On the topic of epigenetics, which I’ve written about extensively for many years, I was interested to read Washington State University biologist Michael Skinner’s recent article for Aeon. Skinner’s piece reminds us of the old maxim that truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident. If we can slightly modify these three stages as follows, then we have the history of how evolution has struggled oppose the scientific findings we now refer to as epigenetics:
- Reject and persecute
- Delegitimize and minimize
- Rename and incorporate
Skinner’s position represents the move, which has been taking place in recent years, into Stage Three (for more, see here).
Skinner’s Aeon article provides an excellent rundown of findings, both old and new, that confirm and elucidate what evolutionists have aggressively and violently opposed for a century: that epigenetics is not only real, but significant in causing long-term biological change. Natural selection plays no role in this process.
From 18th-century observations of plants adapting to hotter temperatures, to Conrad Waddington’s fruit fly experiments in the 1950s (for more tidbits see here), to more recent observations of a range of species, Skinner provides an accessible summary and draws the inescapable conclusion:
Much as Lamarck suggested, changes in the environment literally alter our biology. And even in the absence of continued exposure, the altered biology, expressed as traits or in the form of disease, is transmitted from one generation to the next.
Much as Lamarck suggested? That is an astonishing admission given how evolutionists have, in the past century, vilified Lamarck and anyone who would dare associate with his ideas. To this day such resistance continues, but it is waning. Hence evolutionists such as Skinner can broach the truth.
Skinner also comes clean on the problem that evolution’s basic source of biological variation, DNA mutations, is insufficient:
[T]he rate of random DNA sequence mutation turns out to be too slow to explain many of the changes observed. Scientists, well-aware of the issue, have proposed a variety of genetic mechanisms to compensate: genetic drift, in which small groups of individuals undergo dramatic genetic change; or epistasis, in which one set of genes suppress another, to name just two. Yet even with such mechanisms in play, genetic mutation rates for complex organisms such as humans are dramatically lower than the frequency of change for a host of traits, from adjustments in metabolism to resistance to disease.
Mutations are too slow for evolution? Again, this is an astonishing admission. The last time mathematicians reported this inconvenient truth they were told by evolutionists that it didn’t matter because, after all, we all know that evolution is true. Nothing like contradicting the science. Skinner admits that a paradigm shift is needed.
Unfortunately for Skinner and his readers that is where the light ends and smoke begins. As an evolutionist, Skinner must present this contradictory biology as, somehow, consistent with evolution. The first sign that Skinner will firmly plant himself in Stage Three (Rename and incorporate) comes in his opening sentence:
The unifying theme for much of modern biology is based on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, the process of natural selection by which nature selects the fittest, best-adapted organisms to reproduce, multiply and survive.
Evolution is the unifying theme for much of modern biology? This not so secret handshake is so over-the-top that it hardly seems worthwhile to dignify it with a rebuttal. Given how evolutionists are consistently surprised by biology, one would hope they at least could stop with this particular untruth. But there it is.
Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. Skinner’s thesis in his article is that the long rejected epigenetics will now fit conveniently into evolutionary theory. It was all a big misunderstanding and rather than rejecting epigenetics, we should see it as merely another component in the increasingly complex theory called evolution.
This is Stage Three: Rename, recast, retool, reimagine, and incorporate into our modern-day Epicureanism.
With enough massaging and storytelling, evolutionists forget the contradictions and convince themselves, along with their audiences, that the fit is perfect and epigenetics is, in fact, yet more proof of evolution.
There’s only one problem. This is all absurd.
What Skinner and the evolutionists don’t tell you is that in light of their theory, none of this makes sense. With epigenetics the biological variation evolution needs is not natural. It is not the mere consequence of biophysics — radiation, toxins, or other mishaps causing DNA mutations. Rather, it is a biological control system.
It is not simple mistakes, but complex mechanisms. It is not random, but directed. It is not slow, but rapid. It is not a single mutation that is selected, but simultaneous changes across the population. This is not evolution.
As Skinner inconveniently realizes, such epigenetics are found across a wide range of species. They are widely conserved and, for evolution, this is yet more bad news. It means the incredible epigenetics mechanisms must have, somehow, arisen very early in the history of evolution.
What the evolutionists don’t admit is that epigenetics contradicts evolutionary theory. Not only must such incredibly complex mechanisms have evolved early on, and not only must they have arisen from chance mutation events, and so not only must evolution have created evolution, but they would have persisted in spite of any fitness advantage.
The whole notion of evolution is that natural selection saves the day by directing the blind, chance mutations. Setting aside the silliness of this idea, the problem with epigenetic mechanisms is that if they were to arise from chance (and “oh what a big if”), then mutations would not increase the organism’s fitness.
Epigenetic mechanisms are helpful at some future, unknown, time when the environmental challenge finally presents itself. They are useless when they initially arise, and so would not be preserved by evolution’s mythical natural selection.
Of course evolutionists will contrive yet more complex just-so stories to explain how epigenetics mechanisms arose from pre-existing parts used for other purposes (the ridiculous co-adaptation argument), and about how they just happened to provide some other functions so as to improve fitness.
Skinner’s presentation of how to integrate epigenetics with evolution is entirely gratuitous. He has empirical evidence for the former, and dogma for the latter. There is no scientific need for the addition of evolution — it is a multiplied entity and is gratuitous. Yet Skinner needs it.
These are all the usual tales, which will be trotted out as yet more “facts.” Evolutionists must tell these stories. Otherwise they would have to move beyond Stage Three, and admit the science contradicts their theory. And that is not going to happen.