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Can mutations lead to new genetic information?

A necessary clarification

Published: 17 August 2019 (GMT+10)

Updated: 19 August 2019

John G. wrote to us in response to our web article on a new sugar transport gene in yeast.

Wow I am confused. Did creation.com at one point long ago argue that no new information could be created in a genome? Because I really thought you guys did. Also what do you guys mean? A while back I heard that the gene duplication in the water strider was not evolution, what would be considered evolution then? If you slowly modify a part overtime then can it eventually make a new creature? You guys use to say that there is no mechanism for evolution period. Now you say "For large-scale macroevolution to happen, great quantities of new genetic information, contained within many new gene families, must be built up over billions of years." So macro evolution is possible because genomes change? I am not fully for evolution, but I find some of the arguments you guys have tough to grasp. I do not know if you guys have looked up elephants, but the trunk in the past was said to be smaller and more like a nose. This is a slight modification that is easily possible even from a creationist standpoint. The creationist standpoint seems to be slowly accepting what evolution really is. Also the sawfish is like an intermediate between a shark and a ray. It has mouth and gills like a ray but a tail as a shark. It is rather new in terms of being, imagine all the time it had to change from a shark/ray like creature to what it is and all you have to do is slightly modify it like the water strider. The ground sloth and todays sloths are another good example, the skull is much different in anatomy, yet it was a slight modification which creationists believe are both related. Please enlighten me on how to understand CMI's viewpoint and how you can work with all these major differences in creatures from the past and the ever changing genome.
DNA

Dr. Matthew Cserhati (CMI-US) responds:

Hello John,

 Thanks for your questions and your concerns. I will answer to the best of my ability. 

As far as we know, we did not make the statement that no new information could be created in the genome. The article Can mutations create new information? helps clarify the relationship between mutations and genetic information. This article also talks about genetic recombination, which is what happened in the case of the new yeast gene that is now capable of taking up maltotriose, as I discussed in the article you are asking about. Also, we have written many articles about how genetic information changes between species within a kind

God did not create fixed species. Nor did He create static genomes. If a gene is duplicated, the information content has changed, but a new kind of information has not been created. One common hypothesis in evolutionary theory is that gene duplication followed by mutational divergence can create the diversity we see in living things. But this does not lead to new kinds of genes which code for proteins with entirely new functions. If evolution is true, the thousand or so genes in some ancient bacterium must have multiplied and diversified into hundreds of thousands of new genes, with all sorts of new abilities. New families of enzymes, structural proteins, regulators, etc. would have to be added to this expanding and diversifying genome. Yet we simply do not see this process occurring today. Rearranging segments of DNA, duplicating and deleting genes, etc., is not a recipe for the wholesale invention of brand-new biochemical pathways.

Think about Down Syndrome. This is caused by the duplication of a small piece of DNA. It is nearly fatal and has drastic consequences for those who carry it. You can’t just duplicate any gene you want, for gene copy number is one of the primary means of genetic regulation in the cell. Also, if a gene were duplicated, and if it did not confer any specific advantage or disadvantage to the individual carrying it, the duplication would be a prime candidate for deletion. We see deletion occurring in many different species in all sorts of environments. There are species of marine bacteria, for example, who have lost entire biochemical pathways. They survive because other species are present that produce the desired product and excrete it into the water. In environments where these other species are not present, the first species has retained the genes. The model of ‘duplication followed by divergence’ does not work in the real world.

You also asked about elephants. We would have to look at who said what about how long elephants’ nose were in the past. Just because evolutionists suggest that ancient elephants had shorter trunks, this doesn’t count as hard evidence. It is only an inference. To reconstruct the trunk of an elephant is rather difficult, because the trunk doesn’t contain any bones, and would have decomposed over millions of years, if evolution were true. If they did find soft tissue from elephant trunks, this would prove that the elephants aren’t millions of years old!

Some fossil elephants have been discovered with downward-pointing tusks. But what would this prove? Do you know what kind of mutation in which genes were responsible for turning the tusk upside down? This is the key point. Furthermore, there is no evolutionary explanation as to how the tusk came about in the first place. Or the elephant’s nose for that matter. You might have heard about gomphotheres, which are extinct elephants which had not two, but four tusks, one pair that points upwards, the other points downwards. This species is now extinct, so therefore it is quite possible that with the separate loss of the lower tusks we get modern elephants, whereas loss of the upper tusks gives us the elephants with downward-looking tusks. Loss of tusks could well be possible to loss of genes, which is loss of information! As in so many other examples, the living representatives of the elephant kind have less diversity than we see in the fossil record. This fits in nicely with the biblical model.

As to the water strider gene duplication event, I am not sure which study you are referring to. However, I did find a recent paper published in Science.1 This study does report the appearance of a fan-like structure on the middle two legs of the water strider Rhagovelia antilleana. It mentions five genes that are involved in the expression of this seemingly novel structure. Three of these genes are merely the “redeployment of conserved developmental programs”, meaning that these three self-same genes were simply expressed at different levels. Differential gene expression has been observed in nature many times, but this does not involve the evolution of new genes. The other two genes, c67063_g1 and c68581_g1 appear to be duplicated. The complex regulation of these five genes is responsible for the development of fans on the middle legs of this one water strider, making locomotion on the surface of fast-flowing water much easier. But even though two genes have been duplicated, this does not decisively prove evolution. Extra genetic information does not lead to a new kind of information, as I stated earlier. The blood protein hemoglobin has several variants, but hemoglobin has never been observed to mutate into an entirely new gene. Neither have the duplicate genes c67063_g1 and c68581_g1 been observed to mutate into entirely new genes. For that, these genes would need to undergo numerous base pair substitutions, something which was not demonstrated in the lab. Therefore, although it appears that gene duplication in water striders can lead to morphological change, it is still not the kind that is required by evolutionary theory. The self-same authors of this study also say, “ … clear examples of how taxon-restricted genes contribute to evolution of such traits remains scarce.” They also note that there is very little documentation about how morphological innovations lead to the potential to occupy new ecological niches. This is surprising, considering how long evolutionary theory has been around.

Finally, we get to your questions about sawfishes, which we have written about previously. These animals, as well as sharks and rays, belong to the class of fish called Chondrichtyes, that is, the cartilaginous fish. Currently, sawfish are classified together with the rays (superorder Batoidea) instead of the sharks. There is good reason for this. For example, like rays, the sawfish mouth and gill inlets are on the underside of its body. You asked if the sawfish is intermediate between sharks and rays? In other words, are sharks and rays separate created kinds, or did they evolve from an original shark-ray? What we know for sure is that sharks and rays have no ancestors in the geologic record. Worse, ancient rays and sharks look very much the same as their modern counterparts. Thus, there is no evidence for their evolution from earlier forms and no evidence for their evolution once they appear. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter which group the sawfish is more similar to, because we know that sawfish, sharks, and rays are not the product of evolution.

References and notes

  1. Santos, M.E., Le Bouquin, A., Crumière, A.J.J., and Khila, A., Taxon-restricted genes at the origin of a novel trait allowing access to a new environment. Science 358(6361):386–390, 2017. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Graham P.
Great response Mathew. Very well presented and thought out.
You have to wonder if some of these correspondents really want to find the truth. Or whether they only want to repeat certain comforting phrases.
Matthew Cserhati
Hello Graham,
Thanks for your response.
Travis E.
Great question and great answer. This area really is where the rubber hits the road. It never ceases to amaze me just how powerful our philosophical presuppositions are in regard to allowing us to accept or reject such polarised interpretations of the same information. As Dr Cserhati's response clearly demonstrates genetic entropy is not a theory, it's a law. Of course within this law their is room for the occasional advantageous mutation to occur but this is the exception not the norm. The overall trend is in one direction only, and that is towards devolution not evolution. Accepting this is merely accepting reality. Despite this the fact remains that whenever I share this information with theistic evolutionists or Darwinists, they don't even blink. It's not like they refute it or anything, they just ignore it. I suppose this just confirms how effective our academic indoctrination system is, in its ability to train people to accept the latest ephemeral scientific 'consensus' as the ultimate authority source rather than the immutable truth of the logos of God, the bible.
'For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.' Ephesians 6:12
Just my 2 cents...
John G.
This article did a decent job with answering my questions, but when I was talking about the elephants I was referring to the trunks they had not their tusks they had. If you look at the evolutionary paradigm of the elephant it shows that their mouth and trunk either were connected (Usually shown in older reconstructions on site like Wiki) You have to go further back in the evolution to the earlier elephants to see this, but newer reconstructions show the mouth and trunk separated. Not sure how they can truly tell if the trunk was with the mouth or separate, but they seem to know that the earlier elephants that were true elephants had shorter trunks possibly the trunk was more like a snout possibly too according to old reconstructions. Also when you say this is not morphological change to the degree of evolution with the water strider, what changed to give them this ability? Like what part to be exact? Was it their leg that grew, was it a type of insect fuzz that mutated, or was it simply a deformed body part? I tried to get a close up of the leg online to better understand how this cannot be an evolutionary change. I still am confused as to what would be an evolutionary change then if God was not directly involved in this as sin Genesis describes with creation. I am still on the fence with this because I cannot see creature arising from microbes to become man, but I also do not see where you guys are going with this. If you believe creatures change like the ground sloth article I recently viewed, where is the limit? Why not just say that evolution is possible, but just not microbes to man, but it is quite likely that all marsupials and all carnivores are related? The limits seem to be the sky when looking at genetics.
Matthew Cserhati
Hello John,
My apologies as to the misunderstanding, we have corrected in our response article. Now, you mention “reconstructions” a couple times on Wikipedia. Would you please reference which Wikipedia page this is? Also, just because evolutionists depict ancient elephants with shorter trunks, this doesn’t count as hard evidence, only an inference. To reconstruct the trunk of an elephant is rather difficult, because the trunk doesn’t contain any bones, and would have broken down over millions of years, if evolution were true. If they did find soft tissue from elephant trunks, this would prove that the elephants aren’t millions of years old!
As to the water strider, let me explain what would count as a true evolutionary change, and then I will demonstrate that this is not the case as in the water strider. What would count as evolutionary change in the genetic sense is if we could observe how a gene mutates step by step (literally base by base) so as to produce an entirely new gene with an entirely new function. Let’s say if you start out with an adenosine phosphatase, and letter by letter you get an aldolase dehydrase. The DNA sequence of these two genes is very different. Evolutionists would have to show us the individual stages of this gene mutating into the other gene. As a comparison, let’s say you want to rewrite the word “molecular genetics” to “human biology”. You’d start with “holecular genetics” until you completely rewrite the word. But all throughout the process you’d have to show me that each intermediate gene variant (or word) is not only viable, but also needed by the organism. Would a word such as “homar beonegy” make sense? A DNA sequencing from one gene to another would involve disruption of the active center of the protein or turning the protein inside out. There is no way such intermediate forms would be viable.
What happened in the water strider? The 2017 Santos article which describes the appearance of a leg-fan in the species Rhagovelia antilleana mentions five genes: y, cp19, ccdc174, c67063_g1 and c68581_g1. The first three genes underwent a gain of expression. This means that these three genes were originally in the water strider genome, they were just turned on. So, just if I turn on the computer doesn’t mean that the computer assembled itself. It’s only turned on and running. The last two genes are duplicate genes. This means that these two genes were copied off of another existing gene. But just because they are copies doesn’t answer the question of how the original gene came into existence. The researchers don’t deal with that. Now, together these five genes are capable of coding for fans on the middle two legs of the water strider. Is the fan a new structure? Yes, it is. Does it prove evolution? No, it does not. This is because evolution can only be proven if an adequate explanation is provided for (radically) new genes coming into existence (a radically new gene being a gene with an entirely new sequence and structure). This is because the genotype determines the phenotype. The fans may indeed be a new morphological structure, but because no new genes have arisen in the process, then evolution does not have a case.
Melvyne C.
Well answered the remark, "I do not know if you guys have looked up elephants, but the trunk in the past was said to be smaller and more like a nose." That's a Pinnocheo tale. True science finds such impossible to replicate! The whale-bear example Darwin gave as a prime example for his imaginary ideas was eventually pulled from later editions of Origins! Darwin was not best pleased. He had suffered a direct hit to down his hypothesis of unlimited change in species.
Mark Z.
There is no one who has shown mastery of the creators living language/system that is within the living, who can speak about the source with full understanding. Giving what they see a name, mutation, is not an answer, and it is not an understanding. Understanding is knowing what they see is either expected by design or is damage. For example, “the new yeast gene”, CMI please demonstrate your understanding of the language/system and respond to all that was involved systematically. Can we say the new yeast gene is a logical response to the cause? Please explain why you would include such a capability within the design. People are dishonest to self as it has been said that design only looks like design. But when people manufactured the heart it was required to build mechanics into the design. The lack of understanding reveals that the world is not ready to conclude on the matter. There is a judge for this, the words that have been spoken, junk DNA.
From what has been seen, concerning they who create make belief, building upon things never witnessed, we can understand the teaching of the house built on sand.
Matthew Cserhati
Hello Mark,
Thank you for your comment. Indeed, human language is a very complex construct. The human brain is wired from birth to understand and produce speech. Any changes in the brain structure would degrade this language system.
As to the yeast gene, God did no create static genomes. Every single person in the world has a unique genome, besides that of identical twins (and even they accumulate mutations over time). Thus, God may have created certain mutational hotspots in the genome, which may create new gene variants. Not entirely new genes, only new variants.
For example, take the so-called immunoglobin genes, which code for proteins which take part in getting rid of bacteria/foreign bodies during the immune response. These immunoglobin proteins all have the same basic structure. However, a short portion of the protein is highly variable. This highly variable region is what comes in contact with the bacterium, in order to recognize it. Now, since the surface of every foreign body is unique, a unique matching protein structure in this short hypervariable region of the immunoglobin protein has to be generated in order to attach to the foreign body. This is somewhat similar to the jagged surface of a housekey. Each key is unique, because each key has to fit (or “recognize”) a specific doorknob. As a rough comparison, the immunoglobin hypervariable region produces molecules which recognize bacteria and other foreign bodies, whereas a keymaster produces keys with unique jagged edges.
So this new yeast gene may be the result of such a dynamic adaptation to a new source of sugar, but yet not a case for evolution.
Michael S.
John G, it seems to me evolutionists constantly want to indulge semantics about what animal kinds are and about information. They enjoy equivocating with "new information". The fact is to get a completely new anatomy such as a bat's anatomy from a quadruped mammal (that's a mammal with four legs and no wings), means you don't only require new information for the bat's morphology, you also need there to be viable intermediate stages. So I find you comments ultimately to be sophistry on behalf of evolution. You imply you just need new information. The fact is even if there is new information in a genome it would be a ridiculously optimistic hasty generalization fallacy to then infer that all anatomical information came about this way WITHOUT A TRACE. What I mean by "without a trace", is like Dr C said, there simply isn't any evolutionary history for any complex anatomy that would have had to evolved, had evolution actually occurred. Show me the new information that led to intermediate bats. They don't exist! Neither do any ancestors exist for anything in between such as between legs and arms, arms and wings, wings and fins, arms and fins, fins and legs, non-insect wings and insect wings. There is nobody home when it comes to evolution, and inconsequential, trivial changes in genes does not amount to evolution miraculously creating everything on this planet. It is a complete deception and delusion. So you have to do a lot more than provide new information, you have to show viable in between stages for all of the complex anatomies. What about reproduction?
Mark Z.
Concerning what is written, “and every winged bird according to its kind”. From this, I understand that in a hierarchy, “bird” is only the classification. This branches to the kinds like parrot or pigeon. Then this branches to all pigeons or parrots according to their kind. From my understanding of what CMI has claimed is that parrots are limited to the diversity according to its kind. The world has witnessed this change for example beak size differences. What is confusing about what we see? Ask yourself, how would you design, one image or variety? Or design beak size for purpose?
The world has no understanding or answers for what they see, they just call it mutation. None have said what systematically occurs to produce what they see or the understanding of it.
Without understanding, the world said junk DNA. This is testimony enough of the error of those not building on truth.
Matthew Cserhati
Hello Mark,
Genesis 1:21 talks about God having created “every winged bird according to its kind”. Now, this verse does not mention parrots, or pigeons, or hawks, or owls, or swifts or hummingbirds as individual kinds. We simply do not know. Thus, we have the scientific freedom to devise statistical methods to separate bird species into separate kinds. Of course, we are holding to Scripture tightly, and our own creation models loosely. It may be that after 1-2 re-analyses, our classification may have to change, which has happened in my case.
So, for example Darwin’s finches, as you say all vary in the size of their beak. We would classify all of these finches into the same kind. As with parrots, they differ in their coloration and/or plumage. As to how I would design such animals would be an interesting topic, but it is God Who created these animals, and thus I would only attempt to think God’s thoughts after Him.
John G.
The elephant evolution idea I will admit lacks evidence like it really does I went to wiki and looked through TONS of supposed fossils for the evolution of the elephant. The best one I found was the paleo mastodon. If you look at it here: [link deleted per feedback rules]Palaeomastodon there are three recontructions of it. One shows it with a mouth snout and the other two show it with a trunk. As a doubter to most ideas to evolution (if not all) I find this a problem, this shows that they do not know how long the trunk really was. I could be wrong here, but according to this, the elephant's trunk is not possible to be told for sure. I wonder if they only do that because it is older than the rest. The other older fossil I saw was one call moeritherium which I wonder is an elephant at all. It seems to match the elephant somewhat in skull anatomy, but the reconstructions show it from elephant like all the way to some sort of water hippo like creature. I would have to be skeptic of evolution here to be honest. What are your thoughts? Also the giant ground sloth seems like it would be a good idea of evolution which was never addressed. The change from a bear like creature to a tree monkey like creature seems like the perfect transition. Very sorry for all the questions. I am studying these things at the same time.
Matthew Cserhati
The problem with these reconstructions is that they don’t actually show the hard evidence for what these animals’ trunk really looked like. Imagination is not demonstration. Also, the problem with evolutionary theory is that they assume that similarity means descent. When they look at a group of organisms, for example elephants, they will force the fossils into a framework of continuous development. If something contradicts the picture of onwards development, they shoehorn that specific species/fossil into a sidebranch. The evidence is doctored in such a way so as to fit the prior evolutionary pre-supposition.
Nevertheless, I looked at the article by Larramendi (2016) on the wikipage that you referenced. I read this about how they inferred the size of the trunk: “Thus, with regard to the trunks (proboscis), as most extinct proboscideans (Elephantiformes and deinotheres) had columnar forelimbs, the proboscis had to be long enough to reach the ground and facilitate feeding and drinking without bending. So when the neck and mandible are short and the legs are long, the trunk may be longer and vice versa. The cranial morphology, long neck, and long mandible of Moeritherium indicates that it did not have a proboscis, unlike many reconstructions.”
Another idea is that there are certain genes called Hox genes, which are responsible for certain anatomical structures. Repetitive structures, such as the number of segments in a fruit fly or millipede are also coded for by these genes. Interestingly, the number an orientation of these genes may be responsible for the positioning of different anatomical parts. Maybe a Hox gene is behind the length of the trunk. Less Hox genes, shorter trunk.
Let’s compare the situation with elephants to that of dogs. If an evolutionist were to compare the skull of a poodle and the skull of a wolf, he would come to the conclusion that they were very different kinds of animals, even though they all belong to the same kind. Similarly, it might be that case that before the Flood, there was much more morphological diversity among animal groups. There are only two species of elephants alive today, for example. Mastodons, stegodons and mammoths could represent a larger diversity of the elephant kind in previous times.
Joshua S.
Isn't the development of a symbiotic relationship between amobes and bacteria an absolute novel addition of information? Ref: [link deleted per feedback rules] Thank you
Matthew Cserhati
Hello Joshua,

Thanks for your question. I read the article that you referenced, and I can definitely say that it does not describe any addition of new genetic information. What is happening is merely the differential expression of two pre-existing genes which code for an enzyme called S-adenosylmethionine synthetase (SAMS). This enzyme produces S-adenosylmethionine from the amino acid mehionine and also the energy molecule ATP, and which serves as an intracellular signal used in in cell growth and division. The amoeba has two sams genes, sams1 and sams2, the first one of which produces the enzyme SAMS. The amoeba can exist in either a symbiont free manner, or together with bacterial symbionts. When the symbiont bacteria are together with the amoeba, then the activity level of the SAMS enzyme drops to half its level of expression. Interestingly, the gene sams1 is turned off, but the second sams gene, sams2 is activated, albeit at a lower level. The second sams gene is activated in response to the symbiotic bacteria. This is what the article is describing on a basic level, but it does not even attempt to describe the origin of either gene. When two organisms such as the bacteria and the amoeba live together, no new genes arise from this kind of mutualism, however, different genes present in both organisms change their expression levels. It is to be expected since these two organisms interact with one another at such a close level.

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