Molecular genetics, common ancestry, and endogenous retroviruses probably aren’t a part of your ordinary conversation. However, for several Maranatha students and faculty members, they presented an extraordinary opportunity.
Maranatha science faculty member Dr. Ying Liu’s Molecular Genetics Research class has only been offered three times since 2008, with only a handful of students participating. However, students worked on the same project each time. This project on the transcription of human endogenous retroviruses was finally presented at the Seventh International Conference on Creationism in Pittsburgh, PA. Included among the attendees and speakers for the conference were representatives from the Institute for Creation Research, Answers in Genesis, Creation Ministries International, and many others. Maranatha science faculty member Dr. Paul Molitor, Maranatha alumna and coauthor of the project Olivia Mueller, and Liu’s daughter CiCi, a nursing major, were also present at the conference.
The goal of the project was to provide an alternative to the evolutionist explanation for the transcription of endogenous retroviruses into human genomes. Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are viruses living permanently in human genomes (genes). Retroviruses can also insert themselves into other genomes. ERVs are found in cells around the same location both on humans and apes. The evolutionists try to use this similarity to prove a common ancestry between humans and apes.
Liu said he feels the Lord directed him to the study of endogenous retroviruses. Before coming to Maranatha, Liu spent 12 years in both a clinic and a lab studying viruses, so it seemed natural to continue the research. His research on ERVs has been presented in several small conferences, in papers published in publications such as the Journal of Creation, Creation Research Society Quarterly, and on the Answers in Genesis website. However, according to Liu, this conference “is the highest level of creationist conferences.”
Lui said that the class’ research “suggested that these genetic elements are means of hormonal regulation during the female reproductive cycle and, therefore, are strategically positioned in human and animal genomes at the time of their origination.” In other words, research by Maranatha students found that ERVs weren’t accidents leading to evolution at all, but rather purposeful insertions by an Intelligent Designer.
Liu said this project was one of only two biology projects with laboratory research at the conference and the only one coauthored by undergraduate students. He said the response from conference attendees was extremely positive. “Those present for my talk were obviously impressed and encouraged,” he said. “Some even indicated a possibility of financial help.”
Liu stated that the students in the class this fall are planning experiments to further study the roles of ERVs in human immunity and hormonal effects.
By Brynn Fitzsimmons