Questioning The Primary Axiom

It is written:

And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22)

Dr. John Sanford is a very interesting man.

He has been a Cornell University Professor for more than 30 years. He received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin in the area of plant breeding and plant genetics. The good doctor has published over 100 scientific publications and has been granted several dozen patents. His most significant scientific contributions during the first half of his career involved three inventions: the biolistic (“ gene gun”) process, pathogen-derived resistance, and genetic immunization. A large fraction of the transgenic crops (in terms of numbers and acreage) grown in the world today were genetically engineered using the gene gun technology developed by John and his collaborators. He also started two biotech enterprises derived from his research, Biolistics, Inc., and Sanford Scientific, Inc. Some years ago, he started a small non-profit organization, Feed My Sheep Foundation (FMS). Through FMS, John has conducted research in the areas of theoretical genetics and bioinformatics for the last 14 years.

For quite some time, Dr. Sanford accepted what he calls “the primary axiom.” An axiom is a statement that is assumed to be true. It isn’t a proven idea, but one that serves as a template for further research and study.

What is the primary axiom?

“Modern thinking centers around the premise that man is just the product of a pointless natural process (undirected evolution). This widely-taught doctrine, when taken to its logical conclusion, leads us to believe that we are just meaningless bags of molecules, and in the final analysis, nothing matters. If false, this doctrine has been the most insidious and destructive thought system ever devised by man. Yet, if true, it is at best meaningless, like everything else. The whole thought system which prevails within today’s intelligentsia is built upon the ideological foundation of undirected and pointless Darwinian evolution. Modern Darwinism is built upon what I will be calling “The Primary Axiom”. The Primary Axiom is that man is merely the product of random mutations plus natural selection.” (Dr. John Sanford, 10 (Kindle Edition); Genetic Entropy, Waterloo, NY; FMS Publications)

In short, the Primary Axiom is the Darwinist worldview of life.

The Primary Axiom is very popular in our world, and it has had very destructive consequences.

“Within our society’s academia, the Primary Axiom is universally taught, and almost universally accepted. It is the constantly-mouthed mantra, repeated endlessly on every college campus. It is difficult to find professors on a typical college campus who would even consider (or dare) to question the Primary Axiom. It is for this reason that the overwhelming majority of youth who start out believing that there is more to life than mere chemistry–will lose that faith while at college. I believe this is also the cause of the widespread self-destructive and self-denigrating behaviors we see throughout our culture.” (Dr. John Sanford, 10 (Kindle Edition); Genetic Entropy, Waterloo, NY; FMS Publications)

However, drawing upon his work as a geneticist and following the evidence where it leads, Sanford came to a stunning conclusion: the Primary Axiom is not true!

“Late in my career, I did something that would seem unthinkable for a Cornell professor. I began to question the Primary Axiom. I did this with great fear and trepidation. I knew I would be at odds with the most “sacred cow” within modern academia. Among other things, it might even result in my expulsion from the academic world. Although I had achieved considerable success and notoriety within my own particular specialty (applied genetics), it would mean stepping out of the security of my own safe niche. I would have to begin exploring some very big things, including aspects of theoretical genetics which I had always simply accepted by faith. I felt compelled to do all this, but I must confess that I fully expected to hit a brick wall. To my own amazement, I gradually realized that the seemingly “great and unassailable fortress” which has been built up around the Primary Axiom was really a house of cards. The Primary Axiom is actually an extremely vulnerable theory. In fact, it is essentially indefensible. Its apparent invincibility derives largely from bluster, smoke, and mirrors. A large part of what keeps the Axiom standing is an almost mystical faith–which the “true-believers” hold–regarding the omnipotence of natural selection. As I went deeper, I began to see that this unshakable faith in natural selection is typically coupled with a degree of ideological commitment which can only be described as religious. I started to realize (again with trepidation) that I might be offending the religion of a great number of people! To question the Primary Axiom required me to re-examine virtually everything I thought I knew about genetics. This was the most difficult intellectual endeavor of my life. Deeply entrenched thought patterns only change very slowly (and, I must add, painfully). What I eventually experienced was a complete overthrow of my previous understanding. Several years of personal struggle resulted in a new and very strong conviction that the Primary Axiom was definitely wrong. More importantly, I became convinced that the Axiom could be shown to be wrong to any reasonable and open-minded individual. This realization was both exhilarating and frightening. I realized that I had an obligation to openly challenge this most sacred of cows. I also realized I would earn for myself the intense disdain of many of my colleagues within academia, not to mention very intense opposition and anger from other high places. What should I do? It has become my conviction that the Primary Axiom is insidious on the highest level, having a catastrophic impact on countless human lives. Furthermore, every form of objective analysis I have performed has convinced me that the Axiom is clearly false. So now, regardless of the consequences, I have to say it out loud: the Emperor has no clothes. I invite the reader to carefully consider this very important issue. Are you really just a meaningless bag of molecules, the product of nothing more than random molecular mutations and reproductive filtering? As you read this book, I am going to ask you to wrap your mind around something very challenging but also very exciting. I contend that, if you will invest a reasonable mental effort and follow just a handful of fairly simple arguments, I can persuade you that the Primary Axiom is false. Can you imagine anything more radical or more liberating? To the extent that the Primary Axiom can be shown to be false, it should have a major impact on your own life and on the world at large. For this reason, I have dared to write this book, which for some will be blasphemous treason and for others–revelation. If the Primary Axiom is wrong, there is a surprising and very practical consequence.” (Dr. John Sanford, 10-12 (Kindle Edition); Genetic Entropy, Waterloo, NY; FMS Publications)

According to the theory of evolution, life forms should be continually evolving over time, become better and longer lasting then previous generations.

However, Sanford’s work as a geneticist showed him something far different:

“When subjected only to natural forces, the human genome must degenerate over time. Such a sober realization has more than just intellectual or historical significance. It should rightfully cause us to personally reconsider the basis of our hope for the future.” (Dr. John Sanford, 12 (Kindle Edition); Genetic Entropy, Waterloo, NY; FMS Publications)

The research of Sanford focused especially on the human genome. He was amazed at the amazing complexity revealed in the DNA code!

“The human genome is a manual that instructs human cells how to be human cells and instructs the human body how to be the human body. There is no information system designed by man that can even begin to compare to the sophistication and complexity of the genome. The complex nature of the genome can only be appreciated when we begin to grasp how much information it contains. When you assemble the little red wagon you bought for your child, there is a booklet that tells you how to put it together. The size of the booklet is deceptive. It does not contain all the information needed for fabricating the component parts, or for manufacturing the steel, rubber, and paint. The complete instruction manual would actually be a very large volume. If you compiled all the instruction manuals associated with creating a modern automobile, it would fill a library. That library would be very large if it included the information needed for making all the components for creating the robotic assembly lines. Likewise, the manuals required for creating a fighter jet and all its components, computers, and assembly lines would comprise an extremely large library. The manuals needed for building the entire space shuttle and all its components and all its support systems would be truly enormous. Yet the specified complexity of even the simplest form of life is arguably greater than that of the space shuttle. Try to absorb the fact that the jump in complexity from a bacterium to a human being is arguably greater than the jump from the little red wagon to the space shuttle. There is simply no human technology that serves as an adequate analogy for the complexity of a human being. The genome is the instruction manual encoding all the information needed for that human life!” (Dr. John Sanford, 14-15 (Kindle Edition); Genetic Entropy, Waterloo, NY; FMS Publications)

What did the findings of science reveal to Sanford?

“The bottom line is this: the genome’s set of instructions is not a simple, static, linear array of letters–but is dynamic, self-regulating, and multi-dimensional. There is no human information system that can even begin to compare to it. The genome’s highest levels of complexity and interaction are probably beyond the reach of our understanding, yet we can at least acknowledge that these higher levels of information exist. While the linear information within the human genome is extremely impressive, the non-linear information must obviously be much greater. Given the unsurpassed complexity of life, this has to be true. All this information is contained within a genomic package that is contained within a cell’s nucleus–a space much smaller than a speck of dust. Each human body contains a galaxy of cells–more than 100 trillion–and every one of these cells has a complete set of instructions, directing the cell’s own highly-prescribed duties. The human genome not only specifies the complexity of our cells and our bodies, but also the functioning of our brains. The structure and organization of our brains involves a level of organization entirely beyond our comprehension. As we recognize the higher-order dimensions of the genome, I believe we can readily agree with Carl Sagan’s oft-repeated statement that each cell contains more information than the Library of Congress. Indeed, human life is more complex than all human technologies combined.” (Dr. John Sanford, 16-17 (Kindle Edition); Genetic Entropy, Waterloo, NY; FMS Publications)

However, it was not only the complexity of the DNA code which pointed Sanford to God and away from Darwinian evolution; it was the fact that over time, cells undergo entropy (degradation). Mutations are harmful and are not generally helpful to the cell, which shows that human DNA is not improving over time; rather, it is “de-evolving” (my word, M.T.)

In discussing this, Sanford points out the work that he did over years on the subject of genetic engineering and plant life.

“Everything about the true distribution of mutations argues against mutations leading to a net gain in information, as needed for forward evolution. Because beneficial mutations are so central to the viability of the Primary Axiom, I need to say a little more about them. During the last century, there was a great deal of effort invested in trying to use mutation to generate useful variation. This was especially true in my own area, plant breeding. When it was discovered that certain forms of radiation and certain chemicals were powerful mutagenic agents, millions and millions of plants were mutagenized and screened for possible improvements. Assuming the Primary Axiom, it would seem obvious that this would result in rapid “evolution” of our crops. For several decades this was the main thrust of crop improvement research. Vast numbers of mutants were produced and screened, collectively representing many billions of mutation events. A huge number of small, sterile, sick, deformed, aberrant plants were produced. However, from all this effort, almost no meaningful crop improvement resulted. The effort was for the most part an enormous failure, and was almost entirely abandoned. Why did this huge mutation/ selection experiment fail–even with a host of PhD scientists trying to help it along? It was because even with all those billions of mutations, there were no significant new beneficial mutations arising. The exception proves the point. Low phytate corn is the most notable example of successful mutation breeding. Corn with low phytate has certain advantages in terms of animal feed. The low phytate corn was created by mutagenizing corn, and then selecting for strains wherein the genetic machinery which directs phytic acid production had been damaged. Although the resulting mutant may be desired for a specific agricultural purpose, it was accomplished through net loss of information (like the broken car alarm), and the loss of a biological function (a broken gene). Most of the other examples of successful mutation breeding are found within the area of ornamental plants, where dysfunctional anomalies are found to be novel and interesting to the eye. Examples of “useful” mutations within ornamental plants include sterility, dwarfing, mottled or variegated foliage, or misshaped floral organs. If no truly positive mutations (resulting in a net gain of information) could be recovered from this vast science-guided process, why do we think the identical process, in the absence of any guiding intelligence, would be more fruitful in nature? However, the very same scientists who failed at mutation/ selection were extremely successful in crop improvement when they abandoned mutation breeding and instead used the pre-existing natural variation within each plant species or genus. This would make sense if such pre-existing variation did not principally arise via mutation, but originally arose by design.” (Dr. John Sanford, 37-38 (Kindle Edition); Genetic Entropy, Waterloo, NY; FMS Publications)

The evidence pointed to one inescapable conclusion: the Primary Axiom was not true!

“In conclusion, mutations appear to be overwhelmingly deleterious, and even when a mutation may be classified as beneficial in some specific sense, it is still usually part of an overall breakdown and erosion of information. As we will soon examine in greater detail, mutations, even when coupled with selection, cannot generally create new information. The types of variation created by mutation are more like the dings and scratches of life, and cannot be seen as life’s spare parts (spare parts are designed). Mutations are the basis for the aging of individuals, and right now they are leading to our death, both yours and mine.” (Dr. John Sanford, 39 (Kindle Edition); Genetic Entropy, Waterloo, NY; FMS Publications)

Sanford was especially amazed at how the findings of his research match incredibly well with the Bible narrative.

“Using the known mutation rates and other biologically reasonable parameter settings, we consistently see that; a) most deleterious mutations are not selectively eliminated, and so they accumulate linearly and without limit; b) beneficial mutations are too rare and generally too subtle to significantly compensate for the accumulating deleterious mutations; c) fitness declines continuously, manifesting a biolgical decay curve which follows a trajectory very similar to the Biblical data shown in Figure 16. Many lines of evidence indicate that the downward curve is very real. We are dying–both as individuals and as a species. The Primary Axiom is wrong. Apart from intelligent intervention, information always decays. Apart from some counterforce much more effective than natural selection, genomes must decay. Life should not be going up, up, up. It should be going down, down, down. Selection does not create information, and at best it can only slow its decay. Information theory clearly indicates that information and information systems arise only through intelligent means and are only preserved by intelligence (Gitt, 1997; Gitt et al., 2013). Computers and computer programs do not arise spontaneously. They are painstakingly designed. Even computer viruses, contrary to the public’s perception, do not arise spontaneously. They are painstakingly and maliciously designed. The emergence of the Internet has created a vast experiment to see if information can organize itself. It does not. Everything happening on the Internet, even the bad stuff, is designed. It is the fundamental nature of information to degenerate. This reality is reflected all around us, from the illustration of the room full of whisperers, to systems involving chains of command, to the routine crashing of our computer systems. The reason our information systems do not degenerate even more rapidly is because of elaborate, intelligently-designed systems created to stabilize and preserve that information. Yet even the best designed information systems, apart from intelligent maintenance and the continual intervention of intelligence, will always eventually breakdown. Computers are typically junk within 5-10 years. The genetic systems of life can be seen as intelligently designed information systems, and natural selection can be seen as an intelligently designed stabilizing mechanism. Even though these systems appear to be superbly designed, they are still degenerating, apart from the intelligent intervention of their designer. What is the mystery of the genome? Its very existence is its mystery. Information and complexity which surpass human understanding are programmed into a space smaller than an invisible speck of dust. Mutation/ selection cannot even begin to explain this. It should be very clear that our genome could not have arisen spontaneously. The only reasonable alternative to a spontaneous genome is a designed genome. Isn’t that an awesome mystery–one worthy of our contemplation?” (Dr. John Sanford, 159-160 (Kindle Edition); Genetic Entropy, Waterloo, NY; FMS Publications)

Later, Sanford discusses the fact that even thought the evidence in so many ways validates the Bible narrative, this will not be accepted by many:

“Given the reality of genetic entropy, if there is no counterforce to genetic entropy beyond just natural selection, then our own existence suggests that there has not yet been enough time for genetic entropy to cause our extinction. This is consistent with a Biblical view of human history, but is blasphemy within evolutionary circles.” (Dr. John Sanford, 223 (Kindle Edition); Genetic Entropy, Waterloo, NY; FMS Publications)

In conclusion, Sanford provides the only hope for mankind that he has found from his careful study of the evidences over a lifetime of study:

“Responsible people should be grateful to know the bad news, so they can constructively respond to it. If we have been putting all our hope in a sinking ship, would it not be expedient to recognize this and abandon the false hope? It is only in this light that we can appreciate bad news. Only in the light of the bad news can we really appreciate the good news–that there is a lifeboat. Even as we cannot create life, we cannot defeat death. Yet I assert there is One who did create life and who designed the genome. I do not know how He did it, but somehow He surely made the hardware, and He surely must have written the original software. He is called the Author of Life (Acts 3: 15–NIV). I believe the Author of Life has the power to defeat death and degeneration. I believe this is the Good News. It is my personal belief that Jesus is our hope. I believe that apart from Him there is no hope. He gave us life in the first place, so He can give us new life today. He made heaven and earth in the first place, so He can make a new heaven and earth in the future. Because He rose from the dead, we can be raised from death, even the death which is already enveloping us. In these profound yet simple truths, I believe there is a true hope. I believe this hope is unshakable, because I believe it is founded on the One who is eternal. It is a hope that has withstood the attacks of time and the corruption of religion. It is a hope freely available to anyone who would receive it today. I humbly put before you this alternative paradigm for your consideration–Jesus is our one true hope.” (Dr. John Sanford, 183(Kindle Edition); Genetic Entropy, Waterloo, NY; FMS Publications)

Indeed, Jesus is our only hope!

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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