Nobel winner's evolution claims stir response

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (BP) -- The winners of this year's Nobel Prize in chemistry have been hailed by the body to award the prize as demonstrating "the power of evolution."

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But scientists with Answers in Genesis (AiG) and the Discovery Institute say the Nobel laureates have made no such demonstration and, in fact, have illustrated the necessity of an intelligent designer for the existence of life.

This year's Nobel-winning research "really has nothing to do with evolution in the sense of Darwin and the sense of going from molecules to man," said Georgia Purdom, a molecular geneticist with AiG, a young-earth creationist organization based in Petersburg, Ky.

The 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry, announced Oct. 3, was awarded to three scientists. American Frances Arnold earned half the prize for her work with "directed evolution" of enzymes, proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. American George Smith and Englishman Gregory Winter shared the other half of the prize for their use of a virus called a bacteriophage to yield proteins.

In announcing the winners, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stated in a press release, "This year's Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have been inspired by the power of evolution and used the same principles -- genetic change and selection -- to develop proteins that solve mankind's chemical problems."

Arnold in particular, a professor of chemical engineering at the California Institute of Technology, has been noted in media reports for supposedly showing evolution's power.

After unsuccessfully trying to build new enzymes through a process called "rational design," Arnold inserted into a rapidly reproducing bacteria a gene that produces the enzyme she wanted to study. As the bacteria reproduced, it yielded different variations of the enzyme -- like reproduction of two humans yields different children from the same genetic material. Arnold then chose the enzyme that worked best and repeated the process with its genetic material until she refined the enzyme for her specific purposes.

Arnold's method has been used to produce biofuels and stain-removing enzymes in laundry detergent.

"I copied nature's inventions, this wonderful process of evolution, to breed molecules like you breed dogs and cats," Arnold said according to The New York Times.

Purdom, however, told Baptist Press that Arnold's scientific process is decidedly different from the process through which Darwinists say life emerged.

"For evolution -- if you're going to go from one kind of organism to another -- you have to not just make a protein work a little bit better or a little bit differently," Purdom said. "You've got to make entirely new proteins.... Her work doesn't show that at all."

In contrast to Darwinian evolution, Purdom said, Arnold's research "has nothing to do with random chance. She's the one shifting around the parts of the DNA and making these proteins better." Additionally, for Arnold's process to work, as with development of life, "you have to have an intelligent designer."

Douglas Axe, a molecular biologist with the Discovery Institute, wrote in an Oct. 3 blog post that all three of this year's chemistry Nobel laureates deserve the prize. The Discovery Institute advocates the theory of intelligent design, which claims the universe is the product of intelligence rather than chance.

"It's also fitting that words like 'design' and 'directed' be attached to their work," wrote Axe, who knew Arnold when he was a graduate student at Cal Tech and Winter when he worked in Cambridge, England. "The truth is that by much hard work and careful thought, they accomplished what accidental processes would never accomplish on their own."

Arnold, Axe wrote, demonstrated "admirable candor" in a 2011 article for the journal Current Opinion in Chemical Biology, when she noted human efforts to generate "novel" enzymes "have primarily demonstrated that we are getting good at making bad enzymes. Making good enzymes will require a whole new level of insight, or new methodologies altogether."

Axe concluded, "The problem these efforts face in the lab is exactly the problem faced by Darwin's evolutionary mechanism in the wild: Nothing can be selected until it already exists. The fact that some clever thing would be enormously beneficial if it existed has no power to make that thing exist."

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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