Saturday, June 5, 2010

Retrotransposons are not Free

You may have been taught in your high school biology class that DNA point mutations provide the raw material for evolution. Such mutations can cause biological variation which might lead to improved reproductive rates. In those cases such mutations would likely be selected, and evolution would have taken yet another small step. You may have wondered how such unguided point mutations could ever produce the wonders we find in biology. The answer, evolutionists will tell you, is that point mutations are only the beginning of the story. In fact there are a variety of mechanisms, many far more complex than a DNA point mutation, that can produce biological variation. For instance, new research has found that so-called jumping genes, or transposons, provide for even more biological variation than previously thought. As one evolutionist remarked, “This movement of genetic material provides the raw material of genetic evolution.” There’s only one problem: transposons aren’t free.

The advantage of DNA point mutations is they are simple. Given some organic compounds in a warm little pond, and of course the all important sunlight that makes evolution possible, and some sort of reproduction cycle, and … . Well the story does become far-fetched rather quickly, but if you will go with me this far, it is not too heroic to imagine the occurrence of point mutations, of some sort. In other words, point mutations are conceivably free. They just happen, courtesy of nature and the available ingredients that are lying around.

Not so for the many more sophisticated mechanisms in biology that produce variation and are claimed as evolutionary fuel. Consider the retrotransposons that, in addition to its promoter sequence that helps initiate the copying of its DNA into an single-stranded RNA molecule, carries its own handy reverse transcriptase gene which encodes the protein machine that copies the RNA back into a DNA molecule, for later insertion into the genome. This can certainly cause biological variation, but it is anything but free.

With evolution we must believe that so many of the sophisticated biological variation mechanisms, such as in retrotransposons, were produced by evolution. Do you see the problem? In this circular tale that even Hans Christian Andersen could never have imagined, evolution produces the intricate mechanisms that produce evolution.

Evolutionists insist that there is no problem because none of this is impossible. Why can’t evolution produce mechanisms that produce evolution? Unless one can prove this is impossible, evolution wins (an argument that goes back to the sage of Kent himself). Though the evidence fails to prove evolution, it nonetheless must be a fact. In this Alice-in-Wonderland world, that which is not false is a fact (if it is evolution, that is).


  1. I think you under-estimate how far we are willing to drag chance - especially in this our “infinite universe” - in order to make a fact out of our preferred theory. If it was about plausibility, this whole stuff would never have made it off the ground in the first place.
    I’m waiting to see who falsifies my claim that it is a fact that we evolved bi-pedalism to reach for bats on cave roofs, without in the same instance rendering all such similar garbage useless. Of course, it cannot be any of our exclamation-mark-loving friends in the Darwin camp. Pardon me for being sceptical, but if your comment couldn’t be the result of a genetic algorithm, it is less-likely that you are. Or should we start going around with the creepy feeling in our heads that the design in the pro-Darwinn comments is only illusory, since I have a perfect explanation - “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL” - that “insists” that the design can be from randomness-plus-culling therefore it is?

    Anyway, I’m here, Dr. Hunter, to point out to you a debate between the eminent Prof. Massimo Pigliucci and the eminent Prof. Jerry Fodor. It is important in a variety of ways, but most of all because I have never heard it so clearly confessed (directly by Prof. Fodor, and indirectly by Prof. Pigliucci) that the neo-Darwinian theory is accepted solely for its metaphysical comforts.

    MP3 (35MB), and it goes for 1h30m, I think. There also seems to be an in-browser Flash version.

    Now I shall return to the background from which I chuckle heartily at the self-deluded stories that are propping up this logically-trivial-because-logically-inconsistent tripe.

  2. Cornelius,
    this whole post was written as if the purpose of retrotransposons was to increase variation when in fact that is just a byproduct of their activity. guess what retrotransposons actually are? I'll give you a hint: in computers, what do you call a bit of code that jumps inside a system and tries to make more copies of itself (as retrotransposons do)?

  3. Cornelius,

    I don't see the problem. There must be lots of dependancies in life: the ocean before fish, prey before preditors. Just because there is a dependancy doesn't prove anything one way or the other. It may mean evolution is more improbable, but we already know that the probability of complex biological systems being generated randomly is zero, or a s close to zero as is measurable.

  4. Peter says:"It may mean evolution is more improbable, but we already know that the probability of complex biological systems being generated randomly is zero, or a s close to zero as is measurable.

    Although it is perhaps worth noting that the random generation of complex biological systems is not predicted by evolutionary theory.

  5. Here's what I hear Cornelius saying:

    Point mutations are not dependent on DNA sequencing, whereas processes like those that produce retrotransposons, immune response, error-correction, etc, seem to be dependent on DNA sequences. So what, then, is the only conceivable way of calculating the probability of retrotransposons, immune responses, error-correction, etc? It would seem to be to divide the number of DNA sequences that condition such processes by the total number of DNA sequences that COULD have occurred, theretofore, by point mutations.

    So the problem is this: For all we know, that number may be so small as to be zero for all practical purposes. IOW, scientific plausibility isn't about subjective senses of metaphysical plausibility. It's about mathematical probability.

    But we can't calculate a mathematical probability for abiogenesis, macroevolution, etc. We don't even have a reason to suppose it's significantly different than zero. So we can't know, scientifically, that macroevolution is plausible.

    It's metaphysics that grounds the subjective sense of plausibility of macroevolutionists, not calculations based on observed or modeled natural frequencies.

  6. The 27th Comrade,

    Thank you for your link to Fodor's debate. It is very enlightening.