The Protein Clock*
The University Explorer
The University of California
Additional Comment by J. W. Haas, Jr., Duane T. Gish, and Jerry D. Albert
From: JASA 23 (September 1971): 123-127.
There's a kind of clock, now, that tells us when man first parted company with his fellow primates, the anthropoid apes. According to the clock, that happened some four to five million years ago.
Explorer Broadcast 2110, April 5. 1970, over the CBS Radio Network produced by
the University of California.
Branch-off From the Apes
Although anthropologists have taught us a great deal about ourselves-the earth creatures known as human beings-the fact is that we still know remarkably little concerning our own immediate ancestry. By "immediate" in this case I mean going hack to the time when our ancestors first parted company with the apes and began that rather spectacular hominid march leading to-well, leading to the possibility of making reflections such as this, regarding ancestry. Surprisingly enough, exactly when man started his branch-off from the apes continues to be a matter of much argument. Some believe that man, chimpanzee, gorilla and monkey all descended from the same common ancestor that roamed the wilds of Africa up to around 30,000,000 years ago; others contend that a common ancestry is more recent, 15,000,000 years perhaps; but the truly radical thinkers, of whom there are a gradually increasing number, say that man and Old World apes started not oil their separate ways a mere 4 to 5,000,000 years ago, and if this turns out to he true it will profoundly influence our thinking about ourselves.
What gradually seems to he weighing in favor of the radicals is the possibility of putting a "clock" to our molecular past and present, in order to prove the time of divergence of man and ape. The timepiece in question is called the Protein Clock by its two young inventors, Allan Wilson and Vincent Sarich, whose scientific collaboration at the University of California in Berkeley brings together the departments of biochemistry and anthropology. Out of this fusion of disciplines has come the creation of a workable timepiece. It's based upon the fact of regular mutation in protein evolution. This timepiece may help us resolve crucial questions not only of our own past but of all other living species as well.
In summarizing the human puzzle, Dr. Wilson told me this: "Speaking now just of man, there's that point of view holding that man's no closer in time to apes than he is to monkeys-with all three lineages separating about 30,000,000 years ago. And there's the alternative view which says the close anatomical reemblances are due to a recent common ancestry. Now this view is what the molecular data fully support; in fact, they push the relationship even closer than anyone has ever proposed before."
Confidence in the latter theory comes from the fact that scientists now have a pretty good idea of how proteins evolve. They know, in other words, what the units of change are; and they can test the question of whether or not proteins evolve in a regular fashion. As a matter of fact, they can count the number of mutations or changes that have occurred. This is something that can't he done merely by comparing anatomy. In other words, by looking only at anatomy, scientists have no idea how many mutational events were required, for example, to cause a chimpanzee-like creature to lose his hair, or develop a big brain, or walk on two legs. They've no idea of the quantitative basis of the difference. But with proteins they do, and they can actually count the number of mutational events that have occurred.
So there's now a measure which is applicable to all species of living things, the measure of bow much change has taken place in the given microbe or plant or animal over the ages.
This time piece may help us resolve crucial questions not only of our own past but of all other living species as well.
For example, consider this question: has the hemoglobin in a human being changed as much in its history as the hemoglobin in a monkey? Wilson and Sarieh point out that, in fact, it has. They say that if you look at a Rhesus monkey and you look at man in their respective hemoglobin structures, you see that man and monkey have had exactly the same number of changes since they separated from one another, but the structure of their hemoglobin is different. But when you compare the hemoglobin of man and chimpanzee, you get an entirely different story. Since the time when mail and chimp separated from one another, there have been no changes in the hemoglobin structure. Furthermore, man and chimp hemoglobin are structurally identical.
Thus we see a pattern of regularity in protein evolution; and we see also that in one line (man and chimp) very little change has occurred. Hence, the conclusion: this must reflect a short time scale since the existence of a common ancestor.
But the hemoglobin comparison is just one part of the mounting molecular evidence. More than two years ago Wilson and Sarich had already noted that if you look at the albumins in the blood of man and chimp you see regularities and very little difference. And since that time researchers the world over have found the same to be true of other protein structures of the two species. "No matter what you look at," says Sarich, "there's nothing in the molecular evidence indicating any significant degree of divergence between man and chimpanzee."
History of the "Clock"
Such is the remarkable "time-telling" of the evolutionary clock-the idea for which, by the way, goes hack a lot further in scientific history than you might imagine. Actually, back in 1902, it was an English researcher named Nuttall doing very crude protein comparisons, who first suggested that someone might measure the distance between species by just taking his approach a little further. No one took him up on this, though, until about the beginning of the last decade (1960). Then it was that Linus Pauling and his associate, Emil Zuckerkandel, first proposed (rather lightheartedly) that it looked as though proteins were behaving like evolutionary clocks. However, the evidence for such talk was still very fragmentary. Since then, many key pieces have fallen into place, and the picture now looks like this:
Proteins-such as hemoglobin, albumin, insulin, and so on-are composed of long chains of amino acids, of which there are around 20 types. The sequence of amino acids in a given protein is a characteristic of the species; and each protein sequence is controlled by a single gene (which means there's a gene for hemoglobin, for albumin, for insulin, a gene for every pro tein).
The reconstruction of human history is pretty narrowly circumscribed, and the room for speculation markedly limited.
Now a gene, in turn, is composed of a long chain of nucleotides, known
as DNA. When a mutation occurs in the DNA, this generally results in
substitution event," as it's called. Let's say, for example,
that one nucleotide,
at position 10 in the DNA sequence, is replaced by another
nucleotide; that generally
will result in a single amino acid change
in the protein that's made by that particular gene.
Thus, at a particular point in the protein you have a replacement of a "normal' amino acid by a "different" one-a mutation in the protein. Thus by comparing the proteins of different species scientists are in essence comparing their genes, and counting the number of mutational differences that have occurred since they had a common ancestor.
Now, much to the surprise of most evolutionary biologists, it's been found that the rates of change, the rates of incorporation of mutations into proteins, seem to be nearly constant over evolutionary time. And this raises the possibility of dating the divergence of species. It also raises questions about the mechanism of evolution, In Dr. Wilson's word, "We're led to conclude that besides normal Darwinian evolution there's a phenomenon of the spread of so-called 'neutral' mutations, which represent changes that have neither a detrimental nor a beneficial effect on the function of the organism; and that Natural Selection, which is the guiding agent in Darwinian evolution, can do nothing to stop these 'neutral' mutations. They spread at a constant rate, and are responsible for the phenomenon we've called the Protein Cluck."
This achievement of the two Berkeley scientists recently inspired the following editorial in an Austin, Texas, newspaper: "We're told that man and the apes may not be nearly as far apart as has been thought. Studies conducted at the University of California at Berkeley suggest that the time of divergence by man and ape from the common ancestor they're supposed to have shared occurred only 5,000,000 years ago, and not the 30,000,000 held by some scientists. Of course, humans actually should not resent too deeply this more intimate eousinslop to the ape, for the closer the scientists get man to the trees, the easier it should be to explain why he acts the way he does."
The Narrowing Cap
Dr. Sarich observed that this was an excellent point, because to find out the whys and wherefores of behavior it's helpful to know what kind of animal we have to start with to get where we are today. And the close time divergence of man and chimp gives us a much clearer idea about our beginnings. It narrows the gap, as it were, between the time when our species branched off from the apes and the start of the human fossil record-now dated at close to 3,000,000 years.
So through the study of bones and teeth we can go hack some 3,000,000 years.. And through their molecular studies, Wilson and Sarich are suggesting that only 4 or 5,1100,000 years ago there was still in existence a common ancestor of man, chimp and gorillaa form that was going to be ancestral to all three.
"So the new finding doesn't leave you too much room to play around with," comments Dr. Sarich. "You have the three living forms today. The history of one of them goes back (in the fossil record) a long way, in terms of the total time you have to work with. So the kind of animal that wouldve been a common ancestor of all three is pretty well determined." The looks of such a fellow, if we could see him running around today, would hardly be surprising. Fled be chimpanzee-like in appearance. "I should think he'd be similar enough to the modern chimp," says Dr. Sarich, "so that at first glance you'd say, 'That's a chimp!'"
Thus, to summarize, the Wilson-Sarich thesis: you start with something like a chimpanzee, which your molecular clock puts at 4 or 5,000,000 years ago. You then jump the gap to the first clearly' human fossils, at about 3,000,000 years. This leaves relatively little intervening time to account for. Thus the reconstruction of human history is pretty narrowly circumscribed, and the room for speculation markedly limited. This narrowing-of-the-gap in human evolution may well be the most important contribution of the Berkeley researchers.
Narrow as this gap now appears, it's expected that it soon will be bridged by new fossil finds. The place of key discoveries will probably be the African continent; and the time period Wilson and Sarich confidently predict will be consistent with the measurements of the Protein Clock. So perhaps one day we'll be hearing about the discovery of bones and teeth, the remains of creatures, not quite gorilla, not quite chimp, not quite human, but creatures beginning to edge slowly in the human direction.
Says Dr. Wilson, "It's important that people have a realistic understanding of what our relationship is to apes. It's one thing to picture them either as rapacious King Kongs or comic TV cutups; it's another to sec the truth. And the truth is that we are by far the most aggressive species. Chimps and gorillas are quite gentle, gorillas particularly. So we've really been deluding ourselves about what we are like and what they are like."
"To understand our own evolution," says the Berkeley biochemist, "we must know what the real base is, both from the standpoint of anatomy and behavior. And it's lucky we still have with us creatures like chimps and gorillas, so we can actually compare anatomies and study behavior. Then, too, it's important that their relationship to us be put in the proper evolutionary perspective." Such is the mission of the biochemist, Dr. Allan Wilson, and the anthropologist, Dr. Vincent Sarich. And if their conclusions are corroborated in the crucible of scientific criticism, then the kind of animal the chimpanzee is becomes ever more significant in man's ceaseless effort to know himself.
WHY NO BROADCASTS BY CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS?
John W. Haas, Jr.
Wenham, Massachusetts 01984
The scientific community continues to increase its efforts to educate the public about various elements of scientific advance. Motivation for this effort lies somewhere between altruism and the recognition that the public (e.g. Congress) might be more willing to support science if it were more aware of the wonders of scientific advance. The broadcast media have provided opportunity for professional scientists such as Leonard Reiffle and John Fitch, and others associated with government agencies, large universities or technical societies such as the ACS or AAAS to reach the general public. Translation of the data and theoretical framework of modern science into a language which is both accurate yet of interest to the casual lay listener is a challenging task. The long established University Explorer Series sponsored by the University of California has been a pioneer in this effort.
The "Protein Clock Broadcast" deals with one of the more complex fields in molecular biologythat of extracting evolutionary information about species by comparing homologous proteins (those having a common ancestral origin) in different species. This newly developing area of research is seen to provide three main areas of evolutionary information from protein analysis.
(1) The construction of phvlogenetic trees suggesting the evolutionary relations of the various species based on the amino acid sequences of a set of homologous proteins found in these species (e.g., eytochrome C, hemoglobin, insulin or albumin) using the same kinds of considerations employed traditionally in establishing relationships from anatomical features.
(2) The probable amino acid sequence of the specified protein is deduced for a precursor common to a given set of species on a branch of the phylagenetic tree.
(3) The rates of evolution of these homologous proteins are found to he related to a number of amino acid positions in a given protein at any one time which are free to mutate (called codons or covarions). Proteins with many covarions change relatively rapidly while those with few change slowly. It is found as well that the rates of change appear to he nearly constant over evolutionary time for a given amino acid. In evaluating this broadcast in terms of popular appeal, one is impressed by the clarity of style, development of the subject and the choice of a subject of general interest and the suggestion of a behavioral application. The listener did not appear to be lost in numbers and data but came away with a conclusion, some idea concerning the experimental basis for the conclusion, and some interesting implications to be drawn from the conclusion.
However, the very features which lead to popular appeal detract from the overall accuracy and balance of the presentation. Until the last paragraph one detects a tending toward "positive thinking." No mention is made of experimental difficulties, of differences of opinion among various workers, the differences in the phylogenic trees developed for different proteins and the obvious errors in a tree when compared with the classically developed lines even though the results are very similar.
Christian broadcasting continues to expand yet sees little input from science or any of the nontheological disciplines.
One may well share the enthusiasm of these workers, yet the caution appearing
in the regular scientific literature is missing. In spite of this criticism the
article does accurately reflect the general conclusions of workers in
We scientist-Christians talk to one another at great length in person and in print and occasionally enter the more popular religious press. The science film ministry and other media presentations of the Moody Science group is impressive. Yet for the most part we neglect the general Christian public. Radio provides a relatively inexpensive and simple means for reaching a vast audience. Christian broadcasting continues to expand yet sees little input from science or any of the non-theological disciplines.
Are we negligent in not encouraging a Hale Sparks, a Leonard Reiff I or a John Fitch to interpret scientific advance to the Christian community and provide an alternative view especially in those areas where science and ethics converge?
AN INCONSISTENT POSITION
Duane T. Gish
Creation Science Research Center
2716 Madison Ave. San Diego, California 92116
Barlow has said 'Evolution has a fascination for all biologists, for all scientists. Since it is the all-pervading concept of biology, every worker is able to categorize his findings, somehow, into an evolutionary framework."1 Molecular biologists are meeting this challenge as adroitly as have other evolutionary biologists, although the conclusions of Wilson and Sarieh,2 as well as those of King and Jukes,3 and of Fitch and Margohash,4 that the majority of amino acid substitutions are due to neutral mutations and thus have become fixed by random genetic drift rather than by natural selection, will he too much for "classical evolutionists" to swallow. One of these "classical evolutionists" has recently challenged the validity of the calculations of King and Jukes, and of Fitch and Margoliash, and has reached just the opposite conclusion, namely, "that protein sequences, like other characters, seem to have eolved under the dominating influence of natural selection."5
Wilson and Sarich have stated that "In spite of the vast effort which has been devoted to the study of human evolution, there is still no measure of agreement as to the origin of man". After pointing out that current estimates of the time of divergence of the human lineage from that leading to apes have varied widely (from 4 million to 30 million years), they go on to say "The disagreements are due in part to the fragmentary nature of the fossil record which consists largely of teeth and jaws, and in part to the failure of traditional comparative anatomy to develop methods which would lead to agreement, even among anatomists, as to the evolutionary meaning of such data . 'T As a "special creationist", I would like to suggest that this lack of agreement among evolutionists as to the origin of man is due not so much to the fragmentary nature of the evidence, as fragmentary as it indeed may be, but due simply to the fact that man did not evolve, but was created as described in the Bible (Genesis 2:7, 21, 22).
Concerning the problem of "protein clocks", we would like first to consider the implication of the fact that there is an undeniable similarity in amino acid sequences, or "homology", in the proteins found in various species which perform the same function. Here we use the term "homology" in the sense of Neurath, Walsh, and Winter,6 that "The term homology as applied to proteins refers to similarity in amino acid sequence", rather than according to Nolan and Margohash,7 where the term homologous was taken to imply "that the genes coding for the polypeptide chains considered, in all the species carrying these proteins, had at one time a common ancestral gene". The similarity, or homology, of certain proteins, such as the cytochromes, insulins, proteases, eorticotropins, etc., is exactly what would be expected on the basis of either evolution or special creation. On the basis of evolutionary theory, the insulins from various species, for instance, would be expected to he similar in structure, since they at one time had a common ancestral gene. The "special creationist" would also expect them to have similar structures, since they were designed to perform the same function. They would not be expected to have identical structures, because it is obvious species are not identical, and thus there are differences in the internal structures of the cells making up the species. For each cell, the structures of all the molecules found in it are tailored in such a way that a perfect balance is obtained for its metabolic activities.
Already many data have accumulated that are inconsistent with an evolutionary hypothesis for the origin of protein structures, and no doubt future research will uncover many more.
Whether differences in amino acid sequences! of homologous proteins may be used as "protein clocks" to determine the time of evolutionary divergences, if, in fact, the origin of the various categories is due to evolution, depends on the validity of several assumptions. Wilson and Sarich accept, first of all, the assumption of paleontologists that the divergence of the horse lineage from that leading to primates occurred about 75 million years ago. In view of the fact that paleontologists estimate the time of divergence of man from ape variously from as little as 4 million years to as much as 30 million years would seem to recommend great caution in accepting their estimates for times of divergence of other lines.
Secondly, Wilson and Sarich have made the dubious assumption that in a fixed interval of time, the probability for a mutation to occur is constant. This assumption brings them into conflict with the mutation-selection theory held by Neo-Darwinian evolutionists. Wilson and Sarich, as do King, Jokes, Fitch, and Margoliash, assume that most changes in protein structures were due to neutral mutations, and thus became fixed by random genetic drift, rather than being fixed by natural selection. If these changes were due to natural selection, they could not have occurred in a constant and regular way, since natural selection depends upon changes in the environment, which do not occur in a regular or constant fashion.
Wilson and Sarich maintain that these changes have been the result of neutral mutations, since they have not altered the active center, and each protein, though differing somewhat in structure, functions equally well. For instance, all cytocbromcs C function equally efficiently in electron transport, regardless of differences in amino acid sequence. Wilson and Sarich have forgotten, however, that these activities are measured in vitro, and not 'within the cell from which they have been derived. It is possible, even likely, that cytochrnme C derived from a human source is more efficient in man than that derived, for instance, from carp. It is also possible that other factors, in addition to function, may influence the adaptation of a particular structure. The efficiency of synthesis of a protein must surely be affected as the structure of that protein changes, since that synthesis depends upon the particular internal structure of the cell in which it is synthesized. With these arguments, the creationist
finds himself in agreement with the Darwinian evolu-tionist. The creationist must assume that the Creator has given each protein its particular structure because that structure confers upon it a uniquely efficient ability to perform its particular task.
The acceptance of a theory as scientifically valid should be dependent upon the consistency of the data from which it has been derived, and upon its ability to predict the nature of data to be derived from further investigations. All data must he shown to he consistent with the theory. Many data were consistent with the Ptolemaic theory of the universe, and this theory was accepted for centuries. As further data were collected, however, more and more inconsistencies developed, requiring construction of more and more subsidiary hypotheses. The Ptolemaie theory was eventually replaced by the Copernican theory, which seems to
count for all the known data. Already many data have accumulated that are inconsistent with an evolutionary hypothesis for the origin of protein structures, and no doubt future research will uncover many more.
On the basis of Wilson and Sarich's theory that most differences in homologous proteins have been due to neutral mutations, considerable heterogeneity in the structure of a particular protein among the individuals of a species would be expected. Although there are considerable differences -when species are compared with one another, the structure of a protein within each species, however, is remarkably consistent. For example, in the case of human hemoglobin, the sequence of any one of the four most prevalent chains, alpha, beta, gamma, and delta, is identical in most humans. There are a number of individuals, bowever, who produce abnormal hemoglobin, usually contaming one site which has mutated. Very often these people are ill with some form of anemia. If Wilson and Sarich are correct, it would seem that we should expect a family of alpha chains, for example, each capable of functioning equally well in human hemoglobin. This is not what we find. There seems to be a unique structure, the human alpha hemoglobin chain, for all healthy individuals. The same applies for the beta, gamma and delta chains.
The consistency of such data permits us to speak, for example, of "ox insulin", "human insulin", "guinea pig insulin", etc. If there 'were hetereugencity within species, we could only speak of the "ox insulins", "human insulins", "guinea pig insulins", etc. In all horse eytochiromes C examined to date, there is a threonine at position 47. That position in the donkey, on the other hand, always has a serine. How could such specificity arise if such a change is due merely to neutral mutations?
Many features of protein structure have been discovered which are inconsistent with current evolutionary theory, only a few of which can be mentioned here. The insulins of the sperm whale and of the fin whale are identical to those of dog and pig, but differ from that of the sei whale.8 The insulin of guinea pig is unique, its structure being considerably different from all other known insulins,9 For instance, there are 18 differences when the amino acid sequence of guinea pig insulin is compared to that of either human insulin or that of a fellow rodent, the rat.
Among the eytoehromes C, we find that the structure of that for the rattlesnake varies in 22 places when compared to that for the turtle, another reptile, but only in 14 places when compared to that for human.10 \Vhen the cytochromes C of two closely related organisms, those of Dcsultonibrio rlesnlfuriean.s and Dosnifocilsrio enlgaris, are compared, it is found that although these proteins have similar molecular weights, partial specific volumes, chain lengths, and number of homes, they differ markedly in amino acid composition11. When Narita and Titani compared the eytoehromes C of two species of yeast, those of Candida krusei and of Sacclsaromyces ociformis, they concluded that a total of 38 base exchanges would have had to occur in DNA to account for these differences.12
One example of heterogeneity among enzyme proteins that has been discovered is that of bovine carhoxpeptidase A, reported by Neurath and colleagues. 13 They have found two allotypie forms which occur in approximately equal amounts. These two forms differ in their amino acid sequences at three places, positions 179, 228, and 305. One form is called the val form, the other, the leo form. In the val form, isoleueine, alanine, and valine occur at positions 179, 228, and 305, respectively, while in the len form these positions are occupied by valine, glutamic acid, and leocine, respectively. According to evolutionary hypothesis, there should he at least two intermediate forms, since the two alleles differ at three positions. The required intermediates, however, have been definitely shown to be absent by the work of Neurath and his colleagues.14
Recently Braun, at al, have reported the amino acid composition of a lipoprotein isolated from the rigid layer of the cell wall of Salmonella lyphimurium.15 This lipoprotein is composed of about 60 amino acids. Surprisingly, it contains no glycine. This is especially puzzling if an evolutionary origin for this protein is assumed. In all experiments conducted to date to show how amino acids may have arisen under supposed primordial earth conditions, the amino acid produced in overwhelming relative abundance has been that of glycine. Based on this relative abundance, one would expect all naturally occurring proteins, especially those found in micro organisms, to contain some glycine. Yet not a single residue of glycine is found in this protein. One could not say that such an occurrence is impossible on an evolutionary basis, hot it is certainly very highly unlikely.
Finally it may be mentioned that Eck and Dayhoff, with reference to attempts to infer biological phylogenetic trees from amino acid sequences, state that, "In some instances, there seems to be no unique plausible solution. We are still unable to resolve clearly such details as the relative divergence points of horse and pig"."
We wish to repeat that for a theory to be scientifically valid, all of the available data most be consistent with that theory. It seems obvious that such is not the ease with reference to the evolutionary origin of proteins, whether all of protein evolution is said to be accounted for by Darwinian evolution, or whether some may be accounted for by neutral mutations and random genetic drift.
In "The Protein Clock", Sarich is quoted as saying that "No matter what you look at, there's nothing in the molecular evidence indicating any significant degree of divergence between man and chimpanzee". If this is true, and if it is true that the protein clock allows us to determine the degree of divergence of of the various species, then one may he led to the ridiculous conclusion that man and chimpanzee have not diverged at all! I am sore that Sarich and Wilson do not go that far, although their conclusion is that, if their theory holds up, then "the kind of animal the chimpanzee is becomes ever more significant in man's ceaseless effort to know himself". After many decades of psychological, sociological, and anthropological research on the human species, man has yet to understand himself. I doubt that turning to the chimp will help to solve these problems.
Finally, in contrast to Sarich's statement that the molecular evidence indicates no significant degree of divergence between man and chimpanzee, Clark 17 has stated "There is a sharp, cleancot, and very marked difference between man and the apes. Every hone in the body of a man is at once distinguishable from the
corresponding bone in the body of the apes... Man is not an ape, and in spite of the similarity between them there is not the slightest evidence that man is descended from an ape".
1G. W. Barlow, Science, 139, 851 (1963).
2A C. Wilson and V. M. Sarich, Proc. Nat. Acad, Sci., 63, 1088 (1969).
3J. L. King and T. H. jukes, Science, 164, 788 (1969).
4 W. M. Fitch and E. Margoliash. Science, 155, 279 (1967).
5 B. Clarke, Science, 168, 1009 (1970).
6H. Nenrath, K. A. Walsh and W. P. Winter, Science, 158, 1638 (1967).
7 C. Nolan and E. Margoliash, Ann. Rev. Biochem., 37, 727 (1968).
8R. V. Eck and M. 0. Dayboff, Atlas of Protein Sequence and Structure 1966, National Biomedical Research Foundation, Silver Springs, Maryland, 1966, p. 110.
9ibid,, p. 191.
10ibid., p. 170.
11H. Drucker, E. B. Trnnsfl, L. L. Campbell, C. II. Barlow, and E. Margoliash, Biochemistry, 9, 1515 (1970).
12K. Narita and K. Titaoi, Proc. Japan Acad., 41, 831 (1965).
13P. H. Petra, B. A. Bradshaw. K. A. Walsh, and H. Neurath, Biochemistry, 8, 2762 (1969).
l4See L. Butler, J. Creation Research Soc., 6, 127 (1969) for a more complete discussion.
15V. Baron, K. Echo, and H. Wolff, Biochemistry, 9, 5041 (1970). l
16Reference 8, p. 199.
17 H. Clark, in The New Evolution: Zoogenesis, A. Ii. Clark. ed. Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore 1930 p. 224.
SCIENTIFIC TOOL OR CREATION PITFALL
Jerry D. Albert
Department of Pathology
University Hospital of San Diego County
San Diego, California 92103
A biochemical timepiece for measuring the period of time since man
and his fellow
primates., the anthropoid apes, diverged from a common ancestor has
by biochemist Allan Wilson and anthropologist Vincent Sarich.1 Their molecular
clock has shed new light on primate evolution: man and apes separated about 4
to 5 million years ago of 25 million years more recently than some
believe. Since the start of the human fossil record is dated at close
to 3 million
years, the new clock has considerably narrowed the gap in the story
of human evolution.
This narrowed gap limits room for speculation on reconstruction of
What should be the reaction of a Christian to "The Protein Clock?" Or, what might be the reaction of a Christian who understands the science of the protein clock? Is the protein clock merely a scientific tool for studying man's ancestry and measuring the time of divergence of biological species? Or, is it a pitfall to the Christian who believes in the God of creation?
First of all, I believe God has created everything in the universe, including all living beings. His creation is good and has purpose. On a personal level, I can say with Luther "that God has created me and all that exists, has given me and still preserves my body and soul with all their powers, provides ... and protects me "2 This personal aspect of creation directly relates my existence to God, and gives my life meaning because God gave it to me and continues to sustain it.
Secondly, along with the overwhelming majority of scientists, I believe that life has arisen through natural processes of chemical and biological evolution. We are convinced that life has evolved or changed over a long period of time on the basis of the vast amount of scientific evidence from the geologic and geographic distribution of life, from comparative anatomy, biochemistry, embryology, genetics, and paleontology.3-6
Thirdly, I believe Cod has been and is intimately involved in His creation and that He has used natural processes of evolution to bring about and change life forms for His purposes. lie directs, guides and controls every detail of His creation, even though evolution, in our present capacity of perception, appears impersonal and depends upon random events. (Note that although gene mutation may he statistically random and constant, the net result usually is not, since the environmental pressure is the final determinant in the expression of gene mutations as evolutionary changes.) Creation and evolution are not contrasts, but they complement each other.3 Cod operates through natural processes, and the Biblical view of creation takes these processes into account.3
We are convinced that life has evolved or changed over a long period of time on the basis of the vast amount of scientific evidence from the geologic and geographic distribution of life, from comparative anatomy, biochemistry, embryology, genetics, and paleontology.
Fourth, I believe that a proper consideration of the truth of God's revelation of Himself through His Word, in general, will never conflict with a valid interpretation of the evidence for natural processes operating in God's world. Apparent conflicts, I am convinced, arise only from misinterpretation of God's Word or from misapplication of knowledge of God's world. Asking questions inconsistent with the revela tional purpose of the Bible leads to misinterpretations of God's Word.8 Proper Biblical interpretation can only result from deriving the revelational content of the Biblical message according to its revelational purpose and using other widely accepted principles of hermeneutics.+8 On the other hand, the nature and scope of science must be understood in order to avoid extending knowledge of Cod's world beyond valid scientific limits.7
Fifth, I believe God chose to endow hominids having the mental capability with consciousness and moral responsibility. During the course of evolution hominids obtained the capacity for a consciousness of self and of their relationship to others and to their world. This consciousness led to their need for moral responsibility. I believe the unique relationship between man and His Creator was established at this early stage of human evolution.
Finally, I believe that an honest appraisal of Biblical exegesis established by Old Testament scholarship and a consistent application of hermeneutical principles accepted by the Lutheran confessors, as well as other truly conservative and orthodox Christian scholars of the Bible, will lead one to the conclusion that Adam is our representative. 9 Theologically speaking, Adam is the "father of mankind," the first man, the first sinner, the first in a long line of believers.3 He is our spiritual ancestor whose characteristics we still bear in the concept of original sin, the tendency of man to assert his independence from God, thus severing his relationship with Cod and setting himself up as his own god, or ultimate concern. But from our present state of knowledge about man's ancestry, the idea of a "first man" seems neither biologically nor historically relevant.3 As Adam is understood to represent all mankind, the fall is recognized as universal sin and imperfection in human relations.5,9 The Biblical story of the idyllic beginning of man in Eden strongly emphasizes that God is not the originator of sin, but that man, as a result of his disobedience and rebellion against God, is fully responsible3 for his alienation from God, from others, from nature, and from himself. (Perhaps this alienation is the reason why man is more violent than his fellow primates who have had no such relationship with God to sever.)
With these principles in mind, I conclude that the protein clock, as well as any other scientific tool for the measurement of time which estimates the antiquity of past events on an evolutionary time scale, is not a "creation pitfall", nor is it a threat to Christian faith or to the validity of statements of faith expressed by the Ecumenical Creeds or by the ASA membership (see inside back cover of this Journal). Both the Christian and non-Christian need to realize that the reliability of the Bible as God's Word and the vitality
of a human life with God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier are entirely independent of whether the theory of evolution is completely true, partially true, or merely incomplete. Also, everyone needs to recognize that the validity of science as a means to understand God's world and of the pursuit of science by a Christian are entirely independent of whether the doctrines of Biblical inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility are absolutely true, theologically true or applicable only to dynamic reationships, rather than to stagnant propositional statements.
The Bible tells us that the world is God's good creation. Science tells us what is in the world and attempts to explain how and when everything came about. According to the Bible, creation is not "explanation" of the world, but it relates this world and everything in it to God. "Explanations" can be left to the proper domain of science, but the relationship between God and this world is eminently the domain of theology.' The Bible and science can thus complement each other.
1Levy, C., and T. Bunnell. "The Protein Clock," Text of 2110th broadcast of The University (of California) Explorer, Hale Sparks, on CBS Radio, Armed Forces Radio, Voice of America; Apr. 5, 1970; Wilson, A. C., and V. M. Sarich. Molecular Time Scale for Human Evolution. Proc. Nat. Acad. Science. U. S. 63 (4). 1088-93. 1969.
2The Small Catechism by Martin Luther: his explanation to the 1st Article of The Apostles' Creed in contemporary English, o. 10. Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis. 1960. (The author of "Scientific Tool or Creation Pitfall?" is a communicant member of The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod and a biochemist at University Hospital of San Diego County.)
3 Wan der Ziel A., Genesis and Scientific Inquiry. T. S. Denison & Co., inc., Minneapolis. 1965. (a brief, but excellent exegesis of Genesis 1-12 with scientific commentary)
4Porter, I. H. Heredity and Disease. pp. 348-386, Chap. 6, Evolution; The Blakiston Division, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York. 1968. (a fascinating account of human evolution-past, present and future)
5Eckelmann, F, D. in R. Buhe, ed. The Encounter Between Christianity and Science. pp. 165169. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. 1969.
6Mixter, R. L., ed., Evolution and Christian Thought Today. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich. 1960.
7Bube, R. The Encounter Between Christianity and Science. pp. 17-42. Chap. 1, The Nature of Science.
8Bube, R., ibid. pp. 83-106, Chap. 4, Biblical Revelation.
9Habel, N. C. The Form and Meaning of the Fall Narrative. Concordia Seminary Print Shop, St. Lous. 1965. (an excellent, scholarly, exegetical commentary on Genesis 2 and 3)