Converging on a Creator

New Research Suggests Problems with Evolutionary Theory Run More than Skin Deep

Despite great advances in our understanding of nature, the living world is still rich in mystery. One such enigma is the case of convergent evolution, the notion that life appears to have hit on the same or similar solutions at the genetic and organismic level, many times in its long history and across totally unrelated animal phyla.

One good example is birds and bats. Both groups have developed elaborate wing structures to get around, yet both kinds of animals derive from completely different families; birds are birds and bats are mammals. Biologists have identified a great many examples of convergence in nature but have yet to explain why this occurs within the framework of the evolutionary paradigm. The best they can do is suggest that when organisms live in similar environments, their evolution is constrained in such a way that they develop anatomical similarities that help them survive better.

But the phenomenon of convergence presents fundamental problems for evolutionary biologists who continue to argue that life is historically contingent (contingent meaning it happened by chance and could just as easily have happened differently). This idea was strongly favored by the late Harvard palaeontologist, Stephen J. Gould, who likened the entire history of life on Earth to a kind of cassette tape being played in real time, such as a musical composition. Gould held that if the tape of life were to be re-played from scratch, the history of life on Earth would be completely different from the one we now see and that entirely different creatures would emerge to fill our planet’s many niches. In other words, examples of repeated evolutionary paths ought to be non-existent or rare.

But since Gould proposed these ideas in his popular 1989 work Wonderful Life, biologists have unearthed an enormous number of cases where completely unrelated species hit on the same solutions time and time again. This casts severe doubt on the contention that the history of life on Earth is really historically contingent.

Of Hippos & Whales

The problem of convergent evolution has recently been compounded by some astonishing research findings from a team of scientists who conducted studies on two unrelated species; the hippopotamus and the whale. Both species are thought to have diverged from a common ancestor some 53 million years ago, but they share a number of anatomical features including hairless bodies, underwater parturition, lack of sebaceous glands, and the ability to detect both the intensity and directionality of sound waves under water.

In particular, the team concentrated on studying the skin cells in both hippos and whales, because, they reasoned, both express a number of genes thought to be important to adapting to life in the water. In particular, the team looked at a set of 10 genes expressed in their skin cells which were thought to be crucially involved in surviving in aquatic environments. What they found shocked them. The same 10 genes were inactivated in both hippos and whales! But here’s the kicker; those 10 genes were silenced in whales some 16 million years before the same genes were inactivated in hippos! In other words, those same 10 skin genes were silenced independently in both lineages.

Responding to these extraordinary findings, lead author of the study Mark Springer said, “None of the inactivating mutations that would have suggested a common aquatic ancestry are shared between these two lineages.”

A Problem for Evolutionary Biology but not for Intelligent Design or Biblical Creation

The silencing of these genes in whales and hippos must have occurred in a highly coordinated manner. For this reason, it’s simply amazing to think that the coordinated loss of the same 10 genes occurred independently in both whales and hippos over such a short period of geological time. To my mind, this is yet another failed prediction of the evolutionary paradigm.

According to Christian biochemist, Fazale (Fuz) Rana, who has written extensively on the problem of biological convergence, “The evolutionary paradigm fails in the face of the discovery of ‘repeatable’ evolution while biblical creation gains support from this phenomenon. What is interpreted as ‘repeatable’ evolution––morphologically indistinct and genetically unique organisms––is what one would expect if a single Creator has generated life throughout Earth’s history.”

Another issue these research findings unveil is the waiting time problem highlighted by scientists within the Intelligent Design movement. As a team of theorists from Cornell University pointed out some years ago, just two coordinated mutations in such long-lived creatures as hippos and whales would take 200 million years to occur by chance.

Using the same reasoning, how long might it take 10 identical genes to be knocked out in the same creatures? The answer must be in the billions of years at the very least, and yet evolutionists claim hippos lost those ten genes in only 16 million years after they diverged from whales. This is far too short a time to make their case credible.

In summary, these new findings from mainstream biological research greatly bolster the case for design in biological systems and further weaken the evolutionary worldview, in which scientists must resort to magic to explain away the extraordinary convergence of biological systems, both at the anatomical and genetic level.

is that author of eight books on amateur and professional astronomy. His latest book is Choosing & Using Binoculars, a Guide for Stargazers, Birders and Outdoor Enthusiasts (Springer Publishing, 2023).

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