A recent article at the PhysOrg website describes a creationist’s worst nightmare: Genomics analysis demonstrates natural selection at work.
Here’s a link to the paper in Nature, Genomic analysis of a key innovation in an experimental Escherichia coli population. You can’t read it without a subscription, so we’ll give you a few excerpts from PhysOrg, with bold font added by us:
A team of researchers at Michigan State University has documented the step-by-step process in which organisms evolve new functions. The results … are revealed through an in-depth, genomics-based analysis that decodes how E. coli bacteria figured out how to supplement a traditional diet of glucose with an extra course of citrate.
This is neat, but it’s relatively technical stuff that we usually don’t discuss — unless the creationists step in to amuse us with their colossal goofiness, as they have now done. But first, a bit more from PhysOrg:
Normal E. coli can’t digest citrate when oxygen is present. In fact, it’s a distinct hallmark of E. coli. They can’t eat citrate because E. coli don’t express the right protein to absorb citrate molecules.
To decipher the responsible mutations, Blount worked with Richard Lenski, MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. Lenski’s long-term experiment, cultivating cultures of fast-growing E. coli, was launched in 1988 and has allowed him and his teammates to study more than more than 56,000 generations of bacterial evolution.
The experiment demonstrates natural selection at work. And because samples are frozen and available for later study, when something new emerges scientists can go back to earlier generations to look for the steps that happened along the way.
In the Nature paper, Blount and his teammates analyzed 29 genomes from different generations to find the mutational pieces of the puzzle. They uncovered a three-step process in which the bacteria developed this new ability.
Three steps over 56,000 generations? Okay, let’s read on:
The first stage was potentiation, when the E. coli accumulated at least two mutations that set the stage for later events.
The Nature paper explains that there was a duplication of a segment of DNA, the sort of thing that results from a copying error, one of which then mutated into something with a new function. Although creationists are always wailing that evolution can’t generate new “information,” that’s how it happens. We’ve described this sort of thing before (see How One Gene Becomes Two Different Genes). One last excerpt from PhysOrg:
“It wasn’t a typical mutation at all, where just one base-pair, one letter, in the genome is changed,” he [Lenski] said. “Instead, part of the genome was copied so that two chunks of DNA were stitched together in a new way. One chunk encoded a protein to get citrate into the cell, and the other chunk caused that protein to be expressed.”
Okay, now let’s get the creationist reaction. This is at the website of the granddaddy of all creationist outfits — the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). They’re the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom. Their new article is Bacterial ‘Evolution’ Is Actually Design in Action. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us and their links and scripture references omitted. First they mention the new research, and then they ask:
Some say this confirms evolution in action but what if the bacteria were designed to modify themselves? That might disappoint evolution enthusiasts.
Oooooooh! That’s a brilliant question, and one that hadn’t occurred to us. What would we do without these creation scientists? Then they ask this probing question:
Did the strain of E. coli that acquired the new ability to import citrate — called Cit+ — construct new functional, biochemical machinery by chance-base mutations?
To answer that question, they refer to the work of a brilliant creation scientist:
In 2010, biochemist Michael Behe reviewed 12 new phenotypes, which are outward expressions of genetic coding, that Lenski’s E. coli displayed from 1994 to 2008. Behe categorized the known genetics producing each new bacterial phenotypes as either losing, shuffling, or gaining what he called “functional coded elements,” which include genes and gene promoters. All the known changes in the bacteria were either a loss or reorganization of pre-existing functional coded elements. None of the new phenotypes came from a gain of functional coded elements, and yet this is what molecules-to-man evolution requires.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Michael Behe. He’s referring to work done before the publication of the new research. ICR quotes more from Behe:
At that time, the mechanism underlying the citrate-eating phenotype was unknown. Behe wrote, “If the [Cit+] phenotype is due to one or more mutations that result in, for example, the addition of a novel genetic regulatory element, gene-duplication with sequence divergence, or the gain of a new binding site, then it will be a noteworthy gain-of-FCT [Functional Coded elemenT] mutation.”
Well, that’s exactly what happened, so even Behe should acknowledge that the new research is noteworthy — although we have no current statement from him. But what does ICR say? They never disappoint us. Get this:
So, the big question is: Did E. coli evolve into a Cit+ strain by natural selection? Or did mutations construct new and functional coded elements to its DNA? If so, it would be the first in recorded biological history. If not, then it would be just another loss or modification of a pre-existing piece.
The answer to ICR’s “big question” is “Yes,” and it’s not the first time in biological history that this has been observed. After a tortured description of the new research, ICR says:
So, the bacteria solved the problem of accessing an alternative food source by generating extra copies of the critical gene and by placing those copies under the control of an appropriate promoter. Does any of this resemble natural, undirected Darwinian evolution? Not at all. This amazing mechanism invented no new functional coded elements. It merely modified pre-existing elements.
Stunning. Absolutely stunning. A classic example of reality denial. Here’s the end of their article:
Therefore, not only did the Cit+ bacteria not evolve in the molecules-to-man direction, but they showed what could only be ingenious DNA rearrangement mechanisms. What mainstream headlines portrayed as evidence for evolution is actually the opposite.
Thus endeth our lesson in creation science. And what did we learn today? We have learned that if you don’t like reality, just close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears (or wherever you like), refuse to listen, and repeat your dogma. It defeats the evolutionists every time.
Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.