What is it with creationists and fruit flies? Last year we posted Klinghoffer: “But They’re Still Fruit Flies!” Now we have another such item, but this time it’s from a different bunch of creationists.
The granddaddy of all creationist outfits, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), is the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom. They have this new post at their website: Do Hairless Fruit Fly Larvae Spell “Evolution”? Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us. It begins with a rhetorical question:
Does it matter whether the larvae of one fruit fly species have hairy backs while those of another are smooth?
Of course it matters! We would remind ICR’s creation scientist of what is written in the Good Book, Genesis 27:11, King James version:
And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man.
Please ignore that digression. Let’s read on:
Well, for scientists who believe both species descended from the same ancestor population, it could perhaps be taken as an example of evolution in action. The genetic causes for these particular differences, however, clearly show that no Darwinian processes were involved.
No Darwinian processes were involved? The creation scientist is talking about an article in Nature, and although he doesn’t provide a link to it, we will: Morphological evolution caused by many subtle-effect substitutions in regulatory DNA. You’ll need a subscription to read that article, but the abstract appears to contradict ICR. Its last sentence says:
These data provide unprecedented resolution of the phenotypic effects of substitutions and show how individual nucleotide changes in a transcriptional enhancer have caused morphological evolution.
Never mind what the researchers concluded. What’s important to us is what ICR says, so we continue:
An international team of biologists has teased out the genetic underpinnings of fruit fly larval hairs. The researchers found that the presence or absence of hairs resulted from “many subtle-effect substitutions in regulatory DNA,” not in genes. These minor changes were labeled “evolution in action,” but the study results actually show just the opposite. The variations in larvae hairs show at least two genetic features that only make sense if they were purposefully designed creations.
First, the researchers found that reducing the production of these tiny hairs only required the subtle alteration of a handful of DNA sequences that were not genes but were regulatory DNA called “enhancers.”
Ah — the DNA changes weren’t in genes but in another part of the genome. That means they were purposefully designed! Here’s more:
The researchers referred to these differences as “mutations,” but by definition, mutations are supposed to be randomly introduced genetic errors. Random differences should therefore be distributed randomly in the genome, not concentrated in a “focal region” that experiences DNA alteration rates “4.8 times higher” than nearby DNA sequences.
Hey — if they’re not randomly distributed, they’re not mutations. Bet you didn’t know that! Moving along:
Why are there so many differences in just one region and so few elsewhere? The authors speculated that the focal region “has evolved under positive selection, or relaxed constraints, or both.” It sounds as though they don’t really know.
We don’t know either, but we can guess. Maybe the researchers were working with a very select sample, and they didn’t observe other mutations occurring in the wild. Or maybe there were mutations affecting other regions of the genome, but those flies don’t survive to be observed. The region under study may have only a trivial effect on the organism, like producing larval hair, so such mutations cause no survival problems. This isn’t terribly difficult, and it seems a bit … ah, gratuitous to proclaim the “intentional design” conclusion.
Here’s another excerpt, and this is where the fun starts:
How could natural selection decide, so to speak, to act on one region of a genome when it can only kill off whole individuals if they prove to be “unfit”? And how does nature act at all, since it has no mind?
Powerful questions! The creation scientist provides a footnote for that, with a link to an ICR publication. We’ll ignore it. On with the article:
Yes, changes have occurred in fruit fly genomes. But since they’re all still fruit flies, and since the changes are non-random and therefore are controlled by intelligent genetic programming, these changes do not equal “evolution.”
And now we come to the end with its Darwin-destroying conclusion:
Clearly, the facts that only subtle DNA changes are needed to produce relevant body alterations, that the DNA changes did not occur in the genes (which would have corrupted vital code), and that the DNA changes occurred in a small and specific region, all add up to spell “Creator.”
Come on, dear reader — we know you’re impressed. Don’t be ashamed to admit it.
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