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Friday, June 02, 2006

Differences versus Changes within organisms

Professor Maciej Giertych, M.A.(Oxford), Ph.D.(Toronto), D.Sc.(Poznan), is head of the Genetics Department of the Polish Academy of Sciences at the Institute of Dendrology in Kornik, Poland. He is on the editorial board of two international periodicals: Silvae Genetics, published in Germany, and Annales ses sciences forestieres published in France. He is a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences Committee on Forest Sciences, and on the Forestry Council in the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Natural Resources and Forestry. He is the author of about 150 scientific papers in Polish and international periodicals.

I may have linked part of this treatise before, but now I am printing it in entirety to make a point. First, the article:

Professor of genetics says 'No!' to evolution

by Maciej Giertych

As a forester, I study populations of trees and breed more productive ones. I have done much reviewing of forest genetic literature and writing of monographic volumes on various forest tree species for the Institute of Dendrology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, where I work. I often contribute chapters on genetics. I know of no biological data relevant to tree genetics that would require evolutionary explanations. I could easily pursue my career without ever mentioning evolution.

EVIDENCE LACKING

However, being also an academic teacher in population genetics, I found it necessary to play down the evolutionary explanations given in textbooks, for the simple reason that I find no evidence to support them. In fact, it was my teaching of population genetics, coupled with the discovery that my children are being taught evolution in secondary school on the claim that population genetics provides evidence for it, that made me enter the debate publicly.

I had been taught that palaeontology gives the bulk of the evidence for evolution. To my surprise, I found that evidence is lacking not only in genetics but also in palaeontology, as well as in sedimentology, in dating techniques, and in fact in all sciences. However, here I shall restrict myself to a review of the arguments for evolution drawn from my field, genetics.

Perhaps the most evident misinformation in textbooks is the suggestion that microevolution is a small-scale example of macroevolution.


MICROEVOLUTION


The example used to support this is usually the story about the grey or black moths (Biston betularia) living on the bark of trees, the population adapting in colour to the colour of the bark — darker in industrial, polluted environments, and lighter in cleaner ones.

The misinformation lies in concealing the fact that select, adapted populations are genetically poorer (fewer alleles 1) than the unselected natural populations from which they arose. We find the same in forest trees. In polluted environments, the surviving trees have fewer alleles than in non-polluted ones. Microevolution, formation of races, is a fact. Populations adapt to specific environments with the more successful alleles increasing in numbers and others declining in frequencies or disappearing altogether. Change can also occur due to accidental loss of alleles (genetic drift) in small isolated populations. Both amount to decline in genetic information. Macroevolution requires its increase.

BREEDING

The same is true of breeding. Breeders eliminate unwanted genes making domesticated forms genetically poorer. These are usually helpless in nature and perish when left without human help. If not, this is due to quick inter-breeding with wild forms that replenish the gene pool.

Most of the successes in breeding come from guided recombination. The breeder pools certain rare genes into one individual or population to achieve the desired combination of traits. Nothing new is produced.


POSITIVE MUTATIONS?


A useful mutation (e.g. an orange without seeds) is not the equivalent of a positive mutation. I felt uneasy lecturing about positive mutations when I could not give an example. There are very many examples of negative and neutral mutations, but none I know of which I could present as a documented example of a positive one.

Genetic literature on the subject often confuses mutations with alleles, or even mutations with recombinations. The finding of an allele that is useful for some purpose is not the equivalent of demonstrating a positive mutation — similarly when the find concerns a useful recombinant of alleles existing in the gene pool.

Variants of alleles in a gene pool are a fact of life. How they came to be is another matter. Some, usually neutral or excessively deleterious, arise from mutations. Some are introgressants from other species. Still others are within the population since its origin — however that came about.

Much evolutionary publicity is attached to forms that develop resistance to man-made chemicals. Usually they are variants that normally exist in nature but were selected out by the chemical reagent.

In one instance, it was demonstrated that a single nucleotide substitution in the genome was responsible for resistance to a weed-specific herbicide. The herbicide is 'custom-made' for attachment and deactivation of a vital protein specific for the weed plant. A single change in the genetic code for this protein, in the sector used for defining the herbicide attachment, deprives the herbicide of attachability and therefore of its herbicidal properties. Such a change has no selective value except in the context of the man-made herbicide. Even if originating from mutation (it could be a rare neutral allele always present in the population but springing into prominence because of the use of the herbicide) this would be no more than a neutral mutation; not depriving the protein of its function but neither creating a new function for it. So where is the evolution?

UNIVERSALITY OF THE GENETIC SYSTEM

Similarities are often used as arguments for evolution. But lack of similarities is never accepted as an argument against it. The similarity of the shape of my hand and that of a frog is an argument for common ancestry. The difference between mine and that of a horse or a bat is not. And yet the latter are supposed to be closer relatives of mine.

The same logic is used when claiming that the universality of the genetic system (DNA-RNA-protein) proves common ancestry. There are many biochemical systems that are not universal. They are specific for some groups of organisms and absent in others. These are never accepted as arguments against evolution.

MOLECULAR GENETICS

Many hoped that molecular genetics would confirm evolution. It did not. It confirms taxonomic 2 distances between organisms, but not the postulated phylogenetic 3 sequences.* It confirmed Linnaeus, 4 not Darwin.

Molecular genetics presented new problems. Genomes [all the genes in an organism] have multiple copies of genes or of noncoding sequences, very homogeneous within a species but heterogeneous between species. Such 'repeats' could not have been formed by random mutations acting on a common genome of a postulated ancestor. Some unexplained 'molecular drive' is postulated to account for these copies. It is simpler to assume there was no common ancestral genome.**

What do we see in the short time interval available to our cognition? An increase in the number of useful alleles or a decrease? An increase in the number of species or a decrease? An increase in information in nature or loss of it? Is nature moving from chaos to ever-increasing organization, or from an organized state towards ever-increasing chaos? Evolution is not a conclusion drawn from observations. It is an ideology to which observations are applied when convenient and ignored when not.

Having entered the battle against evolution I found myself confronted not so much by scientists as by philosophers. In an atmosphere of rejecting all communist propaganda my views received considerable publicity and popular interest in Poland. Strangely enough, Marxist and Catholic philosophers joined forces to combat my activity. In fact, Catholic clergymen, even some bishops, are most prominent in defending evolution. I found it necessary to study the theological and philosophical objections to the writings of such people as Fr Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

The confrontation with the philosophers is the difficult part. My forestry training did not prepare me for this. Now I battle both in scientific circles and within the Church. But my activity is bringing results.

The teachers of evolution are beginning to speak in less convincing words. The offensive in support of evolution is so intensive and so well financed that it appears evolutionists are very worried.

They should be.

Refrences and Footnotes

1.An allele is one of two or more alternative forms of a gene, which determine the same characteristic but produce a different effect (e.g. the eye-colour gene can have a 'brown' or 'blue' allele).

2.Taxon: category in classification, e.g. species, phylum.

3.Phylogeny: the supposed evolutionary history or family tree of a species or other group.

4.Linnaeus classified plants and animals in the eighteenth century, establishing the modern study of taxonomy.

*Evolutionary history. — Ed.

**That is, the basic types of organisms did not arise by evolution from a common ancestor. — Ed. ancestor. — Ed.


When you study the genetic codes of various organisms, you find both similarities and differences. Simply put, an evolutionist will see those differences but will not see them as mere differences. Rather, he sees changes!

Let me illustrate. One of the commenters to this blog is apparently a brilliant individual who has a sense of humor and knows his way around the field of science. But allow me to characterize some of the language of the links he sends me to or much of the information he types into the comment blog. Some of the common words and phrases:

-May

-Might

-Possible/possibly

-it just happened that

-Perhaps

Etc., etc. One thing that kills me about evolutionary science is that it consists largely of speculations and just-so stories but no hard evidence. When one reads a typical paper or article regarding the supposed evolution of a system within an organism or the organism itself there are large amounts of 'maybes' where evidence should be found. Typically, evolutionary scientists do become remarkably knowledgeable about what is found today within the organisms they study but cannot see the leaps of logic they make when attempting to show how evolution may have occurred. Why is this? Because evolution is presumed when studying organisms or systems within organisms. It is presumed...it is accepted as factual...it is incorporated into their thinking without question.

That is just crazy! Even in the case of something as apparently obvious as gravity had to be tested carefully to identify how it operated and whether it was a constant force or not. What if it had not ever been tested and tried and understood? Imagine the surprise of the first astronauts to leave the gravitational force of the earth. With spacecraft designed for a constant pull of gravity, astronauts would not have been able to function, heck, they might not have been able to eat or drink!

Yet, scientists in various fields of study take evolution for granted, assume it exists and go on their merry way without one shred of proof while totally ignoring any evidence, any clues, that all things were indeed created. These are the people for whom the appearance of life from non-life is no problem, the millions of complex systems within various organisms give no pause, the obvious blueprint found in every organism ever identified just a coincidence.

I have said this: "Great science does not preclude possibilities. Great scientists do not willingly blind one eye as they seek truth." Yet most scientists today willingly close and lock the God door as they look for every other portal to understanding life. Most scientists today take evolution as generally postulated by Darwin as fact, obvious fact, and therefore do not even consider whether it could possibly be at all.

Dan S pointed me to a cartoon which is worth checking out. Did you view it? Good. The implication is that including God in the discussion takes us away from science. The cartoon is humorous but the message is propaganda. Allow me to illustrate...

A creationist says that God created life from non-life, and an evolutionist will say "that's not science."

An evolutionist will say that life just happened to come from non-life by unknown means but that is, after all, science! Do you have any idea how many different 'just happeneds' it takes to make one entire living protozoan? Mind-boggling, the number of 'just happeneds' evolution would require to produce the millions of different organisms found in the world today!

A creationist looks at the differences in DNA between a human and an ape and sees differences. An evolutionists sees those differences and writes a 30-page peer-reviewed paper on how those changes may have occurred.

What if God did it? What if the differences are simply that, not changes in the genetic code but intentional differences to produce and attempt to maintain differing kinds of creatures? Then all of these scientists will have wound up giving so much of their lives to idle and silly speculations without even being able to comprehend what I am trying to get them to see.

4 comments:

IAMB said...

A creationist and a communist at the same time???

Say it ain't so!

Anonymous said...

". Genomes [all the genes in an organism] have multiple copies of genes or of noncoding sequences, very homogeneous within a species but heterogeneous between species. Such 'repeats' could not have been formed by random mutations acting on a common genome of a postulated ancestor. Some unexplained 'molecular drive' is postulated to account for these copies. It is simpler to assume there was no common ancestral genome."

And in fact transposons are another piece of evidence for evolution, since - to my understanding - while they do differ between species, they differ in a ve-e-e-e-ry interesting way:

"Remember, the only observed mechanism for two organisms to have similar genomic sequence is through heredity, and so if two different species can be shown to have similar genomic sequences, then we can conclude that they share a common ancestry. So we hypothesize that if evolutionary theory is correct, and different species share common ancestry, then closely related species will share common transposon insertions. So let’s look at the evidence.

We’ll look at one of the common SINE retrotransposons, called the Alu element. This is a sequence only about 300 nucleotides long, and it found in all mammal species, and particularly in humans, where it composes close to 10% of the entire genome. In alpha-globin gene cluster, 7 separate Alu elements are known to exist, and all seven are found in the exact same location in the corresponding chimpanzee gene. According to our hypothesis, corresponding transposon sequences imply shared ancestry, and thus this evidence supports evolutionary theory.
"

This tidbit from Zach Moore's Evolution 101 podcast - transcripts of each episode are here - including a six-parter on the molecular evidence for evolutiion.

Why would directly-designed organisms show this kind of pattern?

"Most of the successes in breeding come from guided recombination. The breeder pools certain rare genes into one individual or population to achieve the desired combination of traits. Nothing new is produced."

That's just nonsense. Breeders have known foreveer -far before the science of genetics ever existed - about the spontaneous appearance of "sports," or as we call them, mutations. (Although the term is still preserved in terms like "bud sport" and I think still maybe still hanging on in some circles . .


-Dan S.

radar said...

I would love to see some documentation of "bud sports", which I have never heard of previously. BTW, how could breeders know if a "sport" is a mutation or just a variation inbedded within the genetic code?

creeper said...

"Perhaps the most evident misinformation in textbooks is the suggestion that microevolution is a small-scale example of macroevolution. [...]

The example used to support this is usually the story about the grey or black moths (Biston betularia)"


I don't think I've ever seen the peppered moths held up as an example of microevolution being a small-scale example of macroevolution, let alone it usually being used that way. This seems to be just plain wrong. Does anyone have a link that backs up the professor's claim?

"The misinformation lies in concealing the fact that select, adapted populations are genetically poorer (fewer alleles 1) than the unselected natural populations from which they arose."

If this is his claim, then he has chosen a poor example to pick the peppered moth to back it up. The peppered moth did not lose any alleles within its population. What happened was the the population used to be predominantly light, with some dark. When industrial pollution darkened the trees with soot sometime in the 19th century, the moth population became predominantly dark, with some light. It stayed like this for over 100 years, until the industry changed and the area was no longer polluted - at which point the moth population changed back to predominantly light, with some dark.

So when they first adapted back in the 19th century, the moth population actually did not lose any genetic information.

I don't get the whole argument about loss of genetic information anyway. In what way is a wolf evolving into a poodle a loss of information? Did the wolf contain all the information about the poodle already within his DNA, as some kind of menu that contained all possible dog variations? Or did the poodle gradually evolve, with dog breeders successively picking, say, the smallest dogs with the curliest hairs to interbreed, with successive changes from one generation to the next progressively building on each other?

"The similarity of the shape of my hand and that of a frog is an argument for common ancestry. The difference between mine and that of a horse or a bat is not. And yet the latter are supposed to be closer relatives of mine."

This last statement's a little misleading, as if man and horse are supposed to be closer than man and frog in every way. The last common ancestor shared by man, horse and frog were the tetrapods, who featured arm- and hand-like appendages. As the lineages split off, the ones resulting in man and frog maintained and refined this hand shape, while the one resulting in the horse did not, resulting in the hoof instead.

"But allow me to characterize some of the language of the links he sends me to or much of the information he types into the comment blog."

That's only responsible and precise description, Radar. When something is a hard logical conclusion, it is described as such, and when it is speculation for which further support would need to be found, then it is correct to make this clear as well. I can pretty much see which fallacy you're lurching towards here.

And here it comes:

"Yet, scientists in various fields of study take evolution for granted, assume it exists and go on their merry way without one shred of proof while totally ignoring any evidence, any clues, that all things were indeed created."

The fallacy of composition: if there is no absolute certainty about how something evolved specifically, then there is no "shred of proof" for evolution at all. Nice try.

That evolution took place is demonstrated amply by the fossil evidence, which can not be explained by any alternative theory. YEC has to steer clear and allege massive conspiracies and the bending of natural laws so as not to deal with this problem.

"An evolutionist will say that life just happened to come from non-life by unknown means"

Presumably you mean an abiogenesist. And the abiogenesist then proceeds to research the issue, unlike the creationist, who couldn't care less how life originated, and wishes the whole issue could just be ignored.

"A creationist looks at the differences in DNA between a human and an ape and sees differences. An evolutionists sees those differences and writes a 30-page peer-reviewed paper on how those changes may have occurred."

For the very simple and compelling reason that the "evolutionist" doesn't sweep the evidence for evolution over time under the rug. If the creationist only sees differences, not changes, then he is willfully ignoring a huge chunk of scientific data for the sole reason that it happens not to fit his worldview.

The evolutionist does see DIFFERENCES, but also sees differences occurring over TIME - which is CHANGE.

"What if God did it? What if the differences are simply that, not changes in the genetic code but intentional differences to produce and attempt to maintain differing kinds of creatures? Then all of these scientists will have wound up giving so much of their lives to idle and silly speculations without even being able to comprehend what I am trying to get them to see."

Go ahead, try and get them to see that there's this huge chunk of evidence that they should not pay attention to, just like "creation scientists" are fond of doing. I'm sure the scientists will be happy for your advice to stop wasting their time.