Genetics is a frightening subject for people. It involves things they don’t entirely understand with big, complicated scary sounding names. Thus when told there is another layer of complexity on top of the normal Mendellian genetics, many people will simply back away from what they perceive as intimidating and complicated science. However, while things like epigenetics may sound intimidating, they are not that difficult to understand with a little time and care. This article will present epigenetics from a creationist perspective and demonstrate that it provides support for an original designer.
Epigenetics is different than heredity because it does not manifest in the offspring of an organism, it manifests the organism itself. It does not even require a change in the DNA sequence. Instead, it changes the phenotype, or the product of the sequence, without changing the DNA code itself. It basically changes the way the strand is interpreted, without changing the actual information of the strand. It does, however, change the DNA strand.
In response to a number of factors such as age, environment, stress, and disease, the DNA strand can be modified to cause some genes to be read that had not been previously. This is also true in reverse, meaning that some genes which had once been read, are no longer read in the sequence. These “reading frames” are turned on an off in a number of different ways. One such way is to add a methyl group. A methyl group is a carbon attached to three hydrogen atoms. This group is added to one of the bases in the DNA strand, usually the cytosine. This process includes a middle step called hydroxymethylation. This method of epigenetics is involved in, among other things, embryonic development, chromosomal stability, and gene suppression.
The second method of epigenetic control involves the modification of histone proteins. Histone protein modification is important because histones are the majority of the protein content of the chromatin in the cell. Chromatin is the word used for the combination of DNA, RNA and proteins found in the genome. The histone proteins serve as packaging for the DNA. Some of the histone proteins can be modified from outside the DNA strand. Among their other functions, histone proteins help control when transcription is turned on and off. This is important because it determines which sections of the genome will be transcribed to RNA. It does this by increasing or decreasing the compactness of the chromatin, making it easier or harder for transcription to occur.
There are other mechanisms involved in epigenetics such as non-coding RNA expressions. These are RNA strands which do not code for protein. Instead, they seem to be the triggers for DNA methylation and histone protein modification. In other words, non-coding RNA appears to be the regulators for the epigenetic modifications. However, to get these non-coding RNA, DNA must already be present to be copied to create the RNA. It exhibits incredible integrated complexity.
The really interesting part of this epigenetic puzzle is that changes in the epigenome can be inherited. At least aspects of it can. For example, negative changes in the epigenome that can influence the likelihood of an individual getting cancer can be passed on to the offspring. This might partially explain why certain kinds of cancers run in families. Not all the heritable changes are negative. In some cases, they make the organism better adapted to its environment.
Another incredibly interesting feature of epigenetics is that it is reversible. A gene might need to be turned on for a certain time frame to produce a certain protein or RNA. When the need for that protein or RNA strand passes, there is no reason for that gene sequence to remain active. Thus the epigenome will turn it off.
There are significant implications for epigenetics. It allows parents to pass different aspects of their genome to different offspring. It allows the genome to respond to the environment, which allows creatures to adapt to their environment on the fly. For example, some butterflies can change the color of their scales to produce a different reflection to better fit their surroundings using the epigenome. This is an incredible design. Think about it for a moment. The base genetic code is the source of heredity for most traits and is passed on to the offspring. The epigenome adds an extra layer of complexity to the genome. It gives the genome even more flexibility and adaptability in the face of potential environmental changes.
How do evolutionists account for this amazing ability to adapt to the environment? The answer is, they do not have a clue how epigenetics evolved. “During the course of development, from prokaryotes to mammals, a mechanism arose by which specific functions in terms of the regulation of gene expression could be performed.” says one study from 2016. How did it arise? Well, the same study tells us “As evolution progressed, genetic alterations accumulated and a mechanism for gene selection developed. It was as if nature was experimenting to optimally utilize the gene pool without changing individual gene sequences. This mechanism is called epigenetics, as it is above the genome.” That, folks, is what we call a fairy tale for adults. Walt Disney would be proud of that “just so” story. They don’t tell us how the mechanism developed, they don’t tell us how it was able to edit the DNA strand without lethally mutating the DNA, they give us a fairy tale and expect us to believe it because they’re scientists.
Interestingly, they have replaced the true designer of the epigenome, God, with nature. They have effectively deified nature. The only problem is, nature is blind, deaf, purposeless and mindless so nature can’t experiment with anything, nor can it recognize optimum use if it were to accidentally stumble on it. Nature is not able to do the job of God. The epigenome is evidence of an all-wise Creator who made the genome to be flexible and able to adapt to its environment.