Werner Arber: An Honest Evolutionist?

Our September 2008 issue featured the article "Werner Arber: Nobel Laureate, Darwin Skeptic" by Dr. Jerry Bergman, a frequent contributing author.1 While not labeling Dr. Arber a creationist, Dr. Bergman demonstrated to readers that this brilliant scientist has included God in his equation when considering the origin of life.

Although a biologist, I must confess I do not understand how life came about....I consider that life only starts at the level of a functional cell. The most primitive cells may require at least several hundred different specific biological macro-molecules. How such already quite complex structures may have come together, remains a mystery to me. The possibility of the existence of a Creator, of God, represents to me a satisfactory solution to this problem.2

While not an admission that God is Creator, Dr. Arber demonstrates a level of genuine intellectual honesty that other evolutionists are afraid to reveal.

In December, prodded by evolution activists here in the United States, Dr. Arber contacted ICR and kindly asked us to consider retracting Dr. Bergman's characterization of him as a "Darwin Skeptic." In a series of subsequent email exchanges with him, Dr. Bergman sought to address his particular concerns. A central issue was the definition of Darwinism. In one message, Dr. Arber wrote:

From my scientific point of view, the essential pillars of Darwin's original publications are (1) the existence of phenotypic variants among members of a given species and (2) that populations of parental and variant forms are steadily submitted to natural selection: Those which can deal best with the encountered living conditions are favoured.3

In a letter to ICR, Dr. Bergman indicated he has no problem with this definition, but cited the description of evolution Dr. Arber gave in his response statement to the September article:

Genetic variation [not mutations] is clearly the driving force of biological evolution. A number of different specific molecular mechanisms contribute to spontaneous genetic variation. Together with non-genetic elements specific gene products are thereby involved as variation generators and as modulators of the rates of genetic variation.4

Dr. Bergman commented that he would describe this process "as microevolution or variation within the Genesis kinds, as I noted in my original article."3 He also agreed with Dr. Arber that "there is, so far, neither satisfactory scientific knowledge nor theory on the origin and early evolution of life on our planet."4 A hypothesis regarding life's origins that extrapolates from the present must necessarily rely on an interpretation of the research. Dr. Bergman wrote, "My conclusion…is that the weight of evidence, by far" supports the view that life was created by God.3

In a peer-reviewed article, Dr. Arber stated that "rather than being the result of an accumulation of errors, biological evolution may depend on a multitude of specific functions, as well as on a certain degree of intrinsic structural flexibility of biological molecules."5 Dr. Bergman noted:

Arber then discussed several potential mechanisms that produce what he called genetic evolution which actually produce only variation. This conclusion is important because it points to a source of variation that does not rely on chance, natural selection, mutations as does neo-Darwinism, but rather a built-in intelligently designed system that allows for rapid creationism of variation such as that which has been shown to occur after a severe genetic bottleneck such as a catastrophic flood.3

Although Dr. Arber indicates that he supports the neo-Darwinian theory of biological evolution, he has not rescinded his published statement that a Creator is a possible explanation for the origin of life. Dr. Bergman's correspondence with him and review of the original materials supports the conclusions of the Acts & Facts article. Those who rely on macroevolution as the source of life stand on shaky ground because of the obvious design in molecular structures. Creationists, however, have no trouble finding an explanation--life was designed by God.


  1. Bergman, J. 2008. Werner Arber: Nobel Laureate, Darwin Skeptic. Acts & Facts. 37 (9): 10-12.
  2. Arber, W. 1992. The Existence of a Creator Represents a Satisfactory Solution. In Margenau, H. and R. A. Varghese (eds.), Cosmos, Bios, Theos: Scientists Reflect on Science, God, and the Origins of the Universe, Life, and Homo sapiens. La Salle, IL: Open Court, 141-143.
  3. Correspondence from Dr. Jerry Bergman to the Institute for Creation Research, March 23, 2009.
  4. Arber, W. Statement on my view on biological evolution, December 9, 2008.
  5. Arber, W. 1993. Evolution of Prokaryotic Genomes. Gene. 135 (1-2): 49-56.

* Mr. Ford is Executive Editor at the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Ford, L. 2009. Werner Arber: An Honest Evolutionist? Acts & Facts. 38 (6): 6.

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