A recent paper from the peer-reviewed journal Trends in Immunology has presented the argument that humans and diseases co-evolve alongside one another. The paper argues that pathogens act as agents of natural selection and that these pathogens leave a mark on our DNA. According to the researchers, the evolutionary pressure provided by the selection for or against genes that respond to these pathogens played a significant role in turning brutish human ancestors into modern humans. As always, sifting what is true from what is fiction will require a Biblical paradigm.
The idea behind this story is a fairly straightforward example of natural selection. The example they give is that of malaria in African populations. African populations have been decimated by malaria for centuries. This had led to the African lineages that were least resistant to malaria being wiped out. What this means is that the current African lineage has built up a slight resistance to malaria because those afflicted with it that have a higher rate of inflammation. However, people who have a greater inflammatory response tend to have problems later in life, such as atherosclerosis. The researchers claim that this is evidence of evolution in action. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What is going on in this study, while interesting, does nothing to prove evolution. Because malaria can occur at any stage of a person’s life, usually at a younger age, any individuals susceptible to it will be weeded out of the population before they reach the age where atherosclerosis is likely to set in. This means that those with the increased inflammatory response are more likely to reach the age of reproduction and therefore contribute more of their genes to the population gene pool. However, were malaria not to have existed, those with the exaggerated inflammatory response would still have survived and had children. Because atherosclerosis is mostly a disease of the older and middle-aged, the additional inflammatory response would persist in the population. The people with it would be able to have kids before the disease manifested.
In this instance, malaria acts as a selector. It slightly favors those with an exaggerated inflammatory response while actively selecting against those without it. This, however, is not evolution. This is a wonderful example of natural selection affecting humanity but all it does is shift the gene frequency in the population. That’s it. It does not produce a new trait, nor does it somehow advance human evolution. Further, the exaggerated inflammatory reaction is not beneficial, except in the presence of malaria. In fact, it is actively harmful to the individuals who have it later in life. They survive malaria better, which is good but are more likely to have things like heart attacks later in life.
Obviously living longer is good. However, it’s a trade-off. Without the exaggerated inflammatory response, the people would live longer on average under normal circumstances than they would with it. In the presence of malaria, however, the inflammatory response being stronger is an advantage, where it is normally a disadvantage. Again, not evolution, but that doesn’t stop these evolutionists from claiming that it demonstrates their dogma.
The researchers cite other examples like people with Neanderthal DNA being more likely to be resistant to HIV and more likely to have allergies and people eating processed foods being more likely to have diseases like type-2 diabetes. While interesting, none of these things demonstrate evolution. In fact, the Neanderthal DNA information demonstrates the same principle as the African inflammatory resistance to malaria. In both cases, there are trade-offs. One trait gets better while the other gets worse. This is what is usually the case when evolutionists discuss beneficial mutations.
Unfortunately, studies like this are often cited by evolutionists as demonstrating their dogma. This is frustrating because evolutionists know that natural selection is not the same as evolution and have known it for at least a century! However, often what matters to evolutionists is not the truth, but instead advancing their dogma. While these researchers may not be aware of it, what they are presenting to the public as evidence for evolution is in fact, no such thing. This is all too common in the evolutionary literature and is something Christians need to be aware of when reading what is put out for public consumption.
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