First, remember that Behe’s peer-reviewed paper (PDF) was about whether evolutionary mechanisms were capable of creating any new information, that supports new functionality, that confers an evolutionary advantage.
Losing information is one thing — like accidentally erasing a computer file (say, an embarrassing diplomatic cable) where, it turns out in retrospect, you’re better off now that’s it not there anymore. Gaining information, building it up slowly from nothing, is quite another and more impressive feat. Yet it’s not the loss of function, and the required underlying information, but its gain that Darwinian evolution is primarily challenged to account for.
That’s the paradox highlighted in Michael Behe’s new review essay in Quarterly Review of Biology (“Experimental Evolution, Loss-of-Function Mutations, and “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution“). It’s one of those peer-reviewed, Darwin-doubting biology journal essays that, as we’re confidently assured by the likes of the aforesaid Jerry Coyne, don’t actually exist. Casey Luskin has been doing an excellent job in this space of detailing Michael Behe’s conclusions. Reviewing the expansive literature dealing with investigations of viral and bacterial evolution, Dr. Behe shows that adaptive instances of the “diminishment or elimination” of Functional Coding ElemenTs (FCTs) in the genome overwhelmingly outnumber “gain-of-FCT events.” Seemingly, under Darwinian assumptions, even as functionality is being painstakingly built up that’s of use to an organism in promoting survival, the same creature should, much faster, be impoverished of function to the point of being driven out of existence.
And then the Evolution News post has an interview with Ann Gauger, (whose peer-reviewed publications have been featured before on this blog).
Here’s one of the questions:
… In your own research with Dr. Seelke, you found that cells chose to “reduce or eliminate function.” But with vastly bigger populations and vastly more time, wouldn’t we be justified in expecting gene fixes too, even if far fewer in number?
And her reply in part:
For most organisms in the wild, the environment is constantly changing. Organisms rarely encounter prolonged and uniform selection in one direction. In turn, changing selection prevents most genetic variants from getting fixed in the population. In addition, most mutations that accumulate in populations are neutral or weakly deleterious, and most beneficial mutations are only weakly beneficial. This means that it takes a very long time, if ever, for a weakly beneficial mutation to spread throughout the population, or for harmful mutations to be eliminated. If more than one mutation is required to get a new function, the problem quickly becomes beyond reach. Evolutionary biologists have begun to realize the problem of getting complex adaptations, and are trying to find answers.
The problem is the level of complexity that is required, from the earliest stages of life. For example, just to modify one protein to perform a new function or interact with a new partner can require multiple mutations. Yet many specialized proteins, adapted to work together with specialized RNAs, are required to build a ribosome. And until you have ribosomes, you cannot translate genes into proteins. We haven’t a clue how this ability evolved.
It sounds this problem of getting beneficial mutations and keeping them around is an intractable problem, at least on a naturalist worldview. It will be interesting to see how the naturalists respond to the peer-reviewed work by Behe and Gauger. The only way to know if Behe and Gauger are right is to let the naturalists talk back. It would be nice to see a formal debate on this evidence, wouldn’t it? I’m sure that the ID people would favor a debate, but the evolutionists probably wouldn’t, since they prefer to silence and expel anyone who disagrees with them.
In addition to the new papers by Michael Behe and Ann Gauger I mentioned above, I wrote about Doug Axe’s recent research paper here. He is the Director of the Biologic Institute, where Ann works.
Debates featuring Mike Behe
- The origin of the universe from nothing
- The fine-tuning of the cosmological constants to permit life
- The fine-tuning of the galaxy, solar system, and planet to permit life
- Origin of the building blocks in the simplest replicating cell
- Origin of biological information in the simplest replicating cell
- Sudden origins of all major body plans in the Cambrian explosion
- Irreducible complexity in molecular machines
- The limits on what natural selection and random mutation can do
- Peer-reviewed paper says there is no atheistic explanation for the Cambrian explosion
- Does the Cambrian explosion disprove Darwinian evolution?