A Tree of Life? Not Exactly


Opinion by John Tutten:

I bet about right now you are getting a little weary from all the political chaff exploding around us. How about something a little different this week?

Here goes. A team of scientists from the University of California at Berkeley using a supercomputer have generated a vastly more complex model of the Darwinian “tree of life”. In a report published online in Nature Microbiology, the researchers explain how they have dramatically expanded the amount of diversity included in the new tree by incorporating new genomic data from 1000 little known organisms, primarily bacteria.

This latest version of the tree of life (which looks more like a bird to me) has three main branches that encompass all known life forms – Eukarya which includes animals, plants and us; Bacteria and Archaea, cellular life that live in extreme or harsh environments.

Darwin conceptualized his theory of natural selection acting on random mutation as a tree, a tree that took root when a collection of complex molecules in a totally random, unguided way self-organized into the first living cell. This first cell then began replicating and random changes in the DNA contained in its nucleus produced changes that were either beneficial or detrimental to its progeny. The beneficial changes survived to reproduce and the detrimental changes died out. This process extended for hundred of millions of years, life upon life, resulting in what could be characterized as a tree with increasingly intricate branches as is described in the Nature Microbiology report.

I do appreciate the work and effort it took to classify and catalog the incredible number of genomes we know of today. However, I have a real problem with Darwin’s original idea of a tree of life that these scientists expand upon. The concept is simply not supported by the archeological data we have. A more accurate botanical description of life arising on the planet would be that of a lawn, not a tree.

The fossil record clearly shows life in many forms arising independently, not from some common ancestor. From over 500 million years ago, the data we have from the Cambrian Explosion confirms that many of the body plans present today sprang into existence independently in parallel and in a period of time far too short for Darwinian evolution to have been the mechanism.

If Darwinian evolution was responsible for all life as it proponents assert, then there should be innumerable transitional forms that lead from lesser complex animals to more complex animals, in turn forming the tree of life. However, there is a dearth of transitional forms that have been found. The only confirmed data we have about life is the end of the tree’s branches. The larger connecting branches and the trunk are just scientific inference. The actual archeological data connecting all life forms together is not there and easily should be if Darwinian evolution was really responsible for all life.

What we know for sure is that the fossil record is characterized by sudden appearance and stasis of organisms. Life forms just show up in the fossil record suddenly, fully formed. They exist for a while with minor changes due to environmental pressures (like Darwin’s finches) and then die out. There is no directional progression from less complex to more complex that Darwinism insists on.

So the fossil record is a big problem for Darwinian proponents. The information contained in DNA is an even bigger problem. DNA, contained in the nucleus of cells, is very much like the software that enabled me to type this article and enables you to read it – only it is far more advanced according to Bill Gates. While computers run on a two character language, DNA is based on a four character language and constitutes the instructions for how a cell manufactures the proteins it needs to exist. Without the information in DNA, proteins don’t exist. Without proteins, we don’t exist.

The salient point about the information content in biology is that we know of only one mechanism capable of generating such complexity – a mind. And materialistic scientists avoid this conclusion at all costs. Evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin states that a majority of scientists will not consider an intelligent origin for life because “…materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine foot in the door”. I thought science was about a search for causes wherever the data leads. Clearly that’s not true in the world of highly politicized science today.

We’ve seen this before. At the beginning of the last century, science assured us that the universe was static and eternal. However, through Einstein’s theoretical work and Edwin Hubble’s empirical data, it became clear that the universe had a beginning a finite time ago. Scientists then had to face the fact that there was a cause of the universe beyond time, space, and matter/energy with obvious theological implications. They’re still fighting those implications today.

Now the information foundation of biology again is pointing clearly to a Creator yet so many try to suppress this truth. The apostle Paul describes this clearly in his letter to the Romans. He teaches how men will suppress the truth, their thinking then becomes futile and they descend into depravity. Yeah, I think I’m seeing that.

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