As mentioned in the previous chapter, there are some creationists who have recognized that natural selection is given near-god-like power in the evolutionary dogma and have rejected natural selection as a result. While they are incorrect in rejecting selection, as was explained in the last chapter, that does not mean that their models are necessarily entirely faulty. It is possible that their models could have elements within them that would work with natural selection. Therefore, we shall examine the models proposed by creation scientists as alternatives to natural selection and see if there are elements that make good, scientific sense.
Dr. Todd Charles Wood proposed the idea of mediated design as far back as 2003 in an article written for the Institute for Creation Research. Based on the difference between C3 and C4 photosynthetic plants which are mixed indiscriminately among families, Wood argues that God built adaptability into the created kinds, which He reveals when necessary. “Since we now know that the climate of the earth changed drastically during the history of the earth, God must have created baramins to survive not just in their original environment, but in whatever future climates might arise. Thus, God must have created “hidden” adaptations in the original baramins waiting to be accessed at some point in the future, much in the same way that a Swiss army knife contains hidden tools that can be accessed as needed.” Wood’s analogy is well chosen. His postulation that adaptations were built into the genome but remained hidden until they were needed is certainly feasible.
The mechanism for revealing these hidden adaptations remains to be seen. Wood and a coauthor proposed in 2002 that these adaptations would be revealed by a genomic mechanism he called Altruistic Genetic Elements (AGEs). These AGEs are hypothetical at the moment, but, in Wood’s view, would control the expression, or disappearance of traits by activating or deactivating certain genes. No evidence currently exists for this idea, beyond Wood’s interpretation of the C3 and C4 photosynthetic cycles and their association with specific baramins.
While the idea is intriguing and one I would not be opposed to necessarily, it has a lot of assumptions and not a ton of evidence behind it. Wood assumes that the C3 and C4 photosynthetic plants are both found in the same created kinds (baramin). While he may be right about that, his statistical baraminology is no vehicle to determine that. Further, he is assuming the existence of these AGEs which has yet to be demonstrated. Again, these are not things which are bad or which I would be opposed to necessarily. However, there is essentially no evidence for any of those things right now.
Ironically, Wood does not seem interested in pursuing evidence for mediated design. He has not posted about it on his blog since 2010. In combination with Dr. Georgia Purdom and Tom Hennigian, Wood wrote an article discussing mediated design in the Answers magazine in 2009 in which the authors proposed that there were ways to test for mediated design. To the best of my knowledge, this has not been done. This could be from a combination of the fact a creationist proposed it, which is the kiss of death to the secular scientists, and Wood focusing on other things, particularly baraminology. This is disappointing because Wood’s model of baraminology is badly broken, and this area is an area that would be much more profitable for him to pursue.
Interestingly, in an effort to learn more about Wood’s model, I directly emailed him, which he invites people to do at his blog. His response did not really explain the model. I specifically asked him if natural selection would work with mediated design and his response was that the two did not work together. Therefore I am unsure if mediated design is intended to complement or replace natural selection as a mechanism.
Implications of Mediated Design
Does meditated design work with natural selection regardless of Wood’s opinion on the topic? It is hard to say. Details on Wood’s model are hard to come by. Wood himself has published very little on the topic, at least that is freely available. The most detailed discussion I was able to find is the few paragraphs in the Wood and Cavanaugh paper referenced above. Wood seems content to throw out the Swiss army knife analogy and assume that settles the debate. Unfortunately, argument by analogy is not enough to prove a point, merely elucidate a point.
The few details Wood provides about his model are based on very little data and some assumptions. Because of his study of C3 and C4 photosynthetic plants, he believes C4 photosynthetic plants are derived from C3 photosynthetic plants. Because of this belief, he feels that this rules out direct creation of C4 photosynthetic plants at creation. In order to avoid the gradualist evolution of the secularist, Wood proposed his mediated design idea, that organisms were designed with hidden adaptive potential which did not appear until after the Flood. I am somewhat skeptical of this. There is nothing in the Scripture to indicate that this happened. Further, there is no reason to presume that this variation would not have appeared prior to the Flood. In a fallen world, genes would have broken and any genetic restraint could have been bypassed during the genetic degradation in the post-fall world.
The only reason why Wood could make the case that mediated design occurred directly after the flood is a post-hoc change to suit his belief system. There is literally no other reason to put it there. There is no evidence in the Bible mediated design even exists. While lack of mention in Scripture is not evidence of absence, timing it to be directly after the Flood is purely arbitrary. Making such a claim is a result of a presupposed view of the past, not observable evidence.
However, having a presupposed view, does not automatically make such a view wrong. People presuppose things all the time. We all presume that the water coming out of our faucets is not actually liquid cyanide otherwise we wouldn’t drink it. We presuppose that when we wake up in the morning, gravity will still be working. Obviously, both those presuppositions are perfectly valid in almost all cases (exceptions would include astronauts in space). Wood’s presupposition, that the AGEs kept certain mediated design characteristics hidden until after the Flood may be true. However, unlike the presuppositions I just gave as examples, it is impossible to empirically test them. When you wake up in the morning, if you are still laying on your bed and not the ceiling, gravity is still working. If, after you drink your faucet water, you do not die quickly, it is not liquid cyanide.
How could Wood’s claim be tested? The first primary test would be determining that the AGEs exist. If they exist in the genome and perform the function Wood proposed, that would go a long way to demonstrating mediated design. However, timing them to be unleashed exactly after the Flood is trickier. The only way to do this that I can see would be to correctly derive a baramin, then look for traits that are discontinuous in that baramin. However, Wood’s method of baraminology is ill-suited for such a study, given it relies heavily on holistic continuity to determine the baramins, rather than hybridization. Were a baramin to be determined exclusively by hybridization, it would be possible to look for discontinuities within the baramin. Due to the extreme lack of hybridization data, this is not currently possible but may become possible at some point in the future.
For the moment, I am cautiously pessimistic about mediated design. I’m not entirely sure it is necessary, and, given the lack of work that has gone into this hypothesis, it is hard to come to definite conclusions. Mediated design should be shelved as an explanation until the concept is more fully developed and there is more evidence for its existence.
Continuous Environmental Tracking Foundations
Dr. Randy Guliuzza has proposed a model replacement for natural selection he calls continuous environmental tracking (CET). This model is much more well defined than Wood’s mediated design, though, that said, little has been peer-reviewed and much of the model has been roundly condemned by the creation science community. However, it is worth combing through Guliuzza’s ideas and seeing if his thoughts have scientific merit.
Guliuzza lays out the foundations for his CET model in an article published in 2012 on the Institute for Creation Research website. He has five pillars he builds on, some of which are good, some of which are shaky, and some of which are just flawed.
Guliuzza’s first pillar, or premise as he calls them, is that it is necessary to think from a design-based perspective in order to understand how nature works. This pillar is solid. It is impossible to completely understand biology, or really any other science, from a naturalistic perspective, because the observer will always come to false conclusions about the past, and the future direction of nature. Without a Biblical worldview, much of biology becomes inexplicable.
The second pillar of Guliuzza’s ideas is irreducible complexity. Again, Guliuzza is spot on. Living things are irreducibly complex. In this instance, however, Guliuzza is borrowing from the intelligent design movement, specifically Dr. Michael Behe. Behe coined the term in his book Darwin’s Black Box first published in 1996. Behe is not a creationist, but his work has been instrumental in propelling the intelligent design movement. Guliuzza is correct in using Behe’s terminology. However, Guliuzza confuses the purpose of design. “Put simply, the purpose of designed adaptation is to solve problems.” That is not the purpose of design. The purpose of design is to fulfill a specific task. Problem-solving is only one aspect of that. What then was the design of the universe and the organisms in it? To be home to, food for, and studied by man. Man was given dominion over the earth in Genesis 1:28 and this was confirmed in Genesis 9. Thus, while Guliuzza is right that organisms are irreducibly complex, he draws the wrong application from that.
Guliuzza’s third pillar is that creatures were programmed to adapt to changing environments from the beginning, not to survive. It is an interesting argument, given the animals were commanded to be fruitful and multiply before death was in existence. However, Guliuzza overlooks a key factor. Biblical death and scientific death are not the same thing. And I have no doubt Guliuzza knows this, he just has not connected the dots. No creationist argues that plants or cells did not die before the fall. They all recognize that God commanded the animals and man to eat plants prior to the fall in Genesis 1:29-30. Therefore, survival was an aspect of being fruitful and multiplying, at least in plants and some smaller organisms that did not have the breath of life in them.
Further Guliuzza ignores that, before the fall, environments would have been largely stable. Consider how environments change. There can be a catastrophic event, such as weather or a geological event. Given that there was no rain prior to the fall (Genesis 2:5) and most geological events have their roots in the Flood, there would have been limited pre-Flood environmental changes, even after the fall. Therefore, adapting to environments would not have been entirely necessary in the pre-Flood world, as the environments would have been mostly stable.
The fourth pillar Guliuzza builds on is rooted in his poor understanding of theology. He claims that human-engineered concepts also have an application to organisms. This seriously devalues the God of the Bible. God is not limited to the level of a finite human engineer. While human engineering concepts are often derived from the natural world, they are always less efficient than the design they are copying. His idea that design is always adaptable to the environment it finds itself in is spurious as well. One job I held was in a manufacturing plant. The machines I worked around were designed specifically to sort and package dietary supplements. They would have faired very poorly had someone attempted to make them sort and package raw meat. Even doing a similar job, the machine’s design would have been incapable of adapting to its new task. Design is not always flexible and adaptable.
This idea extends to the natural world as well. Animals are able to adapt to a lot of environments. Consider the bear kind. They are distributed widely across the world and have a wide variety of diets. They are very adaptable to different environments, including anything from deserts to tropical rain forests. However, not all kinds are so adaptable. The sloth kind is limited entirely to tropical rain forests. Clearly, not all designs are equally adaptive.
The fifth premise Guliuzza relies on when formulating his ideas is the idea that adaptable systems are resilient. “Adaptive traits characterizing resiliency include the ability to resist damage, mitigate loss, or enable quick recovery.” In other words, according to Guliuzza, his model assumes that organisms will be able to rapidly adapt to changes in the environment. Guliuzza expounds on this by claiming that a designed entity should be both robust, and plastic. What he means is it should maintain its general structure and function, but be flexible in the specifics of how those are implemented. This actually makes sense in light of created kinds. The kinds themselves maintain their same general shape and appearance, but the species within the kind have adapted to different biomes.
Continuous Environmental Tracking Principles
Guliuzza then proceeds to list ten principles which he says engineers use when they are working on a new design. His first principle is that design will feature distinct units he calls entities. These entities will be completely separate from the environment, even when they are obtaining their fuel or sustenance from the environment. In this he is correct. There is no “hive mind” controlling nature. His second principle is that the design has senors that allow it to respond to stimuli coming from the environment. Again, this is reasonable, as all organisms react to their environment in some way.
The third principle is where the problems start for Guliuzza. He defines the environment as brainless and unguided, both of which are true. However, this is where mistaken theology and concepts of design come into play. He believes that a design based view excludes the influence of the environment on organisms and thus organisms fit their environment because they were designed to do so, rather than them adapting to do so. This is nigh unto the discredited idea of the fixity of species, which believed that species were created in their exact locations in the modern world. Principle four is not much better. It continues to assume environment has no influence on existing design, as well as challenges the evolutionary idea of fitness. While “survival of the fittest” is perhaps circular, explaining fitness in terms of traits, reproduction, or gene frequency does make sense.
The fifth principle is even worse. It claims that the entities’ design decides whether the entity lives or dies. This is why Lisle hammered Guliuzza so hard. This essentially claims that God is to blame every single time an organism dies. This blatantly ignores the Biblical statement that man brought death into the world (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:21 Romans 8:22). The sixth principle is slightly better, in that it believes the environment has no mind. However, again, it presupposes that the environment has no impact on the stimuli that organisms respond to. This is utter hubris. The sun, the moon, temperature, rain, and many more are all stimuli from the environment that influence organisms’ behavior.
Guliuzza’s seventh principle is a bit more complex. He believes that a failed design does not disprove a designer, which is true. However, a failed designer does violate the Biblical description of God as perfect. (Psalms 18:30, 2 Samuel 22:31, and Deuteronomy 32:4) He makes this even more clear in principle ten where he says “Designs either succeed or fail to solve problems. But environments never succeed or fail because they aren’t trying to do anything. In all cases, credit or blame resides with designers, not the exposures.” In other words, when a crippled animal dies, it is the fault of the designer. Since God was the original designer, He is responsible both for the animal being crippled and dying in Guliuzza’s view. This is both unbiblical and nigh atheistic in view. Yet Guliuzza promotes it because of his false concept of natural selection and his rejection of his self-built strawman.
The model itself is fairly straightforward. It attempts to put traits into a framework for the expression of traits that were previously hidden within the genome. It is meant to explain the adaptability of organisms to their environment in the absence of natural selection. It views everything an organism does is independent of environmental stimuli and instead is internally generated by the organism. As the environment changes, the organism notices, and adapts accordingly.
The model has three main points. The first is that organisms have environmental sensors that feed information from the environment into the organism. The organism then interprets this information and determines how it will respond from a suite of available options. Once it has chosen, it proceeds to execute its decision in a time appropriate manner. Thus according to Guliuzza, the environment is immaterial. What matters is how the organism responds to input. Again, his focus is slightly off as he fails to ask where the input is coming from. It is not coming from the organism; it is coming from the environment. However, that aside, the rest of the model is possible.
Evidence of CET
Unlike Wood’s mediated design model, Guliuzza has presented multiple cases where he believes you can see examples of his CET model. While many of his premises are false or flawed, it is possible he could have stumbled onto something useful, even if by accident. Therefore, we will examine some of the papers he believes provide evidence for his idea to see if it actually works.
One example Guliuzza cites is the relationship between the goldenrod gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis) and the goldenrod plant (Solidago altissima). This relationship is not cooperative. The goldenrod gall fly lays its eggs on the goldenrod plant stem. When the eggs hatch, they eat the goldenrod plant. The Goldenrod responds by forming a gall around the offending larva to trap them in areas they have already consumed.
A recent study, which Guliuzza cites, found that the goldenrod can detect a special chemical the male goldenrod gall fly emits to attract a mate. The mechanism for this is unknown, but the researchers found that the emission of this chemical causes the goldenrod to produce jasmonic acid. Jasmonic acid is a hormone produced by numerous plants and helps plants respond to stress.
Guliuzza takes issue with part of this study, claiming that the researchers did not demonstrate that the jasmonic acid was produced in response to the chemical from the goldenrod gall fly. Guliuzza claims that this idea is a result of the author’s evolutionary assumptions. This claim is bizarre given the authors present data that jasmonic acid was produced when exposed to the chemical from the gall fly and that plants with jasmonic acid were eaten less than those without it. Unless Guliuzza wants to claim the researchers fabricated their data, a claim which should not be made without at least some reason or evidence, then there is no reason to doubt them
Towards the end of his article discussing this study, Guliuzza ties the study to his CET model. He claims that the goldenrod plant is not responding to an external inducement, but is instead tracking what is happening outside of it, and producing a response internally. To me, this is two sides of the same coin. It entirely depends on point of view. If you believe, as Guliuzza does, that the environment has no influence on organisms, then you are compelled, as Guliuzza is, to say that the fly has no influence on the goldenrod, and that the goldenrod must be sensing the fly and responding as appropriate. However, the signal the plant is receiving that is triggering the jasmonic acid production does not come from the plant. It comes directly from the environment around it, specifically the gall fly. Thus, Guliuzza’s argument in this instance is absurd.
A second article Guliuzza wrote to make his case for CET was about Hawaiian stick spiders. These spiders have colonized several islands in Hawaii and, in each colonization, develop very similar body styles and patterns. While the study does rely heavily on phylogenetics to demonstrate relation between the spider species, the fact that the spiders all look essentially the same, regardless of the islands they have colonized, appears to indicate that they are well adapted to their environments. The authors of the study propose that natural selection was involved in fitting these spiders for their environment.
Of course, Guliuzza objects to this because he objects to natural selection. However, in this instance, his arguments are even more absurd than the last. He argues that, because the speciation is rapid, CET must be happening. This is patently absurd as other creation models also call for rapid speciation and make more sense of the data than the CET model.
Guliuzza’s second point for the CET is much more valuable. He points out that the research paper speculated at a possible reason behind the change. “…we can ask whether there might be an underlying mechanism that leads to the similar patterns of predictably repeated evolution in the course of adaptive radiation.” Guliuzza builds on that speculation with speculation of his own, namely that the underlying mechanism is the CET model. While this could be plausible, at least in part, it is speculation compounding speculation, and therefore something not to be held dogmatically.
A third evidence Guliuzza uses to support his CET model is turtle eggs being sensitive to temperature changes in the environment. Researchers have recently discovered that a specific gene which regulates the development into male or female. The gene senses temperature outside the nest and adjust the development of the embryo accordingly. The researchers did not specify whether the gene itself was detecting the temperature change, or if some yet to be discovered control gene was running the show. This is where Guliuzza believes he has the answer. Due to his heavy emphasis on sensors, Guliuzza believes that the CET model will explain this better than environmental selection. However, again, this is Guliuzza misunderstanding how things work. Why are sensors valuable? Because they communicate to the organism what is going on around them. What is around them? The environment. Therefore, the sensors are actually sensing the environment and causing the organism to respond to the environment. Because Guliuzza is convinced natural selection is a myth, he assumes that sensors are the key and that the environment has no role. In this, he is wrong.
Epigenetics and CET
Guliuzza relies very heavily on epigenetics in his CET model. Epigenetics a method of regulation of the genome that is outside or above the genome itself. Epigenetics is a term coined in the 1940s, but not much was done with the idea until decades later. Epigenetics involves any change to the genome of an organism which does not change the DNA sequence. The most common mechanism of this is methylation. Methylation involves adding a methyl group (CH3) to the DNA strand at a given nucleotide.
Epigenetics can be inherited, but there are limits to how long the inherited trait will persist. This is because epigenetic modifications seem to universally be caused in response to environmental stresses and, in absence of those stresses, tend to go away within a few generations. A professor from Vanderbilt argued that in a statement to BioScience in 2011. “It’s reasonable to think that these transgenerational effects will have a half life, so to speak, that they probably last for two, three, four generations and then are subject to reversing back to the original baseline state.” In other words, epigenetic changes last only a few generations before reverting back to the wild type, if the stressors are removed.
Guliuzza recognizes this. He views epigenetics as a mechanism that is designed to give organisms flexibility to adapt to their environments. “They allow organisms to rapidly “flex” with the variability and challenges of changing conditions by expressing suitable traits and then return to their “baseline” after the challenge passes.” In this, Guliuzza is entirely correct.
Guliuzza’s model essentially puts all its eggs in the epigenetics basket. Epigenetics is his explanation for the rapid change of organisms in response to their environment. That may be so. It certainly contributes in some instances. However, again, the evidence is lacking for this claim. Guliuzza is certainly within his rights to postulate that the CET model could make use of epigenetics to explain how organisms respond to the environment, but, until such time as there is more available evidence to back up the claim, I will remain somewhat skeptical.
Implications of CET
The CET model has potential, particularly in the epigenetic realm. It could potentially serve as an explanation for the control and modification of the epigenome. However, there are implications of the CET model which could be troubling, at least as Guliuzza is currently packaging it.
The primary implication of CET as Guliuzza is packaging it is that natural selection is not real. As we have repeatedly established in this chapter, this is patently false. Natural selection is not some mystical, miraculous explanation for the design and variety of organisms. It completely fails to explain the design, but it does explain variety. CET, while assuming design, does not explain variety.
Variety does not arise in a vacuum. In every case, changes arise based on pre-existing genetic information being expressed, or a near-neutral genetic mutation proliferating in the population. Why would a particular phenotype proliferate? Either because it is the only option available to the population, or because it confers a situational advantage. Where does this advantage occur? In the environment. Therefore, the advantageous phenotype is favored, not because the organism selects it, but instead because it is advantageous in the environment. The organism did not select its own phenotype. The environment did not either. The genetics behind the phenotype were pre-determined in the organism’s DNA. However, the environment does strongly influence which organisms survive. Certain traits simply do not work in certain environments. CET’s explanation for variation makes no sense because it presupposes there is no environmental influence, which is purely spurious.
However, just because CET does not work to explain variation, does not mean it will not work for other things. Epigenetic regulation is a possible application I would like to see Dr. Guliuzza explore. As of now, we have little, to no evidence of how epigenetic modification is regulated. Perhaps the CET model could explain that. It is an intriguing possibility, one which deserves to be explored, instead of wasting time on attempting to discredit a perfectly Biblical and scientific concept.
The continuous environmental tracking model seems to have a few potential areas where it could have explanatory power. However, it is still confined to the realm of speculation. The CET model, when applied alongside selection, could potentially work. The CET model alone could help account for phenotypic changes and could help explain the regulation of epigenetic changes to the organisms. However, all of this is speculative. There is no empirical evidence for this yet.
The mediated design model is even sketchier with regard to evidence. This is, in part, because Wood has not really developed it. Perhaps if more time was dedicated to the model, more evidence would be found but until then, it remains speculative at best.
Based on what we have examined in this chapter, the options outside of selection are meager. The CET model has potential, but is still speculative. I’d like to see it refocused as a potential explanation for regulating epigenetic changes to the genome as it seems this could be something it could explain. The mediated design hypothesis is intriguing, but, because it is so poorly developed, is hard to say much about. The two options are both equally unable to be applied in place of natural selection.
 Todd Charles Wood and David Cavanaugh “A Baraminological Analysis of Subtribe Flaveriinae (Asteraceae: Helenieae) and the Origin of Biological Complexity” Origins 52 (2001) Pages 7-27. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b7a4/a61cf8dbf29c6e5ab8cd10dc9c099ec643a8.pdf?_ga=2.186839596.543970984.1563386356-2022440974.1551301519
 Todd Charles Wood, Georgia Purdom, and Tom Hennigian. “Creation’s Hidden Potential” Answers 4, no.1 (2009) Pages 70-75. https://answersingenesis.org/creation-science/baraminology/creations-hidden-potential/
 Todd Charles Wood, personal communication
 Randy J. Guliuzza “Engineered Adaptability” Institute for Creation Research September 28, 2012. Accessed July 18, 2019. https://www.icr.org/article/engineered-adaptability
 Michael Behe Darwin’s Black Box Glencoe, IL; Free Press, 1996.
 Guliuzza, 2012.
 Frank L. Marsh Variation and Fixity in Nature. Omaha: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1976.
 Guliuzza, 2012
 Note principles 8 and 9 are skipped because they are about causality and sensors which really are not controversial in the creationist worldview, though Guliuzza puts a typical spin on them.
 Randy Guliuzza “Engineered Adaptability: Arriving at a Design-based Framework for Adaptability.” Institute for Creation Research July 31, 2019 Accessed July 19, 2019. https://www.icr.org/article/engineered-adaptability-arriving-at
Mark C. Mescher et al “Identification of an insect-produced olfactory cue that primes plant defenses.” Nature Communications 8, no. 337 (2017) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-00335-8
 Randy Guliuzza “Plant’s Odor Sensing System Demonstrates Engineered Adaptability” Institute for Creation Research September 25, 2017a, Accessed July 23, 2019. https://www.icr.org/article/plants-odor-sensing-system-demonstrates
 Mescher, 2017.
 Guliuzza, 2017a.
 Rosemary G. Gillespie et al. “Repeated Diversification of Ecomorphs in Hawaiian Stick Spiders.” Current Biology 28, no.6 (2018) Pages 941-947. https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(18)30149-0
 Randy Guliuzza “Stick Spider Adaptation is Purposeful and Predictable.” Institute for Creation Research March 29, 2018a. Accessed July 23, 2019. https://www.icr.org/article/stick-spider-adaptation
 Gillespie et al, 2018.
 Guliuzza, 2018a.
 Chutian Ge et al “The histone demethylase KDM6B regulates temperature-dependent sex determination in a turtle species.” Science 360, no. 6389 (2018) Pages 645-648. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6389/645
 Randy Guliuzza “Turtle Eggs Sense Temperature Changes.” Institute for Creation Research May 29, 2018. Accessed July 24, 2019. https://www.icr.org/article/turtle-eggs-sense-temperature-changes
 Tabitha M. Powledge “Behavioral Epigenetics: How Nurture Shapes Nature.” BioScience 61, no. 8 (2011): Pages 588-592, https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/61/8/588/336969
 Randy Guliuzza “Engineered Adaptability: Epigenetics–Engineered Phenotypic ‘Flexing’.” Institute for Creation Research December 29, 2017.