Monday, May 3, 2010

Arabidopsis Versus Evolution

The theory of evolution states that biological change occurs by the natural selection of otherwise unintelligent biological variation. Organisms just happen to vary in their designs, and those that work better are better represented in later generations. But recent research shows change occurring far more rapidly than such a blind process could generate. The results not only are yet another falsification of an evolutionary prediction, they also demonstrate the limited usefulness of the theory.

The new research used a commonly studied plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, to study how plants adapt to temperature variations. In one experiment two generations were exposed to mildly hot temperatures. The next generation was exposed to normal temperatures, and then for the final generation the temperature was again elevated. These plants significantly outperformed plants whose ancestors had been exposed to colder temperatures.

In other words, these plants had adapted to the warmer temperatures, and the adaptation had persisted through a generate exposed to normal temperatures. This example of rapid adaptation defies the evolutionary expectation of lucky changes undergoing natural selection. As one science writer put it:

Because the chance of accumulating mutations within just two generations that led the heat-conditioned plants to thrive in hotter conditions was essentially nil, the authors conclude that inherited epigenetic factors affecting flower production and early-stage seed survival in those plants had to be at play.

Of course this is a falsification of an evolutionary prediction, but the research also has important implications for agriculture. As the researchers explain:

the result has significant and practical implications for understanding variation in agronomic productivity

Whereas Jonathan Weiner once asked, “How can you be a creationist farmer any more?,” the operative question now seems to be, “How can you be a evolutionist farmer any more?”


  1. So, it is now observed that organisms can adapt more rapidly than previously expected. And this disproves evolution.
    I must be missing something here.

    "But recent research shows change occurring far more rapidly than such a blind process could generate."

    If these inherited epigenetic changes aren't natural (or 'blind' as you call them) what are they? miracles? If they are natural, what do you mean by 'blind processes'?

    And again, how in the world do rapid adaptations to environment falsify evolution in any way? Surely you must realize that mutations aren't the only cause of evolution. (Darwin didn't even know what a genetic mutation was; all evolution needs is natural variation. It doesn't really matter what natural factors cause the variation.)

    It seems that what you're essentially saying is:

    Look how fast things can evolve! They couldn't possibly have evolved!

  2. Derick,

    I agree. If these changes are accounted for by anything other than natural means, then we humans are able to perform miracles every time we repeat this test. True miracles, not just misunderstood natural laws, are beyond our reach. Therefore this phenomena must be a natural one.

    This reasoning raises the question of how that ready made adaptation was programmed into the plants DNA. A far more interesting question that I hope gets debated here. In and of itself though, this article isn't much of a criticism of evolution.

  3. "Of course this is a falsification of an evolutionary prediction."

    What prediction is that? Who stated it?

    First, epigenetics is not magic. It acts through natural mechanisms like histone and DNA methylation. These also function in the repression of mobile genetic elements (e.g. transposons), and participate in gene regulation.

    In some cases, this regulation is slightly inheritable. (See reference below-a few generations, in a fell cell lineages-like seed coat, flowering time, etc-promoters of survival under stress). Without stress, the modifications reset in a very few generations. They don't make permanent changes to the germ-line.

    Since the changes haven't been shown to affect long-term hereditary changes, we can consider them enhancers of phenotypic plasticity, that promote survival.

    Transgenerational Inheritance and Resetting of Stress-Induced Loss of Epigenetic Gene Silencing in Arabidopsis.
    Mol Plant. 2010 Apr 21.

    ".....observed transmission of stress effects on reporter gene silencing to non-stressed progeny, but this effect was restricted to areas consisting of a small number of cells and limited to a few non-stressed progeny generations. Furthermore, stress-induced release of gene silencing was antagonized and reset during seed aging. The transient nature of this phenomenon highlights the ability of plants to restrict stress-induced relaxation of epigenetic control mechanisms, which likely contributes to safeguarding genome integrity."

  4. Dr. Cornelius has incorrectly defined the theory of evolution, when he alleges this (and everything else) is a "falsified" prediction of evolution. Evolutionary theory does not predict the absence of epigenetics.

    Evolutionary theory does not predict, as Dr. Cornelius incorrectly claimed in the past, that *all biological variation* is the result of random mutation + natural selection.

    You can exercise and build up your muscles, that is a type of biological variation, which is not due to random mutation + natural selection. But this does not disprove evolution. Neither does the very interesting epigenetic mechanism here.

    On another note, the Soviet "scientist" Trofim Lysenko pushed an anti-Darwinian, anti-Mendelian, anti-genetic pseudoscience called "Lysenkoism" which was responsible for massive drops in agricultural production in Russia and China. One of his ideas was "vernalization"-- if you dunked seeds in cold water, supposedly they would adapt in a non-Darwinian fashion, and later would grow better in cold climates. It didn't work. Millions starved.

    It's interesting that in the above paper, there is no cold adaptation, but there is heat adaptation. Discuss.

  5. It's nice to see high class commentary on any blog, let alone one devoted to Creationism.

  6. Maybe he is not critizing Darwinian Evolution but Hunterian Evolution?

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    or call me at 646-520-0688 ext 351 I love to have you guest!

  8. What evolution predicts is that this type of mechanism arose through
    natural selection in an environment with temperature variation
    trends. So, now it is time to do more science. What plants can
    and cannot adapt in a similar fashion? Where is the site within
    the cell that is active for this type of adaptation. Are we talking
    nuclear dna, or are we talking about the other chemical parts of
    the cell that are known to transmit information?

    What you have here is evidence of an additional mechanism of
    evolution, not a "disproof" of evolution.

    Nice try, though.

  9. John Stockwell:

    "What you have here is evidence of an additional mechanism of evolution, not a "disproof" of evolution."

    Who said it was disproof of evolution?

  10. "Who said it was disproof of evolution?"

    Cornelius, You did. That's what your article is ABOUT; how epigenetic changes are yet another falsification of evolutionary predictions, how "recent research shows change occurring far more rapidly than such a blind process could generate." You are CLEARLY implying that the origin of this feature not only IS NOT explained by natural processes, but that it CAN NOT be. (because blind [natural] processes *could not* generate change that rapidly)

    Asking the question "Who said it was disproof of evolution?" after writing such a post is like telling someone they need to loose several hundred pounds of unsightly excess weight and then claiming that you didn't technically 'say' you thought they were fat.

  11. Derick Childress:

    "Who said it was disproof of evolution?"

    Cornelius, You did. That's what your article is ABOUT; how epigenetic changes are yet another falsification of evolutionary predictions,

    Falsifying a theory, and falsifying a prediction are very different things.