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New blind beetle find challenges Darwinian evolution?

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What they say here.

Researchers have made a surprising discovery in the aquifers beneath the Western Australian desert, which challenges the traditional Darwinian view of evolution. They have discovered that a species of blind predatory water beetles — living underground for millions of years — express vision genes (opsin) which are usually only found in species with eyes.

Are these people at ScienceDaily playing our song?

According to Dr Tierney, the genetic mechanisms that lead to the reduction of traits over time (regressive evolution) has intrigued biologists for hundreds of years because traditional Darwinian views of evolution as an adaptive process may not necessarily apply.

“Evolution is often perceived as a ‘directional’ or ‘adaptive’ process but this is not always the case. These beetles have provided us with credible preliminary evidence for non-adaptive evolution,” says Dr Tierney.

“Non-adaptive evolution or Neutral Theory is when there is no selective pressure on a gene, resulting in an accumulation of random mutations in the gene sequence over time,” he says.

But if we don’t know whether evolution aims in any direction or not, doesn’t that knock the wind out of most theories about it?

24 Replies to “New blind beetle find challenges Darwinian evolution?

  1. 1
    Andre says:

    This is just what Darwinian evolution predicted.

  2. 2
    Hangonasec says:

    So they have failed to lose opsin against the neutral expectation of gradual disablement through accumulation of mutations that would be deleterious if selection were active. This challenges evolutionary theory how?

  3. 3
    humbled says:

    Nothing more than an “evolution of the gaps” statement. If evolution wasn’t assumed first, scientists would not be making these assumptions.

  4. 4
    ppolish says:

    Ok, how about if those aquifer beetles grew eyes shortly before they emerged from the caves and attacked Australian Atheist groups. That would challenge Darwinian Evolution right?

  5. 5
    Hangonasec says:

    ppolish

    Yeah, something else entirely would be a biiiig problem.

  6. 6
    Hangonasec says:

    humbled,

    the assumption made is pretty non-controversial – that mutations occur and are expected to lead to dysfunction in genes that are not of any use in the organism’s present habitat. This is being trumpeted here because this assumption has been confounded. There are several possible reasons for that.

    What assumption should people be making re: opsin in cave organisms?

  7. 7
    ppolish says:

    “What assumption should people be making re: opsin in cave organisms”

    How about sight is an important design feature and makes sense to preserve the tools for the day of the Cave Emergence. Be afraid Darwinists.

  8. 8
    RodW says:

    whats always missing from these “new study casts doubt on evolution” stories is exactly how the study casts doubt on evolution.
    Another thing that would be nice to see is an explanation of how ID better fits the observations. And most important: predictions we can make that differ between ID and evolution. So if God made the beetles in their present form when we study X we’ll find a,b and c but if the beetles evolved we’ll find 1,2 and 3.

  9. 9
    ppolish says:

    “The study suggests that genetic engineering can override, at least in part, half a million years of evolutionary change in one generation.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....120911.htm

    Genetic Engineering is not Artificial Selection. What is it? Artificial Design Manipulation?

  10. 10
    Bob O'H says:

    After skimming the paper, I wonder if there are other uses of the opsin gene product that they found was being expressed. Or it could be that there is enough light down there for it to be useful. Either ways, it would be interesting to see follow-ups where the location of the opsin was found. It’s possible that it does have some function, but not one that needs an eye.

    tl:dr: more research required

  11. 11
    Hangonasec says:

    ppolish

    How about sight is an important design feature and makes sense to preserve the tools for the day of the Cave Emergence. Be afraid Darwinists.

    Bit short-sighted to get rid of the eyes then, no?

  12. 12
    Hangonasec says:

    Possibilities:

    1) Not been down there long enough for mutation to disable the genes.

    2) Reduced mutation rate

    3) Non-sight-related role of opsin. Salamanders have it in their skin; anemone Nematostella vectensis has 19 different opsins, none of whose functions is known, though there is a possibility that it is associated with cnidoblast firing – more likely from tactile stimulus than photons, though it is possible. Beetles don’t have cnidoblasts, of course, nor do anemones have eyes.

    4) Prey may contain photon-emitting bacteria. Many cave species do (though the lack of eyes makes a directional fix a bit tricky).

    5) Yes, for completeness, let’s assume that they are only down there temporarily and Design is protecting the opsins for the days when the upper world finds itself short one beetle species …

    I favour 1 or 3.

  13. 13
    Rob says:

    Possibilities:

    1) Not been down there long enough for mutation to disable the genes.

    2) Reduced mutation rate

    3) Non-sight-related role of opsin. Salamanders have it in their skin; anemone Nematostella vectensis has 19 different opsins, none of whose functions is known, though there is a possibility that it is associated with cnidoblast firing – more likely from tactile stimulus than photons, though it is possible. Beetles don’t have cnidoblasts, of course, nor do anemones have eyes.

    4) Prey may contain photon-emitting bacteria. Many cave species do (though the lack of eyes makes a directional fix a bit tricky).

    5) Yes, for completeness, let’s assume that they are only down there temporarily and Design is protecting the opsins for the days when the upper world finds itself short one beetle species …

    6) [Enter additional possibility so long as it does not give credit to an intelligent designer. Because that just wouldn’t be right.]

  14. 14
    Hangonasec says:

    Rob,

    You can add as many possibilities as you like. My list was not intended to be exhaustive or exclusive – ppolish offered 5), which at least references design, and I included it (while aware of the possibility they was just playin’ with the newbie).

    So do you have an explanation for this apparent opsin conservation that gives credit to a designer but is distinct from ppolish’s?

  15. 15
    Piotr says:

    #12 Hangonasec,

    Re: 3) Functional opsins are also preserved in some cave-dwelling crustaceans (see Link 2 below), so these beetles are not all that unique.

    In fruit flies, opsins seem to be involved in mechanosensation (in the cells of the ear) and temperature sensation. This means that they may have more general (and perhaps more primitive) sensory functions in addition to light-sensitivity.

    Link 1

    Link 2

    Two other dytiscid water beetles investigated in the study show the expected loss of opsins. The authors regard retention of a secondary opsin function as a possible reason why Limbodessus palmulaoides keeps the “long wavelength” opsin gene, but don’t exclude the possibility that it hasn’t been underground long enough; see section 5.1 (Opsin transcription in an aphotic subterranean habitat: pleiotropy or incipient pseudogene?) in the original article:

    Tierney et al. 2015

    Conspicuous by their absence in the article are any claims of paradigm-shifting or “challenging Darwinian evolution”. Well — journalists will be journalists.

  16. 16
    ForJah says:

    I can’t wait until the ID community starts to apply their legitimate theory to the positive benefits of working with the ID framework. I’ve been reading this blog for over 5 years now and so far I still haven’t seen the article that reads “ID scientists discovers cure for cancer” or “ID scientist believes enzymes were designed early then once thought” or “ID scientists discover function in vestigial organism”. Enough of the “Evidence against evolution” articles please.

  17. 17

    ForJah:

    Enough of the “Evidence against evolution” articles please.

    Well said. I certainly had way more than enough of that and other things that have entirely nothing to do with developing a scientific theory.

  18. 18
    ForJah says:

    I mean, I happen to think that the ID movement has scientific merit….let’s DO IT. let’s do the positive research not just a bunch of research discussing why evolution is wrong. IF the next paper produced by the biologic institute is not somehow learning something new in reference to the ID framework then the ID movement is no different that creationism. Consistently attacking evolution and provided absolutely no articles that benefit the theory positively. I am an ID advocate but this is getting a bit ridiculous.

  19. 19
    Hangonasec says:

    For me, what’s disappointing is the way press releases themselves are so quick to jump on the ‘challenge to Darwinism’ bandwagon (this is a sure-fire way of gaining publicity among the ENV/UD fraternity – maybe that’s the reason!). I know regulars may see this as the knee-jerk reaction of a cultist, but ‘Darwinism’ tends to mean a view that ALL change is explained by Natural Selection. This is a view that no-one, including Darwin, ever held. He wrote much on disuse, and anticipated neutral change.

    Yet here we have an expectation that disuse would lead to pseudogenisation – not because that would be an adaptive change, but because it would be neutral, IF photons are necessary for any functional role of opsin. No protection is offered by selection against against ‘loss-of-function’ mutations. So the fact that it has seemingly failed to evolve is the challenge, I guess. But then, Darwinism, however understood, does not argue that everything must change.

  20. 20

    ForJah and Hangonasec this comment from Robert Sheldon (and mine that follows it) seems to help explain things:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-545234

    The exodus of scientific minds was nearly complete right after Dover. Celebs staying with the same slogans for another ten years only helped show that scientists did the right thing by giving up on ID. That is unfair to all who saw scientific merit in ID and those who got stuck in the religious crossfire because of their work being compatible with the premise of the Theory of Intelligent Design but what can we together do about it? Any thoughts?

  21. 21
    Mung says:

    For sure there must be some evolutionary advantage to the blind leading the blind.

  22. 22

    The only evolutionary advantage to the blind leading the blind that I can think of is: The examples that are set by everything later going wrong is a great way for descendants to learn what NOT to do, or else be subject to the same damning selection pressures that quickly weeded out whatever it was that the blind sowed.

  23. 23
    mikeenders says:

    ForJay

    A) the first paragraph is from Science Daily hardly an ID publication.

    B) “lets do it” ignores realities of funding.

    Its the old self fulfilling mantra. ID doesn’t do positive scientific research but should an IDist get a paper published or egad get public funding scream science is being murdered.

  24. 24

    Bob O’H:

    After skimming the paper, I wonder if there are other uses of the opsin gene product that they found was being expressed. Or it could be that there is enough light down there for it to be useful. Either ways, it would be interesting to see follow-ups where the location of the opsin was found. It’s possible that it does have some function, but not one that needs an eye.

    tl:dr: more research required

    This research might help shed some light on the situation:
    http://www.basic.northwestern......tm#point14

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