Comment on Dr. Richard Lenski’s “Unicorns” by Sean Pitman.
I’ve read your blog about the Lenski experiment “Microbes: living in the past”. However, I think you’re mistaken. You wrote:
The adaptations arose [in the Lenski experiment] due to the de novo creation of olfactory receptor genes under conditions that would otherswise lead to death by starvation.
This simply isn’t true. No new receptor genes evolved at all – olfactory or otherwise. The very same genes stayed exactly the same. The only thing that changed is the location of the very same genes within the genome. Also, the bacteria were not starving. They simply started using citrate as an additional source of energy to the nutrients that they were already being provided with – over the course of the decades that Lenski has been running this particular experiment. I see no evidence for epigenetic factors in play here or thermodynamic instability before or after the changes in function.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
Dr. Richard Lenski’s “Unicorns”
There was no change in the citrate receptor or transport protein, or any other protein. No structural change took place at all. You simply don’t understand the Lenski experiment. All that happened was that the gene that codes for the citrate transport protein, which already existed and was active under anoxic conditions, was turned on in an oxygenated environment by being placed next to an active promotor. That’s it. There’s simply no new receptor being made here. No new gene or protein – olfactory or otherwise.
Most of this information, in this particular article, has already been published by others in various journals. The only thing I contributed here of any uniqueness is the concept of changes in the ratio of beneficial vs. non-beneficial sequences in sequence space at various levels of functional complexity.
When I submitted the technical argument for sequence space to Origins (a few years ago), they told me that it was too technical for their readership to understand. I should probably try again to submit a toned down version for more general readership.
Dr. Richard Lenski’s “Unicorns”
It doesn’t matter what stressors may or may not contribute to protein biogenesis. The fact remains that whatever else might contribute to mutagenesis, novel proteins are dependent upon novel genetic mutations. In this particular Lenski experiment, no novel protein was produced. However, there was a novel genetic mutation that gave rise to the new functional abilities of the E. coli bacteria. This genetic mutation simply allowed a protein-coding gene to be turned on in a different type of environment by moving a gene to a different location within the genome. Statistically, this isn’t a problem given the number of bacteria in the steady-state population over the course of a few tens of thousands of generations. It’s very predictable in fact – statistically. What is not statistically tenable, however, is the evolution of a qualitatively novel protein-based system of function that requires more than 1000 specifically arranged residues. Such a feat is not statistically feasible – and Lenski should know better than to suggest otherwise.
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Science and Methodological Naturalism
Very interesting passage. After all, if scientists are honest with themselves, scientific methodologies are well-able to detect the existence of intelligent design behind various artifacts found in nature. It’s just the personal philosophy of scientists that makes them put living things and the origin of the fine-tuned universe “out of bounds” when it comes to the detection of intelligent design. This conclusion simply isn’t dictated by science itself, but by a philosophical position, a type of religion actually, that strives to block the Divine Foot from getting into the door…
Why is it that creationists are afraid to acknowledge the validity of Darwinism in these settings? I don’t see that these threaten a belief in God in any way whatsoever.
The threat is when you see no limitations to natural mindless mechanisms – where you attribute everything to the creative power of nature instead of to the God of nature.
God has created natural laws that can do some pretty amazing things. However, these natural laws are not infinite in creative potential. Their abilities are finite while only God is truly infinite.
The detection of these limitations allows us to recognize the need for the input of higher-level intelligence and creative power that goes well beyond what nature alone can achieve. It is here that the Signature of God is detectable.
For those who only hold a naturalistic view of the universe, everything is attributed to the mindless laws of nature… so that the Signature of God is obscured. Nothing is left that tells them, “Only God or some God-like intelligent mind could have done this.”
That’s the problem when you do not recognize any specific limitations to the tools that God has created – when you do not recognize the limits of nature and what natural laws can achieve all by themselves.
Since the fall of Adam, Sean, all babies are born in sin and they are sinners. God created them. Even if it was by way of cooperation of natural law as human beings also participated in the creation process.
God did not create the broken condition of any human baby – neither the physical or moral brokenness of any human being. God is responsible for every good thing, to include the spark or breath of life within each one of us. However, He did not and does not create those things within us that are broken or bad.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?'” Matthew 13:27-28
Of course, all humans are indeed born broken and are in a natural state of rebellion against God. However, God is not the one who created this condition nor is God responsible for any baby being born with any kind of defect in character, personality, moral tendency, or physical or genetic abnormality. God did not create anyone with such brokenness. Such were the natural result of rebellion against God and heading the temptations of the “enemy”… the natural result of a separation from God with the inevitable decay in physical, mental, and moral strength.
Of course, the ones who are born broken are not responsible for their broken condition either. However, all of us are morally responsible for choosing to reject the gift of Divine Grace once it is appreciated… and for choosing to go against what we all have been given to know, internally, of moral truth. In other words, we are responsible for rebelling against the Royal Law written on the hearts of all mankind.
This is because God has maintained in us the power to be truly free moral agents in that we maintain the Power to choose, as a gift of God (Genesis 3:15). We can choose to accept or reject the call of the Royal Law, as the Holy Spirit speaks to all of our hearts…
Remember the statement by Mrs. White that God is in no wise responsible for sin in anyone at any time. God is working to fix our broken condition. He did not and does not create our broken condition. Just as He does not cause Babies to be born with painful and lethal genetic defects, such as those that result in childhood leukemia, He does not cause Babies to be born with defects of moral character either. God is only directly responsible for the good, never the evil, of this life.
Again, your all-or-nothing approach to the claims of scientists isn’t very scientific. Even the best and most famous of scientists has had numerous hair-brained ideas that were completely off base. This fact does not undermine the good discoveries and inventions that were produced.
Scientific credibility isn’t based on the person making the argument, but upon the merits of the argument itself – the ability of the hypothesis to gain predictive value when tested. That’s it.
Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
Don’t be so obtuse here. We’re not talking about publishing just anything in mainstream journals. I’ve published several articles myself. We’re talking about publishing the conclusion that intelligent design was clearly involved with the origin of various artifactual features of living things on this planet. Try getting a paper that mentions such a conclusion published…