switches to gradually adapt to the new environment. The fish doesn’t need eyes or pigmentation in the pitch-dark caverns, and within a month, as lab experiments have shown, it adapts. Some features get turned off and others turned on, such as activating lateral line sensors (a type of radar) and heightened smell and taste to detect food sources in the dark.

A New Scientist article explained: “We’ve found out why a Mexican cavefish has no eyes—and the surprising answer is likely to be seized upon by those who think the standard view of evolution needs revising . . . It was assumed that these fish became blind because mutations disabled key genes involved in eye development . . . But Aniket Gore of the US’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and colleagues haven’t found any disabling changes in the DNA sequences of eye development genes in cavefish. Instead, the genes have been switched off by the addition of chemical tags called methyl groups. This is what is known as epigenetic, rather than genetic, change” (Michael Le Page, “Blind Cave Fish Lost Eyes by Unexpected Evolutionary Process,” New Scientist, Oct. 12, 2017).

As a result, the blind fish ends up adapting admirably well to its hostile dark environment—just as God had designed it to do.

It’s the same with creatures all around the world, which possess these genetic switches that help them adapt to new environments. Even human beings are able to adapt to extreme climate conditions, such as the Eskimos in the frozen Arctic tundra or the Bedouins in the searing desert.

Facing the evidence

Darwin, then, was ultimately wrong about the cause of adaptation, only discovering insignificant changes within species, such as beak sizes and shapes in various birds. Yet, scientists now have to explain the increasingly daunting complexity of living things, and their silence about how the evidence points to an intelligent Designer is deafening.

The Bible warned us about such denial of the evidence about nature and creation in Romans 1:18-21: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools . . .” (English Standard Version).

Yes, mankind as a whole, with its pride, vanity and lusts, has suppressed the truth about the origins and development of life and has ended up worshiping the creation instead of the Creator! (verse 25). Let’s not ever fall into that trap! Adaptation should never be credited to evolution. Let’s instead give the credit to our wondrous and loving Creator God—just as Genesis 1 reveals.

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