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a review by Gert Korthof
13 Jun 1999 ( extended 15 Feb 2013 )
That life was designed has been told hundreds of times before in creationist books (1). However Remine's message theory is unique, in that he adds that life was intentionally designed to look unlike evolution. From his theory he derives detailed predictions about how life should look like. This is all part of his message theory. He even goes further then that. He claims that life looks like the product of a single designer, not two. And these conclusions, Remine claims, are not based on religion, but on the biological facts in the textbooks of evolutionists.
In this part of the review I focus on two main criticisms of the Message Theory: 'directly created organisms' and 'does life look unlike evolution?'. This article is not a summary of Remine's book and I don't claim to be complete.
Directly created organismsRemine had the courage to state clearly the implications of his theory:
"Directly created organisms have no ancestor, they are created by the direct action of a designer." (p510)The quote appears in the Appendix to Discontinuity Systematics. Although he wants to "de-emphasize the theoretical concept of directly created organisms" (what does that mean?), he does not reject it. He explains in the same paragraph that directly created organisms
"are not related by common descent".On the next page the concept is repeated:
"Numerous life forms were separately created" (3).Numerous? How many creations would he need in fact? Well, assume there are now 1 million living species, and assume that one allows for some micro-evolution (see box 4, example of Canidae) which generates 10 - 100 new species for every original species, then one needs, 10,000 - 100,000 special created ancestors. This means Walter Remine's theory needs 10,000 - 100,000 miracles. Please multiply this number by 1000 to include extinct species (4). So we get 10,000,000 - 100,000,000 special creations. Remine is vague about what he means by 'directly created organisms' or 'life forms'. Are they individuals? male-female pairs? populations of thousands of individuals? whole species? Please multiply the number of special creations accordingly. This is just to realise what it means to say that 'directly created organisms have no ancestor'. Remine's concept of 'Directly created organisms' is a violation of the principle of parsimony or Occam's Razor. The principle of parsimony proposes that we tentatively accept the simplest hypothesis that accounts for the data. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, it is preferable to accept the simpler explanation (common descent), because that requires the fewest conjectured events. It is simpler to postulate that life originated only once, than a billion creation events. Whether these creations are supernatural or not, the sheer number of them makes it an unattractive hypothesis.
But there is more. Remine accepts the Big Bang, and consequently the standard age of the universe and the Earth. How were these billions of acts of creation distributed over the history of the earth? In 3 seconds? 3 days? 3 million years? 3 billion years? And in what sequence? We would expect that Remine claimed an 'unlike-evolution-sequence', but he didn't. A missed opportunity to show that life is unlike evolution. For example: start with complex organisms and end with simple organisms.
Does life look unlike evolution?Remine's question 'Does life look like/unlike evolution?' is important and fascinating and can be analysed in a way compatible with mainstream science and with quite interesting results. The question is also independent of Remine's criticisms of mainstream evolutionary theory, because it focusses on how organisms themselves are constructed, not how evolutionary theory is constructed.
To solve this problem, one needs knowledge of alternative biochemical designs of life. Remine didn't really begin to explore those biochemical design options. Are there features of life that would effectively block the common descent interpretation and at the same time suggest independent creation? A feature that would make a difference? (If we cannot find such a feature then there are no observational differences between creation and evolution). Preferably something more powerful than blocking a transformation of gene A into gene B by ordinary mutations and more powerful than blocking a transformation of one particular species X into another species Y. One of the most powerful alternative designs I can think of, would be a difference in the genetic code. The genetic code translates information stored in DNA, the genes, into proteins/enzymes necessary for life (see box 1). There are three important aspects of the genetic code in relation to the above question:
Second: the genetic code as it is now does not easily tolerate mutations (6). This is because mutations in the genetic code, unlike mutations in genes that code for proteins, would potentially mutate all proteins of an organism. For humans 60 000 - 80 000 different proteins would be mutated by one mutation in the genetic code. No embryo would survive that. Scientists derive this prediction from the biochemistry of the genetic code and the biochemistry of the cellular machinery. That's why once the genetic code was established, it didn't change (see box 2). Of course genes change, but the genetic code did not (with a few minor exceptions). This has the consequence that all organisms inherit the genetic code from their ancestors.
Third: despite its universality and despite its resistance to change, the genetic code is in a high degree arbitrary (7). It's a highly arbitrary assignment of 61 codons to 20 naturally occurring amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). In other words: theoretically there are many ways to encode the same protein. A chemical necessity in the association of amino acids with codons has never been found (8). So there is no reason to choose the particular code we have now. The code has been called 'a frozen accident' (neatly combining property 2 and 3). Every assignment is possible as long as the same 20 amino acids are produced (and the level of redundancy isn't changed). This assignment could be done in an astonishing 1.40 x 1070 ways (that is: 10 power 70) according to Hubert Yockey (9).
As a consequence of the third property there is an exciting freedom in the design choices. A protein could be encoded in billions and billions of ways. Even if we allow for assignment constraints (10), there is still a huge overkill of design options. Yes, more than enough to give every species on earth, living and extinct, its own genetic code!
But why should we give every species its own genetic code? Because it would create insurmountable barriers to the common-descent interpretation and so would constitute a perfect demonstration of independent origin of all species, while being 100% compatible with life and DNA-structure as we know it, despite its interference at the deepest levels of the design of life. It would constitute a barrier, because if all life descended from a single life-form, then all life necessarily should have a common genetic code. Universality implies a common origin. This follows from the second property of the genetic code: resistance to change. A species could not have a species with a completely different genetic code as a direct ancestor. The common origin also follows from the third property (its arbitrariness) of the code. The current code is not inevitable, so one could not expect that nature arrived at exactly the same code if life had many independent origins. And if this would not be enough, the designer could distribute the different genetic codes in such a way that morphologically related species received unrelated genetic codes.
There is a second reason why a designer should give every species its own genetic code: that design would be an absolute barrier to interbreeding and in that way the morphological gaps of life would be guaranteed. And that would look unlike evolution according to Remine (page 366).
Less extreme but still revealing schemes are possible. Not every species needs a different code, as long as closely related species would have maximally different genetic codes so that they cannot be derived from each other in a stepwise evolutionary way. For example, if the designer wanted to give the human species a special molecular status beyond the biological status humans have now, he could give humans a unique genetic code not derivable from any other species including our closest relatives chimps and bonobos.
More extreme designs of life are possible. The hereditary molecule, DNA, could be different for all species. However, as far as I know, there isn't a proven biochemical alternative for DNA. But it would be conclusive evidence for the independent origin of species.
Now let's return to Remine's question: 'Does life look like/unlike evolution?'. We see now that 'every-species-its-own-genetic-code' design would be our first choice if we wanted life to look unlike evolution. If this were found in nature, then this would be the strongest possible argument against evolution. Every species having its own genetic code would amount to saying every species had an independent origin. What better evidence for special creation of species could one dream of? The message would be unambiguous:
"NO EVOLUTION! NO COMMON DESCENT!"However this 'every-species-its-own-code' is not what we find in nature. So what? Remine does not only state that life accidentally looks unlike evolution, but that the designer intentionally designed the living world to look unlike evolution. If 'intentionally' has any meaning, it must mean that the designer did everything in his power to design life unlike evolution (11). From that point of view the design we actually find is truly disappointing. Current life could be far more creation-like then it is according to Remine's own standards. The design we find in nature, the standard genetic code, is not only 100% compatible with common descent, it's extremely suggestive for common descent of all life on earth.
Please note that Remine does not have the option to claim that the designer created the standard code to mimic common descent, because that would be a gravely misleading message. It would be a joke.
Discussion"Evolutionary theory is compatible with anything" Remine claims. If this would be true, then evolutionary theory would also be compatible with independent creation. How could Remine talk about "life unlike evolution" if evolution is compatible with anything? Of course evolution consistently opposes independent creation. "Evolutionary theory never predicts anything" (p. 96) claims Remine. Of course Darwin could not predict that DNA was the universal hereditary molecule. The structure of DNA was discovered in 1953, nearly one hundred years after the publication of The Origin of Species. Of course Darwin could not predict that the genetic code was universal. This emerged gradually only after 1966 when the complete code had been established. These are unreasonable demands of Remine. The point is that there are biochemical designs of life possible that block common descent and those designs are not present in life. And it is irrelevant to point to the fact that scientists proposed pre-life forms that lack some or all universal characteristics of life, as Remine does (p93,p460).
Probably Remine thinks that DNA is just another universal property of life. This is not so. DNA is the physical connection between the generations. DNA is the physical basis for Common Descent. And Remine ignores it. This is even more remarkable because Remine claims the designer is not sending a misleading message. Why did the designer chose the same hereditary molecule and the same genetic code for all species? The fact that DNA is the universal molecule of heredity common to all life, shows that there is a gapless continuity at the genetic level in the system of life. Remine frequently talks about morphological gaps, but 'forgets' that there is continuity at the genetic level. At the genetic level there is nothing that blocks common descent. Michael Denton(1998) came to this conclusion in his Nature's Destiny in the paragraph "The Closeness of All Life in DNA Sequence Space". If there is any 'unlike-evolution-message', then it is, unsurprisingly, at the Order, Class, Phylum and Kingdom level. The creation message is extremely weak compared with what it could have been. Yes, if species are created, then the message is misleading at the genetic level. And it's not my idea that life should intentionally look unlike evolution. It's Walter Remine's idea. Remine could have decided that the enigma of life's origin or Paley's design argument were enough to establish a designer, but he wanted more than that. He wanted too much.
The famous philosopher Paul Feyerabend once remarked: "The first step in our criticism of customary concepts is to step outside the circle and either to invent a new conceptual system or import such a system from outside science, from religion, from mythology." (12). That is exactly what Remine did: inventing a new conceptual system. Remine's Message-paradigm inspired me to invent an even more creation-like-design and even more unlike-evolution-design than he did. It was great fun. The idea would probably never have occurred to me without Remine's message theory. We cannot understand any evolution theory if we cannot compare it with a non-evolution theory.
Part 2: MESSAGE THEORYRemarkable for a book with the title The Biotic Message. Evolution versus message theory,
The message theory says that life was intentionally created to look unlike evolution. A few examples show message theory in action:
Michael Behe, the author of Darwin's Black Box, said about 'designer-psychology': "Yet the reasons that a designer would or would not do anything are virtually impossible to know unless the designer tells you specifically what those reasons are." and:
"The point of scientific interest is not the internal state of the designer but whether one can detect design" (13). Because Intelligent Design Theory avoids the pitfall of designer psychology, it is a more advanced theory than Remine's.
It looks as if Remine himself realises the dangers of design-psychology:
"not by ill-formed notions of what the designer 'may have' done." (p509)
However his message theory is based entirely on designer-psychology. An example of the problems inherent in a designer concept is Remine's answer to the question 'Why should a biomessage sender choose a nested pattern over others?". Remine explains this by 'noise immunity' (p359). 'Noise' is clearly a concept from the engineering world, but not appropriate for a supernatural designer. The creator would first create noise and then create 'noise resistance systems'? The same holds for so called 'system bootup'. Of course a supernatural creator who could create a billion species out of nothing, would not be constrained by a human engineer's puzzle as system bootup. Remine really goes too far when he introduces the concept of an "unordinary designer".
UNITY & DIVERSITY
"All organisms are linked by design, not by descent" (p. 324)This is Remine's reply to "the notion that humans are in no way linked to the other animals" (Miller). 'Linked by design' is a misleading phrase because Miller meant naturally, physically and biologically linked by descent. 'Created species' are by definition not genetically linked because they have no ancestors. Those species are unlinked. The chain of life is broken. It's evolution by common descent that links all organisms genetically. In the evolutionary view there is an unbroken chain of all life forms. Inheritance establishes the links (14). That's the crucial difference between evolution and creation. Remine blurs this difference by his phrase 'linked by design'. Remine has the tendency to talk about 'linked' while believing in independent creation. Independent is not linked. Remine focusses on the morphological and palaeontological discontinuity of life, when he wants to show independent creation and exclusively focusses on universal properties of life (and 'forgets' his discontinuity) when he wants to prove one designer. But discontinuity is the opposite of 'linkage'. Discontinuity means 'no linkage'.
However if one believes in independent creation one should accept the consequences of such a worldview. And that is: organisms (Remine's term "monobaramin") are created from scratch; they are not linked by descent. Directly created organisms do not inherit anything from their ancestors, because they have none. The fact that creationists feel the need to invoke supernatural creations points to the absence of natural links between all species in their worldview. Where creationists see gaps, there are no links. Surprisingly one also finds reluctance to fully accept the created worldview in his Discontinuinity Systematics. There he wants to 'de-emphasize' his 'directly created organisms' without rejecting the concept of 'directly created organisms'. As if he can't accept the consequences of his own worldview.
If species share a multitude of characteristics despite independent creation, then this needs to be explained. 'United by design' is not an explanation. First it supposes that there is only one designer and second it supposes the designer needed to create all those similarities. But why should he? There is no solid methodology in the book to explain why a designer should create the mix of unity and diversity we find in nature. Or why different designers could not produce similar designs. Of course such a methodology can not exist. Nobody can known these things. All Remine can offer is speculative design-psychology, which was even rejected by Michael Behe. This is the reason why the 'explanation' that unity results from one designer doesn't work. Inheritance does explain it and inheritance is one of the scientifically best understood phenomena in biology.
The surprising result of this discussion seems that when both creationists and evolutionists claim to predict and explain the unity of life, and survival of lifeforms, then these must be neutral properties. They are too vague to be able to discriminate between the two. However Remine did not identify the category neutral facts, which contains among others, all necessary design similarities. Remine didn't discriminate between necessary and unnecessary design properties too. Unnecessary designs or historical accidents (as the genetic code) suggest evolution.
DISCONTINUITY SYSTEMATICS:Discontinuity is the key issue
It's no surprise that discontinuity is the key issue for Remine (p513). Discontinuity of life is part of Del Ratzsch's definition of Creationism (15). Remine wants to build a theory-free Discontinuity Systematics as seen by a neutral observer. That is: without the concepts of 'creation' or 'message theory'. "If the data indicate that organisms are credible common descendants, then they are classified as common descendants."(!) (p509). Discontinuity Systematics seeks the boundaries of common descent. These are good intentions. His Discontinuity Systematics looks like a proposal to be published in a scientific journal, but this did not happen (Remine did not mention such a publication in his own references). Despite his good intentions the supernatural/natural distinction creeps in his definitions. Remine defines boundaries where organisms cannot be linked by a naturalistic process (p448), implying that the gaps have to be filled in by supernatural creations.
"Lamarckian inheritance is a simple, plausible mechanism, with real benefit for evolution. Accordingly it should be everywhere, and its absence is a serious problem for evolutionists" (p115)Lamarckian inheritance, or the inheritance of acquired characters, is by no means simple and plausible. According to what criterion is it simple? Remine doesn't tell. What makes a biological process 'simple' or not is the biochemical mechanism behind it and the mechanism is far from simple if it exists at all ! The probable cause of Remine's error is that he misreads Maynard Smith's words: "Lamarkism is not so obviously false as is sometimes made out" (16) as meaning that it is simple and plausible. However the reader who continues to read Maynard Smith notices that Lamarckian inheritance is not so obviously false, but is false nonetheless. Any knowledge of the 'Central Dogma' (17) would tell him so and would prevent misunderstanding that quote. Maynard Smith formulated it in that way because of the strong prejudices scientists have against any form of Lamarckian inheritance, not because it is true! I am not saying that Remine intentionally misinterprets Maynard Smith, but his wish to attack evolution theory made him uncritical.
Remarkably a few pages before in Remine's book (p111) Remine knows that "Lamarck's theory is falsified"! Only in Remine's fantasy is the absence of Lamarckian inheritance "a serious problem for evolutionists". "The broad absence of Lamarkian inheritance is a straightforward prediction of message theory." Here Remine, master of the art of illusions, created the double illusion that evolution theory has a problem and his theory solved it. Remine is in this matter a false guide for the reader.
An example of a weak form of the inheritance of acquired characters, which does not violate the 'central dogma', is that of the inheritance of immunological responses, which was recently published by Edward Steele et al (17). His claim was severely criticised by the scientific community. The evolutionary usefullness of these complex phenomena have not been established. Remine's claim that Lamarckian inheritance is simple, is completely unfounded. And it's also wrong that Lamarckian inheritance should be widespread in organisms, because that is based on the false assumption that Lamarckian effects are automatically adaptive. Lamarckian effects could be a burden for organisms. Remine could as well have claimed that, from an evolutionary point of view, beneficial mutations should be common, and harmful mutations should be rare, because this would be extremely beneficial for evolution.
To make Lamarckian inheritance a serious evolutionary mechanism, one needs at least: (a) environmental induced production of a new and beneficial protein and (b) a mechanism to translate it back via RNA into DNA and (c) to transport it to the germline (d) to successfully integrate it into the chromosome. These are all serious obstacles! To my knowledge there is no evidence that this strong form of Lamarckian inheritance ever occurred in nature.
Remine claims also that Lamarckian inheritance would not falsify natural selection (p113). I agree with that.
The Origin of Sexadded 15 Feb 2013
On page 196–206 ReMine gives an overview of the problem of the evolutionary origin of sex. He gives the most pessimistic quotes of important evolutionary biologists such as J.F. Crow, G. Bell, G.C. Williams, Michod and Levin, Maynard Smith, and Dawkins. Indeed, the origin and maintenance of sex is a wellknown evolutionary problem. ReMine's conclusion:
"Creationists expect that the genetic mechanisms of sex serve some useful biological function. They intuitively viewed that function as the long-term maintenance of healthy populations. Most likely, sex serves such a function as suggested by hypotheses like Muller's ratchet. Such functions come naturally to the creationist's worldview. An unlike evolution, a designer can be "far-sighted", can see the long-term benefit of sex, and can build it into life." (page 206).How "far-sighted" is a designer who first creates mutations and subsequently creates sex as the solution? And if the Creator built sexual reproduction into life, then why does asexual reproduction exist?
Notes:Part two of this review (kortho42.htm) was included in this one (kortho41.htm) 15 Mar 2006
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|Copyright © 1999 G.Korthof .||First published: Jun 13 1999||Updated: 15 Feb 2013 F.R.: 27 Jan 2007|