Barney Maddox, M.D., joins the cavalcade of professionals who lecture the public on the “scientific flaws” of evolution. While I'm fairly certain that Dr. Maddox would resent medical advice offered by someone who never studied medicine, he is quite ready to chastise biologists for not understanding their own discipline. Some doctors like to play God, but most of them are good enough to confine their manifestations within the walls of their clinics or hospitals. Dr. Maddox, however, is ready to shine the light of his uninformed omniscience on us all.
The Institute for Creation Research has seen fit to publish Dr. Maddox's anti-evolution ruminations in the September 2007 issue of the Acts & Facts newsletter. His article is titled “Mutations: The Raw Material of Evolution?” To spare you from skipping ahead to learn the answer, I'll spill the beans now: He says they're not.
Maddox chooses to begin his story with a bit of medical history. That's encouraging, because he starts on familiar ground where his general competence may be assumed. Maddox says it's good that anesthesia was accepted by the medical community after its first use in 1846. It shows how surgeons were prepared to use the latest science in their practices. Therein lies a lesson for us all.
Correct application of the latest knowledge and techniques in surgical science works today. So why not make similar applications in the forensic science of origins? Darwin published his Origin of Species just before the Civil War. Numerous advances in science since that time bring into question the validity of Darwin's theory, yet biology textbooks today maintain the Darwin mantra, “Darwin said it, I believe it, and that settles it.”It didn't take Dr. Maddox long to run right off the rails, did it? If we take him at his word, he actually thinks that evolutionary biologists simply spout the sacred writ of Darwin's theory. What a shame it is that no one has thought to divide The Origin of Species into numbered verses, so that scientists could cite it as some people do the Bible. That, at least, would conform to Maddox's peculiar perspective that evolutionists are simply Darwin's doctrinaire parrots. “But the case is exactly the reverse” (Darwin XIII:2).
After mischaracterizing evolutionists, Maddox hurries on to demonstrate his misunderstanding of evolution as well. He's the whole package. Maddox is piqued that biologists credit mutation for the diversity of the genetic material on which natural selection operates. He homes in on the problem:
But natural selection only explains survival of the fittest; it fails to explain arrival of the fittest. Natural selection, i.e., the forces of nature, does not change the DNA of the individual animal at all, and can only change the total gene pool of a species by eliminating unfit individuals (leading to the loss, not gain, of genetic information). Genetic drift, or gene shuffling, only involves the shuffling of existing genes within a kind. It does not explain the origination of any gene....I'm sure that Dr. Maddox was delighted by minting the phrase “arrival of the fittest,” but I suspect the coinage is not fit enough to survive.
The only way for organisms to acquire DNA other than what they inherited from their parents is for their DNA to change, or mutate. If their DNA doesn't change, living things could never change regardless of how much time passes. Lizards could never become chickens and monkeys, and fish could never become philosophers. Since evolution rejects purposeful design, genetic change could only be random, or accidental.
It irks Maddox that biology texts are replete with examples of deleterious mutations except in the chapter on evolution. In that chapter, the textbooks present the notion that there are such things as “positive” mutations.
However, these books fail to inform students that unequivocally positive mutations are unknown to genetics, since they have never been observed (or are so rare as to be irrelevant).You have to admire that argument—especially the parenthetical fig-leaf. First of all, who argued for “unequivocally” beneficial mutations? As long as there is a net benefit, a mutation can survive. Maddox even mentions the mutation that causes sickle-cell anemia, which persists in the human population by its virtue of also bestowing resistance to malaria. Since sickle-cell anemia is a serious disease, Maddox feels justified in dismissing the mutation as a bad one, neglecting his own argument that natural selection should have weeded it out. It survives, however, in malaria-ridden climes where its benefits outweigh its disadvantages. Is this too complicated for the good doctor?
I am quite taken with his casual aside that positive mutations are either nonexistent or—to reiterate his phrase—“so rare as to be irrelevant.” How, pray tell, could that be? Perhaps in the context of a mere six thousand years of human existence (ICR and its fellows are devout young-earth creationists), one good mutation every ten thousand years might well have produced precisely nothing by now. Over a billion years, however, we could easily be looking at 100,000 beneficial mutations. This, of course, is just playing with numbers, but it suffices to show that Maddox's arguments are weighed down by many tacit assumptions.
Dr. Maddox moves back onto more solid territory when he launches into a lengthy catalog of dread diseases. He thinks he is making the point that mutations are bad, bad, bad and they will cause their possessors to die, die, die.
These diseases are crippling, often fatal, and many of the affected pre-born infants are aborted spontaneously, i.e., they are so badly damaged they can't even survive gestation.One more time, for the doctor's benefit: This is exactly what one should expect from natural selection. The harmful mutations are not preserved. I guess he missed that.
In fact, I'm sure he missed it, because he cannot resist belaboring what he thinks is his telling argument.
Quantitative information in genetics today is proving evolutionary theory as simply a man-made and irrational philosophical belief.You got that? Bad mutations would stop evolution. But no. Bad mutations kill their hosts, not their species. The hapless hosts are thus culled from the herd, almost certainly before they breed and pass on their unlucky mutation, perhaps—as Maddox earlier attested—even before being born.
One top geneticist recently conducted a computer analysis to quantitate [sic] the ratio of “beneficial mutations” to harmful mutations. Only 186 entries for beneficial mutations were discovered (and even they have a downside), versus 453,732 entries for harmful mutations. The ratio of “beneficial mutations” to harmful mutations is 0.000041! Thus, even if a very rare mutation is “beneficial,” the next 10,000 mutations in any evolutionary sequence would each be fatal or crippling, and each of the next 10,000 imaginary mutations would bring the evolution process to a halt.
It's natural selection at work, just as Darwin said it would.
Oops! I'm just parroting Darwin now!