Sunday, November 20, 2016

How the Peppered Moth Backfired

The Poster Child Became the Rebuttal

It has been called one of the best examples of evolution observed in the wild—light colored peppered moths (Biston betularia) became dark colored in response to 19th century industrial pollution darkening the birch trees in their environment. Evolving a darker color helped camouflage the moths, and keep them hidden from predatory birds. And more recently, air pollution reductions lightened the environment and with it, the moths also began to revert to their lighter color. Proof of evolution, case closed, right? From popular presentations and museum exhibits, to textbooks and scientific papers, evolutionists have relentlessly pounded home the peppered moth as an undeniable confirmation of Darwin’s theory in action. There’s only one problem: All of this ignores the science.

There are two main problems with peppered moths story. First, changing colors is hardly a pathway leading to the kinds of massive biological change evolution requires. It is not as though a change in the peppered moth coloration is any kind of evidence for how the moths evolved, or how any other species, for that matter, could have evolved.

In fact changing the color of a moth not only fails to show how species could evolve, it also fails to show how any biological design could evolve. The peppered moth case doesn’t show how metabolism, the central nervous system, bones, red blood cells, or any other biological wonder could have arisen by evolution’s random mutations coupled with natural selection.

The moths were already there. Their wings were already there. Different colors were already there. The changing of color in moth populations, while certainly a good thing for the moths, is hardly an example of evolution.

Second, research strongly suggests that the cause of the darkening, at the molecular level, is an enormous genetic insertion. In other words, rather than a nucleotide, in a gene, mutating to one of the other three nucleotides, as you learned in your high school biology class, instead what has been found is an insertion of a stretch of more than 20,000 nucleotides. That long inserted segment consists of a shorter segment (about 9,000 nucleotides) repeated about two and one-third times.

Also, the insertion point is not in a DNA coding sequence, but in an intervening region (intron), which have been considered to be “junk DNA” in the past.

This observed mutation (the insertion of a long sequence of DNA into an intron), is much more complicated than a single point mutation. First, there is no change in the gene’s protein product. The mutating of the protein sequence was the whole idea behind evolution: DNA mutations which lead to changes in a protein can lead to a phenotype change with fitness improvement, and there would be subject to natural selection.

That is not what we are seeing in the much celebrated peppered moth example. The DNA mutation is much more complicated (~20,000 nucleotides inserted), and the fact it was inserted into an intron suggests that additional molecular and cellular mechanisms are required for the coloration change to occur.

None of this fits evolutionary theory.

For example, evolutionary theory requires that the needed random DNA mutational change is reasonably likely to occur. Given the moth’s effective population size, the moth’s generation time period, and the complexity of the mutation, the needed mutation is not likely to occur. Evolution would have to be inserting segments of DNA with (i) different sequences, at (ii) different locations, within the moth genome. This is an enormous space of mutational possibilities to search through.

It doesn’t add up. Evolution does not have the resources in terms of time and effective population size to come anywhere close to searching this astronomical mutational space. It’s not going to happen.

A much more likely explanation, and one that has been found to be true in so many other cases of adaptation (in spite of evolutionary pushback), is that the peppered moth coloration change was directed. The environmental change and challenge somehow caused the peppered moth to modify its color. This suggests there are preprogrammed, directed adaptation mechanisms, already in place that are ready to respond to future, potential, environmental changes, which might never occur.

Far from an evidence for evolution, this is evidence against evolution.

So there are at least two major problems with what is celebrated as a key evidence for evolution in action. First, it comes nowhere close to the type of change evolution needs, and the details of the change demonstrate that it is not evolutionary to begin with.

24 comments:

  1. Nice explanation. Essentially, anybody with a lick of sense can figure out that Darwinian evolution is fully refuted for a simple reason: the combinatorial explosion kills it dead. End of story.

    Anybody who claims otherwise is either lying or is a superstitious dirt worshipper, and stupid in either case.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I can't wait until you resurrect the "too much moon dust disproves evolution" PRATT. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Only a superstitious dirt worshipper with hidden religious and political motives would deny that evolution is fully refuted by the combinatorial explosion.

      Why are Darwinists so friggin stupid?

      Delete
    2. LOL! Sorry Fruit Loop Louis, the only explosion science needs to fear is the brown one that emanates from your bowels every time you try to discuss evolutionary biology.

      Delete
    3. CH, with Joe and Mapou supporting your position, how can you lose. You must be proud.

      Delete
    4. With William and Ghostrider defending evolutionism, everyone can see how vacuous and unscientific it is.

      Delete
    5. Hunter is censoring my comments. Adios.

      Delete
  3. "This suggests there are preprogrammed, directed adaptation mechanisms, already in place that are ready to respond to future, potential, environmental changes, which might never occur."
    Wow, Doc, you are starting to sound like James Shapiro. He, of course, is trying to keep a naturalistic view bandaged onto his theories.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You got it all wrong. Your understanding of populations genetic and evolution is really poor.

    First it's likely that the insertion was already present at low frequency in the population of the moth and rose in frequency due to the change of color of the tree's bark. It is a classic case of how selective pressure change the frequency of an allele in a population. The fact that the insertion is in an intron further the case that this mutation was not causing some pathways to be disrupted and could be maintained in the population.


    Second large insertions are a frequent features of the genome. It is well documented in the literature and for example, in cancer cell. Just look at Transposable Elements (TEs).

    Also it is ridiculous to claim that those insertion are "directed". It would follows that disease causing insertions are also directed, so you would have mechanism that are designed to reduce fitness? You can claim that those mechanism are error prone but then how do you differentiate between the errors and the good one ? How does any of this make sense ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You got it all wrong. Your understanding of populations genetic and evolution is really poor.

      So says the Epicurean.


      First it's likely that the insertion was already present at low frequency in the population of the moth and rose in frequency due to the change of color of the tree's bark.

      No, the transposition was dated at ~1819.


      Second large insertions are a frequent features of the genome.

      Sorry, you can’t solve the problem with mutational load.

      Delete
  5. How was the transposition was dated at ~1819?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. By comparing recombination patterns from carbonaria, typica, and insularia. btw, whether or not that date is correct, my point is simply that introducing transposable elements increases the search space.

      Delete
  6. Chris: "How was the transposition was dated at ~1819?"

    I was just about to ask the same question. Especially since transpositions weren't discovered until the late 40s.

    Stage 3?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LoL! Read the paper:

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27251284/


      Statistical inference based on the distribution of recombined carbonaria haplotypes indicates that this transposition event occurred around 1819, consistent with the historical record.

      Delete
  7. "First, changing colors is hardly a pathway leading to the kinds of massive biological change evolution requires."

    And I always thought that erecting strawman arguments to knock them down was an evolutionist tactic.

    "In fact changing the color of a moth not only fails to show how species could evolve, it also fails to show how any biological design could evolve."

    Again. Strawman. Erecting. Knocking down.

    " Second, research strongly suggests that the cause of the darkening, at the molecular level, is an enormous genetic insertion."

    So? Natural selection acts on variation, regardless of the source. The more the sources of variation, the more likely natural selection is.

    "In other words, rather than a nucleotide, in a gene, mutating to one of the other three nucleotides, as you learned in your high school biology class,..."

    Canadian high schools must be better than the one you went to. We were never taught that the colour change in peppered moths was the result of a single nucleotide change. What was the title and author of your high school biology textbook?

    "DNA mutations which lead to changes in a protein can lead to a phenotype change with fitness improvement, and there would be subject to natural selection."

    Correct. As can mutations that result in the cessation of the production of a protein or the changing in the timing of the production of a protein. High school biology 101. You must have been sick that day.

    "None of this fits evolutionary theory."

    Except all of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Natural selection acts on variation, regardless of the source.

      1- Natural selection includes variation
      2- Natural selection is passive. It does not act on anything
      3- The variation has to random, as in a chance/ happenstance event

      If the variation is directed by the organism then it isn't natural selection.

      There isn't any evidence that the color change was due to random mutations. And without that it doesn't fit in with evolutionism.

      Delete
  8. "The environmental change and challenge somehow caused the peppered moth to modify its color. This suggests there are preprogrammed, directed adaptation mechanisms, already in place that are ready to respond to future, potential, environmental changes, which might never occur."

    Does that mean that Philip E. Johnson was mistaken when he said that what happened with the peppered moth was this:

    There were light and dark peppered moths all along, and the environmental change caused the lighter ones to be more visible to predators, and so that population was dramatically reduced or temporarily eliminated.

    I'm pretty sure he said the same thing about "Darwin's Finches", i.e. there were shorter beaked and longer beaked finches all along, but when a drought occurred, then the shorter beaked birds would be more likely not to survive.

    Johnson's version isn't really 'evolution' at all, as both varieties were already present in the population. This would make Darwinism more of an extinction mechanism than an evolution mechanism.

    ~Sean

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Johnson's version isn't really 'evolution' at all, as both varieties were already present in the population. "

      Then you don't understand what evolution is.

      Delete
    2. It depends on what one chooses to call "evolution". If a creature comes in two colors, white and black, and environmental conditions cause the black creatures to do well and survive but the white ones do poorly or go extinct, that merely sets the groundwork for potential future evolution. If there is no change, then there is no evolution.

      If you want to define the term so broadly that events that *may* contribute to future change are to be called "evolution" then one would have to call environmental conditions like whether "evolution". You can use the term that broadly if you'd like, but I choose to limit my own use to that which is useful and meaningful.

      ~Sean

      Delete
    3. Again, you are just demonstrating your ignorance of evolution. Come back when you can discuss it with intelligence.

      Have you noticed that even your ID friends are not coming to your defence?

      Delete
    4. "Again, you are just demonstrating your ignorance of evolution. Come back when you can discuss it with intelligence."

      There are a number of definitions of "evolution" and I choose to limit that term to mutations/changes that are selected for survival by natural selection. Yes, the dark colored moths were selected for survival, at least temporarily, but no new features emerged; rather, an existing feature was diminished.

      Johnson's explanation of the peppered moth didn't involve mutations that were selected for survival; it involved the diminution of an existing characteristic. No new information was brought about by mutations.

      As I said, you can call that evolution if you choose to, and your use is commonly accepted, but I don't find it meaningful or helpful, and so I prefer to only view examples of modification/change as potential evolution.

      So let's say that I'm mistaken and that I should abandon my preferred use of the term. In your mind that means I should get the heck out of here? So, if you were a teacher and a student offered what you considered a wrong answer, you'k kick that student out of class, right?

      What is it about Dariwnism that causes so many people to become insufferable jerks?





      Delete
  9. What amazes me is how much ado there is about this concept of evolution. Yes to all of you, evo guys, evolution happens! I agree.

    However, the real question is how much in biology can be **really** explained by evolution. I mean really, down to the nitty-gritty detail of particular experimentation, meticulous measurements and accurately met predictions expressed in actual figures such that they do not give rise to habitual 'surprises' so common in evo literature.

    There is serious scientific doubt as to how much it can actually achieve.

    Evolution is noise compared to the information content that is necessary to kick-start life.

    Darwinian mechanism can really account for a corner case of a corner case (when a functional system is there and the selection pressure is very specific).

    Natural selection cannot select for a future function simply because selection pressure acts only on existing functional systems! Selection does not favor a future function. Even though it can account to some extent for changes in existing functionality, how can it explain at least one **novel** function, to say nothing of all the observed biological functionality?!

    Yes, evolution is a valid scientific explanation of change (not of genuine novelty). However, its actual significance is being ruthlessly progressively reduced by objective science (information theory, theory of automata, cybernetics, control theory, systems theory and other disciplines).

    There is no rigorous mathematical theory underpinning Darwinian model. Attempts by Gregory Chaitin to justify Darwinism mathematically are one the few stoic endeavors. But, on closer examination, we find that they all tacitly assume the desired; the oracle is there in every model invisibly guiding the search for solutions to the desired outcome. Therefore computer models behave much better than nature. That is expected, given than what computer models really model is artificial selection, not natural selection.

    Again, evolution is just noise in practice. How much will a software virus evolve if you allow its code to mutate?! Try and see.

    How can it acquire any real functional novelty other than by programming for it? How can a code error-checking system be explained by code errors coupled with the "die or live" selection filter?!

    Yes, minor oscillations around the already available functionality can be explained by Darwinian means. But that is about it...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "There is serious scientific doubt as to how much it can actually achieve. "

      No. There is serious scientific disagreement over the relative importance of the different mechanisms involved. That is how science and knowledge progresses.

      Delete
    2. "No. There is serious scientific disagreement over the relative importance of the different mechanisms involved. That is how science and knowledge progresses."

      You call that progress ? I call it a failure in leadership and a reflection of why our natural world is in such a mess. For example, the present climate chaos and the dumb ideas being prsented which fail miserably because of being hung up on dogma

      Delete