Evolution on Trial: Mutations Take the Stand

April 3, 2012

The next witness we will look at in the case of Evolution is mutations.  I am not talking about bringing any of the X-Men to the stand either.  In the Theory of Evolution mutations and natural selection are two of the main pillars that hold up the case for evolution.  We will look at natural selection in a separate post in the future.

According to Britannica:

Mutation – Alteration in the genetic material of a cell that is transmitted to the cell’s offspring. Mutations may be spontaneous or induced by outside factors (mutagens). They take place in the genes, occurring when one base is substituted for another in the sequence of bases that determines the genetic code, or when one or more bases are inserted or deleted from a gene. Many mutations are harmless, often masked by the presence of a dominant normal gene. Some have serious consequences; for example, a particular mutation inherited from both parents results in sickle-cell anemia. Only mutations that occur in the sex cells (eggs or sperm) can be transmitted to the individual’s offspring. Alterations caused by these mutations are usually harmful. In the rare instances in which a mutation produces a beneficial change, the percentage of organisms with this gene will tend to increase until the mutated gene becomes the norm in the population. In this way, beneficial mutations serve as the raw material of evolution. 1

The last two sentences in the paragraph above dealing with beneficial mutations “being the raw material in Evolution” when the “mutated gene becomes the norm in the population” is what I will take issue with.  This is where the credibility of mutations, losses it power to influence Evolution.

First, lets look at some facts about mutations.

1. Mutations are rare in the first place because an enzyme acts as a sort of proofreader during DNA replication to check for mistakes.  When a genetic mistake is found, the tendency is to correct it.

2. Mutations distort, destroy, or damage the current DNA structure and do not improve or add to it.  As John Morris, faculty of the ICR (Institute for Creation Research) describes “It‘s instructive to try to imagine what must happen to turn a cell into an invertebrate, or a worm into a fish, or a fish into an amphibian, etc. List the structural changes needed. A cell doesn‘t have the genes needed to produce even a simple nodal chord, nor does a fish have the genes to produce legs. This extra genetic information must be added from some external source, but science knows of no such source. Mutations do produce novel changes, but never has a mutation been known to add coded information to an already complex DNA system. On the contrary, it usually and easily causes a deterioration of the information present in the DNA. For random mutations to add the information for a leg where there is none is asking a lot, in fact, asking too much.” 2

The final question is are mutations beneficial?  There seems to be a handful of examples floating around as proof that they are.  Perhaps you may have heard of some of the following examples;  two copies of the mutant sickle-cell anemia gene cause illness, one copy confers resistance to malaria,  the Pima, a Native American tribe that have to be on a special diet to avoid being morbidly over-weight, artificial breeding of crops and livestock that produce greater yields and drought resistance crops. 3   These hypothetical examples of beneficial mutations were all discovered in a lab and through human experiments.  All of these examples did not produce a new animal genus from another, in other words they fall into the label of adaptions rather than macro-evolution.

You can see that mutations sound exciting but, when you take a closer look at mutations there is really a lot of talk and clearly not enough action behind the idea of mutations.  One such objection to this is that the mutations take place so slowly that it i often hard to see and observe in our human lifetime or over the last several hundred years of scientific study.  This objection will lead us to the next to the witness, the fossils, and a closer look at the fossil record.  As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.

End Notes:

1. – http://www.britannica.com/bps/search?query=mutations

2. – Morris, John D. , “Can the Small Changes  We See Add Up to the Big Changes Evolution Needs?”, Article 2002

3.  – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutation


Evolution of Trial: Gene Flow Take the Stand

April 1, 2012

Since the Supreme court was in the news recently with ObamaCare I figured I would use the analogy with the next few posts on Evolution and show how the evidence and facts don’t make good witnesses in a case defending Evolution.  The first witness that we will put on the stand will be Gene Flow.

Gene flow is the transfer of genetic material between separate populations. Many organisms are divided into separate populations that have restricted contact with each other, possibly leading to reproductive isolation. Many things can fragment a species into a collection of isolated populations. For example, a treacherous mountain pass may cut off one herd of mountain goats from another. 1  Gene Flow is a process that describes how the genes are keep local or spread from different plants and animals of the same family.

Gene Flow is often refered to in the human population and see by very easily in America especially in the large metropolitan areas where there is a highly diverse population of people from different areas of the world.  You can see the beautiful combinations of skin colors from the different people who get married and have children.

For example if a missionary’s family were to move to a remote location in a different part of the world and their family slowly is mixed through generations into the local population.  You might see skin color changes, height and weight changes, facial features or other features of the local population.  The same can be said of other plants and animals that would be closed off from others.  If Gene Flow is restricted you will see a population become less and less diverse because the amount of available information from the total Gene Pool is mixed in with the smaller population.   The Gene Pool just represents the total number of possible alleles (pairs of genes) for that particular chromosome within a family or species.

The human Gene Pool contains a massive 40,000 different varieties of genes that can be mixed in many different combinations within the 46 chromosomes we have.  If this is confusing to you, I suggest getting a deeper look at Gene Flow and the other terms online or in a simple biology book.   I will be looking at genes and the science over the next few posts.

Now that we have a basic knowledge of Gene Flow and the Gene Pool lets look at why it makes a poor witness on the stand defending evolution.  No matter how much the gene’s “flow” it will not ever produce new genetic material.  In the above examples with goats and humans, in all the cases the goats are still goats, and the people still people.  This all fits into the umbrella of micro-evolution or adaption.  There are no invertebrates that become vertebrates, or amphibians that become reptiles.  Gene Flow of this type has never been seen or accomplished with a lab.  The DNA will not allow it.

What about Hybrids?  Someone might respond with the examples of the Liger (Lion and Tiger) or another type of hybrid.   These type of examples of Gene Flow are so rare that they do not affect the total population of a genus and do not survive in the world without human intervention by care in a zoo.  There are no known hybrids between different genuses, only between sub-species like a  Bengal tiger and Siberian tiger.  A hybrid of goat and sheep for example that are closely related, but when they mate the children are usually still-born and if they survive they are always infertile. 2   People have experimented with different types of hybrids in the labs, but when left in the wild the animals do not choose to mingle.  These hybrids would fall more into the area of mutations and we will look at that witness on the stand in an upcoming post.

One possible rebuttal that someone might give you defending evolution is that “given enough time over millions and millions of years these little changes add up to changes in genuses and new genetic material is born.”  This is false, because if no new genetic material can from within a short-term, then the same is expected with the long-term.  Time is a distraction here and has nothing to do with the process of Gene Flow and Genetic Drift.

For example: 0+0+0+0 = 0 and at the same time 0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0+0 = 0

According to Genesis 1:24 “And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. “  God created the animals separately.  I realize that we can’t view the creation story just like we can’t observe evolution in the past, but according to the evidence we do have about plant and animal life now, you have to honestly ask yourself what does the evidence we do have now support?  We will cover creation in later blogs.  As always questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.

References:

1 – http://www.answers.com/topic/gene-flow#ixzz1pcMgvfea

2. – http://www.answers.com/topic/sheep-goat-hybrid

3.  – Sherrod, Chris; Faith, Fact, and Reason: Study #5 The Flaws of Evolution pgs. 75-76