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Carefully preserved jumping gene in corn shows how intelligent design produces massive changes

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What you gonna pop? From left, teosinte, teosinte/maize hybrid, maize corn/John Doebley

From “Jumping Gene Enabled Key Step in Corn Domestication” (ScienceDaily Sep. 28, 2011), we learn:

Corn split off from its closest relative teosinte, a wild Mexican grass, about 10,000 years ago thanks to the breeding efforts of early Mexican farmers.

In fairness, corn didn’t split; it was kidnapped and prevented from returning … that’s, after all, the essence of controlled breeding. But we digress. Researchers have determined that about 23,000 years ago, a small piece of DNA (a jumping gene called Hopscotch) landed in teosinte’s control region, and enabled some key changes:

“Hopscotch cranked up the gene’s expression, which helped the plant produce larger ears with more kernels, plus become less branchy, and so those early farmers picked plants with the Hopscotch to breed,” says University of Wisconsin-Madison plant geneticist John Doebley, a corn evolution expert who led the team.

Usually, jumping genes are either useless or bad news. But, says Doebley,

” … we found a case where the mutation caused by a transposable element has done something good.”

Oops, wait a minute.

What the researchers found was the origin of a gene that was “something good” (very good indeed) for humans who were willing and able to take advantage of it. What good was it to teosinte?

One of the serious difficulties with Darwinist thought is the incoherent position about man’s role in nature. If man should thrive worldwide, then the jumping gene is good. If man is just another accidental animal, then Hopscotch happened to increase the homo sapiens primate’s numbers (temporarily). If man is a catastrophe, as Eric Pianka would say, then that jumping gene led to a colossal environment disaster worldwide.

In any event, none of this corn evolution would ever have happened without the intelligent input of humans. The benefit of a tall stock with single ears of abundant kernels is evident for humans (and incidentally for numerous agricultural pests), not for teosinte.

If this story demonstrates anything, it’s that intelligent design can produce major effects.

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8 Replies to “Carefully preserved jumping gene in corn shows how intelligent design produces massive changes

  1. 1
    markf says:

    What the researchers found was the origin of a gene that was “something good” (very good indeed) for humans who were willing and able to take advantage of it. What good was it to teosinte?

    One of the serious difficulties with Darwinist thought is the incoherent position about man’s role in nature. If man should thrive worldwide, then the jumping gene is good. If man is just another accidental animal, then Hopscotch happened to increase the homo sapiens primate’s numbers (temporarily). If man is a catastrophe, as Eric Pianka would say, then that jumping gene led to a colossal environment disaster worldwide.

    What are you trying to say?  When biologists talk about a mutation or indeed any feature of an organism being “good” they typically mean good for the success of that organism.  I don’t see anything incoherent about that.  This is an exception. Clearly Doebley is talking about this particular mutation being good for us and he is talking about artificial selection not natural selection.  Again nothing incoherent about that.  I don’t believe biologists have anything deeper than that to say about man’s role in nature – at least not as part of their science.

    In any event, none of this corn evolution would ever have happened without the intelligent input of humans. The benefit of a tall stock with single ears of abundant kernels is evident for humans (and incidentally for numerous agricultural pests), not for teosinte.

    Absolutely. It is case of artificial selection not natural selection.  So what?  There was no intelligence involved in the creation or insertion of the gene.

    If this story demonstrates anything, it’s that intelligent design can produce major effects.

    What it demonstrates is how a small random (in the sense of undirected) genetic change can make a large and viable difference to the phenotype of an organism.  This addresses a common ID argument that random variation can only be destructive. To repeat there is no reason to suppose there was any intelligence involved in the creation or insertion of the gene.

  2. 2
    dmullenix says:

    Did you also notice this in the same article?

    “Early in his career, Doebley helped identify teosinte as corn’s closest relative, and in 2005, his team showed that a single genetic mutation was responsible for removing the hard casing around teosinte’s kernels, exposing soft grain, another critical step in corn’s domestication.”

    So one unintelligent mutation made teosinte produce larger ears with more starch and less branching and a second unintelligent mutation removed the teeth-breakingly hard casing around the kernels. Apparently mutations aren’t always bad!

    I wouldn’t call the humans involved “breeders” except in the loosest definition of the term. All they did was plant seeds from the tastiest teosinte. No real intelligence involved. All the “intelligence” was in the mutations and the humans had nothing to do with that.

    I think there were ten or fifteen mutations in all that converted teosinte to corn and they were all “natural” – no intelligence involved. Yet they changed teosinte so much that until a few decades ago nobody even suspected the two plants were related. The few scientists who looked at corn evolution thought it was descended from rice.

  3. 3
    Eocene says:

    markf:

    “Absolutely. It is case of artificial selection not natural selection. So what? There was no intelligence involved in the creation or insertion of the gene.”
    =====

    Isn’t blind faith and fanatic indoctrination a powerful tool ??? I love the words invented by the cult here. Like ‘Artificial Selection’. There’s a number of diliberate reasons here. Many of these terms have clear purpose, for fuzzying that is.

    Why is it never called “Intelligent Selection” when clearly human intelligence made the directing choices. Oh yeah, it’s because humans are separate from Nature! How is that so ??? Are not humans different animals doing whatever they do like any other animal ??? There was nothing artificial about it. Clearly an intelligent decision was made by an intelligent mind for selecting a specific quality. Had this human never made that important life changing decision, then we’d still be stuck with wild Teosinte.

    You see, the problem is that to use a term like “Intelligent Selection” would be heretical to the evolutionary faith and such blasphemy can never be allowed. Hence ‘artificial selection’ adds no ammo for the Intelligence crowd which is what this whole mess is about in the first place.

    Hence Gerald Joyce’s intelligence and his Lab Coated assitant’s intelligence can be easily dismissed, if artificial is inserted where intelligence was clearly at play. Having done that, Gerald Joyce can boldly exclaim, “Evolution is not a theory for us chemists,” – “Evolution has now been proven a fact, it’s not just a theory anymore.”

  4. 4
    Eocene says:

    DMullenix:

    “I think there were ten or fifteen mutations in all that converted teosinte to corn and they were all “natural” – no intelligence involved. Yet they changed teosinte so much that until a few decades ago nobody even suspected the two plants were related.”
    =====

    Was there a wild out in the middle of nowhere Teosinte meadow observing experiment done with Teosinte over years and years where Teosinte miraculously turned into the modern day corn as we know it today ???

    Take a look at some articles of where GMO Corn has gotten into wild populations of Teosinte or in some indigenous places locally known as Criolla. Is this still “Natural Selection”, even though the abnormal genes created by greed hungry humans had a play or role ???

    http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~a.....la2001.pdf

    Take for example the individual mentioned in the above link. Dr Ignacio Chapela is an microbial ecologist and mycologist at the University of California, Berkeley. He is best known for a controversial 2001 paper in Nature on the flow of transgenes into wild maize populations, as an outspoken critic of the University of California’s ties to the biotechnology industry, as well as a later dispute with the University over denial of tenure that Chapela argued was politically motivated. Chapela is also notable for his work with natural resources and indigenous rights.

    Do you think Dr Ignacio Chapela views this as a “Natural Selection” or “Intelligent Selection” problem or issue ??? If it was nothing more than “Natural Selection” and nothing to do with intelligence, then what are these leftwinging ECO-Environmental protestors protesting for ??? Is this not something to be celebrated as wonderful evolutionary improvements ??? Would you say they are protesting against their very own religious belief systems ???

    http://www.nature.com/news/200.....6149a.html

    Here’s a recent phenomena which has struck Canada.

    http://www.canada.com/technolo.....story.html

    Dr Chapela is a well known environmental activist. Would you say he is protesting against “Natural Selection” or Intelligent Manipulation”(selection) ??? Does he or other environmental activists have any iron clad legs to stand on if this is nothing more than “Natural Selection” ??? Should these clearly damaging outcomes be accepted as a natural consequence of how evolution works and we should just evolve ourselves to adapt strategies to co-exist with such catastrophies which in reality are evolutionary wonders ??? Does anyone else know of more ways we can excuse the imperfect selfish greed of bad science which we apparently now know is nothing of the sort ???

  5. 5
    Joseph says:

    How do you know no intelligence was involved? Also design is natural.

  6. 6
    Joseph says:

    In order to say there was no intelligence involved you have to demonstrate the origin of life needed no intellience. For without that all you are doing is engaging in question-begging.

  7. 7
    dmullenix says:

    Eocene, it’s called “artifical selection” for the same reason that man-made Christmas trees are called “artifical Christmas trees.”

    Teosinte turned into maize over a several thousand year period starting about ten thousand years ago. The people who lived back then were kind enough to drop kernels of the planats they were eating into their campfire ashes where modern archaeologists could find them and extract their DNA.

  8. 8
    Eocene says:

    dmullenix:

    “Eocene, it’s called “artifical selection” for the same reason that man-made Christmas trees are called “artifical Christmas trees.”
    ====

    And strange enough “Artifical Christmas Trees” are intelligently designed. The problem is the word/term “Intelligent” is a blasphemous word to insert in front of “Selection”, hence it will never be allowed to replace “Artificial” which while acknowledging a human influence, keeps the Designing inference off the table. Can you imagine how much tougher these debates would be if they did allow it ???

    —-

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