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Trying to convince students that a good design is unguided evolution

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In this RealClearScience article, we are informed that “A substantial proportion of Americans reject evolution. This is perhaps partly due to evolution not being terribly intuitive.

Actually, it is terribly intuitive to some people. They see it where it isn’t.

In the lauded study,

Dave van Ditmarsch and Joao Xavier propose a pedagogical solution in the journal Trends in Microbiology: Use bacteria, some of which can reproduce within 15-20 minutes, to teach evolution. After all, seeing is believing.

The authors grew a bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa on Petri plates that allowed the bacteria to “swarm,” i.e., grow outward from the middle of the plate in branch-like patterns. After 24 hours, the bacteria were collected, and a small fraction (1/1,500) of them were transferred to the middle of another plate. This process was repeated several times. By the final day of the experiment, the bacteria had evolved to become “hyperswarmers,” i.e., they no longer grew in a branching pattern but covered the entire plate.

They also grew extra flagella, which the researchers attribute to “evolution.”

The take-home message from this experiment is that bacteria beautifully demonstrate how evolution works. It is much easier to understand evolution by observing how bacteria can dramatically change over the course of roughly a week than trying to imagine how life might have changed over billions of years. And, most strikingly, the experiment shows that what appears to be a major alteration to the bacterium’s anatomy results from nothing more than a single mutation to a single gene.

In fact, the ability to mutate to grow extra flagella is likely part of the bacterium’s survival strategy, the way morphing into a temporary multicellular assembly is the way amoebae cope with starvation, then dispersing. Doubtless, some evolution was involved, but demonstrating these events happening (and then, probably, unhappening) is not demonstrating much about evolution. Especially when the entire setup is artificial, and constantly manipulated by the researchers.

It simply doesn’t follow, for example, that a lemur-like primate became a human over sixty-five million years, without intelligent guidance. It could be true, of course, but it doesn’t follow. It is an exercise of the imagination.

What we are seeing here is a good design for demonstrating bacterial adaptability.

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6 Replies to “Trying to convince students that a good design is unguided evolution

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    The take-home message from this experiment is that bacteria beautifully demonstrate how evolution works.

    Or not. Numerous species of bacteria that are still nothing more than bacteria. Startling proof of evolution!

    What’s the difference between the earliest bacteria to have appeared on earth and modern bacteria?

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Actually bacteria are excellent examples of the strict limits for variation as this emeritus professor of bacteriology made clear:

    Scant search for the Maker
    Excerpt: But where is the experimental evidence? None exists in the literature claiming that one species has been shown to evolve into another. Bacteria, the simplest form of independent life, are ideal for this kind of study, with generation times of 20 to 30 minutes, and populations achieved after 18 hours. But throughout 150 years of the science of bacteriology, there is no evidence that one species of bacteria has changed into another, in spite of the fact that populations have been exposed to potent chemical and physical mutagens and that, uniquely, bacteria possess extrachromosomal, transmissible plasmids. Since there is no evidence for species changes between the simplest forms of unicellular life, it is not surprising that there is no evidence for evolution from prokaryotic to eukaryotic cells, let alone throughout the whole array of higher multicellular organisms.
    – Alan H. Linton – emeritus professor of bacteriology, University of Bristol.
    http://www.timeshighereducatio.....ode=159282

    The fossil record does not reveal evolution to bacteria:

    Static evolution: is pond scum the same now as billions of years ago?
    Excerpt: But what intrigues (paleo-biologist) J. William Schopf most is lack of change. Schopf was struck 30 years ago by the apparent similarities between some 1-billion-year-old fossils of blue-green bacteria and their modern microbial counterparts. “They surprisingly looked exactly like modern species,” Schopf recalls. Now, after comparing data from throughout the world, Schopf and others have concluded that modern pond scum differs little from the ancient blue-greens. “This similarity in morphology is widespread among fossils of [varying] times,” says Schopf. As evidence, he cites the 3,000 such fossils found;
    http://www.thefreelibrary.com/.....a014909330

    The Paradox of the “Ancient” (250 Million Year Old) Bacterium Which Contains “Modern” Protein-Coding Genes:
    “Almost without exception, bacteria isolated from ancient material have proven to closely resemble modern bacteria at both morphological and molecular levels.” Heather Maughan*, C. William Birky Jr., Wayne L. Nicholson, William D. Rosenzweig§ and Russell H. Vreeland ;
    http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/...../19/9/1637

    Moreover, 4 decades of lab work does not reveal ‘evolution’

    “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain – Michael Behe – December 2010
    Excerpt: In its most recent issue The Quarterly Review of Biology has published a review by myself of laboratory evolution experiments of microbes going back four decades.,,, The gist of the paper is that so far the overwhelming number of adaptive (that is, helpful) mutations seen in laboratory evolution experiments are either loss or modification of function. Of course we had already known that the great majority of mutations that have a visible effect on an organism are deleterious. Now, surprisingly, it seems that even the great majority of helpful mutations degrade the genome to a greater or lesser extent.,,, I dub it “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”: Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain.
    http://behe.uncommondescent.co.....evolution/

    Michael Behe talks about the preceding paper in this following podcast:

    Michael Behe: Challenging Darwin, One Peer-Reviewed Paper at a Time – December 2010
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....3_46-08_00

    List Of Degraded Molecular Abilities Of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria:
    Excerpt: Resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobials is often claimed to be a clear demonstration of “evolution in a Petri dish.” ,,, all known examples of antibiotic resistance via mutation are inconsistent with the genetic requirements of evolution. These mutations result in the loss of pre-existing cellular systems/activities, such as porins and other transport systems, regulatory systems, enzyme activity, and protein binding.
    http://www.trueorigin.org/bacteria01.asp

    Unexpectedly small effects of mutations in bacteria bring new perspectives – November 2010
    Excerpt: Most mutations in the genes of the Salmonella bacterium have a surprisingly small negative impact on bacterial fitness. And this is the case regardless whether they lead to changes in the bacterial proteins or not.,,, using extremely sensitive growth measurements, doctoral candidate Peter Lind showed that most mutations reduced the rate of growth of bacteria by only 0.500 percent. No mutations completely disabled the function of the proteins, and very few had no impact at all. Even more surprising was the fact that mutations that do not change the protein sequence had negative effects similar to those of mutations that led to substitution of amino acids. A possible explanation is that most mutations may have their negative effect by altering mRNA structure, not proteins, as is commonly assumed.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....teria.html

    supplemental note to ‘swarming’

    Learning from Bacteria about Social Networks – video
    Description: Bacteria do not store genetically all the information required to respond efficiently to all possible environmental conditions. Instead, to solve new encountered problems (challenges) posed by the environment, they first assess the problem via collective sensing, then recall stored information of past experience and finally execute distributed information processing of the 109-12 bacteria in the colony,,, I will show illuminating movies of swarming intelligence of live bacteria in which they solve optimization problems for collective decision making that are beyond what we, human beings, can solve with our most powerful computers.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJpi8SnFXHs

  3. 3
    humbled says:

    These experiments do the opposite of what this darwinian pastor was trying to demonstrate. Bacteria adapt and change as necessary and as food / local pressures dictate. A clear and obvious design trait.

    Also, no matter how many mutations occur, the bacteria remain… Wait..for..it…..bacteria. And all this happening in an environment intelligently designed to force these magical processes to occur. If it doesn’t happen under these favourable conditions….it ain’t gonna happen in nature, sorry.

    They say a large portion of Americans reject evolution, GOOD, at least some people can still think critically.

  4. 4
    melvinvines says:

    Just another evo-illusion. Dave and Joao utilize illusion, just like other illusionists, to fool millions of people into believing impossible events took place.

    http://evillusion.wordpress.co.....-its-best/

  5. 5
    CandiceC says:

    I really do not see why it is necessary to convince anyone that evolution was real. I think everyone has a right to have their own opinion that is different from others. Like there are people who say that we need to get read of coursework writing services and I say that we don’t. I have my own right to choose what I should or shouldn’t do. We are grown ups and no need tel us what to believe in. We can choose….Thank you

  6. 6
    Joe says:

    If the premise had supporting evidence the students would convince themselves. However no one even knows how to model unguided evolution so that would be a big problem.

    No one knows how to model evo-devo. No one knows how to model the claim that prokaryotes evolved into something other than prokaryotes.

    Evolution is full of “no one knows”…

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