One Mutation Is Driving Creationists Crazy

There was an article about this a couple of weeks ago at PhysOrg — Random mutation, protein changes, tied to start of multicellular life, but we didn’t pay any attention to it.

A much more informative article appears today in the Register-Guard of Eugene, Oregon, home of the University of Oregon, where we read University of Oregon researcher’s paper on evolution stirs debate. The newspaper has a comments feature. Here are some excerpts from the news, with bold font added by us:

University of Oregon molecular biologist Ken Prehoda is experiencing the ups and downs of becoming a viral sensation — as in social media, not an infection. A paper on evolutionary biology he and co-authors published this month on eLifeSciences, an electronic scholarly journal, was ground-breaking enough that scientists nationally took notice — and so provocative that it became clickbait for opponents of evolutionary theory. Prehoda and UO researcher Douglas Anderson and others made a discovery that’s giving science a new avenue for exploring how all life on Earth evolved from a single-celled entity squirming in seawater.

Here’s the paper published in eLife: Evolution of an ancient protein function involved in organized multicellularity in animals. You can read it online without a subscription. Back to the newspaper article:

“How do you go from a single cell to an organized multicellular organism?” Prehoda said. “The key, really, is finding the steps.” Prehoda’s research argues that the change from single cell to multi-cell was much more easily accomplished than many scientists have thought previously. By contrast, the so-called intelligent design theory put forth by believers who say a divine entity created humans is based on the idea that organisms are so complex that they couldn’t arise from the random, step-by-step process of evolution.

So far, the creationist websites we follow haven’t talked about this. But they will. Let’s read on:

As a result, Prehoda now finds his email box stuffed with missives from unhappy anti-evolutionists. The writers’ general message is: “You say we come from cells and monkeys, but we come from God,” Prehoda said.

The eLife publication sparked an explosion of interest, with write-ups in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Discovery magazine. Readers hit the eLife link more than 30,000 times, which probably is a record for eLife, Prehoda said.

How did we miss this? Ah well, we’re on top of it now. The newspaper continues:

Prehoda’s team’s first problem was imagining how single-celled organisms could arrange themselves alongside their counterparts and establish a colony that could begin to cooperate and become complex, many-celled life forms.

Prehoda and other scientists realized that single-celled organism that propelled itself with a tail (called a flagellum) would have only one way to organize. “If you want to get together in a little sphere, and you have a tail, you can’t really stick the tail any way but out,” he said. Thus oriented, when the cells divided, they had a natural structure to follow. The tail specifies how the cells divide. In the lab, Prehoda and other paper collaborators — including some at Berkeley and Wisconsin — studied choanoflagellate, modern single-­celled organisms that sometimes form colonies to pursue food.

Sounds reasonable. Then what? We’re told:

Using sophisticated methods — the bread and butter of current evolutionary research — the scientists traced the organism’s genes back through the eons to the unicellular ancestor of all animal life on the planet. They do this by computer, comparing genes — with their pairs made of A,C,G,T — and inferring the mutations that caused changes at each stage of evolution.

Finally, when they arrived at the sequence of the ancient unicellular relative of all animal life, the researchers copied the sequenced information, sent it to a laboratory in Florida, and, a few days later, a tube of clear liquid containing the DNA of an ancient molecule that hadn’t existed for hundreds of millions of years arrived.

Skipping a bit:

And, to their surprise, it took only one mutation on one gene to give single cells the ability to get into position for multicellular cooperation, Prehoda said.

One mutation! Then, voilà — multi-cellular life! No Oogity Boogity required. You can see why the creationists are upset.

Now we’re going to skip a lot. If you’re interested in the details you can click over there to read it all, and the published paper too. This final excerpt comes from near the end:

From a microbiology standpoint, Prehoda said, there’s no argument about evolution. “You can make evolution happen on a rapid time scale in the lab,” he said. “We’ve witnessed evolution. Evolution is just a fact, hands down.”

So there you are, dear reader. What will ol’ Hambo say about this? Or the Discoveroids? They can’t ignore it, so this should be fun.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “One Mutation Is Driving Creationists Crazy

  1. To all the religious dimwits…”we come from gawd’…PROVE IT!!!!
    Evilution has evidence and proof, your BS has NONE!

  2. Those who complain that we come from God, not from a single cell …

    They ought to direct their complaint, not against evolution, but embryology.

  3. This is a multi-cellular evolution operation, have we successfully evolved the origin of the single cell question yet?

  4. Ah, let’s spin the Wheel of Excuses!

    Ham’s excuse: it’s an assumption! The have not directly seen this mutation so it doesn’t count. Poor atheists ( bible verse).

    Idiot’s excuse: it was done in a lab so it takes intelligence to do this. ID wins again.

    This will be their exact excuse, I’ll bet on it.

  5. Pete Moulton

    SC, I read your headline, and my first thought was, “This has to be the shortest drive in history.”

  6. Of course Rando is right. Still I’d like to quote a highly respected christian:

    “how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know.”

    Dietrich Bonhöffer, letter 1944.

  7. The comment thread on that article in the Register-Guard is one of the densest rat’s nests of creationist dumb-babblery that I have seen in a long time. Shazam!

  8. Worse than the excuses that creationists come up with is what happens if/when parts of this are later discovered to be wrong (I’m not making any predictions, just using it as an example). The creationist (I’m thinking here of the intelligent design creationist, mostly) gets to tell us all that creationists knew all along that it couldn’t be true, even though no creationists are ever involved in the process.

  9. Creationists who say “You say we come from cells and monkeys, but we come from God” are, of course, trying to stack the deck with sincere Christians. However, they miss a simple theological point: that even if we “come from God,” that doesn’t prove He/she/It didn’t use evolution to accomplish that purpose.

    Those who insist it does are depending on a selective literalism in reading the Bible. They tiptoe past Genesis 1:26, which says, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Us? Our image?

    Then, of course, there’s Genesis 6:2, which tell us that “the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.” The sons of God?

    These passages are embarrassing to fundamentalists, so they’re simply ignored, or else, with much hemming and hawing, explained away as symbolic. But if the latter course is taken, how is it legitimate to take the creation story as literally true, especially when there’s so much evidence against it?

  10. If I come from God, that does not mean that there is something wrong with the scientific study of reproduction when it does not take account of God’s creative act.
    If I come from God, that does not mean that I did not begin as a single cell, a zygote.

  11. Which God are they wittering about? Each and every civilisation seems to have invented their own set of gods. It’s so hard to choose one that fits one’s circumstances.

  12. Ceteris Paribus

    But any Creationist worth his sea-salt already knows the proper counter-ploy:
    If it is true that

    “[A]ll life on Earth evolved from a single-celled entity squirming in seawater.”

    , then how come there are still single-celled entities squirming in seawater?