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Are 3,000 beneficial mutations enough to transform a land animal into a whale?


In a recent interview with David Klinghoffer and Michael Denton over at Evolution News and Views, author David Berlinski revealed the big question he’d like to ask Darwinists about the transition from a land-dwelling mammal to a sea-dwelling whale: “How many changes would I need?” Biochemist Larry Moran answers: “Evolutionary biologists who have spent their entire careers studying evolution, genetics, and developmental biology are comfortable with a few thousand mutations causing the transformation from land animals to whales.” And that’s not all. A mere 340 beneficial mutations would have been sufficient to transform the common ancestor of man and chimp into a human being, according to biologist Ian Musgrave of Panda’s Thumb. (That’s 240 mutations in protein-coding genes and 100 in regulatory genes.)

In case readers are wondering why I put “3,000” in my headline rather than “a few thousand,” the reason is simple. Calculations by evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane (which were subsequently cited by ID proponent Walter ReMine) appear to suggest that the maximum number of beneficial mutations that could have occurred in the human lineage over 6 million years is 1,667, and if we generously allow three times as long an interval (i.e. 18 million years) for the evolution of whales (whose generation time and effective population size is not so very different from our own), then we arrive at an upper limit of 3 x 1,667 or roughly 5,000 beneficial mutations. And it’s probably less than 5,000, since the actual time available for the transition from a land animal to a fully aquatic basilosaurid whale was only nine million years, and modern whales took a further five million years to evolve, after that. The interesting thing is that although Musgrave harshly criticizes ReMine for distorting Haldane’s own interpretation of what has become known as Haldane’s dilemma, he does not dispute the notion that 1,667 is the maximum number of beneficial (as opposed to neutral) mutations that could have been fixed in the human lineage – which seems to imply that 5,000 is the maximum number that could have occurred in the lineage leading to whales. Musgrave himself thinks that a much lower number of mutations – about 340 – would have been enough to transform the common ancestor of man and chimp into a modern human being, and if we multiply the figure of 340 by 3 (allowing for the fact that it may have taken three times longer for whales to evolve than for humans to do so), then we get 1,020 (or about 1,000) as the number of mutations that would have been fixed in the whale lineage, if the rate of fixation for beneficial mutations was the same as in the human lineage (although it’s probably higher, since whales have undergone more morphological changes than humans have). The foregoing points suggest that the true number of beneficial mutations that were fixed in the whale lineage must lie somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000. Over at Professor Larry Moran’s Sandwalk blog, commenter Mikkel Rumraket Rasmussen opines that the lower figure is closer to the truth, as many mutations have impacts on not one, but multiple body organs. So that suggests that we’re looking at a ballpark figure of 3,000 beneficial mutations that got fixed in the lineage leading to whales.

Now, I’m sure that many readers are thinking that there must be something wrong with these figures. I know I did, when I first saw them. My initial response was that since a very large number of organs and biochemical systems would have had to undergo radical transformation in order for whales to evolve (as Dr. Richard Sternberg cogently argued in a recent interview), and that since a very large number of beneficial mutations would have been required for each individual organ or system to be transformed in a way suitable for aquatic life, the total number of mutations must have been very large too. But how large? My very crude back-of-the-envelope estimate was in the tens of thousands: 100 organs (or systems) times (say) 200 mutations per organ, since that’s about one-tenth as many as the 1,829 steps envisaged by Nilsson and Pelger in their widely cited model of the evolution of the eye (which I criticized here on Uncommon Descent). But my figure of 200 mutations per organs may have been too high, as Nilsson and Pelger themselves acknowledged that their estimate of the number of steps was a conservative one, and if “only” 30 mutations per organ were required during the evolution of the whale, then we obtain a total of 3,000 (= 30 x 100), which more or less agrees with Professor Moran’s estimate. Alternatively, if some mutations had a beneficial impact on two or more organs, as Sandwalk commenter Mikkel Rumraket Rasmussen suggests, then the number could be lower still – although I’m rather skeptical of the notion of a mutation that has a beneficial (as opposed to neutral) impact on multiple organs, having never read of one in the literature.

Why does the number of beneficial mutations that got fixed during whale evolution matter, anyway?

The reason why I am harping on about the number of beneficial mutations that would have been required to transform a land mammal into a whale is that Dr. David Berlinski raised the issue in a recent interview with David Klinghoffer and biochemist Michael Denton (bolding mine – VJT):

If there would be one question I’d like to pose to a serious, open-minded Darwinian biologist, it is this: how come you guys never go to the next step, which is a quantitative assessment of your claim? How come you’re always showing us nice pictures, one creature developing into the next, and all sorts of arrows connecting them – which, of course, prompts the question, “Where’d you guys find the arrows? You found the fossils, but where did you find the arrows?” That’s the kind of question I’d like to ask, and dozens of other questions along the same lines.

So, how many steps? 50,000, 3,000 or 10?

From an Intelligent Design standpoint, there are two (apparently contradictory) ways in which one could react to the proposal that 3,000 beneficial mutations were required to transform a land mammal into a whale. One way is to argue that because the differences between whales and land mammals are deep-seated differences, affecting organs in practically every part of a whale’s body (as Dr. Richard Sternberg has convincingly argued), then a very large number of steps must have been required in order to transform a land mammal into a whale. In his interview, Berlinski proposes a figure of 50,000 to 60,000 changes that would be required, humorously likening it to the problem of converting a 1954 Chevrolet Corvette into a Nautilus submarine.

The other way of reacting to the above-cited figure of 3,000 beneficial mutations is to look at the fossil record, which shows a mere ten or so intermediates between land mammals and whales, and to argue (as David Berlinski does) that even if a large proportion – say 90% – of the intermediates between land mammals and whales have been obliterated from the fossil record by “the injuries of time,” there couldn’t have been more than 100 intermediate forms – which means that the number of beneficial mutations that got fixed in the whale lineage must be much lower than 3,000. Indeed, Berlinksi, at one point during his interview, suggests that a Darwinist might argue that perhaps only “10 or 20 changes masterfully controlled by 10 or 20 genetic switches are all that are required” for the transformation. In other words, “the structure of the whale is already in the cow in terms of its potential to become a sea-going creature, but not perhaps an air-going creature.” [Although Berlinski jokes about a cow being transformed into a whale, he acknowledges elsewhere in the interview that it wasn’t a cow, but another kind of land animal, and recent research indicates that it was actually an ancestor of the modern hippopotamus.] Indeed, Berlinski thinks this is “the only conceivable answer” an evolutionist could give, if evolution is defined as “one change after the other,” via “random mutations.” He then adds: “But that, of course, pushes the problem one step back. How come the creature is set up to become a sea-going creature, if it’s spent all of its evolutionary history on the land? Where’d that come from?”

At first sight, it might appear puzzling that two different approaches to whale evolution – an anatomical approach and a paleontological approach – should yield such wildly divergent results for the number of beneficial mutations that would have been required in order for whales to evolve. But that is precisely Dr. Berlinski’s point. He thinks it illustrates a genuine paradox for any Darwinian account of whale evolution.

Berlinski’s paradox

In his interview, Dr. Berlinski puts forward the argument that generates a paradox for a Darwinian account of whale evolution, as follows (bolding is mine – VJT):

If you were to take a Chevrolet Corvette built in 1954 and decide you want to make a Nautilus Class submarine out of the thing, [and] give it to a lot of engineers – “Fellas, go do this. Do it for me” – I think it could be done, but we all have a sense of the engineering complexities. To do it would be a big, big, big project. The question I’d like to ask in all of this is: give me a quantitative estimate of how many steps would be required to change that Chevrolet Corvette built in 1954 to a Nautilus Class submarine? I don’t want you to give me a quantitatively precise answer, but I want you to give me a ballpark estimate – say, it’s off by an order of magnitude from what I’m told. And I think if we were talking about Chevrolet Corvettes and Nautilus class submarines, the answer would ballpark be: 50,000 changes, 60,000 changes, maybe 100,000 changes, if it’s feasible at all. I kind of suspect it could be done.

Now, I want the same answer for the transition from a land-dwelling creature to a sea-dwelling creature. How many changes would we need? Now why would I be interested in that number? Let’s call that number the “X” number. And this is the point that the Darwinian community never finds curious. If we knew that number, which is an accessible number – we know enough biology to grasp that number – we could compare it to the fossil record. The fossil record has about ten intermediate fossils between a land-dwelling creature and an ocean-going whale. If there are ten, let’s say the tides of time have buried another hundred – perfectly plausible. But if there are 50,000 required changes, there should also be 50,000 intermediates, according to standard Darwinian doctrine. If there is an inequality, a strong inequality between those numbersthe number of fossils that we observe, padded with the number of fossils we might have observed were it not for the injuries of time, and the number of changes – morphological, cellular, biological, physiological, anatomical – that are required to make that transition, then we could assess the plausibility of what is one of the most interesting Darwinian sequences in the record. That’s never done. That’s just never done. No Darwinian paleontologist has ever said: “We expect there to be 50,000 sequences in the whale transition sequence, because we’ve computed the number of changes that are required. But wouldn’t you think, Darwinian fellow-seekers, that that’s an obvious first step to take in making your scientific claims quantitative – not rigorously quantitative, but ballpark quantitative? It’s not done.

How convincing is Dr. Berlinski’s argument?

Now, I’d like to declare up-front that I think that whale evolution constitutes an excellent argument for Intelligent Design: it had to have been carefully coordinated, controlled and supervised. If you’d like to know why, try listening to this. Having said that, however, I don’t think that Dr. Berlinski’s argument would cause any discomfort to a modern-day evolutionist. In fact, I think it’s flawed on three counts.

First, Dr. Berlinski defines evolution as “one change after the other,” via “random mutations” (8:36). He appears to be laboring under the misconception that evolution proceeds by beneficial mutations being fixed sequentially, one after another, with the entire population having to acquire each mutation before the next one can occur (h/t lutesuite of Sandwalk). In reality, Darwinists (and for that matter, mutationists like Professor Larry Moran) envisage the evolution of the whale as involving lots of mutations occurring in parallel, in various organs and systems in their bodies.

Second, Dr. Berlinski’s contention that the number of fossil intermediates in whale evolution should roughly equal the number of changes required to make the transition is incorrect, because in the first place, if the changes are occurring in parallel, then the number of changes will exceed the number of fossil intermediates by at least a factor N, where N is the number of organs and/or biochemical systems in a whale’s body that are undergoing transformation; and in the second place, a single beneficial mutation occurring in a whale’s body would not be enough to transform it into a new fossil species; and finally, most of the beneficial mutations that would have occurred involved internal organs rather than changes to whales’ skeletons, and hence wouldn’t show up in the fossil record anyway. Hence it would not be at all surprising if the number of changes required to transform a land mammal into a whale turned out to be several orders of magnitude larger than the number of steps observed in the fossil record.

Third, the notion that a mere “10 or 20 changes masterfully controlled by 10 or 20 genetic switches are all that are required” is so fanciful that not even a Darwinist would seriously propose it, and no Darwinist, to the best of my knowledge, has ever done so. Instead, as we’ve seen, the consensus figure, as reported by Professor Larry Moran, is “a few thousand.”

I wholeheartedly endorse Dr. Berlinski’s demand that Darwinists – and indeed, evolutionists of any stripe – should be asked to provide a quantitative assessment of their claims.

However, I am forced to conclude that the Darwinian scenario for whale evolution won’t be overturned simply by calculating the number of morphological and physiological changes that would have been required. We have to employ a different approach.

So, what are the best ways to show that the evolution of the whale must have been intelligently designed? That’s a topic I’ll address in my next post. In the meantime, I’d like to throw the discussion open to readers. How many beneficial mutations do you think were required in order to transform a land mammal into a whale, and can you explain why nine million years would not have been long enough for the process, if evolution is regarded as an unguided process?

(The picture at the top shows a humpback whale breaching. Image courtesy of Whit Welles and Wikipedia.)

In the analogy of turning a car into a submarine, there is the additional constraint that after each change, the resulting vehicle must be operable and useful. EvilSnack
jerry: It looks like you made my point. Where are they? They went extinct. Zachriel
No one knows how many mutations it would take to evolve a whale from a land mammal and no one knows how to scientifically test the claim that whales did evolve from land mammals. As a matter of fact no one knows if such a transformation can be provided by changes to a genome. Virgil Cain
As it turns out …
It looks like you made my point. jerry
jerry: Where are these other populations? There should be millions of them. They all could not have gone extinct. As it turns out ... http://www-personal.umich.edu/~gingeric/PDGwhales/Whales.htm Zachriel
My use of the word “recycling” in the first instance could have been more clear. (mw #19). Still, the principle of recycling by Darwinian natural selection is a valid interpretation. In reality, that is, theoretically, we are ever improving recycled material from worms, fish, and simians, that is after the first life form, as matter cannot be created or destroyed; hence, dust recycling, just as water recycling. In terms of common descent, life is extended by recycling into something else. To say one life form is fitter than another to survive, is not accurate, when both kinds are surviving. In terms of ID in common descent, such a concept would indicate unremitting improvement: which suggests poor intelligent design, as the designer could only produce one original life form first fit to survive, then continuous intended modification was needed. Such is also a confusion of Darwin’s idea. Of course, how increased living information and power comes about from lesser biological machines and from unassembled dead matter, is not answered, even in terms of common sense, and certainly not by Darwinism. A concept for recycling is found in the belief of original Sin, that is regeneration to a higher state. No new components are added, but an evolutionary change takes place, though not in accordance with Darwin’s theory. By this I mean, if we believe the supernatural designer is God in part and God in whole, and that as unevolved Man/God He raised Himself from the dead, instantaneously evolved into a new design, and one that crossed physical time and space into eternal time and space, then that is both using recycled or regenerated material into something brand new, unique, but still within the limits of the original design. Now, such was reported, documented, just as any scientific report, and hence as valid. More valid, as people were so strengthened by seeing the impossible, they willingly faced persecution. How dust/minerals became alive - clay men- we can only turn to such scientific fiction films as Flash Gordon. Besides, every life form on earth would need in the time of that life form, an intelligent designed mating part; how such came about, must be classed as the greatest leap of scientific faith in human history, in order to deny being created. The only eye witnessed evidence of human evolution was documented. And such evolution was immediate. A truly intelligent supernatural biological engineer having instantaneous power. Billions of years not needed. Cosmos maturing miracles by supreme intelligence affect data. We do not understand miracles. We may envisage they cannot exist. A scientist who discounts the humanly impossible is not a broadminded investigator, as yet, but heavily biased. Darwin scoffed at miracles. Relative to creationism, we are of common descent in broad terms of common origins by a common designer. One human race, one animal race, one vegetable race. One mineral aspect. All connected on an ascending scale, but all three physical life form domains fit to be fit in their own right. There can be no recycling of life stuff in the first instance, either in terms of ID or creationism. Life was added to matter. Only life comes from life, there is no exception to that established principle. Even Darwin first admitted that. No amount of a imaginary modification will turn sea animal into a land animal, then back again. Our imagination, our intelligence, is not even powerul enough to detail any such theoretical changes, even if they existed. At the mid point of such a theoretical transitional form, the psyche of the animal must have been equivalent of the Push me Pull you bird, but worse, schizophrenic in potential. It is an attempt to get round an impossible imaginary process never seen (that is truly shape shifting upgrading forms and reversing in his case) by either an unitelligent process or an imaginary intelligent designer in terms of ID by common descent. Evolution within species, the only true use of the term 'evolution' ever recorded, indicates preprogramed evolution within limits in order to maintain the created fittest; barring an intelligently generated world catastrophe. End of my comments, thank you vjtorley. mw
I've always marveled at how those bottlenose dolphins in Florida could manage to steal the fish off my hook and never get hooked when the stupid pelicans* get hooked all the time. What makes them so smart? I personally think that sea mammals were created in the sea and I certainly don't think they came from some hippo kind of cow, but that's just me. What do I know, I've only been around for a little less than 70 years. *When you go fishing down in Florida bring a towel with you and cover the pelicans eyes when you take out the hook, it calms them down. You are required by law to do this and who wants the poor pelicans to die anyway. I actually had one try to eat a three foot Bonnethead Shark I caught, that's how stupid they are. jimmontg
If the whale descended from a forest creature there should be forensic trail based on branches of populations that had to have happened. At any time "t" the population "p" is stable and has a specific gene pool. At some time, t+d1 (where d stands for some duration), the population somehow splits with p dividing into p1 and p2 with very similar gene pools but different in some small way that one of the populations has a new characteristic. at time t+d1+d2 (need subscripts) the two populations split into 3 or 4 populations each with its own gene pool. So we have p11, p12, p21 and p22. At this time the gene pools will be very similar but slightly different. Maybe each of these populations develop some additional functions through more than one mutation but they still will be able to compared and seem very similar. This process plays out over millions of years and we have a large number of populations scattered around the globe. If one population decides to enter the water in a small way or a big way then this gene pool will be very similar to gene pools remaining on land. The gene pools on land and those in the water follow the same process. And as they part into future populations the land populations and water population must have large parts of their genome very similar. So when we have a whale we also must have had a large number of similar populations in the water that were once the precursor to whale populations but should have spawned other water populations. We know there are several whale populations but somewhere in the past there must have been stable populations that once existed that branched off from the ancestor to the whale and evolved into other water populations. Where are these other populations? There should be millions of them. They all could not have gone extinct. Since none/only a few exist, I assume that the scenario I have been describing did not happen no matter how many beneficial mutations were able to arise. At all points along the way there are stable populations and we are asking all but a few to go extinct so only a few lines remain. I think this unlikely. Somehow there should be a pathway for the whale to have traveled through with many if not most of the population changes visible in the genomes of other species that divided along the way but for which the beneficial mutations never happened or they had different beneficial mutations. It is in such an approach that the path from forrest animal to whale should be discernable. This sounds a little complicated but either the pathway can be discerned in most parts or there is no pathway, whether it is 300 changes or 3000 or 30000. it is the old "dog barking in the night" argument. None of the expected populations are barking. So why not. The answer is there are no dogs (populations) to bark. (Different from how this is used in the Sherlock Holmes' Silver Blaze story ) So the progression through 300, 3000 or 30000 beneficial mutations did not happen. jerry
That’s a topic I’ll address in my next post. In the meantime, I’d like to throw the discussion open to readers. How many beneficial mutations do you think were required in order to transform a land mammal into a whale, and can you explain why nine million years would not have been long enough for the process, if evolution is regarded as an unguided process?
I think in addition to the number of beneficial mutations required is the analysis of a known mechanism that can do the job. Can you build a mathematical model that can go from a land animal to a whale given reasonable population sizes and time required to get x number of mutations. What if this is tested against Lynches 2010 model for multicellular evolution? bill cole
Hi gpuccio#15 and mapou#16. The concept of intelligent design is admirable. One of its strengths is it engages unintelligent common decent by natural selection. Darwin had to severally redesign his concept of natural selection, after he had first made it into a God, or god-like. And of course Darwin spent his life before and after Origin, further redesigning his concept of common descent and his own brand of natural selection to fit all life forms to the advantage of his hypothesis; which, as he said, was one long argument. I find it ‘remarkable’ that Darwin had to design a theory in order to rid the world of any purposful intended foreseen design in life forms. Without doubt, that was to demolish the Judaeo-Christian God, whom on page 6 of Origin, Darwin made out to be “erroneous.” It seems to me (Vjtorly #10), “the common descent of all creatures” is a 'relative position' that is in Darwinist terms, certainly not provable or disprovable. In terms of creationism, quite possibly true in another sense (in terms of Sinai) but again, not provable or disprovable. However, similarity is no real conclusive proof of origins. Just because we may have genetic make up of 97% or so in certain instances, to knuckle draggers; the figures must mean something else, as we do not act 97% like tree swingers. Still, it can be said we contain 'recycled' simian in terms of the last theoretical animal upgrade. To claim common descent by intelligent design, we must first presume such a course is the best path for an all-powerful supernatural intelligent designer. Alternatively, the better way of supernaturally and intelligently creating life forms, we may equally presume, is direct, while allowing for variation once the basic building blocks of life are in place. The reuse or further use of common elements for different designs ensues. But it is still one unique design in total. Hence, 'recycling' original parts for further use in a basic sense. Common descent intelligent design, while a possibility, does not appear economy of design, and nothing is built to last in its essence. Hence, nothing fit at all in absolute terms. The fittest in essance are unchanging but variable; built to last, as stasis in animal fossils show, much to the dismay of Darwin. Another problem; the intent of a supernatural designer. Design through common descent, incudes killing in ever increasing powerful ferocity; and Hitler et al., certainly applied social engineering in terms of Darwin. Love embedded in perfected pre-planned individual designs may suggests the best ID concept of origin. mw
oldarmy94 Yet marine mammals did change from land creatures. I am a YEC but insist this is obvious. They changed after the flood because the seas had been sweapt clean of previous monsters. Its possible they get pressure sick. its about mechanism but not about result. Robert Byers
Many, many pearl divers have been able to hold their breath for up to 7 minutes. Some families like in Japan have been doing it (pearl diving) for many, many generation to support their living. Do you know what I'm driving at? What would happen if we compered their genomes to the guy that never dove and was just selling the pearls? How about the divers lungs and other organs? How far have they evolved? Are they much closer to a whale than us? If yes, how much? J-Mac
I can never remember applying recycling principles in design for something almost unique.
Intelligent design is 90% reuse of old functionality and 10% creation of new ones. In fact, software design is based on adding functionality to existing classes. If you are not reusing existing classes, you're not a software engineer. You're an idiot. Mapou
mw: IMO, you are not considering that biological design has probably specific constraints. The designer is acting on living beings, and it is probably much easier to transform what already exists than to redo all from scratch. For example, all living beings use many basic tools, like DNA duplication, transcription, translation, basic metabolism, and so on. All that information is already in living cells, ready to be used and enriched with new features. The same is true for other molecular mechanisms, for example all the new basic information in eukaryotes. It is true that, at least in OOL, a lot of basic information has to be assembled from scratch to build living beings from non living matter. That was certainly a special event, but there is no reason to think that a designer should be willing to redo that special efforts each time, when it is much easier to act transforming what already exists. Moreover, the new features which are added in the course of evolution are indeed new designs which are added to what exists and transform it. There are certainly engineering problems in adapting beings to express new functions, but there is no reason to believe that it would be easier to rebuild the whole frame of life. gpuccio
Hello Vjtorly #10: “the common descent of all creatures” of course must presume an intelligent designer who is heavily into recycling, that is in ID terms of common descent. I can never remember applying recycling principles in design for something almost unique. Of course some basic building blocks or thought processes may be applied in tank or space rocket design. However, planes ‘suddenly’ appeared on the scene, as did complex computers etc. Therefore applying intelligent design observations, surely there is a common sense ring, that economy of design indicates new designs appear basically unconnected, other than by intelligent mind? Meaning, it is generally more economical to produce a new design than modify an old one, as then both the old and new are preserved. Besides, the prowess of the overall designer is shown. Otherwise such a designer never created a brand new design, apart from the first designed life form, complete with life units and life components. And if such an intelligent mind can produce a single unique intelligent functioning life form in the beginning, which must have been instantaneous life, why not then for all species, and just as quick? mw
whales and dolphins show the effects of decompression sickness ( How does ID account for that? ) First, there are doubts whether or not whales suffer from decompression sickness. The evidence is speculative. Second, IF they do suffer from it, it apparently isn't a "normal" phenomenon. Whales are able to dive thousands of meters and ascend on a routine basis without any harm. If decompression sickness exists in whales, it is due to other sickness or unusual circumstances. But, the bottom line for me is this: how does evolution account for that? After all, with all of these marvelous random adaptations, you think that somewhere along the line something as simple as that would have been weeded out by natural selection. Questioning the designer's motive is a philosophical position, but the hard, cold "facts" of evolutionary theory demand that decompression sickness would be long gone from whales. OldArmy94
I think the number is on the order of 10000 or more. Bob O'Hs paper lists 4700 protein changes but I would think some fraction of these are not relevant for the transition to the ocean. I think the majority of changes would be regulatory but these would be hard to tally because of complex combinatorial effects: ie. change A has no effect at all, change B has no effect at all but A and B together have an effect. It seems to me that the most difficult aspect of whale evolution is to account for remodeling of the skeleton. Many of the physiological adaptations to life in the ocean wouldn't have taken that many changes. In fact they still haven't completely adapted: whales and dolphins show the effects of decompression sickness ( How does ID account for that? ) I think the best argument IDers could make would not be to claim there isn't enough time for the number of genes but to claim that specific changes had to occur to change the skeleton to an ocean going form. The 'winning-the-lottery' argument. I don't think this argument works because of pleiotropy, the combinatorial effect, and because mutations occurring in multiple places can have the same effect....but its the best argument that can be made REW
Groovamos #!
Does this theorem have a name, so that the little children will understand? And grow up and be great at engineering and science and everything?
Yes, its called pleiotropy. Its covered in most high school biology classes REW
Hi mw, I strongly sympathize with your remark, "As a design engineer, how many modifications would I need to redesign a tank into a space rocket. I would not because it is a silly idea in the first place." That reminds me of the joke about the Irishman who, when asked the way to a remote town, answered, "Well, I wouldn't start from here." Certainly, I wouldn't want to re-engineer a contemporary hippopotamus into a whale. That would be a nightmare. However, the common ancestor of both creatures is believed to have possessed a greater degree of developmental plasticity, making engineering a viable option. Of course, from a Designer's-eye point of view, the common descent of all living creatures only makes sense if it involves less effort on the Designer's part than building from scratch, or if it reduces the need for intelligently mutations. vjtorley
Hi Bob O'H, The paper looks very interesting. It seems that 3,000 beneficial mutations getting fixed in the whale lineage is still too high a figure, after all. Thank you for bringing that paper to my attention. vjtorley
3000 seem much too high, when compared to the data:
Compared with other non-whale mammals, the whale lineage contains a total of 4,773 genes with unique amino acid changes (fixed in the four minke whales and two bottlenose dolphins), and 574 genes had minke whale–specific amino acid changes (fixed only in the four minke whales). Of the 4,773 genes, 695 encoded function-altering amino acid changes that were specific to the whale lineage (Supplementary Table 36). We identified PSGs [Positively Selected Genes], on the basis of dN/dS ratios (nonsynonymous substitutions per nonsynonymous site to synonymous substitutions per synonymous site), by comparing the whale genomes with those of cow and pig using the branch-site likelihood ratio test. We identified 279 and 557 PSGs in the minke whale and bottlenose dolphin, respectively, whereas 64 PSGs were present in both (Supplementary Tables 37–43)
So there are about 700 genes with altered function, and 900 genes showing evidence of positive selection. Bob O'H
Darwin's whale-bear says it all. In subsequent editions of ORIGINS, it was dropped by the publisher. Darwin was not a happy bunny, because the principle was the pinnacle of his hypothesis. As a design engineer, how many modifications would I need to redesign a tank into a space rocket. I would not because it is a silly idea in the first place. mw
In reality, Darwinists (and for that matter, mutationists like Professor Larry Moran) envisage the evolution of the whale as involving lots of mutations occurring in parallel, in various organs and systems in their bodies.
But it doesn't change the fact the probabilities have to be multiplied. The big question I assume in the next installment is the probability of mutations. Doug Axe would have something to say about that. http://www.biologicinstitute.org/post/19308937461/bold-biology-for-2009
Bold Biology for 2009 By Doug Axe Furthermore, returning to the first question, it seems that even humble binding-site conversions are typically beyond the reach of Darwinian evolution. Durrett and Schmidt conclude that “this type of change would take >100 million years” in a human line [1], which is problematic in view of the fact that the entire history of primates is thought to be shorter than that [3].
Estimating the Prevalence of Protein Sequences Adopting Functional Enzyme Folds Douglas D. Axe* ... Combined with the estimated prevalence of plausible hydropathic patterns (for any fold) and of relevant folds for particular functions, this implies the overall prevalence of sequences performing a specific function by any domain-sized fold may be as low as 1 in 10^77, adding to the body of evidence that functional folds require highly extraordinary sequences.
Ann K. Gauger, Douglas D. Axe ... We infer from the mutants examined that successful functional conversion would in this case require seven or more nucleotide substitutions. But evolutionary innovations requiring that many changes would be extraordinarily rare, becoming probable only on timescales much longer than the age of life on earth.
Also, Whales evolved from a land mammal in less than 5 million years. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/10/discovery_of_oldest_fully_aqua052021.html
The fossil record now might jump from fully terrestrial Pakicetids to fully aquatic whales in just a couple million years -- maybe much less than 5 million years. In fact, if this find has been correctly identified, then fully aquatic whales might have existed before many of their alleged semi-aquatic evolutionary precursors. Of course future finds could extend these ranges, but if this fossil means fully aquatic whales existed as early as 49 mya, then the timescale available for whale evolution is incredibly short.
Jim Smith
I saw a hippopotamus breaching once, looked just like that whale in the photo. Mung
The whale is a big dolphin. They can interbreed. Counting mutations seems a untestable operation. At the end it still would be speculation. So i guess which speculation is more reasonable. If one mutation pushes you in the right direction, land lover/whale, then why not another mutation goes opposite to it? Is it a factor that mutations could cancel each other out like crazy? Okay is selection HOLD IN PLACE some mutation body advantage then inagine just how mutations would/could go from there in any direction that surely selection would also like. It seems selection here is very hands on and has a purpose. Where are the seas creatures that are the result of mutations helping them survive? Why is it only a few types? It seems there is a constraint on options beyond selections options and mutation options. Its crazy saying mutations created marine mammals. Its just a fable. Yes they were land creatures first but not from evolution. Other innate mechanisms within genes. Just like with people and our different bodies/looks. Robert Byers
In reality, Darwinists (and for that matter, mutationists like Professor Larry Moran) envisage the evolution of the whale as involving lots of mutations occurring in parallel, in various organs and systems in their bodies. It's still magical. Just the right mutations in just the right numbers in just the right places at just the right times in just the right ancestors with just the right status as deleterious, neutral or beneficial. May as well claim goddidit. Its' well known that gods can perform miracles. Perhaps they think Nature is God. Mung
If 30 beneficial mutations can turn a light-sensitive spot into the vertebrate eye I have no problem believing 3000 beneficial mutations could make a whale from nothing at all. Mung
Mikkel Rumraket Rasmussen opines that the lower figure is closer to the truth, as many mutations have impacts on not one, but multiple body organs. So these very rare mutations that are advantageous for a body part arising are somehow automatically advantageous for the other body parts too? Truly amazing how nature could work that kind of statistical magic. Does this theorem have a name, so that the little children will understand? And grow up and be great at engineering and science and everything? Wikipedia: One of the earliest theoretical studies of the distribution of fitness effects was done by Motoo Kimura, an influential theoretical population geneticist. His neutral theory of molecular evolution proposes that most novel mutations will be highly deleterious, with a small fraction being neutral.[58][59] Hiroshi Akashi more recently proposed a bimodal model for the DFE, with modes centered around highly deleterious and neutral mutations.[60] Both theories agree that the vast majority of novel mutations are neutral or deleterious and that advantageous mutations are rare, which has been supported by experimental results. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutation groovamos

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