New genetic information claim rebutted; and goo-to-you terminology defended
Published: 19 September 2009 (GMT+10)
Richard M., who has previously attempted to challenge our articles on such diverse topics as Mercury’s magnetic message and non-permineralized dinosaur remains, wrote in response to our article on pesticide resistance:
This article is another in a seemingly endless string of similar creationist attempts to assert that new information cannot arise in a population of organisms. This problem has been extensively studied by evolutionary scientists, and occurrence of novel information spontaneous arising by mutation is well documented and understood. I refer you to one of the best recent examples, one of a series of papers from the laboratory of Richard Lenski—the reference is:
Blount ZD, Borland CZ, and Lenski, RE. Historical contingency and the evolution of a key innovation in an experimental population of Escherichia coli. PNAS June 10, 2008 vol. 105 no. 23 7899–7906.
If CMI is able to come up with a detailed refutation of this two-decade-long research program, I would be very interested in seeing it. This is not an unreasonable request, since your “no new information" assertion is a cornerstone of your attack on evolution.
By the way, and on a much simpler level, your article contains what appears to be a logical inconsistency. You claim that pesticide resistance can come about only through the loss information. If it is true, as you say, that the population can, over time, revert to its original susceptible state, how did it regain the information that it lost?
Richard M., United States
Hello Richard, in relation to the research papers originating from the laboratory of Richard Lenski, you said:
If CMI is able to come up with a detailed refutation of this two-decade-long research program, I would be very interested in seeing it.
Richard, we would have thought you of all people would have checked for a CMI response to Lenski’s claims before saying we did not have one. Please see our article Bacteria evolving in the lab? about the cultured bacteria which developed the capacity for metabolizing citrate as an energy source under aerobic conditions.1 As explained in the above article, this almost certainly involved the breaking of a switch that stops citrate uptake from the environment under aerobic conditions or the deformation of a transporter protein channel that normally takes up something else under aerobic conditions, such that it now transports citrate into the cell. Such changes clearly do not constitute an increase in information (specified complexity).
Actually, Lenski’s research, contrary to your assertion, underlines once again how impossible the grand scheme of microbes-to-man evolution is. You might also like to consider the following technical papers: Genome truncation vs mutational opportunity: can new genes arise via gene duplication? Part 1 and Part 2 (both refer to Lenski’s work).
It is noteworthy that you said,
“This problem [origin of new biological information] has been extensively studied by evolutionary scientists, and occurrence of novel information spontaneous arising by mutation is well documented and understood.”
After this we are glad you tried to give substance to such a grand claim, saying, “ I refer you to one of the best recent examples … ” and referred to Lenski’s work. Since Lenski’s stuff does not prove your claim and it is “one of the best recent examples”, we suggest you take another look at the other supposed examples that you allude to.
You might also appreciate the review of Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution, which deals with the limits of what is achievable by natural (non-intelligent) processes.
Now to your final comment/question:
By the way, and on a much simpler level, your article contains what appears to be a logican inconsistency. You claim that pesticide resistance can come about only through the loss information. If it is true, as you say, that the population can, over time, revert to its original susceptible state, how did it regain the information that it lost?
The answer is very simple. The non-resistant genes were not entirely lost from the population. All that happened was that there was an increase in the proportion of the population having the genes conferring pesticide resistance relative to those individuals with a susceptible genetic make-up. As our article said (emphasis now added):
Individuals surviving a pesticide application pass the genetic mechanisms conferring resistance to that particular pesticide on to the next generation. Thus the resistant genes make up a greater proportion of the total gene pool than they did before.
For various reasons (e.g. inability to achieve blanket spray coverage), it appears that pesticide applications cannot completely wipe out pesticide-susceptible genes from insect populations. If such was possible, then you would have a similar situation to that of commercially-exploited cod in the northeast Arctic, where it appears that the genes for large size have been totally lost from the population. (See Smaller fish to fry.)
Rather, the fluctuating frequencies of pesticide-susceptible and pesticide-resistant genes in insect populations is akin to the textbook scenario of the peppered moth. That is, the relative proportions of dark-coloured and light-coloured moths increased or decreased according to industrial emissions, but neither form was ever eliminated entirely. Just as with the phenomenon of pesticide resistance, the textbook storyline of the peppered moth was a great illustration of natural selection, but it was never evidence of evolutionary changes needed for microbes to have become moths over millions of years, as leading evolutionists conceded. And that was even before the textbook gloss was tarnished by revelations that the peppered moth storyline was riddled with error, fraud and half-truths. (Not surprisingly, evolutionists have subsequently attempted to restore the peppered moth’s reputation—a sign of their desperation for an (indeed, any!) evolutionary “icon”.)
Don Batten and David Catchpoole
Post-Script: A “pet peeve” of Richard M.
In ensuing correspondence, Richard M. took issue with our use of phrases like “microbes-to-moths”:
By the way (a pet peeve of mine), why must creationists continue to use tiresomely cute phrases like “…microbe to have become moths…”, or “goo to you via the zoo”, or “particles to people”, etc.? This adds very little to the discourse. And, while on this subject, the industrial melanism experiments were never designed to give “… evidence of evolutionary changes needed for microbes to have become moths over millions of years…” It is no concession on the part of evolutionists to point this out. Very few experimentally-based scientific papers address such global conclusions—note that the discussion section of a scientific report must confine itself largely to addressing the experimental data at hand. Sweeping conclusions rarely make it past the reviewers. Most usually, significant papers add a bit of focused information to the overall structure, and this is how the edifice of science is constructed.
Don Batten responds:
We frequently describe evolution in “microbes-to-man” terms to overcome the bait-and-switch deception. This is continually being perpetrated on the lay public by atheistic proselytizers who deceptively give some example of trivial change in an organism (which can be adaptive and selectable by natural selection)—such as the peppered moths, antibiotic resistance, or even blind salamanders, and then gloat that this “proves evolution”. This crowing over changes that have nothing whatever to do with the grand scheme of evolution, as if it proves the latter, happens almost daily. It gets rather tiresome. We will continue to remind everyone of what is really being claimed, without apology, while ever this deceitful style of argumentation continues to be used. See: The evolution train’s a-comin’ (Sorry, a-goin’—in the wrong direction).
- Blount, Z.D., Borland, C.Z. and Lenski, R.E., Historical contingency and the evolution of a key innovation in an experimental population of Escherichia coli, PNAS 105: 7899–7906; published online on June 4, 2008, 10.1073/pnas.0803151105. This is Lenski’s inaugural paper as a newly inducted member of the National Academy of Sciences, USA—yet another dyed-in-the-wool atheistic evolutionist in that august body (see: National Academy of Science is godless to the core Nature survey). Return to text.