Charles Darwin never mentions hemoglobin even in the sixth and last edition of The Origin of Species in 1872, even though this oxygen-carrying protein hemoglobin was discovered much earlier by Friedrich Ludwig Hünefeld in 1840. Hünefeld explains: “I have occasionally seen in almost dried blood… rectangular crystalline structures which under the microscope had sharp edges and were bright red.”
In 1851, Otto Funke published a series of articles in which he described growing hemoglobin crystals by successively diluting red blood cells with a solvent such as pure water, alcohol, or ether, followed by slow evaporation of the solvent from the resulting protein solution. Hemoglobin’s reversible oxygenation was described a few years later by Felix Hoppe-Seyler.
Hemoglobin, also spelled haemoglobin and abbreviated Hb or Hgb, is the iron-containing oxygen-transport metalloprotein in the red blood cells of all vertebrates (except the fish family Channichthyidae) and the tissues of some invertebrates. Hemoglobin delivers oxygen removes and carbon dioxide—a biochemical necessity.
Early molecular evidence was compatible with the theory of evolution. Molecular biologist Michael Denton in Evolution, a Theory in Crisis, notes that the initial laboratory analysis demonstrated that differences in the hemoglobin molecule between man and dog only varied less than 20 percent, compared to more than 50 percent between man and fish. Since the dog is closer to man than to the fish, in evolutionary terms, the implications were that hemoglobin would serve as a powerful tool in tracing the pathways of evolution.
The study of the hemoglobins of the Primates should be an unbeatable combination for evolutionary studies.
The hemoglobin findings intensified the international research on finding Darwin’s “slight, successive” micro-evolutionary changes in constructing the elusive “Tree of Life.” Since then, however, scientists have discovered that the tree branches are actually not connected.
Molecular biologist Richard Dickerson and colleagues concluded as early as 1969 that the “slight, successive” amino acid changes in the presumed hemoglobin molecule Tree of Life simply do not exist. Referring to the evolution of hemoglobin, Dickerson admits that it “is hard to see a common line of descent snaking in so unsystematic a way through so many different phyla.”
Research into the evolution of hemoglobin continued to be active, however—the importance to evolution cannot be trivialized. Search the National Center for Biotechnology Information Web database, using the search terms “hemoglobin and evolution,” retrieves more than two thousand articles.
While new possible mechanisms or a new investigative approach or likely scenario have been suggested, the goal of constructing a Tree of Life from hemoglobin, one of life’s most important molecules, remains a mirage.
Not only are the amino acid “slight, successive” changes not observed, the micro-evolutionary genetic regulation of hemoglobin is not observed. In addressing the genetic regulation of the α-and β-globin segments of hemoglobin molecular biologist Ross Hardison of Pennsylvania State University in 1997 opined -
Currently, the coordinated regulation of α-and β-globin genes is more paradoxical than clear.
In 2007, Ron Milo of Harvard University concedes, “The contrasting mode of variation suggests that physiological changes in hemoglobin are connected to evolutionary changes in some nonrandom way that begs an explanation.” The failure to construct a Tree of Life from hemoglobin, the once golden darling, has been a stunning blow to the evolution industry.
With hemoglobin emerging as a problem for the evolution industry, evolutionary advocate, Jerry Coyne, in book entitled Why Evolution is True (2009), was forced to completely avoid any reference to the mass of scientific evidence on hemoglobin against evolution.
According to, “At a molecular level,” according to Denton, “there is no trace of the evolutionary transition from fish to amphibian to reptile to mammal.”
For Dickerson, “The more one approaches the molecular level in the study of living things, the more similar they appear, and the less important the differences.” In other words, the essence of life is not determined by molecular and cellular processes.
The proliferation and heterogeneity of life science disciples and methodologies following the advent of molecular biology has led to a centrifugal force within evolutionary research, making it difficult to recover a single big-picture or grand unified theory.
For Love, the evidence for a compressive theory of evolution has reached a tipping point: “My account also meshes with the recognition that a fully unified view of evolutionary processes may be out of reach.” The predictive value of any evolutionary theory, including Darwin’s theory of natural selection, is essentially closer to zero today than at any other time in the history of evolution.
The evidence from the hemoglobin, rather than being the “unbeatable combination for evolutionary studies”, much to the chagrin of Buettner-Janusch and Hill, has clearly undermined the basic tenets of evolution.
Like Coyne, Darwin was shrewd enough not to mention hemoglobin in The Origin of Species. Hemoglobin has emerged as an evolutionist’s worst nightmare.