Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Surprised Darwinists

PaV at UncommonDescent blogged on 6th Nov, 2006

Darwinists are Always Surprised

by PaV on November 6th, 2006 · 32 Comments

Here’s a study on E. Coli. They force the bacteria to “mutate” to process glycerol. After six days, sure enough, a kinase shows up to handle the glycerol. But what is a “surprise” is that RNA polymerase shows up besides. It seems that two simultaneous mutations took place. But, of course, this is ONLY a surprise if you think RM+NS brought it about.

The authors say:

Mutations also appeared in a second, unrelated gene for an enzyme called RNA polymerase. “That was a surprise to almost everybody because RNA polymerase is involved in one of the core processes of any cell,” said Palsson. “You wouldn’t expect that gene to change because a wide variety of cellular process would be affected; it’s like replacing the wiring system in a building when a light bulb burns out. But we repeated the experiment more than 50 times and mutations in the RNA polymerase gene appeared again and again.”

I also enjoy the hesitation you almost hear as the reporter has to backtrack somewhat from RM+NS (listen for the word “presumably”):

All the mutants arose in the experiments presumably as the result of naturally occurring errors in copying DNA into daughter cells during cell division.

We here at UD have a better idea about what’s going on.

The reason that it came as a surprise was not because of the occurence of two mutations, but rather (as PaV points out) because one of them was in the RNA polymerase gene, which you would think would be irrelevant for the new function acquired. Obviously it wasn't, so SURPRISE!!

PaV claim that the people at UncommonDescent have a better idea. That probably involves something along the lines of the mutations not being random but that the organism actually sensed that it needed these mutations (as he argued in this thread). I have two things to say about that:
1. Given that, in this experiment, one in roughly 100 billion of all organisms actually get the selected for mutation(s), the notion that the organisms actually sensed that they needed it seems, if not far-fetched then at least like they were REALLY crap at sensing.
2. Even is the organism sensed that it needed to mutate RNA polymerase, it would still come as a surprise since it is not something that was expected.

PaV continues:
By the way, some time back, in a heated debate over bacterial mutation and point mutations, I calculated that the amount of bacteria needed to provide TWO simultaneous point mutations simply through random chance would be so large that the known universe couldn’t contain it. I’m sure my calculation was off somewhere, but I think you get the picture: two genes being affected simultaneously is something that cannot happen by chance alone.

You can read that thread (posted 5th Sept, 2006 under the heading How random is random mutation?) for yourself. PaV ended up backing out since his calculations more than just "off somewhere". So given that he brings this up again SURPRISES me, but maybe he hasn't learned from his mistakes.


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