|Feature Article - July 2003|
|by Do-While Jones|
Cytochrome C is a protein found in almost all living things. Its mere existence in so many different kinds of living things, from bacteria to man, might be the result of a common evolutionary origin. Of course, its ubiquitous nature could also be due to a common designer. Is it possible to tell whether it is evidence of a common ancestor or a common designer? Yes, it is.
Proteins are made up of sequences of amino acids. Amino acids are like letters, and proteins are like words. Just as there are 26 different letters in the modern English alphabet, there are 20 different amino acids. A protein is constructed from a sequence of its amino acids, just like a word is constructed from a sequence of letters. There are a lot more amino acids in a protein than there are letters in a word, however.
Cytochrome C is about one hundred amino acids long. Imagine a word that is one hundred letters long. You could change one or two of the letters to a similar letter (you could replace a C with a K, for instance) and it would not change the pronunciation of the word noticeably. In the same way, you could change a few of the amino acids in cytochrome C with similar amino acids without affecting the function of the protein very much.
It happens that the cytochrome C in humans is slightly different from the cytochrome C in bacteria, but it still functions the same way. As a matter of fact, there are slight differences in the amino acid sequences of cytochrome C in most living creatures.
If the existence of cytochrome C in “higher forms” of animals is the result of evolution from a common ancestor, then one would expect to see a logical progression. That is, the cytochrome C of an invertebrate (like a worm) would be slightly different from a bacteria. A “primitive” vertebrate (like a fish) would have those same differences, plus a few more. As you progress along the presumed evolutionary path to amphibians, reptiles, mammals, primates, ending with humans, you should see the changes in cytochrome C accumulate.
On the other hand, if cytochrome C is a commonly used component employed by a designer, you will not see that logical progression. You will just see minor differences which optimize cytochrome C for that kind of creature.
Designers generally put tires made of rubber, with slightly different tread designs, on automobiles. Drag racers have slick treads, with no bumps or grooves. Off-road vehicles have treads with deep grooves and/or bumps. Passenger cars have a variety of tread patterns which are designed for use on pavement which may have some rain, snow, or dirt on it. If you tried to trace evolutionary progress from drag slicks to off-road knobby tires you would not be able to do it because tires did not evolve through random mutations and survival of the fittest.
There is a way to distinguish evolution from design at the molecular level. Molecular biologist Michael Denton examined the molecular evidence in detail. He said,
… the new molecular approach to biological relationships could potentially have provided very strong, if not irrefutable, evidence supporting evolutionary claims. Armed with this new technique, all that was necessary was to examine the proteins in the species concerned and show that the sequences could be arranged in an evolutionary series. … The prospect of finding sequences in nature by this technique was, therefore, of great potential interest. Where the fossils had failed and morphological considerations were at best only ambiguous, perhaps this new field of comparative biochemistry might at last provide objective evidence of sequence and of the connecting links which had been so long sought by evolutionary biologists.
However, as more protein sequences began to accumulate during the 1960s, it became increasingly apparent that the molecules were not going to provide any evidence of sequential arrangements in nature, but were rather going to reaffirm the traditional view that the system of nature conforms fundamentally to a highly ordered hierarchic scheme from which all direct evidence for evolution is emphatically absent. 1 [emphasis supplied]
Dr. Denton then produced several tables and diagrams that show this. He showed, for example, that the cytochrome C in bacteria is 64% different from horses and pigeons, 65% different from tuna and silkmoths, 66% different from wheat, and 69% different from yeast. 2 He left it to the reader to realize that, according to evolutionary theory, one would expect the cytochrome C of a bacterium to be closer to the cytochrome C of a tuna (fish) than a horse (mammal). Furthermore, the horse should have the same mutations as the tuna, plus a few more. This is not what the molecular data shows.
Dr. Denton was more interested in showing the distinct molecular gaps between kinds of creatures than he was in showing the lack of logical progression. Using our example of the tire treads, if you look at off-road tires from a variety of manufacturers, you will find that they are all similar, but with minor differences. Similarly, if you look at the treads on passenger tires they are similar, with minor differences. It is unlikely that you will wonder if a tire belongs on a sports car or a 4x4, regardless of the manufacturer. One need not be an automotive expert to recognize the difference.
Dr. Denton’s Figure 12.1, “The Cytochromes Percent Sequence Difference Matrix” 3, is an abridged version of the 1972 Dayhoff Atlas of Protein Structure and Function Matrix of nearly 1089 entries showing the percent difference between 33 species. Denton’s abridged matrix shows that molecular biologists can easily recognize which cytochrome C sample came from a fish and which came from a mammal.
However, the most striking feature of the matrix is that every identifiable subclass is isolated and distinct. Every sequence can be unambiguously assigned to a particular subclass. No sequence or group of sequences can be designated as intermediate with respect to other groups. All the sequences of each subclass are equally isolated from the members of another group. Transitional or intermediate classes are completely absent from the matrix. 4
If evolution were true, and creatures gradually evolved from one to another, there should be intermediate forms. Intermediate forms should be found in living creatures, in the fossil record, and in proteins. It should, in at least some cases, be hard to classify things because the boundaries are blurred.
The colors of a rainbow change gradually from red to orange, to yellow, and so on to violet. Where does the red end and the orange begin? Where does the green end and the blue begin? It is hard to tell because the change is so gradual. There are no distinct boundaries in the visible spectrum of light. Some colors are clearly blue, and some are clearly green, but there is a “gray area” where people might argue if a color is really green or blue.
If fish evolved into amphibians, there must have been some creatures that were intermediate between fish and amphibians. If we found those intermediate creatures alive today, biologists would have trouble deciding if they are fish or amphibians. If we found fossils of them, paleontologists would argue whether those fossils should be classified as fish or amphibians. If we took Cytochrome C from them, it would be difficult to tell if that protein came from a fish or an amphibian. But it isn’t.
It is easy to tell living fish from living amphibians. It is easy to tell fossil fish from fossil amphibians. It is easy to tell Cytochrome C from fish from Cytochrome C from amphibians.
If evolution were true, one would expect the cytochrome C to blend as smoothly as a rainbow from one biological classification (phylum, family, order, or class) to another. But, it doesn’t. You don’t even find the equivalent of “a minivan with the soul of a sports car” in the molecular data. It appears that all species designed for a certain environment were given similar tires.
If an analysis of cytochrome C showed an evolutionary pathway from bacteria to man, you can be sure it would be widely published. Such a report has not been published because the molecular evidence is against evolution. It favors a designer.
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Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 1985, Adler & Adler, Publishers, Inc. pages 277-8
2 ibid. page 281
3 ibid. page 279
4 ibid. page 278-280