Thursday, August 13, 2009

How Evolution Created Evolution

Did your high school biology teacher tell you that evolution is a fact because, after all, species are observed to adapt and evolve in nature? At the time it may not have occurred to you that moths changing color and the beaks of birds changing shape hardly demonstrate that entirely new forms and designs can appear without a trace of evolutionary history. It also may not have occurred to you that those examples of adaptation, observed in the field, occur suspiciously quickly. Wasn't evolution supposed to take millions of years? But even if those problems did occur to you, what you were probably unaware of is that, ironically, adaptation is not evidence for evolution--it is evidence against evolution.

The adaptation of species to environmental pressures would seem like obvious evidence for evolution. But in recent years we have begun to understand the enormous complexity of adaptation. It is not a story of natural selection acting on undirected biological variations (that is, variations that are blind to environmental pressures).

This sort of undirected process has been the evolutionary dogma for the past century. In what was known as the Modern Synthesis, biological adaptation was described as resulting from blind variations resulting, for instance, from genetic rearrangements or unguided mutations.

No thanks to evolution we are now beginning to understand the real version of biological adaptation. What we are seeing is an incredibly complex adaptation machine that tweaks the designs of organisms in response to environmental pressures.

It is not a simple story as there are a variety of different ways such adaptations can occur. These mechanisms, broadly labeled as epigenetic inheritance, can regulate the expression of genes as well as redesign the genes. The bottom line is that the adaptations are not unguided, they benefit the organism, and they are extremely complex. The evolutionary story is completely wrong. As one evolutionist admitted, the Modern Synthesis:

states that variations are blind, are genetic (nucleic acid-based), and that saltational events do not significantly contribute to evolutionary change. The epigenetic perspective challenges all these assumptions, and it seems that a new extended theory, informed by developmental studies and epigenetic inheritance, and incorporating Darwinian, Lamarckian, and saltational frameworks, is going to replace the Modern Synthesis version of evolution.

A new extended theory? This should be interesting, for it would have to explain how evolution creates mechanisms which, themselves, cause evolution (in the form of adaptation). I sense a just-so story coming on. In fact, evolutionists are already explaining this without losing a step. For instance (from the same paper):

Epigenetic inheritance should be favored in fluctuating environmental conditions that last for more than one generation (but not for very long) and may be particularly important in the type of environments experienced by many microorganisms. In such fluctuating environments, efficient epigenetic inheritance is likely to evolve (i) if the parental environment carries reliable information about the offspring’s environment, (ii) when the response to induction is lengthy and incurs a very high cost, and (iii) when recall is not an option or incurs too high a cost.

See, that was easy. Evolution just happens. So long as there is an advantage to a new design, then it will appear. That's how evolution works. A weed eating monster would have a great time in my backyard--I wonder why one hasn't appeared?

One of the best known epigenetic mechanisms is DNA methylation in which a methyl group is added to cytosine, one of the four DNA chemical letters. The methyl group is a sort of marker that can help to regulate the expression of genes. DNA methylation is accomplished via the action of a complicated molecular machine (DNA methyltransferase) that adds the methyl group at precisely the right location in the DNA strand.

So evolution configured DNA methyltransferase and the associated molecular information that tells it where to add the methyl group, so that later the organism and its offspring could benefit when certain environmental pressures arose. That's good planning--evolution is almost as smart as evolutionists are.

And to further complicate matters, this molecular marker can, itself, be modified. That is, the mark can be marked, thus adding another layer of information to the epigenetic mechanism. In this case, the methyl group is hydroxylated. And of course a different complicated molecular machine is required for the task, and the information of when and where to go to work is needed.

I wonder if my high school biology teacher knows about this.