5. Intelligent Genes?

Certain relationships and behaviors are irrational in the evolutionary belief system. Why do species develop traits that have no benefit for survival? Or become completely dependent on something else for it’s survival? And then there are situations where an animal’s behavior is reprogrammed by a parasite. How is this possible? How can a parasite know how to turn on certain behaviors or hijack the genes of another species for its own benefit? Since evolution can’t consider an intelligent designer, they have elevated the genes themselves with intelligence beyond the species. Genetics becomes a collective mind that spans species in the sci-fi world of evolution.

In his article, ‘Universal Parasitism and the Co-evolution of Extended Phenotypes’, Richard Dawkins once again tries to overcome the problem of evolution by carefully weaving around objections by convincing the reader of the simplicity of evolution. Critical thinking is avoided by presenting the idea that genes themselves are working as a team and even work with the gene ‘teams’ of other species. Instead of explaining genetic development, he classifies them into to cooperative categories: genome types and phenotypes. Genomes are working for the survival of the body of the species, and phenotypes are working toward the evolutionary jump even between two or more species.

Co-evolution has always been a difficulty for evolutionists. When one species is completely dependent upon another, evolution grapples to convince us that co-evolution is possible. For example, the fig plant has blossoms that prevent insects from entering, yet it can’t survive if the inside of the fig isn’t pollinated. The fig wasp is designed to enter and needs the fig for its survival, and the fig needs the wasp for its survival. Another example is the dodo bird. The dodo was dependent on the Calvarias tree and the Calvarias tree was dependent on the newly extinct dodo. The thick husk surrounding the seed cannot germinate naturally, but the dodo’s digestive system removes the husk and allows it to germinate once it passes through the bird. Why does evolution that supposedly strives for survival make itself 100% dependent on the survival of another species? Dawkins does not provide any real answers to this, but he does give a unique perspective by using phenotypes.

Dawkins explains that the orthodox view is that a body is the vehicle for transporting a set of genes from one generation to another. In this article he states that animal behavior is not necessarily controlled by the genes in the animals body, but genes are selected by proxy. Two gene teams may work together toward a common goal and go against the normal behavior expected. Behind the scenes the phenotype is the driving force that works to pass along genes ‘it’ deems most beneficial to the next generation.

The Beetle and the Nosema

The beetle has its physical behavior changed by an infecting protozoa called ‘Nosema’. The genes of this parasite cross interests with the genes of the beetle. They work together where their interest is mutual. They allow the beetle to mate, lay eggs and survive because their ultimate interest is passing their genes to the next generation. New eggs are infected and the new beetles will carry genes of the protozoa for another lifecycle.

The mutual interest conflicts with the normal development of the beetle. When a beetle larvae is ready to pupate, the Nosema genes take over. This protozoa has the ability to synthesize juvenile hormones that prevent the beetle from transforming into an adult. If a beetle larvae is injected with juvenile hormones, it will stop metamorphosing. The hormones force the larvae to continue growing through six new molts. The beetle grows into giant larvae up to twice its normal size. This growth benefits the protozoa and when the lifecycle is complete; the beetle goes into adulthood and lays infected eggs.

Dawkins states, “The two sets of genes, therefore, would be expected to pull together, for exactly the same reasons as all the genes of one organism pull together. It is irrelevant that some of them happen to be beetle genes while others happen to be bacterial genes. Both sets of genes are interested in the propagation of beetle eggs. Both sets of genes, therefore, are interested in making the beetle bodies successful in all departments of life, in both survival and reproduction.”

He also states, “it is more fundamental for genes to work in their own interests.” He also says that in some cases, genes may rebel against their bodies when they find away to manipulate them to successfully break free from the body. Bodies are nothing more than the vehicles that genes use to survive and reach their goals.

We’ll examine this idea in detail shortly, but let’s first look at another example of intelligent genes given by Richard Dawkins.

The Snail Fluke

A snail fluke is a microscopic parasite that infects the snail through ingestion. It is known as a snail fluke because it changes the snail’s behavior. When the fluke is ready for its next life cycle, it migrates into the snail’s eye, causes the snail to climb toward sunlight, and then pulsates vividly to attract attention of any passing bird. The snail fluke has an interesting life cycle. It is dependent on three external hosts. It begins with a sheep, infects the snail, passes through a bird, and back to the sheep. All three are necessary for each step of its development. The snail fluke, according to Dawkins, has a limited cross interest with the snail. The genes of the fluke are not interested in the snail’s reproduction or its long-term survival. It is only interested in the snail’s short-term survival.

The snail fluke causes the shell to become thicker, which helps short-term survival. When the fluke is developed and ready for the next stage, the genes of the fluke are in conflict with the interest of the genes of the snail. It is then that the fluke genes alter the snail’s behavior. Snails normally avoid light, but the fluke causes the snail to seek light. The snail goes against its natural behavior when it climbs to the top of a branch or plant into the sunlight where a bird will likely see it and eat it. When the fluke has been eaten by a passing bird, it then has an opportunity to enter its next phase of development inside the bird’s digestive system.

Richard Dawkins argues that the genes of the snail and the genes of the fluke have the same ultimate goal but different methods of achieving that goal. The gene’s goal is to get out of the snail’s body. The fluke wants the short route, but the snail will use a longer evolutionary path.

Let’s think critically

Did evolution occur?

In the end, was new genetic code added to either the host or the parasite? No. The snail is still a snail and even loses its chance to pass its genes on. The fluke is still a fluke and will produce flukes just like itself. The beetle is still a beetle. It’s offspring will not be giants by nature. They will have to be manipulated to grow just as their parents were, by the hormones produced by the Nosema microbe. Left alone, they will be normal beetles with no new traits and no new genes.

Does a gene have intelligence?

Why does Richard Dawkins give designing intelligence to genes? Genes are nothing but the information stored in molecule format. Do the pages of an instruction book work as a team to control you? Or do they just provide you with the information you need to accomplish what the writer typed out? Did the genes design themselves? Or were they written by someone greater than the informational blocks they reside in?

It is no accident that evolution arguments give intelligence to genes, the cosmos, the organism, or evolution itself. The driving force has to be intelligent because there is no room for error. Without guidance, design gives way to error or deteriorates into a useless organism. Left alone, a computer will never program itself, a book will never write its own pages, and genes cannot design themselves. Dawkins acknowledges the need for intelligence in everything he writes. He credits the genes with thinking, working, cooperating, manipulating, and designing. Carl Sagan also credited design to intelligence but he did not credit the genes. He credited the cosmos as the intelligent force that drives evolution.

Where did the knowledge to manipulate come from?

The Nosema protozoa has special knowledge. How did it ‘know’ the beetle would pupate? How did it know what hormone to produce? How did it know how to produce this hormone? How did it even know there was a hormone? In order to manipulate the development of the beetle, there had to be knowledge of the beetle, how the body works, how hormones work, which beetle to use and innumerable other obstacles that would have to be overcome.

The same is true for the snail fluke. In order for the genes to manipulate the bodies they ‘used as vehicles’, the genes would have to understand the behavior and bodies of birds, snails and sheep. If even one of these were missed, the genes bite the dust. They had to know the snail hid from the light and how to reprogram the snail to seek the light. It had to know how to generate a harder shell. It had to know where to find the bird. It had to know that birds are attracted to pulsation in the light. It had to know the bird’s digestive system. It had to know which bird’s activities would place them near the sheep’s feeding area. It had to know the sheep’s digestive system. It also had to know that the snail would eat the droppings of the sheep.

How many other obstacles stand in the way that we will never think about. One mistake and the entire process would have been a wasted effort. It seems reasonable that if it were simply an issue of survival, it would have been a one-step process.

Why is it that evolution is presented as being so simple that a quick program can replicate it, but it takes paths that are so complicated that it falls short of nothing less than a miracle? If genes are intelligent enough to manipulate itself into a lifecycle of three animals, why wouldn’t it reprogram its own genes to a simpler method? Evolution claims that traits are designed for survival, but the complexity of the fluke puts its survival at risk unnecessarily.

Did this show evolution or design?

Did Dawkins provide any evidence for evolution or did he show design and call it evolution? The entire plausibility of Dawkins argument is dependent on the knowledge, intelligence, and specialized skills of the gene. He builds his whole argument with the assumption that evolution is true and that genes can think outside their bodies. If it is not true, none of this is possible by chance. His entire argument is that genes work as a team with a goal already in mind. When a parasite has a conflicting interest with the genes of a host, it takes action and manipulates for its own self-interest. In reality, he is not arguing time and chance; he is arguing design and crediting that design to evolution.

Dawkins is careful to argue his point in such a way that the reader does not recognize the intelligent design he is acknowledging. He hides the intelligence behind the smokescreen of evolutionary terms and concepts. In reality, he is arguing design while manipulating the reader not to see it. Genes point to intelligence. Evolutionists downplay this masterful design by using simplistic illustrations to make the evolution model appear to agree with the facts. When we get beyond the surface of simplicity, we see the incredibly complex facts that lead us outside of the box if we will let ourselves follow the evidence. Let’s take a closer look at genes.

Eddie Snipes
2001

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