Re: Are mutations by God's design?

Pattle Pun (
Fri, 11 Jul 1997 12:00:11 -0500 (CDT)

On Thu, 10 Jul 1997, Glenn Morton wrote:

> The philosophical questions I see for the PC position are:
> If God created the various life forms and evolution didn't occur, why then
> did God include the ability for mutator strains to arise?
> There are two sub-issues. First, since this ability helps pathogens, it
> raises the problem of evil, for we have God creating a system, which can
> easily mutate to a mutator strain which increases the genomic fitness of a
> pathogen under certain circumstances.
> Secondly, if God did not use random mutation, why would He create a system
> which saves the strain from a hostile environment by use of random mutation?
> Are the implications of mutator strains as I suggest? I will sit back and
> listen.

I surmise that the implications of mutator strains can be looked at under
the broad context of whether God uses natural selection as a means of His
creation. I have summarized some of my arguments to the answer that I
suggested as "Yes" in my article, "A Theology of Progressive Creationism"
(JASA, Vol. 39, #1, March, 1987, p. 9-19). I will just mention three
points here:

(1) Physical Death of life was present in the creation before human Fall.

The presuppositions for this conclusion were(a) one cannot impose human
volition on the non-human world, (b) man's dominion in the created world
implies his control of the reprdoductive pattern of the non-human life
forms, and (3) the food chain necessitates physical death in the things
eaten. The usual implications of death--pain, suffering and condemnation-
are not necessarily associated with the non-human world. Since God
utilizes death to maintain life, then natural selection, which is based on
differential fecundity and mortality, could be one of the processes God
employs to bring forth the varieties of life forms in His creation.

(2) The providence of God to keep man immortal before human Fall was
removed after sin enters the world.

Mutations which lead to the proliferations of pathogens in the world were
kept in check before the Fall. It is possible that man was maintained
immortal by some provisions symbolized the fruits of the Tree of Life
which man was allowed to eat before the Fall. One of the reasons why the
fallen couple was expelled from the garden of Eden was to prevent them
from eating of the Tree of Life and live forever (Gen. 3:22). God
apparently sustained the life of Adam not only by the fruits but also by
protecting him from any attack by the wild beasts so that He could bring
them to the man for naming (Gen. 2:19). The scientific mechanism of
mutations selected by the favorable environment to become dominant
varieties is the manifestation of God's providence in being directly
involved in His creation by shaping the future of the development of life.
While God allows regularity of natural laws to govern His creation so that
scientist can describe natural phenomena by physical laws, He does not
determine the necessary outcome of physical processes. The lack of
certainty in describing the momentum and the postion of electrons at
the same time, as spelled out by Heisenberg, also allows for God'
providence in terms of probability.

(3) The present mutation mechanisms of pathogens were the result of a
modification in God's sustenance after the Fall.

As a result of man's fall, sin and death entered the human race.(Rm. 5:
12-21) The death experienced by Adam and Eve was, most importatnly, their
spiritual separation from God. Physical death also ensued because they
were no longer sustained by God through the Tree of Life. The Edenic curse
(Gen. 3:14-19) ordained that the ground would no longer cooperate fully
with man, and man would have to labor for his livelihood. I surmise that
it also implies pathogens are allowed to mutate rampantly by mechanisms
such as the mutator genes that may be involved in some of the viral
resistance to drugs after passage through the infected host. God's general
sustenance of the universe (Hb. 1:3) is limited to mortals enough to allow
them to come to repentance and be saved by Christ's atonement (II Peter 3:
7-9). Man as the steward of God's creation is supposed to understand the
scientific mechanisms such as the mutator genes so that he can assist God
in taking care of the world to try to bring nature closer to the
reconciliation with God in the physical, social and spiritual arenas.
Ultimately, it is only through the True Man Jesus Christ that will
reconcile all things to God (Col. 1:17-22).

Dr. Pattle Pun
Professor of Biology
Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL 60187
Phone: (630)752-5303
FAX: (630)752-5996