Friday, July 22, 2011

Guest Post: Does A Yeast Flake Prove Darwinism?

When this story broke, I felt it was something that deserved a Biblical Conservatism revue.  There was only one problem:  I'm neither a theologian nor a scientist.  Rather than subject my readers to my admittedly limited knowledge on the issue, I felt it was better to ask my friend and fellow blogger Martin Glynn, who is indeed a theologian and a good bit more knowledgable than me on the Creationism/Evolution debate to pen a reaction on the subject.  So, without further adue, please welcome today's guest poster, Martin Glynn!

Recently, my friend Chris sent me an article talking about how a grad student, by the name of William Ratcliff from the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, has gotten single cell organisms, namely brewer's yeast, to exhibit multi-cellular characteristics. Chris sent me this article because an atheist acquaintance of his claimed that this event proved Darwinism beyond a shadow of a doubt. Unfortunately, like many Darwinists, he has failed to appreciate the length of that shadow.

[Two caveats: First, I am not a scientist. I am a theologian. I am not trying to claim that I fully understand each and every reference about evolution that comes to me. My intent is to properly explain what Creationism believes about evolution, and to show that the differences between it and Darwinism are philosophical and not scientific.

Second, the article in question does not suggest that this proves Darwinism; I seriously doubt that was the intention of Mr. Ratcliff as well. Therefore what follows is not a criticism of the article or the experiment. Indeed, I do not feel qualified to criticize either. Instead, it is a response to those that believe that this is a blow to Creationism, which it is not.]

Missing Data

First of all, there is not enough data in this article to claim that evolution has really occurred. There is no real discussion of the genetics: no mention of mutations. All that is recorded are differences of behavior, and biological lifeforms can change their behavior based off of their environment.

Second, there are no links to original sources (and I also could not find any in my research). I even attempted to find some but to no avail (the link to William Ratcliffe was also inaccurate). Therefore, there is very little I can do to verify or elucidate what went on here.

Why It Doesn't Matter

However, there really is not that much of a threat here to Creationism anyway. The problem with most Darwinists' criticisms of Creationism is that they think that we outright reject evolution. We don't. Evolution is nothing more the a description of the process of biological adaptation. Consider this: all Creationists believe that the whole of the human race finds its origin in one man and one woman. Clearly we believe that biological lifeforms progenicly adapt to their environment. Therefore examples of speciation, adaptation, and genetic mutation do not, in of themselves, refute Creationism.

Now it is true that there are certain, shall we say, gaps in the evidence for Darwinism (including but not restricted to: the shift from procaryotic cells to eucaryotic cells, the introduction of sexual reproduction, the disentropic development of a global biosphere, the irreducible complexity of proteinic systems, and, of course, the advent of multicellularity), and it is true that Creationists do much to rhetorical exploit these gaps. But it would be ignorant to therefore think that the Creationist position is merely comprised of filling these gaps with God.

To be fair, many Creationists are responsible for this misunderstanding, using the term 'Evolution' to refer to Darwinism. Some use 'microevolution' and 'macroevolution' to distinguish between the two positions, which is better, but I prefer to spearhead straight to the heart and declare things as they are. We are dealing with two philosophies: Darwinism and Creationism. The reason why the difference is philosophical is that the difference between the two is not falsifiable.

Darwinism, generally, believes that evolution is progressive. I say "generally" because Darwinists will admit that evolution sometimes results in something "weaker" (such as albino lizards living in caves). However, the process as a whole is seen as progressive.

Creationism on the other hand considers the evolutionary process to be a form of specialization. In a special creative act, God formed a small but diverse population of lifeforms and from these lifeforms comes all of the creatures on the earth today. The original creatures possessed the potential for all of the forms that we currently have, but it was the various environments which their ancestors found themselves in that shaped the precise forms of modern day life.

The problem is that you cannot prove or disprove either of these ideas...yet. Any example of evolution can be interpreted through either lens. Unsurprising, the example at hand, the development of multicellular characteristics within a population of yeast cells, can easily be interpreted as a innate aspect of yeast to be able to exist on both a single cellular and multicellular level.

On To Particulars

Considering that what this needs to disprove is that yeast never had the capacity to exist in a multicellular way before, I offer the following explanations why it fails:

1. Yeast are communal. Yeast already are single-cell organisms that interact with each other. Confining their environment to intensify this feature is not the same thing as generating multicellularity.

2. All that is really discussed here is behavior. A change of behavior is not the same thing as evolution. Without a layout or discussion of the changes of genetic material, I cannot ascertain whether or not evolution has really occurred here at all.

3. Yeast are fungi. Many fungi are multicellular, some are monocellular, and many fungi act in a somewhat middle ground manner between the two using hydrae. It is not surprising then that scientists would believe that if the gap between single-celled organisms and multicelled organism could be crossed through the fungi kingdom. However, fungi also possess other unique properties that separate them from animals, plants and other lifeforms, and there is no way of indicating that this isn't just inherit to the design of fungi.

4. The article itself actually says that yeast used to be multicellular. While I do not know what the source of this comment is, and whether or not I would agree with it, activating a quality that already exists within the species is essentially the Creationist position, and this is all that this project seems to have demonstrated.

In short, the article and the experiment fail to prove Darwinism over Creationism. This because the difference between the two is not a matter of experimentation, but interpretation of the evidence. Considering that the results of the experiment can be explained within Creationism, and could be predicted within the Creationist paradigm, it doesn't disprove it. In order to disprove something, if it were possible, you have to provide evidence that actually contradicts the position, and in order to know what could do that, you have to actually take the time to learn what that position really believes. Clearly this atheist has not taken the time to do that.
Martin Glynn is a graduate of Northeastern Theological Seminary in Rochester, NY with a Master's Degree in Divinity and a Christian blogger.  You can read his blog at The JC Freak: An Irish Protestant.


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  2. What?

    For the record if you want to discuss this post, may I recommend you speak to the guest poster...


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