googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: “Mutations” Make a Creature More Evolved?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

“Mutations” Make a Creature More Evolved?

In my last post, I pointed out that many of the things closely associated with evolution really have little to do with evolution. Things like natural selection, variation, and millions of years cannot work together to turn an amoeba into an aardvark nor a bacterium into a basset hound. For evolution to be possible, there must be a mechanism that can add novel traits to a population. Just think how many features someone would have to add to a single cell in order to make it a cephalopod.

Many evolutionists fail to grasp the concept that evolution demands organisms to acquire novel traits. In the most cited example of evolution ever to haunt biology books – the famous “peppered moth evolution” - I've often asked evolutionists to clarify what evolution has occurred in the moths. The usual response is to repeat the observations: the ratio of light/dark moths changed over time. I then ask, “How long would birds have to eat one color of moth in order to make new colors appear?” At this point, evolutionists usually resort to mutations but in nearly every instance, the significance of my question is lost on them. The significance is this: birds eating one color of moth (natural selection) will never add new colors to the population no matter how long it continues. Even millions of years is not enough.

When evolutionists trot out examples of “change” (natural selection) and say that “change” continuing for millions of years will cause a population to evolve into something else, they have not spoken one word that should convince anyone of their theory. It's not enough that something changes. It is only when something new is added to the moth that it could possibly become something that is not a moth. One lie often spoken by evolutionists is that microevolution (i.e. “any change”) + time = macroevolution. They give no consideration to the type of change nor do they care if any new trait is added.

By way of definition, mutations have been likened to “copying errors” or “mistakes” in DNA. All creatures have mutations in their DNA. In sexual reproduction, the offspring inherits a combination of both parents' DNA (including the parents' mistakes). The offspring will also have mistakes in their own DNA. The vast majority of these mutations are not expressed – that is, there is no observable manifestation of the mutation in the host. That's because the “good” DNA in one parent will often mask the mutations in the DNA of the other.

Expressed mutations are sometimes called “birth defects” (though not all birth defects are due to mutation) and can range in severity from having no deleterious effect to its host to gross deformities that are not compatible with life.

Every once in a while, an expressed mutation will convey some benefit to its host. One oft-cited example of a beneficial mutation is the blind cave fish. Blind cave fish are eyeless fish that are descended from seeing fish. At some point in the past, a group of fish were separated from the rest of population and thrust into the new environment of a cave. In a dark cave, having sight is not an advantage. However, while swimming around in a dark cave, a seeing fish might run into a wall and scratch its eye leading to a dangerous infection. In that environment, being born without eyes actually gives the blind fish an advantage so the mutation of being born without eyes eventually spread to the entire population of cave dwellers.

It is upon these types of changes – beneficial mutations – that evolutionists' hope rests. One of the many definitions of evolution is “descent with modification.” Through continuous mutations, skin can become a fold in the skin, which can become a scale, which can become a feather, which can turn a dinosaur into a bird. Mutation is the magic potion that could turn a frog into a prince. It is the ingredient missing from the formula “micro + time = macro.”

There are other observed examples of beneficial mutations. I hesitate to say there are “many” examples because many is a subjective term and I don't mean to imply that beneficial mutations are especially frequent. I might write about some other examples in the future because they are interesting but in the blind fish example (as well as in the others), traits are still being removed from the population. Therefore, even in the case of the blind cave fish, I still refuse to identify the change as “evolution” (micro- or otherwise) since no traits are added to the population. Mutations that cause a fish to be born without eyes does not support the idea that a bacterium could evolve to be a bass or bluegill. I would be more apt to believe evolution if it theorized that fish lost their eyes, fins, scales, gills, etc., and eventually became bacteria!

What's also bad news for evolution is that the blind fish may be specialized and better adapted to the dark cave, but they could not convincingly be called “more fit” overall. It's not like a shrew-like, mammalian ancestor evolving to become a cunning leopard. These fish could not compete with seeing fish if they were reintroduced into a lighted environment.

Examples of beneficial mutations are not enough to rescue the theory of evolution. For the theory to have legs, there still needs to be examples of mutations that actually add novel traits to a population (observed examples, please; not the imaginary skin-scale-feather told in the dino to bird story). And if evolution happens all the time (which I have been told ad nauseum) then examples of trait-adding mutations should abound. Well, show them to me!

When I ask for observed examples of mutations adding new features (or novel traits), some evos try to pin me down for a rigorous definition of a “novel trait.” I concede in advance that it's hard to give a rigorous definition. I'm tempted to say that I would know one when I see it but, of course, that's hardly satisfactory. Let's see: something like hair appearing on a reptile would be impressive. A blue dog might also persuade me, as per my last post. These would be spectacular examples but I'd settle for anything. Why not just show me some examples and we can discuss them. Why is it when I ask for such examples, I hear only the same three continuously?
  1. Bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics
  2. Insects that become resistant to pesticides
  3. Nylon digesting bacteria
I'm going to deal with these three examples in my next post. If I were an apologist for evolution, I would spend all of my time talking about trait-adding mutations because without them, evolution isn't even plausible. I suspect the reason I hear these same three repeated so often is because even questionable examples of trait-adding mutations are frighteningly scarce. I had intended to address them long ago because I hear them so often that I get tired of writing responses. When some evo cleverly repeats one of these tired examples, it would save me time to have a written response to which I can simply link him.

The video, “What Every Creation Must DENY,” lists beneficial mutations as something that creationists must deny. It's a straw man. Beneficial mutations, though infrequent, are real. They just don't deserve the importance given them by evolutionists. Evolutionists seem to treat “mutations” with the same regard as any “change” in a population. Any beneficial mutation is trumpeted as “evolution” because it fits their technical definition of the term. To them, beneficial mutations is the fuel that drives the engine of natural selection and they don't care if the mutations actually add anything to the population. And just as before, I remind you that removing traits from a population will never amount to evolution.

Further reading:


Steven J. said...

Here is a problem: as far as I know, there has never been an Italian Wall Lizard Genome Project, so it is unknown whether the cecal valves that evolved in the intestines of Italian wall lizards stranded on the island of Pod Mrcaru depended on mutations or not. Such valves are unknown in Italian wall lizards on the mainland, so either there were beneficial mutations that helped build these structures, or natural selection can do rather more with pre-existing variation than you seem to imagine.

Variations of this problem are ubiquitous, of course: very few of the millions of species on this planet are actually closely watched for changes (of course, when a mutation first appears, it will be rare and likely will be missed by casual human observers), or have their genomes examined to see if changes are the result of genetic changes or not.

Then there is the problem, when one has identified a mutation, of being sure whether it is beneficial or not. There's a known mutation in humans that leads to extra-dense, extra-hard bones, which (as you might expect) resist breakage better than ordinary bones. Whether the net effects of this make one more likely to pass on one's genes or not is not known. Likewise, there is an Italian family many of whose members have inherited a mutation that makes them more resistant to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries); this would definitely seem to be beneficial, but again, it's only been around a few generations.

Note, again, that the black (carbonaria) morph of the peppered moth was never reported or described prior to the early 19th century, and appears to be, itself, a mutation that arose around the start of that century. Note in passing that the carbonaria mutation is dominant; it will not be masked by the gene for the grey morph.

A rather different sort of beneficial mutation (it is beneficial to cattle ranchers and meat packers, and only beneficial to cattle because the breeders preserve them) is the "double-muscle" mutation in Belgian blue cattle. It seems unlikely to be useful in the wild, but it shows that mutations can give you more of something one already has -- and that might well be useful in other instances.

You mentioned, as a possible example of the sort of mutation that would interest you, a mutation for blue fur in dogs. There are numerous observed mutations for new fur color in hamsters (domestic hamsters are all descended from a single pregnant female captured early in the 20th century), but they are colors already known from mammals. Blue feathers and scales are the result not of pigment but of structural features in the feather or scale; I'm not quite sure why such structural changes have never occurred in mammalian hair, but they haven't.

Steven J. said...

Oh, I just remembered one: in a laboratory, scientists introduced a predator into a colony of the single-celled organism Chlorella; this favored the evolution of a multicellular colonial form (a ball of cells). This new multicellular form persisted for several generations after the predator was removed, strongly suggesting that the change was genetic, not merely a pre-existing response to environmental change (of course, without the predator, the single-celled form again became fitter and mutations to resume that form would be favored by natural selection). Similar results were reported last year for the single-celled yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

You mentioned, in your post, that loss of eyes didn't make cave fish "more fit" overall. But then, so few traits do: a polar bear isn't "more fit" in a tropical jungle; a killer whale isn't "more fit" in a desert. Even multicellularity isn't "more fit" in an ecological niche better exploited by single-celled organisms. Indeed, there is a mutation (ccr5-Δ32) in humans that appears to make the bearer more resistant to HIV, bubonic plague, and smallpox, but more vulnerable to West Nile Virus. Beneficial or deleterious, or depending on circumstances? But being able to form groups of cells does sound rather like "added information" and "added complexity."

At the wrecked Chernobyl reactor site, there are fungi that appear to be [a] more resistant to radiation than normal fungi and [b] appear to grow faster when exposed to radiation (i.e. they can use radiation to help make food). I don't see any sign that their genomes have been sequenced and compared to normal mold -- but the results are very suggestive.

Note, in passing, that E. coli has been widely studied at the genetic level; more than one mutation is known that confers antibiotic resistance on the bacterium. So technically, that's several examples just by itself.

Anonymous said...

>> But being able to form groups of cells does sound rather like "added information" and "added complexity."

I think not. Sounds to me either like an ability that is more prominent in the absence of other features, or the presence of something foreign introduced (or allowed for) by the mutation.

On one hand the analogy would be fine dry sand, which will clump together when water is introduced.
The cohesion force between the introduced water and sand is larger than the adhesion between the sand particles itself when dry, yet it's still the same sand which acts differently (cells acting differently in the presence of something foreign, yet same cells)

on the other hand, when the 'mud' now dries, the sand still stick together, since on a smaller particle level, the particles has changed arangement relative to each other (cells themselves looks different because of mutation) - yet the sand did not turn into metal or some other material, neither did the cell building blocks get new blocks introduced.

Similar, you have blue lego blocks that are on average long pieces and green lego blocks that are short. Your mutation breaks off the knobs on most of your long blue lego blocks, now only the green lego blocks sticks, and a few blue ones .. what you build by random selection will look more clumpy.

Yes, I know, it's not as simple on a DNA and atomic level, but the principal is.


RKBentley said...


I've been busy with domestic duties and used what little free time I've had in the last two days to finish writing last post in this series. I hope you return and read it; I'm interested in hearing your comments on it.

Anyway, I usually respond right away to Steven J's comments but haven't had a chance to yet. Thank you for stepping up. I liked your Lego analogy and wish I had read it before publishing my most recent post. With a little modification, I could have used it in discussing antibiotic resistance in bacteria. I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to use it in the future, with your permission.

I've noticed that your comments post as “anonymous.” Do you blog, by any chance? I'd be interested in reading it if you do. If you log into Blogger before commenting, your comment will link back to your blog.

Thanks for visiting and for your comments. Please come back. God bless!!


Steven J. said...

Anonymous, I don't quite see the point of your analogy. The proteins on the cells' surface have changed, allowing them to stick together. This much is understood by microbiologists. The Chlorella and yeast cells, themselves, don't seem to have altered their function, or to depend on any outside substance to help them adhere. That would seem more like some Lego blocks being modified so that they can stick together in the first place -- and displacing all other colors of Lego blocks because they're too big to be easily eaten.

Once one has cells sticking together in the first place (all doing the same thing, at first, just as a cluster or ball), one can in principle cause some of them to specialize for particular tasks by establishing chemical gradients in the colony, that act more strongly on some cells than others (this is how the ball of cells that every animal embryo starts out as develops specialized tissues and organs). But that, as far as I know, has not yet been observed happening with unicellular organisms.