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Evaluating Evidence (2)


darwinfish

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Answers in Genesis Part 2:

 

 

After reading through several Answers in Genesis articles, the one I wanted to respond to is:

 

 

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/cfl/mutations

 

 

First and foremost, I'm not an evolution defender. I've read several books on evolution, and I think at this point I understand the basic mechanisms much better than I would have even a few years ago. I also think that I can explain these mechanisms in very simplistic terms, although, not being a professional, I may misstate a few of the concepts. The reason why I'm not an evolution defender is simply that evolution has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not a God exists. And, the conversation that I really think is more important is why is it that people think I should believe in a God? Evolution is an explanation how life diversified on this planet. It is an explanation of that and nothing more. It is unable to explain how life began, how consciousness occurs, or what might happen when that life dies. Evolution is comprised of all the best research that we currently have concerning biology. This theory isn't based on one or even a few pieces of evidence. It's based on archeology, anthropology, genetic, and biological research. Each piece of evidence has been criticized by scientific peers, the research has been duplicated, and the evidence has withstood the most rigorous scrutiny. The theory of evolution is the theory that is able to explain all this evidence. If there was a different scientific theory that could fully explain all the facts, and it replaced evolution, it would not affect the conversation of whether or not a God exists in the slightest. So, to accept or deny the theory of evolution does not affect your acceptance or denial of the existence of God. Concerning the question of why should I believe there is a God, evolution adds nothing towards that conversation. So, I have no interest in convincing anyone about evolution.

 

 

Why am I responding to this article? The simple answer is that I am told that Answers in Genesis is a resource that supports a Biblical world view and a literal interpretation of Genesis. This interpretation promotes a young Earth model, denies evolution in favor of a literal six week creation, and supports a Noah's ark flood story as an actual world wide event. Since I was told that these are good explanations with evidence that supports the Bible, I thought it was important to review them myself.

 

 

This article claims to have three reasons why evolution doesn't work. The first two claims of this article does not address any of the actual claims that evolution makes. I want to point out that, at least, those first two reasons are off topic and a misrepresentation of the actual claims of evolutionary scientists. In general, the Answers in Genesis website uses far too many straw men arguments in all the articles I've read. The basic idea of a straw man argument is that you make an argument that is mostly absurd, and tear it apart, and claim that is the argument that your opponent is making, when in fact that it is not the actual argument of your opponent. It's called a straw man argument because it's equivalent to fighting a straw man instead of an actual man.

 

 

The three reasons why evolution can't work according to this article are:

 

 

 

(1) Mathematical challenges. In this section, the article claims that it's mathematically impossible for evolution to occur because it would have to have 4 mutations in the DNA strand in series(connected to each other). The math that this could happen randomly shows it's impossible. Evolution does occur by errors in the DNA. Error in this sense means that a duplicate DNA strand is different than the DNA strand it was copied from, not error as in a bad mutation. The majority of mutations have no noticeable effect. But, there's no reason why they would need to be in series or that 4 must occur in a single generation. I want to stress that all this math that is being used in this section is referring to a genetic change in a SINGLE generation. Try to picture the argument that this article is making, a "fish to a philosopher", in one generation. By and large, beneficial mutations, and subsequent beneficial mutations (a mutation adding on to the effect of the first), occur so rarely that it's often several generations before physical changes within a species are even noticeable (evidence for this, is in the fossil remains). The real argument this article is making refers to bacteria. Bacteria are able to produce 4 mutations, in series, in a single generation. In pointing out that to do this from random mutations would be impossible, this article is correct, which is why scientists had to figure out how bacteria were able to do this. They discovered the mechanism, plasmids, and it's not random, and has nothing to do with ordinary evolution, it's a unique mechanism to bacteria. So, this section doesn't address what the true mathematical odds are for ordinary evolution at all, but then declare it impossible.

 

 

(2) Upward or downward? This section makes the claim that beneficial mutations are impossible, again without addressing the mechanism that evolution uses. To restate, the mechanism for ordinary evolution is from DNA errors that occur in duplication. Instead this section addresses damage to DNA strands through diseases and other means. Damaged DNA strands are not evolutionary mutations. Damaged DNA strands are malfunctioning DNA strands. Evolutionary mutations occur in replication errors in normal functioning DNA. This section really gets bizarre with absurdities like a creature being born from one parent having half it's DNA. If a creature were born with only one parent's set of DNA that would be equivalent to a clone. It would have ALL it's DNA from a single parent. Not some creature existing missing half its chromosomes. But, the ultimate claim this section is making is that beneficial mutations do not occur. Is this true? I'm aware of an ongoing experiment with E Coli that started in the 80's. Here's a link:

 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._coli_long-term_evolution_experiment

 

 

One interesting development in this experiment is that a segment of the E Coli began to grow on citrate in an oxygen rich environment. This is something that E Coli cannot do. What they found was that a group of E Coli had a mutation several generations ago that had a neutral effect. Later on a second mutation gave the E Coli this ablity. It's a pretty fascinating experiment to read up on. I think this experiment shows that beneficial mutations do occur.

 

 

This is just an experiment under lab conditions that I wanted to point to do dispute this fact, but the truth is that we see beneficial mutations all the time. We call it selective breeding. This is how breeders develop particular traits in animals that they want. When one animal has a trait that the breeder desires then that animal is allowed to continue breeding. Even this article admits that copying errors occur in every generation when an offspring is conceived. These mutations generate small changes in traits. In nature, the desirable traits are selected by whether or not a new trait will allow that generation to breed more than the past generation, if so, than that trait will continue to subsequent generations. That is what natural selection means. The environment becomes the determining factor that selects what traits are beneficial.

 

 

 

(3) Mutations point back to creation. This is the only section that doesn't present a straw man. It makes an actual claim, "evolutionists need some kind of 'genetic script writer' to increase the quantity and quality of genetic information. Mutations are just 'typographic errors' that occur as genetic script is copied. Mutations have no ability to compose genetic sentences, and thus no ability to make evolution happen at all." This claim deserves an actual answer. A good online resource I found that explains the means that allow mutations to become evolutionary changes is:

 

 

http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/origins-of-new-genes-and-pseudogenes-835

 

 

I used this website because it has the most references to back up the claims it makes, although it's not really meant for a laymen explanation. For, that I would recommend two books: The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins and What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr.

 

 

I, obviously, didn't address each and every claim in these sections because that would be very time consuming. I don't like addressing straw men arguments, I think that leads down a rabbit trail and never really gets to the subject at hand. I also feel that if the authors would either speak to a professional in the evolutionary field, or just read up on the claims of evolution, they would see how these arguments don't hold up. I do hope that at least pointing out the straw man arguments is useful. If I can find future articles that don't jump to straw men arguments, I'll do my best to respond to those kind of articles. But, this will be the only article using straw man arguments I plan on responding to.

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