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Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome
by Dr J.C Sanford

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Critic ignores reality of Genetic Entropy

The author of a landmark book on genomic decay responds to unsustainable criticisms.

by John Sanford

Published: 7 March 2013 (GMT+10)

Shouldn’t even ardent Darwinists honestly acknowledge the known problems with current Darwinian theory?

I do not normally spend my time responding to bloggers, but several people have asked me to respond to Scott Buchanan’s polemic1 against my book Genetic Entropy. This article is a one-time clarification as I cannot afford the time to be drawn into the blog-o-sphere and its associated ‘death by a thousand emails’.

Scott’s lengthy essay is certainly not an objective review of my book; it is an ideological attack based upon a commitment to the standard Darwinian theory. He does not acknowledge any of the legitimate concerns I raise regarding the Darwinian process, not even the many points widely acknowledged by my fellow geneticists. Shouldn’t even ardent Darwinists honestly acknowledge the known problems with current Darwinian theory? I will only briefly touch on each of his arguments.

Scott gives his arguments in this order:

  1. First, he claims, that my book is all about deliberate deception, and I am fundamentally a liar (but perhaps I am otherwise a nice Christian man).
  2. He then spends three pages expressing how annoyed he is with the exact way in which I cite a Kimura reference—as I try to make clear the actual distribution of mutational effects.
  3. He argues that, while beneficial mutations are rare, they are not as rare as I suggest. Since beneficial mutations clearly happen, and since adaptation clearly happens, he imagines the Primary Axiom—that man is merely the product of random mutations plus natural selection—must then obviously be true.
  4. The Primary Axiom:

    Man is merely the product of random mutations plus natural selection.

  5. Scott cites a series of flawed ‘mutation accumulation’ experiments, which he thinks demonstrate extremely high rates of beneficial mutation.
  6. He points out that duplications can have real biological consequences.
  7. He also points out that we cannot generally see measurable degeneration in extended lab experiments. He argues that, if I were correct, then in just the last few thousand years all forms of life having short life cycles (bacteria, mice) should have gone extinct. Since we do not see obvious degeneration happening, the Primary Axiom must be true, according to him.
  8. Scott suggests that, since human life spans have increased in the last several centuries, this proves that man is not degenerating.
  9. He argues that Crow’s conclusion that the human race is presently degenerating at 1–2% per generation2 does not mean he stopped being faithful to the Primary Axiom.
  10. He also argues that synergistic epistasis3 really happens (at least to some extent), and cites those who feel this might aid in mutation elimination.
  11. Finally, he casually dismisses all the papers I cite in Appendix 1 of my book, where the leaders of the population genetics field acknowledge all of the basic problems with the Primary Axiom.

It seems to me that Scott makes his arguments in the wrong order, starting with the trivial, and at the end simply waving off the most crucial issues, so I wish to address his points in reverse order:

10. What other geneticists say:

Let me begin by going to the very end of my book (Appendix 1), where I quote key papers written by the leading experts within the field of population genetics. Scott refers to this as my “final shotgun-blast of misrepresentation to the gullible reader”. This seems grossly unfair, since I am simply quoting the leaders in the field where they acknowledge major aspects of my thesis. In my introduction to that section, I am careful NOT to imply that those scientists would agree with my personal viewpoint, but I point out that they all very clearly acknowledge the major problems which I outline in my book regarding the Primary Axiom.

An artistic representation of mutational meltdown

These experts in the field provide strong support for all the main points of my book …

  1. Is man presently degenerating genetically? It would seem so, according the papers by Muller, Neal, Kondrashov, Nachman/Crowell, Walker/Keightley, Crow, Lynch et al., Howell, Loewe and also myself (in press). Scott suggests this is foolishness and dismisses the Crow paper (1–2% fitness decline per generation). But Kondrashov, an evolutionist who is an expert on this subject, has advised me that virtually all the human geneticists he knows agree that man is degenerating genetically. The most definitive findings were published in 2010 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by Lynch.4 That paper indicates human fitness is declining at 3–5% per generation. I personally feel the average mutational effect on fitness is much more subtle than Lynch does—so I think the rate of human degeneration is much slower than he suggests—but we at least agree that fitness is going down, not up. Can Scott find any qualified geneticist who asserts man is NOT now degenerating genetically? There is really no debate on current human genetic degeneration—Scott is 100% wrong here, and is simply not well informed.

  2. virtually all the human geneticists he knows agree that man is degenerating genetically

  3. Is there a theoretical problem associated with continuously growing genetic load due to subtle un-selectable deleterious mutations? Yes, according to Muller, Kondrashov, Loewe, and many others. Population geneticists all seem to acknowledge the fact that a large fraction of deleterious mutations are too subtle to be effectively selected away. The question is, what is that fraction? At what point does the fitness effect of a deleterious mutation become too small to be selected away? I have been studying this for about 7 years. Our numerical simulations indicate that for higher organisms, up to 90% of all deleterious mutations should be un-selectable (in press). This manuscript was previously sent to Scott, but it seems he did not read it. Can Scott explain away this theoretical problem?

  4. What is Dr. Ohta’s view on genetic degeneration? Dr. Tomoko Ohta was a key student of Kimura, and published extensively with Kimura. Dr Ohta came to be known as the ‘Queen of Population Genetics’, and is now an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an associate of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. She is the world’s authority on the topic of near-neutral mutations. One of my co-authors went to Japan to spend several days discussing with her a manuscript in which we used numerical simulation to clearly demonstrate that near-neutral deleterious mutations generally escape selective removal and lead to continuous and linear accumulation of genetic damage. She acknowledged that our numerical simulations appeared to be valid, and that our conclusions appeared to be valid. This clearly reflects a profound evolutionary paradox (it is the same paradox Kondrashov addressed in his paper “why have we not died 100 times over?”5). When asked about synergistic epistasis, she immediately acknowledged that synergistic epistasis should make the problem worse, not better, just as I argue in my book. Using numerical simulations, we have confirmed that synergistic epistasis fails to slow mutation accumulation and accelerates genetic decline (in press). I think Dr. Ohta would like me to clarify that she is a faithful Darwinist and remains committed to the Primary Axiom, and that she is in fact hostile to the thesis of my book.

  5. The other quotes: I encourage Scott to read all the other quotes in the appendix. It is clear that the leading population geneticists have recognized major theoretical problems with the Primary Axiom for a long time. Why try to deny this?

9. Synergistic Epistasis:

the leading population geneticists have recognized major theoretical problems with the Primary Axiom for a long time

Scott spends a lot of time selling synergistic epistasis. What he may not realize is that population geneticists almost universally understand that most mutations interact either additively or multiplicatively.

Suppose two mutations each reduce fitness 10%. When both mutations are present, then fitness might be reduced by 20% (additive interaction), or less than 20% (multiplicative interaction), or more than 20% (synergistic epistasis). To the extent synergistic epistasis happens, it obviously will accelerate degeneration! The only reason synergistic epistasis is even invoked in a generalized sense is when trying to argue that more genetic damage might somehow induce more effective selection (we can now clearly show that even if synergistic epistasis was normally true, it makes the degeneration problem worse). Population genetic theory was built on the understanding that genetic interactions are primarily additive or multiplicative. If synergistic epistasis was generally true (it is just a rare exception to the norm), most of the papers ever published in the field of population genetics would be invalid! Yet synergistic epistasis would have to be the norm before it would even be conceivable that it might enhance selection.

Naturally, all possible types of interactions occur in a complex genome, including instances of synergistic epistasis. Synergistic epistasis would be of little concern to population geneticists except for one thing; it is their last straw in the struggle to solve the degeneration problem. Careful consideration makes it clear that even if synergistic epistasis was the primary mode of interaction (rather than being a rare exception), it only makes the degeneration problem worse. I point this out in my book, and Ohta reaches the identical conclusion (see above). We have done extensive numerical simulations that show that this is true (in press).

8. Crow still believed in the Primary Axiom:

Scott spends a lot of time showing that even though Crow believed mankind is degenerating at 1–2% per generation, he remained faithful to the Primary Axiom. That is certainly true, and I made that clear in my book.

7. Human life span has recently been increasing:

It is obviously true that human longevity has increased in recent centuries, but that is not due to evolutionary advance. It is clearly due to improved diet, sanitation, and modern medicine. We have figured out how to keep people from dying in infancy and extended the life expectancy for those who catch many diseases associated with middle-age. Thus, the average has gone up. The maximum possible lifespan has not gone up. This is a simple concept.6

6. Genetic entropy is not obvious in lab experiments or in nature:

everystockphoto | svdmolen

A scientist inspecting bacterial cultures growing in petri dishes

It is true that most lab experiments do not show clear degeneration. But Scott should realize that anything alive today must have been degenerating slowly enough to still be here, even in a young earth scenario. All three of the downward decay curves I show in my book indicate that degeneration slows dramatically as it becomes more advanced. If a species is alive today and has been around for thousands of years, the rate of degeneration must be very slow (too subtle to measure in most cases). Obviously, genetic degeneration is not going to be clearly visible in most lab experiments.

Regarding Scott’s argument about viruses and bacteria, such microbes should degenerate very slowly because mutation rate per genome is low, and selection is intense and continuous. Despite this, we have just published a paper showing that RNA viruses are clearly subject to genetic entropy.7 Another reason viruses (and bacteria) can persist in spite of genetic entropy is that they can be preserved in a dormant state for thousands of years. Therefore, even if most active strains continuously died out (say after a thousand years), new strains could be continuously reseeded into the environment from natural dormant reservoirs.

Regarding mice, our numerical simulations suggest organisms like mice should last longer than longer-lived mammals because they have lower mutation rates per generation and much more frequent cycles of selection. The first species to go extinct due to mutation accumulation should be large, long-lived organisms.8 Even if species are not actually degenerating, the question of what sustains them would remain. Careful analysis shows mutations/selection could not be that sustaining force.

5. Duplications have biological effects:

This is obviously true, but how is it relevant? Like the accidental duplications that happen in emails and student essays, duplications are almost universally deleterious. Very rarely, some are beneficial. A few rare beneficial duplications cannot offset the many accumulating deleterious duplications, let alone all the other accumulating mutations.9

4. Mutation accumulation experiments suggest extremely high rates of beneficial mutations:

Mutation accumulation experiments are a very poor way to understand deleterious mutation accumulation. Such experiments do not study actual mutations, they only study performance of strains (the supposed ‘mutations’ are only inferred). In the papers of this type I have examined, zero mutations are actually documented. All that is observed is differential performance of strains. Non-genetic causes, including epigenetic effects or gain/loss of viruses in some bacterial culture, etc., cannot be precluded. More to the point, since the overwhelming majority of mutations are very subtle and do not express a clear phenotype, almost all mutations will be invisible in these experiments, which only monitor gross differences in performance. Only high-impact mutations can be observed in such experiments, and these represent a biased sampling of the actual mutational spectrum. Furthermore, high-impact deleterious mutations will still always be selected away in such experiments, no matter how hard the experimenter tries to preclude natural selection. Therefore there will be a strong tendency to preferentially observe only high-impact beneficials. Since the crux of the genetic entropy argument involves the low-impact deleterious mutations (which will always be invisible in such experiments), these types of experiments have no relevance to this discussion. A final point: in these experiments, fitness is always narrowly defined (i.e., ability to grow on a given medium). For simple, one-dimensional traits like this, any genetic change affecting that trait has a reasonable chance of being beneficial (in a one-dimensional system, any change can only be either up or down, as opposed to improving a real-world complex network of traits where fitness is enormously multi-dimensional).

3. Just how rare are beneficial mutations?

Scott speaks as if I do not acknowledge there are beneficial mutations. I acknowledge them very openly in the book, but I also insist that beneficials must be very rare compared to deleterious mutations (as do nearly all geneticists). The critical question is “how rare?”

flickr.com/visulogik (CC by 2.5)

A rusty old car

Genomes are the genetic specifications that allow life to exist. Specifications are obviously inherently SPECIFIC. This means that random changes in specifications will disrupt information with a very high degree of certainty. This has become especially clear ever since the publication of the ENCODE results, which show that very little of our genome is actually ‘junk DNA’.10 The ENCODE project also shows that most nucleotides play a role in multiple overlapping codes, making any beneficial mutations which are not deleterious at some level vanishingly rare (in preparation). Our own numerical simulations (in press) show that that unless beneficial mutations are extremely common, they are not sufficient to compensate for accumulating deleterious mutations. The bottom line is that selection removes only the worst deleterious mutations and amplifies only the best beneficial mutations. This means that the accumulating damage is largely invisible (like rust on a car), while adaptations tend to be highly visible (e.g., antibiotic resistance). This means that even if Scott presents us with 1000 examples of adaptation via beneficial point mutation, he has still failed to address the key issue—net gain versus net loss. Adaptation explains fine-tuning to an environment; it does not explain the astounding internal workings of life. It does not begin to explain the mystery of the genome.

the accumulating damage is largely invisible (like rust on a car)

Where are the beneficial mutations in man? It is very well documented that there are thousands of deleterious Mendelian mutations accumulating in the human gene pool, even though there is strong selection against such mutations. Yet such easily recognized deleterious mutations are just the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of deleterious mutations will not display any clear phenotype at all. There is a very high rate of visible birth defects, all of which appear deleterious. Again, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Why are no beneficial birth anomalies being seen? This is not just a matter of identifying positive changes. If there are so many beneficial mutations happening in the human population, selection should very effectively amplify them. They should be popping up virtually everywhere. They should be much more common than genetic pathologies. Where are they? European adult lactose tolerance appears to be due to a broken lactase promoter [see Can’t drink milk? You’re ‘normal’! Ed.]. African resistance to malaria is due to a broken hemoglobin protein [see Sickle-cell disease. Also, immunity of an estimated 20% of western Europeans to HIV infection is due to a broken chemokine receptor—see CCR5-delta32: a very beneficial mutation. Ed.] Beneficials happen, but generally they are loss-of-function mutations, and even then they are very rare!

Scott makes a big deal about Lenski’s long-term bacterial experiments, but these actually support my thesis. Although a very trivial adaptation happened (optimal growth on a given medium), his bacteria shrank in genome size (the functional genome decreased). Evidently the more rapid growth was largely accomplished through genetic degeneration. Many useful genes not essential in that artificial environment were apparently lost. When transferred to a natural environment, those highly degenerated bacteria would essentially be dead-on-arrival.

Adaptation explains fine-tuning to an environment; it does not explain the astounding internal workings of life.

Scott seems to think that as long as beneficials happen (regardless of how rare they are) the Primary Axiom must be true. Likewise he thinks that, as long as he can show selective adaptations happen (no matter how trivial), this proves the Primary Axiom. I do not think he grasps just how difficult it is to build a genome apart from design. Nor does he seem to understand that a population can be undergoing genetic decline due to vast numbers of slightly deleterious mutations even while selection may be amplifying a handful of beneficial mutations. He seems to fail to realize that a species can undergo minor adaptive fine-tuning to its environment even while degenerating in many other ways. So let me try to make it even simpler. Picture a ten year old car. It is degenerating in all possible ways. Install new windshield wipers. Has the car stopped degenerating? There has certainly been an improvement, but not the type of improvement that can reverse the ubiquitous and systematic degeneration.

In collaboration with other scientists, we have advanced the field of population genetics by developing the ‘state of the art’ in terms of numerical simulation of the mutation/selection process.11 Using biologically realistic parameters, the program ‘Mendel’s Accountant’ consistently shows genetic decline even given very generous rates of beneficial mutation. This strongly validates my book. Mendel’s Accountant cannot tell us the true history of life, but what it can do is tell us what selection can and cannot realistically do in the present.

from Genetic Entropy pages 31 and 32

Kimura mutations diagram

Kimura diagram with beneficial mutations added

2. Kimura’s Figure:

Scott makes a huge deal about my reference to a figure in Kimura’s work. He misrepresents me by arguing I misrepresented Kimura (I did not claim Kimura agrees with me). But this is a rabbit trail; the argument is not about Kimura. The crucial issue is about defining the correct distribution of mutation effects. For deleterious mutations, Kimura and most other population geneticists agree the distribution is essentially exponential. Figure 3c in my book (based upon Kimura) shows an exponential-type distribution of deleterious mutations, with most deleterious mutations being ‘nearly-neutral’ and hence un-selectable (effectively neutral). But, as I point out, Kimura’s picture is not complete, because degeneration is all about the ratio of good to bad mutations. Kimura does not show the beneficial distribution, which is essential to the question of net gain versus net loss! When I show the beneficial distribution (while Kimura did not do this, I suspect he would have drawn it much as I did), anyone can see the problem: the vast majority of beneficial mutations will be un-selectable (Figure 3d). Scott does not appear to contest my representation of the mutational effect distribution, which is the main issue here. Scott should easily be able to see that most mutations fall within the ‘no-selection zone’ and that almost all of them are deleterious. So even with strong selection, this entire zone can only undergo degeneration. Outside this zone, the substantially bad mutations will be selected away, and an occasional rare high-impact beneficial will be amplified (which can explain isolated events such as antibiotic resistance).

1. Sanford is a liar:

Scott repeatedly asserts that my book is all about deliberate deception, and I am fundamentally a liar. He bases this upon two things: a) there were a few references he thinks highly relevant, which I failed to cite and which he says proves I have withheld and suppressed evidence; b) He argues I must surely know that beneficial mutations happen, that natural selection happens, and also that long term lab experiments do not show rapid degeneration. Therefore, I must be dishonestly pretending to be ignorant of these things in order to deceive the ignorant. He has not considered these possibilities: a) given the mountain of relevant literature, I might legitimately miss a few papers; b) I do not share his view on which papers are significant. He cites a great many papers which only speak of the obvious: beneficials do happen, selection does happen, adaptation does happen. Any high school student knows these things. My argument only begins AFTER acknowledging these obvious things.

My integrity as a Christian is much more important to me than my scientific standing.

Scott and I corresponded briefly before his posting, and I tried to explain to him why his criticisms were not correct. I did not find him to be a very good listener as I tried to explain how he was misrepresenting me. I then sent him a series of preprints (in press), which extensively and conclusively addressed all his objections. Upon reading his essay now, I can see he did not bother reading those preprints, which are very rigorously written scientific research papers. I also see from his current arguments, that he really did not give my book a fair read. If Scott has misrepresented both the book and myself, then which of us is lacking in integrity?

This book cost me a great deal. I basically laid down my reputation and my career in order to say what I believe to be the truth. I believe the real deception is clearly the Primary Axiom. I am still convinced I can persuade any impartial person that the Primary Axiom is indefensible (if they will listen). So why would I lie? I am a sincere orthodox Christian, I believe God will judge me in a very literal sense, and I consider lying is a very serious sin. I am distinguished in my field and I greatly value my integrity as an honest scientist. Yet my integrity as a Christian is much more important to me than my scientific standing. That is why I have been willing to defend what I believe to be true, even knowing that attacking this sacred cow (the Primary Axiom) would bring slander and scorn. Why would I write a book that would ruin a very good scientific reputation knowing it would make me a liar before God?

In our personal correspondence, Scott closed our conversation saying he intended to present me as being intentionally deceitful. My last word to him was that while I might be technically in error on certain points, my book reflects what I really believe to be true. Any technical errors in my book show that I am human, but there certainly was no deliberate deception in my book. In light of our previously open exchange, and since Scott professes to belong to Jesus, I do not think he should slander a Christian brother in this way, and I believe he should apologize and withdraw these personal attacks. In terms of the scientific issues, I would ask Scott to append this response to his blog attack.

I still welcome any fair-minded and balanced analysis of the scientific merits of my book and my subsequent studies.

Sincerely,

John Sanford

Related Articles

Further Reading

References

  1. The original critical blog post can be found at letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/stan-4. Return to text.
  2. Crow, J., The high spontaneous mutation rate: Is it a health risk? Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 94(16):8380–8386,1997; pnas.org/content/94/16/8380.full. Return to text.
  3. Synergistic epistasis is a theoretical construct where the combined effect of mutations is greater together than the sum of their individual effects. This is obviously a good situation for beneficial mutations, but very bad for harmful mutations. See Doyle, S., The diminishing returns of beneficial mutations, Journal of Creation 25(3):8–10, 2011. Return to text.
  4. Lynch, M., Rate, molecular spectrum, and consequences of human mutation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107(3):961–968, 2010.Return to text.
  5. Kondrashov, A., Contamination of the genome by very slightly deleterious mutations: why have we not died 100 times over? Journal of Theoretical Biology 175(4):583–594, 1995. Return to text.
  6. See Carter, R., Genetic entropy and human lifespans: If the human genome is degrading, shouldn’t lifespans be getting shorter? 15 July 2012. Return to text.
  7. Carter, R. and Sanford, J., A new look at an old virus: patterns of mutation accumulation in the human H1N1 influenza virus since 1918, Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling 9(42):1–19, 2012. Return to text.
  8. See Carter, R., Genetic entropy and simple organisms: If genetic entropy is true, why do bacteria still exist? 25 October 2012. Return to text.
  9. See Liu, Y. and Moran, D., Do new functions arise by gene duplication? Journal of Creation 20(2):82–89, 2006. Return to text.
  10. See Williams, A., Astonishing DNA complexity uncovered, 20 June 2007, and Astonishing DNA complexity update, 3 July 2007. Return to text.
  11. See Sanford, J. and Nelson, C., The Next Step in Understanding Population Dynamics: Comprehensive Numerical Simulation, Chapter 7 (pages 117–135) in: Carmen Fusté, M. (Ed.), Studies in Population Genetics, InTech, 2012. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Robert S., Australia, 7 March 2013

If Scott professes to belong to Jesus, then why would he defend the Primary Axiom, since it has been exposed as the enemy of truth? Is he trying to have a lend of us?

Robert M., Australia, 7 March 2013

Thank you for the time and effort you have put into this article. To me it is clear and comprehensive enough to follow and then to use the arguments and points raised when talking to others about these same issues. I am not a trained emperical scientist (my Uni degree is in the social sciences) but I have a keen interest in these things. The people I work with are generally really excellent science based/trained personnel but they are also almost to a person, ardent supporters and believers in evolution and long age processes. One in particular has virtually ridiculed me for my creation/young earth stance. And this despite them providing no examples of the addition of gentic information to show 'goo to you' type examples. It really is an intellectual and spiritual battle. I remain faithful to the 'fight' and to promoting an evidence based creation and young earth point of view. God is not good...He is VERY good!

Wayne O., Australia, 7 March 2013

I value John Sanford for what I see as a Christian and professional response to criticism from someone also professing to know Jesus Christ.

It remains for the other party to reveal the love and truth in Jesus Christ from here.

Richard L., United Arab Emirates, 7 March 2013

Thank you Dr. Sanford for this very helpful update.

Re. Point #7:

The linguist Noam Chomsky delineates between "competence" and "performance" in language communication (e.g., a student may have studied hard and have high competence in a subject area but do poorly [performance] on an exam due to anxiety, sickness, etc.).

Is it fair to make an analogy with genetics using this distinction? Can human fitness be analogous to "competence" and human lifespan to "performance"?

If so, the competence envelope is shrinking due to deleterious mutations, but our lifespan performance (within that envelope) is getting more efficient, due to advances in science and healthy lifestyle. The current increase in human lifespan is temporary. Once our genetic competence degrades enough, our lifespan will start shrinking again, no matter how much scientific advances push our lifespan performance closer to the competence envelope.

Lucas P., Canada, 7 March 2013

Thank you Mr. Sanford, I hadn't read Scott's article, but just yesterday I was poking around evolutionary blogs to see what they were saying. I had looked for a response from you directed towards your detractors on the subject, but I couldn't find any.

What providential timing!

By the way, it does seem that most atheists just dismiss you because you are a Christian Creationist, and so "obviously biased". However, time will vindicate you. And their false foundations shattered.

Take heart, for has not God said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay... The Lord will judge his people.”?

At Judgement Day, you won't have to defend your book anymore. Christ will set the truth straight.

God bless,

Jim M., Australia, 7 March 2013

I am encouraged by Dr Sanford's clear priotities in this situation where the attack is distinctly personal.

1. Christian integrity.

2. Professional integrity.

His robust logic within a focussed but gracious response illustrates Paul's advice to us all in Romans 12.14-21.

Martyn M., Australia, 7 March 2013

I have read John Sanford's book and it makes perfect logical sense that bad mutations outnumber rare good ones and that natural selection cannot select what is not obvious and therefore the general direction of the human (and all living things) genome is down hill.

This down hill trend to the genome seems so obvious that I am surprised it hasn’t destroyed the faith of all believers in the “Primary Axiom” long ago.

This downhill trend seems also one of the strongest arguments against long ages.

But I am confused in some specifics, one being how can beneficial mutations (or for that matter beneficial genetic variation) be generally unselectable, as John suggests, if we also agree that natural selection does happen?

Robert Carter responds

Martyn, it depends on whether or not a mutation or variation exceeds the selection threshold. If beneficial and deleterious mutations have an equal (but opposite) distribution, and if beneficials are much more rare, there will be few benecials that exceed the selection threshold. Also, if there are much more deleterious mutations, the selection "power" is used up on them and there is not much left over to act on the beneficials. Consult the book!

john P., Australia, 7 March 2013

Having read John's book I found it very interesting, informative and rigorously researched. It is written so any layman could understand what it 's all about. It should be obvious to anyone, even critics with a modicom of understanding of genetics, that we are degenerating along with the rest of creation. This is due to sin and the Fall mentioned in Genesis.

If God did not sustain us we would all be extinct by now.

It is unfortunate Scott Buchanan did not read the entire book in an open minded and unbiased way, even if he is a theistic evolutionist, as he would have learnt something by doing so.

Genetics is a fascinating subject. A study of genetics reveals creation to be devolving. Evolution is just a fairy tale-never happened and never will

Hans G., Australia, 7 March 2013

G'day Dr.

I tried as you are to argue with the creation adversaries in good faith but now with 69 I am 'mutating' out.

I look more to what and how God dealt with people who were against Him. GMI might has a softer approach but when I say: "who doesn't want me doesn't deserve me", isn't far off what God tries to tell us.

So, who doesn't WANT to see the creation doesn't deserve to see the creator.

Your article demands a deep knowledge but do you honestly think your opponent is convinced and will change his view?

And very blandly: Even while God is in control and let a huge amount of human 'waste' appear on

earth, we do know from the Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah, AT and the tribulation that God has no problems to 'discard' His enemies. Why should I care about 'fruitless trees'? You water them and water them but their roots are on rocky ground.

I am not the 'soft ball' anymore those evolutionists can play with. Jesus called his apostles 'dull' and got angry in the temple. I think a bit of bite is necessary, it helps the respect.

Who ever likes to gain knowledge is always welcome but no mockers and twisters.

We know were we are going and we know were those 'mutations' are going.

The Lord's spirit be with you, Hans

Robert Carter responds

Hans, while I empathize with your desire to be more aggressive, 1 Pet 3:15 commands us to answer our detractors with gentleness and respect.

Aleksandar K., Croatia, 7 March 2013

Isn't beneficial mutation somewhat misleading? You use the same word but you talk about different things. Wouldn't the term "conditionally beneficial mutation" be more appropriate? Beneficial are actually only intact genes, right? If they mutate, they might be beneficial in some conditions but that means that their function has changed and that the function of the original gene isn't being being met, or not fully. The gene was placed there in respect to the entire genome and has a place in the entire metabolism. The new mutation does not. It might me beneficial relative to certain conditions but to be called beneficial I think it would have to be beneficial to the entire organism like the gene it originated from. That's why I think the term "conditionally beneficial mutation" or "relatively beneficial mutation" would be more appropriate. Especially since beneficial mutations are THE mantra of evolutionists. They hold beneficial mutations responsible for creating new organs - which is necessary for macroevolution to be true - so when you acknowledge the existence of such mutations, many of them will surely use it to claim you acknowledge the mechanism of macroevolution and hence deny Creation.

Robert Carter responds

Yes, of course "beneficial" is only in context (e.g. in malaria areas, it is better to be a carrier for sickle cell anemia than be dead, but the carriers are less "fit" in non-malaria areas). Yet, even given the assumption that non-conditionally-beneficial mutations exist, evolutionary mathematics still fails. See out Mutations Q&A page for more details.

E. P., United States, 7 March 2013

I had read Scott Buchanan's blog entry about a year ago and was thoroughly amazed. Even with as little background in genetics as I have, it was easy to see why the arguments didn't hold. Fruit flies and worms have genomes much much smaller than our own and have much higher reproductive rates. So of course they get far far fewer deleterious mutations.

Barton B., United States, 7 March 2013

Have any information adding mutations been observed? What would the examples and creationist rebuttals be?

Robert Carter responds

Please see http://creation.com/mutations-new-information, then consult our Mutations Q&A page.

Alf C., United States, 7 March 2013

The sheer irony of all this for me is that I was reading up on Waltke yesterday and came across a comment by a reformed pastor on a Puritan forum discussing Theistic Evolution. This pastor noted that creationists could only blame themselves for not being more credible because: "I just don't think the 'creation-scientists' have done a very good job of explaining the data."

Jenny G., United Kingdom, 7 March 2013

Accusing those who disagree with them of "LYING" is unfortunately a standard evolutionists' defence stratagem when argument fails (as it does).

That refusal to allow any distinction between simple disagreement/honest error and out-and-out falsehood, is instantly recognisable and sadly diagnostic. It signifies a mind closed to reason.

William M., United States, 8 March 2013

I understand why Christ deniers want to force-feed naturalism to the masses and especially the children. Doing so makes their barbaric and hedonistic acts more acceptable to society and spreads their destructive behavior. What I don't understand is how any person who claims to have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord can possibly foster and propagate this so-obviously-Satanic deception.

Robert Carter responds

William, having been in the same position as this person at one point in my life, I can assure you that nothing is simple. There are people in this world who have overcome things I will never face for the sake of the Kingdom and yet they can't see past millions of years. There are people in this world much more faithful than me in sharing the Gospel and yet are wrapped up in various old-earth errors. It is as if God puts us on a conveyor belt early in our walk with Him and says, "See you at the end." We then spend the rest of our lives figuring things out, and different people figure out things in a different order. We must be gracious (firm, but gracious) to those who name the name of Christ for it was not long ago that we were probably in a worse position than they.

Joseph Allen K., United States, 8 March 2013

God bless CMI for publishing this rebuttal by Dr. Sanford ... !!!!

The number of comments to this web article shows that many of us Christian Creationists have been touched by the profound idea of GENETIC ENTROPY.

I have contributed $$$ to CMI's project called EAH (Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels) and encourage other Christian Creationists to do so ... ((<: }

Robert Carter responds

Thank you, Joseph. We are working hard to bring EAH to reality. The book is written, the DVD is being filmed and edited (as of March '13). Prayers would be appreciated.

Michael M., United States, 9 March 2013

Dr. Sanford, thank you for response to Scott. After reading your book, and then considering the data from MendelsAccountant, I not only feel you left the emperor with no clothes, but completely removed the ground beneath his feet! One can attempt to argue with the logic, but you can't argue with the data empirically crunched with the math! You have given us a great gift. I pray God would raise up men to carry the banner you forged for us by defeating the Primary Axiom.

Neo Darwinism is dead and the coffin is sealed.

Errol B., Australia, 9 March 2013

Is it possible that Scott is locked in his paradigm & doesn’t realize it? Aleksandar K., Croatia and Dr Carter touched on a good point, if Scott sees the undeniable facts of selection acting on sickle cell anaemia (environmentally beneficial) and bacteria ‘evolving’ resistance to antibiotics etc (micro-evolution), then perhaps he thinks it safe to assume evolution is a fact, therefore it’s a given that Dr Sanford ‘must’ be wrong and any arguments against evolution are simply attempts to deny reality.

Perhaps the frustration emanates from both sides using different definitions. If micro-evolution happens over a short period, then it is logical to assume macro-evolution happens over eons of time. I personally avoid the term ‘micro-evolution’ as it gives the impression a small amount of evolution has taken place. See Dr Wieland’s article re; Roger Lewin’s report from the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, Nov 1980. http://creation.com/variation-information-and-the-created-kind

It would be an interesting exercise to have sceptics state their definition of ‘evolution’ as a pre-requisite to future objections. Not suggesting CMI does this of course.

Dr Batten has a DVD ‘Creatures Do Change But It’s Not Evolution’ which I believe compliments Dr Sanford’s book.

Thank you Dr Sanford

Sean A., United States, 10 March 2013

Thank you Dr. Sanford for responding to the L-t-C critique. I also appreciate Scott Buchanan’s blog; such as his clarifications on ENCODE press releases (bio-chemical activity vs. function, etc). I can go to his pages and find best that the Primary Axiom, old earth, etc., has to offer, because he has already gone through the effort of gathering and distilling all of that into a very readable form. Even if it is only remotely conceivable that those paradigms are true, it’s good to have someone in that camp who will still proclaim Jesus is Lord in no uncertain terms, and back it up with other reasons. So because I respect what Scott writes it was important to me to have Dr. Sanford’s comprehensive response.

Like most Americans, what you call the ‘Primary Axiom’ has always been difficult for me to believe (I guess just from a common sense standpoint), but it means so much to have scientists like Dr. Sanford, CMI, to give substance to what we intuitively surmise.

William M., United States, 13 March 2013

Hello Robert,

Thank you so much for responding to my 8 March 2013 comment.

Yes, graciousness is absolutely necessary. Paul, in First Corinthians 8, makes it clear that we must handle "weak brothers" with kid gloves. This doesn't stop it boggling my mind that a brother or sister in Christ would accept such.

Jackie S., United States, 17 March 2013

First I want to thank you for work. I have found that many people who believe in the theory of evolution just will not consider any contrary evidence. Scott obviously did not read the info you sent him. I think they may be afraid that they would have to admit they were wrong. That is hard for anyone. Particularly after he put his beliefs out there for anyone to see. As always I could be wrong.

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