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Creation 35(2):47–49, April 2013

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The 3 Rs of Evolution: Rearrange, Remove, Ruin—in other words, no evolution!

The genetic changes observed in living things today could not have turned bacteria into basset hounds—ever

Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/fotojagodka|©iStockphoto.com/GlobalP


Evolution textbooks cite variation as being something upon which ‘evolution depends’.1 However, when one examines closely the claimed ‘demonstrable examples’ of ‘evolution’, they actually fall into three categories, which we can label here as the ‘3 Rs’.

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

‘R’#1: Rearrange existing genes

Careful examination of many purported instances of ‘evolution in action’ shows that such ‘variation’ actually already exists, conferred by genes that already exist.

Here’s a simplified example that shows this, and also how such genetic variety might be misconstrued as ‘evidence of evolution’. The two dogs in the top row of Figure 1 are a male and a female. They each have a gene that codes for short hair (inherited from its mother or father) and a gene that codes for long hair (inherited from the other parent). In combination, this gene pair for fur length results in medium length hair.2

Figure1. The red bars represent the genes for hair length (short and long hair). One of each gives medium length hair. By re-arranging (recombining) the parents’ genes (top) in reproduction, variety is generated in the appearance of the offspring, but no new genes are involved.

Now when these two dogs are crossed, what new combinations of the genes are possible in the resulting offspring? The second row of Figure 1 shows this:

The dog at the far left has inherited its father’s short-hair gene and its mother’s short-hair gene. Result: short hair.

The two dogs in the middle have each inherited a long-hair gene from one parent and a short-hair gene from the other parent. Result: medium-length hair (just like the mother and father).

The dog at the far right has inherited its mother’s long-hair gene and its father’s long-hair gene. Result: long hair.

A casual observer, looking only at the outward appearance, i.e. unaware of what is happening at the genetic level, might think: “There were no long-hair dogs in the parents’ generation. This long hair is a new characteristic—evolution is true!”

But such a view is incorrect. The only thing this ‘evolution’ has done is to rearrange existing genes. There’s simply been a sorting out of pre-existing genetic information. There’s no new information here of the kind needed to have turned pond scum into poodles, Pekingese, pointers and papillons.

‘R’#2: Remove genetic information

What about natural selection, adaptation and speciation?

None of these represent the generation of any new microbes-to-mastiff genetic information either. In our ‘hairy dog’ example, if we were to send our new population of dogs, some with short hair, others with medium or long hair, to an icy, very cold location, we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see natural selection at work, killing off any dog that didn’t have long hair (Figure 2, Line 1). When the survivors reproduce, the only fur-length genes passed on to the offspring are those that code for long hair (Figure 2, Line 2).

die in snowy

Thus we now have a population of dogs beautifully adapted to its environment. Biologists encountering our ice-bound population of dogs, observing them to be isolated3 from other populations of dogs, could argue that they be given a new species name.

So here we see natural selection, adaptation, and possibly even speciation—but no new genes have been added. In fact, there’s been a loss of genes (the genetic information for short-and medium-length hair has been removed from the population).

Note that such examples of natural selection, adaptation and speciation are often portrayed as evidence for evolution, but the only thing this ‘evolution’ has done is to remove existing genes. If this population of exclusively long-hair dogs were now forcibly relocated to a steamy tropical island, the population could not ‘adapt’ to the hot climate unless someone re-introduced the short-hair gene to the population again, by ‘back-crossing’ a short-or medium-length hair dog from elsewhere. This is exactly the sort of thing that our crop and livestock breeders are doing. They are scouring the world for the original genes created during Creation Week4 but which have subsequently been ‘bred out’ (lost) from our domestic varieties/breeds of plants and animals because of breeders artificially selecting certain characteristics, which means other features are de-selected (lost).

‘R’#3: Ruin genetic information

In the above examples, we see that natural selection, adaptation and speciation are real and observable. And that these simply demonstrate the rearranging and/or removing of dog genes that were originally present at Creation. (I.e. by the end of Day 6, when God completed Creation, declaring it ‘very good’—Genesis 1:31.)

©iStockphoto.com/HumoniaFloppy ear
Figure 3: Dogs with the floppy ear mutation, such as bassets, are much more prone to ear infections (e.g. from food scraps) than dogs with erect ears (they clearly can’t hear as well either!)

However, there are forms of dog genes today which were not present at Creation but have arisen since. But those have not arisen by any creative process, but by mutations, which are copying mistakes (typos, we might say) as genes are passed from parents to offspring. You would expect such accidental changes to wreck the existing genes, and that’s what happens. For example, the dog pictured in Figure 3 has just such a mutated gene, resulting in ‘floppy ear syndrome’.5

Dogs with this genetic mutation have weaker cartilage and cannot lift up their ears. So they just hang, floppy before dinner, and sloppy after it—unless their owners are diligent in cleaning them. Such regular attention to ear hygiene is necessary, as dogs with floppy ears are prone to serious ear infections, which can even lead to hearing loss.6 Not that their hearing was especially good anyway. As you might expect, dogs with erect ears are far superior to floppy-eared dogs at detecting prey by sound.7

I can remember reflecting on this when I was an atheist/evolutionist, and wondering how such floppy-eared dogs could have ever evolved and survived in the wild. I now know that they didn’t. Instead this mutation in the genes has arisen since the original “very good” world (Genesis 1:31) was cursed as a result of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:17–19). The floppy-eared mutation in dogs is but one example of how a post-Fall world is very much “in bondage to decay” (Romans 8:19–22). So common is this mutational defect in modern domestic dogs that many people have naïvely come to think of floppy-eared dogs as ‘normal’. But Adam and Eve, if they were alive today, would no doubt be shocked to see such deformity. The original dogs, probably something like today’s gray wolves, would have had erect, superbly functional, ears.

Why is this so important to consider, in the context of evolutionary claims that no Creator was necessary?

Evolutionary biologists, when pressed with the facts about natural selection, will concede that natural selection by itself can only remove existing genetic information. However, they argue that in tandem with mutations, natural selection would be a creative process.

But the floppy-ear mutation, for one, is a classic example of the widespread degradation of the genome—a downhill process. For microbes-to-man evolution to be true, evolutionists should be able to point to thousands of examples of information-gaining mutations, an uphill process, but they can’t.8 Mutations overwhelmingly ruin genetic information. Therefore evolutionists looking to mutations as being evolution’s ‘engine’ do so in vain.9 Thus they are left with no known mechanism capable of ever turning microbes into mutts—i.e. no way of ‘climbing’ up the supposed evolutionary ‘tree’.

Note that while mutations degrade genetic information, sometimes an advantage arising from such degradation can outweigh the disadvantage vis-à-vis survival. While a floppy-eared mutant mutt might not last long in the wild, under human care—i.e. with regular ear cleaning—the equation changes. And what about the key moment when a buyer is looking for the ‘cutest’, friendliest pup in the pet shop window? Indeed, there is increasing evidence that the floppy-eared characteristic is strongly associated with tameness.10,11 Little wonder then, that floppy-eared dogs are so common today.12

Conclusion: 3 Rs = no new information = no evolution

The above examples of changes in fur length and ear structure of dogs are not evolutionary changes, though they are often claimed as such. Rearranging genes, Removing genes, and Ruining genes are not the sort of genetic changes that could have turned bacteria into basset hounds—ever. These ‘3 Rs’ are repeatedly cited as evolution in a host of other settings, too, e.g. in antibiotic and pesticide resistance, and in sticklebacks, beetles, mosquitoes, worms, sheep, and codfish.13 But none of these are evidence of evolution. The ‘3 Rs’ could never add up to mosquitoes, mesquite, mutts and man from microbes (let alone from molecules!).

The evidence instead fits with the biblical account of God having created a multiplicity of ‘kinds’, each programmed to reproduce according to its kind. Geneticists recognize that the diversity of dog breeds we have today could have arisen quickly, in recent history.14 As we’ve seen in our fur length example, long hair and short hair can appear in just one generation, arising from the in-built canine genetic variation—variation that was built-in to dogs at Creation. So Noah didn’t need to take on board the Ark multiple pairs of dingoes, Dalmatians, and dachshunds; or coyotes, corgis, and cocker spaniels; or jackals, jack russells, and jackadoodles. He only needed two dogs—just as the Bible suggests (Genesis 6:19–20).

First posted on homepage: 22 June 2013
Re-posted on homepage: 25 November 2020

References and notes

  1. E.g. page 32 of Pringle, L., Billions of years, amazing changes: The story of evolution, Boyds Mills Press, Inc., Pennsylvania, USA, 2011. For a comprehensive page-by-page rebuttal of the claims in that book see creation.com/pringle-review. Return to text.
  2. ‘Co-dominant genes’ would behave in this manner. The exact genetic basis of hair length is not known yet, but it is something like this, although there could be more than one pair of genes involved. Return to text.
  3. Geographic isolation is often used as a basis for a new species to be named. This is consistent with the somewhat arbitrary nature of species names, cf. the biblical ‘kind’. Return to text.
  4. See Batten, D., What! … no potatoes? Creation 21(1):12–14, 1998; creation.com/potatoes. Not all breeders would realize that this is in fact what they are doing. Sadly, they would pay homage to evolution rather than God. Return to text.
  5. Geneticists have now tracked the difference between floppy and erect ears to a single gene region in canine chromosome 10 (CFA 10). Boyko, A., Quignon, P., Li, L., Schoenebeck, J., Degenhardt, J., and 19 others, A Simple Genetic Architecture Underlies Morphological Variation in Dogs, PLoS Biology 8(8):e1000451, 2010. Return to text.
  6. Sandilands, T., How to clean a dog’s floppy and smelly ears—Dogs with floppy ears suffer from odor and ear infections easily, ehow.com/how_8761420_clean-dogs-floppy-smelly-ears.html, acc. 22 November 2012. Return to text.
  7. The selecting of hounds with floppy ears is understandable considering they have to rely more on smell and thus this sense is heightened; hence they tend to be good sniffer dogs (bloodhounds, etc.). Return to text.
  8. As information is foundationally an argument from probability, we might expect a few cases of trivial information increase (see our new DVD Understanding the Law of Decay, and creation.com/edge-evolution). But evolution requires encyclopedic amounts of new information. And a lead candidate, nylon-eating bacteria, turns out not to be new information. Rather, the new ‘ability’ comes from two ‘typos’ in an existing enzyme finely-tuned to break bonds in certain chemicals. The mutated enzyme is less tuned for its current task, but can digest other chemicals, including nylon, with the same bond (creation.com/evoquest#nylonase, creation.com/infoloss). See also Carter, R., Can mutations create new information? J. Creation 25(2):92–98, 2011, creation.com/new-info. Return to text.
  9. Williams, A., Evolution’s engine becomes evolution’s end!, Journal of Creation 22(2):60–66, 2008; creation.com/mutations-are-evolutions-end. Return to text.
  10. Adams, J., Genetics of dog breeding, Nature Education 1(1), 2008, nature.com/scitable/topicpage/genetics-of-dog-breeding-434. Return to text.
  11. Trut, L., Early canid domestication: the farm-fox experiment, American Scientist 87:160–169, 1999. Return to text.
  12. For more see Cosner, L., ‘Parade of mutants’—pedigree dogs and artificial selection, Creation 32(3):28–32, 2010; creation.com/pedigree. Return to text.
  13. See creation.com/superbugs, creation.com/pesticide, creation.com/stickleback, creation.com/beetle, creation.com/brisk, creation.com/cadmium-worms, creation.com/bighorn, creation.com/tomcod, creation.com/smaller-fish. Return to text.
  14. Ratliff, E., How to build a dog—Scientists have found the secret recipe behind the spectacular variety of dog shapes and sizes, and it could help unravel the complexity of human genetic disease, ngm.nationalgeographic.com, February 2012. Return to text.