Epigenetics for the Rest of Us: Does it help the Creationist’s Case Against Evolution?

Oct 24, 2017 | Apologetics, Article, Creation

Every day, more and more scientific discoveries are unveiling the mind and ways of our omnipotent Creator. While science can never hope to uncover the ways of God, since they are “higher than ours” (Isaiah 55:9), science can help us better understand God’s world in light of God’s Word.

Every once in awhile, something incredible happens. A new discovery is made that fundamentally changes everything we thought we used to know.

This is not unusual in the field of science. In fact, many scientists boast that the changes in scientific insight throughout the years are a feature rather than a drawback.

I certainly agree, to an extent.

Specifically, to the extent that each and every day, new scientific ideas are bringing the field closer to what God’s Word has said all along.

Scientists will eventually agree, since “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” But until that day comes, we’ll continue to contend for the faith.

One of the more recent developments is in a field called Epigenetics. Though we could certainly go in-depth here, I’ll leave that work to the scientists.

What I feel we should do is give a quick overview of this field, what it could mean for Creation Science, and what the future looks like.


What is Epigenetics?


For many years, the idea of Darwinian Evolution has been the reigning scientific dogma.

Darwinian Evolution, of course, posits that all life can be traced back to a common ancestor. And, the changes necessary to bring such an ancestor to the point we’re at today–millions and millions of species–a process called natural selection has been in the driver’s seat.

Ironically, creation scientists do not disagree with natural selection! However, they understand and recognize its apparent limitations.

The Darwinian notion is dependent upon something we call “random beneficial mutations.” In other words, populations would eventually begin to evolve from one organism to another by mutations in their genome. These mutations are random–that is, unguided and undirected–and must be “beneficial” to the organism in order to preserve the continued life of the species.

Of course, as a creationist, I fully reject this idea–but that argument is for another time.

The point is that in recent years, a new field of study–Epigenetics–is emerging. And, it is changing the way we think about the process of evolution (for the creationists AND the Darwinists).

While natural selection is clear evidence of an organisms ability to adapt to its environment, with changes being seen directly in the genome as it has offspring, epigenetics is evidence that organisms can change in dramatic ways without any alteration in their DNA.

These alterations are happening in their epigenome, rather than their genome.

Through a process known as a chemical tagging, “epigenetic markers” have the ability to modify our DNA in order to perform specific functions. In other words, they don’t alter our DNA, they simply tell it how to operate. Practically, these chemical tags are actually switching genes on and off like a light switch.

To borrow an example from AiG, “The following sentence can have two very different meanings, depending on the punctuation used. ‘A woman, without her man, is nothing’ or ‘A woman: Without her, man is nothing.’ Perhaps it’s a silly illustration, but it gets the point across.”

In the above sentence, the information is the same! But the sentences were instructed to operate differently based on punctuation–markers/tags–in the information.


Programmed from the Beginning?


The practical outworking of this is an astronomical win for the field of creation science.

What this essentially tells us is that when an organism changes, it’s extremely possible that it is has ALWAYS had the ability to survive in the environment it finds itself in.

So, for example, when an elephant, which has a strikingly similar genome to that of a Woolly Mammoth is compared to one, it’s almost puzzling to understand the findings from a Darwinian perspective.

But from an epigenetic perspective, this is exactly what we would expect. We may find that if a sudden ice age were to crop up, and elephants found themselves in the middle of it, they would start looking a lot like Woolly Mammoths!

A key to understanding the outworking of epigenetics is that these changes happen much quicker than can natural selection. But, more on that in a bit.

In an example given by CMI, “Scientists conducting experiments on agouti mice found that by manipulating nutrition they could switch off a certain gene. When the gene is active (‘on’) the mice are normally obese and a yellowish colour; by switching the gene off the mice are of a normal, slim appearance, and brown. By feeding a combination of nutrients including vitamin B12 to the mother before mating, the gene was able to be turned off in the babies.”

These discoveries are quite profound, and totally question the evolutionary paradigm. This is further confirmation that deep time is not required for profound changes to take place in an organism, and even its offspring!

The old adage, “you are what you eat”, is truer than ever in light of these discoveries. But, as it turns out, you might be what your grandmother ate also!

Another idea being researched is that over time, epigenetic changes could result in changes to the actual genome of an organism.

There are many questions, and there is much more research to be done! However, the evidence points to a Creator–a mind! Someone preprogrammed life from the beginning to be able to activate and deactivate already present genes depending on the type of environment an organism has found itself in, and even what kind of food it was eating.


Epigenetics, or Natural Selection?


Not surprisingly, this field is raising some very important questions concerning the traditional concept of evolution theory.

And while that may be the case, we should think of epigenetics and natural selection as working harmoniously with one another.

One area where this harmony will be especially helpful in the creationist’s worldview is explaining the rapid genetic diversity following the Flood. The notion that it would be impossible to arrive at the number of animal species represented today in just the 4000 years since the flood is a common objection–one that evolutionists have a hard time understanding.

Some of this is because of semantics; in other words, creationist’s don’t operate under the Linnean system of animal classification–we use the Biblical term, Kind (Hebrew: Min). While this term is certainly vague, and probably represents some elements of both the Family and Species level in the Linnean system, it gives us a realistic understanding of speciation. The relatively new field of Baraminology is beginning to shed some light on this.

This is closely related to the objection that says millions of animals would have had to be on Noah’s Ark! But, when you account for the kinds of animals that had to be there, we’re looking at much more realistic numbers (perhaps even as little as 2000).

Now–this idea alone is good enough evidence of the rapid widespread animal diversification, because we realize that new species are formed, yes, but always stay within the same kind. In other words, evolutionists assume more has to happen than actually does (indeed, because they assume it should have taken millions of years).

However, epigenetics is helping us to understand the mechanism by which this change happened so rapidly! It’s now not necessary to attribute the genetic diversity to the genome alone, since we can account for changes in the epigenome as well! Of course, lab tests have shown us just how rapidly these changes can take place–even in one generation!

Not only that, but again, the changes we see are in direct response to things like environmental stimuli–suggesting that certain organisms have always had the built-in ability to adapt to a certain environment, even without direct genetic alteration. It just needed the chemical tags necessary to switch the proper genes on and off.


Conclusion: What Does the Future Hold?


I think I speak for ALL creationists when I say that, what we’d like to see, is the extermination of Darwinistic ideas from the mainstream.

Though I do not expect to see this anytime soon, the field of epigenetics could be a step in the right direction. The research I’ve seen so far, quite honestly, seems to eliminate the need for any “deep time” mechanism as far as evolutionary biology goes.

That being said, there is so much more to do! This is just one area, of course. The idea of long ages first arrived in the geological sciences, but Darwin’s ideas, while not on as shaky of ground as we’d like to see, definitely has issues.

This is encouraging because that means one less discipline is reliant upon the philosophical foundation of long ages and “deep time”, which paves the way for inroads into the other scientific communities.

Personally, I think the future is bright. But I want to encourage any Christian considering the sciences to leap in and begin contributing! The truth is that it will ultimately take years to bring some of the aforementioned ideas into the mainstream in such a way that it makes a real impact on the discussion.

Nevertheless, there has never been a better time to become a creation scientist. Remember—we ought not to fear the majority. Most, if not all, of the great scientific discoveries have been the result of challenging the status quo. Will it be tough? Yes. Will it honor our Lord? YES!

So, what are you waiting for?

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