More Fabulous Insights from Dr. Baumgardner
Dr. John Baumgardner addressed large appreciative crowds at CSAA’s Creation Weekend in October 2016. Following his introductory lecture on Friday evening (“How language powerfully affirms God’s reality”) [described in the previous issue of Dialogue], he continued the next morning with “Mendel’s Accountant: Why Darwinism Fails”. This work resulted from a collaboration with geneticist Dr. John Sandford of Cornell University. Many people in modern society find Darwin’s conclusions extremely appealing: the idea that competition in nature ought to lead to organisms better suited to the environment. While this is reasonable, there are limits to how far this idea can take us.
Darwin had supposed that organisms could acquire characteristics as the need arose. However this man did not understand the random nature of mutations (changes to the genetic information in an organism). Once the concepts of random genetic mutations and Mendel’s laws of inheritance were combined, neo-Darwinism (which combined these ideas) became the favoured new paradigm. More recent studies however have revealed that natural selection does not effectively eliminate most bad mutations from a population and almost all mutations are bad. Although most changes in the genetic material are of small effect, over time their combined effect can be major. One geneticist, Motoo Kimura (1924-1994) proposed genetic drift, the accidental elimination of mutations rather than selection, as a way to eliminate some of the negative mutation load.
It was to study this situation that Drs. Sandford and Baumgardner collaborated to produce a computer model that would demonstrate the effects of various levels of mutation and selection on populations. Inserting different values into the equations enabled the scientists to plot the effects at various population sizes, numbers of offspring, proportion of females and mutation rate. In view of the shockingly high rate of mutations observed in people today (anywhere from 50-300 mutations per person per generation), these models revealed that fitness declines drastically with time and that after only 200 generations, the human population could well exhibit only 68% of the original fitness. Obviously such studies demonstrate that descent with modification does not lead to evolutionary improvement, but actually to a downward trend in population fitness.
During the afternoon session, entitled “Human DNA comparisons strongly affirm Genesis history”, Dr. Baumgardner discussed how mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) allows scientists to trace the history of early human populations. Initially there were 2 parents and from their descendants a population explosion resulted. However this population was later reduced to 8 persons (termed a bottleneck). Later the population recovered somewhat, only to be split into 3 major groups or cultures as a result of Babel.
Mitochondria are tiny structures which act basically like furnaces inside living cells, providing energy to maintain life processes. All the mitochondria which a person inherits, come from the mother. Since mitochondria contain a small ring of genetic material or DNA, then any differences in the mtDNA between direct descendants come from mutations rather than recombination which does not occur. From the patterns of differences in mtDNA between populations, scientists attempt to plot the history of those populations. Patterns of variation which many groups share in common, naturally are from an older time when there was just one population. Differences between groups come from more recent times.
Dr. Baumgardner discussed how Eve’s original mtDNA sequence can be discerned from comparisons of world populations. More recently there appeared three population clusters possibly reflecting descent from the wives of Shem, Ham and Japheth. Many people attending this lecture were fascinated to learn the kinds of studies which are possible from mtDNA patterns of variation in human populations.
The keynote lecture in the evening was entitled “How God used a Farm Boy from Texas to develop World Class Science.” Dr. Baumgardner began his lecture with an account of his experiences with steers and sheep as a youth in the 4H program in Texas. Later he studied electrical engineering in Texas and at Princeton. Following service in the Air Force and with Campus Crusade for Christ, he enrolled in a doctoral program in geophysics at UCLA. He had observed many occasions when university professors used evolutionary arguments to encourage Christians to reject their faith. An important component of these discussions was the nature of Noah’s flood. The young John Baumgardner realized that the flood must have involved planet-wide catastrophic events in the earth’s crust. He determined to study the nature of those events.
John Baumgardner had never taken a single course in earth science, yet he set out to develop a three-dimensional model of the motion of the earth’s surface during the flood. [For a technical introduction see Baumgardner.1994. Computer Modeling of the Large-Scale Tectonics Associated with the Genesis Flood. Third International Conference on Creationism.] [for nontechnical discussion see Tim Clarey. 2016. Embracing Catastrophic Plate Tectonics. Institute for Creation Research] The Baumgardner model divided up the globe’s surface and mantle into 1.3 million cells. For each cell he calculated changes in such parameters as temperature, stress and density. What happened in one cell impacted all the nearby cells. His model involved the simultaneous calculation of 5.2 million equations. Obviously this required massive computing power. He worked with mathematicians from Los Alamos National Laboratory and UCLA. The success of his model (TERRA), which was years ahead of any similar model, thrust him into international circles. Once the model was functional, his professors created a permanent position for him in the theoretical division (most prestigious) and they allowed him to work half time on his own project, which was of course flood geology.
Many interesting insights concerning the possible onset and progress of Noah’s flood have been discovered from running the TERRA computer program. Dr. Baumgardner has used the model more recently to demonstrate how the large volume of fossil-bearing sedimentary rock could be deposited onto the continents and what was the source of that sediment in such a short time span. [See John Baumgardner. 2016. Numerical Modeling of Large-Scale Erosion, Sediment Transport, and Deposition Processes of the Genesis Flood. Answers Research Journal 9:1-24]
Thus Dr. Baumgardner continued his objective to demonstrate the failures of common evolutionary arguments raised in many circles against the knowledge of God. The hope is that Christian young people will prepare themselves to counter the onslaught of evolutionary arguments promulgated by professors and society in general.
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