Posted July 22, 2011
Biologists are struggling to understand the deadly E. coli breakout that killed dozens and sickened thousands in Germany. Many believe that we have a lesson to learn about evolution--but is it the right lesson?
E. coli bacteria under magnificationSource: Wikimedia Commons
The other day I was reading a collection of funny and slightly cynical, enigmatic questions that somebody sent me:
If you try to fail, and you succeed, which have you done?
Can an atheist get insurance against acts of God?
Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?
What was the best thing before sliced bread?
Is there another word for synonym?
If humans evolved from monkeys and apes—then why do we still have monkeys and apes?
Bingo! That last one is a really good question. I also read an analysis of the recent E. coli outbreak in Germany where an Ohio State University professor proposed a solution to such plagues.
Attributed at various times to cucumbers, tomatoes and alfalfa sprouts contaminated with an antibiotic-resistant, mutated strain of the E. coli bacteria, the outbreak in May severely sickened at least 3,000 and killed some 35 people. It amounts to one of the worst such epidemics since the bacterium was first identified in 1982.
Many analyzed the circumstances and the genetics involved in the situation. However, Ohio State biology professor Steven Rissing pointed out that part of the phenomena was due to horizontal gene transfer from one bacterial strain to another. “We now know it is an ongoing force of evolution generating new strains of bacteria, including the toxic ones” (Columbus Dispatch, June 26, 2011, Section H3).
He continued with more details about the working knowledge of the genetics, but concluded with an intriguing question, “So where’s the hole in our understanding of biology? It’s the public understanding of the biology of such outbreaks” (ibid).
Public understanding of biology
Professor Rissing makes a good point about public ignorance of biology—but what is the nature of that ignorance and what is the solution to it?
He offered the basic premise of modern science that “biologists understand the genetic and evolutionary processes” (ibid). But do they really—or is there something in life on earth that science is missing?
He then stressed that the solution is to teach more science—specifically the evolutionary process, so that, as in the case of the E. coli outbreak in Germany—the population will understand “why bacteria at home in the guts of cows are just as comfortable in ours because of our descent from a common, warm-blooded ancestor” (ibid).
I agree whole-heartedly with the professor that science and the wonders of nature should be taught in more fully in the educational system. But the “ongoing force of evolution” and “common warm-blooded ancestor” emphasis raises another set of even more puzzling questions!
Questions and conundrums
Why focus on a common warm-blooded ancestor—why not focus on the common, original Maker? That would more aptly explain the remarkable nature of bacterial and other organisms’ amazing commonalities.
Why must science and education think only from the premise of evolution rather than from the far greater premise of deliberate creation? Why must science think so small when it could think so incredibly big?
Why does the scientific discipline of biology expound as its first “law,” the Law of Biogenesis, which is that “life begets life,” and then immediately break it by claiming that life originally came from non-life?
Where did those laws of physics, biology and other sciences come from? Modern science provides the expertise in using all these laws, but where did they come from and why do they always work? The “force of evolution” cannot create and sustain laws! The existence of law requires a lawgiver. Therefore, the laws of physics and nature require a Lawgiver.
How smart is man anyway?
Why are humans so smart and animals so, well, not? No offense to the anthromorphizers of the world, but just look at the facts. Beavers build dams, always have, but always just with sticks and mud—never a Hoover or High Aswan? Parrots and a few other birds can learn to speak words, but no parrot ever composed and delivered a Gettysburg Address. Chimpanzees, they say, have the reasoning power of a 2 or 3-year-old human, and early in the space race some chimps were launched into orbit by humans. All very nice indeed, but the chimps are still just chimps and will never launch a human into space.
Raptors, dogs, horses, pigs and even cats can sometimes be very smart, but only humans are intelligent (although unfortunately, not necessarily wise). There remains a great gulf between mankind and animal-kind—a gulf that cannot be explained by merely brain science. It’s a non-physical essence that the Bible calls the “spirit of man” (1 Corinthians 2:11, King James Version).
Non-physical, i.e. spirit, does not fit the modern evolutionary worldview. Pity that, because if science actually began reasoning from the premise that God does exist, then perhaps it could solve even bigger problems than the recent, tragic E. coli outbreak in Germany.
Please read more about evolution and what the Bible says about the origin of life in our free booklet Creation or Evolution: Does It Matter What You Believe?