September 17, 2012

What About Viruses and Bacteria?

Would a loving God create bacteria and viruses? The fossil record says that these have been around since before the beginning of animal life. Where did these come from and why do they exist?
. A healthy human body contains a few pounds of bacteria. There are many good strains of bacteria, and we would be in deep trouble without any bacteria—especially in regard to our digestion. Bacteria are not inherently bad. However, we all know and fear the bad ones. Some of them are deadly. Were these accidents or intentionally created? 

There is increasing evidence that bacteria are related to the mitochondria of cells. Whether the bacteria devolved from mitochondria or whether mitochondria evolved from bacteria is unclear from the evidence. Most evolutionists, trusting in the all-powerful creativity of undesigned evolution, believe that it only makes sense that simplicity leads to complexity through eons of time and chance. So, the prevailing ‘wisdom’ is that bacteria gave rise to mitochondria. In my theories, it makes perfect sense that the opposite happened: mitochondria (which are complex) devolved into bacteria (less complex in structure). Some dissenting scientists agree that this is a possibility. Somehow mitochondria in some ancient cells became increasingly independent from the rest of the cells, as more genetic code got transferred from the nuclei to the mitochondria. Eventually, one or more of these mitochondria broke free from the main cell and became the first bacteria, I believe.

Was this an accident? Nothing is ultimately an unforeseen and unplanned for accident from God’s perspective. But it may have been the natural result of decay, disorder, and randomness. In that sense, it may have been an accident. No one can say for sure. What I love about it, though, is that even if bacteria were born of decay, God used many of them for good in the design of animals and humans.

Viruses. Most viruses are harmful to humans. The exception is bacteriophages that infect bacteria. These may indirectly help humans in the case where they attack harmful bacteria. Indeed, some bacteriophages have been intentionally utilized to help fight off bacterial infections.

Recently, it has been found that giant viruses—which are nearly as large as bacteria and are more complex than typical viruses—appear to be related to cells. This means that viruses may be the result of devolving cells, in much the same way as bacteria, in my view. Perhaps another part of the cell became independent, or bacteria devolved further into viruses. Who knows for sure?

The Purpose. So, why would God allow these sometimes harmful things in the environment? First, before the Fall of Adam and Eve it is most certain that God would have supernaturally protected them from harm of any kind. There is the indication that where the glorious knowledge of God abounds, things are peaceful and no harm will come (Is. 11:9). The Garden of Eden was one of those places. Bad bacteria and viruses were not welcome. Neither were harmful insects and animals, like lions, allowed to harm man, as in the case of Daniel in the lion’s den (Dan. 6:22). Just because dangerous things exist does not mean that they are not under God’s control. All things are under God’s control. Nothing can harm anyone unless God allows it. Why did God allow fallen angels to enter into the world? It is the same question.

God has allowed harmful things in the environment because He knew that Man would fall and, as punishment, be subjected to a life of futility and decay. God prepared an imperfect world of suffering and decay for the unfolding plan of redemption of mankind. For a brief moment of time—a few short days—God upheld Adam and Eve such that they experienced no physical pain, suffering, or harm; then, they fell and God’s protecting hand was removed, as part of their curse. God wisely made the world from the very beginning to be firmly established (Jer. 10:12). Part of that wisdom and establishing involved preparing the world for a sinful human race. God wasn’t about to redesign the whole huge universe just because they sinned.

I actually agree with young-earth creationists who say that pain, suffering, diseases, and animal death are to remind us of the consequences of sin. There is no reason why these problems with the world could not have existed before Adam’s sin, being prepared for the Fall of mankind. When God’s hand of protection was removed from Adam and Eve, from their limited prospective it would have been just as if the world had been marred and changed for the worse. Harmful bacteria and viruses, then, originated likely from the decaying nature of the universe, but humans only became afflicted with them because of the Fall. 


05/21/2013: Viruses have been found to be more helpful to animals than previously known. In humans and animals, apparently phages (a type of virus mentioned briefly above) are continually fighting off bacteria[1], protecting creatures from harm. From this we see an example of how God made something we generally think of as harmful to be helpful to creatures.


September 13, 2012

A Mechanism for Macroevolution

The recently discovered epigenome is the key to how all evolution has happened, I hypothesize. According to all that we now know, and my proposed theory that the first life on earth contained all the genetic codes for all the kinds of living things today, major evolution would naturally happen without invoking other unknown mysterious mechanisms.

How? Well, first let’s talk briefly about the epigenome. The epigenome is apparently the surrounding chemical environment in which the genome rests. The epigenome influences which genes get activated and which lie dormant. That is, simple chemical changes can influence gene expression. Furthermore, the epigenome gets passed from parent to child, resulting in customized changes to the expression of genes based on the actions and environment of the parent(s). This means that environmental changes influence gene expression for multiple generations. If there is a persistent environmental change, or if there is a persistent behavioral change, there would be a persistent change in the active genetic instructions (genes) for an organism. In other words, there would be some adaptation or evolution based on environment or behavior. We see this adaption all the time today. For example, the beaks of birds on the Galapagos Islands change rapidly in response to the environment. This is an adaption via the epigenome, I believe.

There’s one more important piece of the puzzle. If unexpressed genes remain unexpressed for many generations they can be permanently removed from the genome. Thus, purely environmental changes, causing changes to gene expression as explained above, can result in loss of information to an organism’s genome. An example of this is cave fish that have lost their eyes due to the darkness that renders them useless. The dark environment affected the epigenome which caused the genes for eyes to become unexpressed, and in some cases eventually resulted in the genes being discarded as unneeded.

Now, back to the question of how major evolution would happen naturally through the influence of the epigenome. If the original life on earth had huge amounts of information for all kinds of designs, where something like only 1% was being actively used initially, then the epigenome would result in new gene expression with new designs springing up. A single cell could spontaneously become a multicellular organism because of chemical changes that resulted in new genes becoming activated. If that new multicellular organism remained multicellular for many generations, then it could lose genetic information and its ability to evolve back to a single-celled organism. The change would be a permanent genetic change. The evolutionary leap from single-celled to multi-celled organism then could be explained by the influence of the epigenome—by purely environmental changes. Similarly, if the environment became sufficiently cold, chemical changes in the epigenome might cause a dinosaur to start producing feathers (a previously unexpressed genetic code) for warmth. If the new feathered dinosaur started using those feathers to fly, the behavioral change might result in the feathers becoming a relatively permanent feature. So, the affects of the epigenome could be responsible for the development of the wings of birds.

In fact, genes activated by the epigenome could be self-perpetuating if the genes caused behavioral changes. Those behavioral changes might result in chemical changes that caused the epigenome to remain changed. The persistent change to the epigenome would result in a permanent genetic change if the genome ditched the unexpressed genes.

Finally, it is important to note that these mechanisms for major evolutionary change require sophisticated preexisting information in the genome. It also is important to note that this would be a one-way street: major evolution could only happen for so long before the new genetic information would be exhausted and unused genes would be discarded by organisms. All species would become genetically unique and unable to evolve significant new designs requiring new information. That is why we do not often (if ever) observe macroevolution today. We are only talking about evolution by the loss, reorganization, and selection of already existing information. Complex designs simply should not arise by randomness so frequently as we see in Nature. Some organisms, by the way, would reach this point of genetic exhaustion before others. That is why we see some “living fossils” that haven’t changed significantly in many millions of years. Such organisms have long ago discarded their unused genes and have become relatively unable to evolve.

(That leaves us with several interesting questions. What caused some organisms to ditch their unused genes quicker than others? One possibility is that a more stable environment might cause this to happen quicker. How could the totality of genetic information be preserved for a few billion years before complex life arose? One simple answer to that is that the code for discarding unused genes was not activated until sometime before the Cambrian Explosion.)