Sunday, June 25, 2006

Debating Creation

Ok the gauntlet has been thrown down and the challenge opened. Some comments on got me thinking about which of the two alternatives, evolution or creation, I believe and why. So I opened a challenge, throw me any argument in favor of evolution and I will see what I can dig up for or against it. Just leave a comment to this post. Hit me with your best shot, people!

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Dimensio said...

Are you familiar with endogenous retroviral insertions, or how such insertions occur across primate spcies?

Viruses, as you should know given your claimed expertise in the subject of biology, attempt to invade cells and replace the DNA of the cell with the DNA of the virus which then reprograms the cell to produce more copies of the virus. Sometimes the insertion does not succeed in actually reprogramming the cell. Occasionally the only result is bits of viral code replacing non-coding regions of the cell's DNA. The result is a cell that is functionally undamaged, but contains elements of viral DNA -- a "marker" of the virus's invasion attempt -- that will typically die with the natural death of the cell.

Even more rarely, a virus will insert its code in this fashion into a cell responsible for producing reproductive cells -- sperm or eggs. The cell continues to produce reproductive cells, as the insertion is within a non-coding region and thus does not actually alter what the cell does, but a side-effect of this is that all reproductive cells produced will subsequently carry this viral "marker" which -- again -- is harmless to the cell. And if one of thse reproductive cells manages to end up merging with another cell from a member of the opposite sex of the spcies, the result will be an offspring that, in every cell in its body, contains the "marker" of this viral insertion. In this way, the virus can actually be used to track hereditary. It is a safe assumption that any organism with such a marker will be related to any other organism with the same marker in the same location in the genome.

Fairly recently these insertions have been studied as they occur across primate species, including humans. Several such insertions have been found across several primate species, and curiously, all such observations line up with established lines of descent. That is, any retroviral insertion observed in the genome of an orangutan and also observed in the same location in a chimpanzee is also found in humans and gorillas. This is because it has already been established through the fossil record that orangutans branched off from a common ancestor to humans, apes and chimps. The vast improbability of the same viral insertion occuring at the same location in a genome in the right cells of two different species is so small that the most logical conclusion for this observation is common descent of primate species, consisten with established lineages.

I am curious if you are familiar with this information and, if so, you have a rebuttal.

Dimensio said...

Some comments on got me thinking about which of the two alternatives, evolution or creation, I believe and why.

I should also note that this is a false dichotomy.

Ricklionhart said...

Why would retrovirus signatures be copied by God (Oops I should have said 'ID' not used the 'G' word)? An assumption would be using existing living templates for new species, as in “I think I’ll create a giraffe today and this antelope I made in the past seems like a good starting point” so he picks a couple germ cells from living antelopes, modifies the genomes, and grows a pair of giraffes, complete with the retrovirus baggage from the past. If this argument is taken then ID becomes not much different from common descent, the only difference is that the new design features didn’t come through gradualism or chance but by purposeful intervention. I don’t care too much for the tinkering scenario because it isn’t the simplest explanation and it doesn’t follow the pattern of stem cells in ontogenesis. Phylogenesis makes the most sense in that it follows the same principles as ontogenesis - the information needed to diversify into many distinct final forms was there all along so just as human pluripotent stem cells can diversify into many different cell types, tissue types, and organs, a common ancestor to all life on this planet could have been designed to unfold into many different final forms. This seems the most elegant explanation to me and only requires one instance of intelligent design input at a single point in time.

Thomas said...

I posted this to Digg, but it didn't get addressed there, so I'd like to ask again:

Evolution boils down to these two claims: genotype is strongly correlated with phenotype, and allele frequency changes over time. Which one is problematic?

Ricklionhart said...

Firstly, the digg post did say to post your questions here, on this blog. The glib answer to your question would be that both are problematic since Evolution remains an 'unproven' theory, but the same can be said of Creation. I would question that allele frequency changes over time; every drosophilia fly has a different number of eyes and they breed quickly; the number of petals on every flower varies due to allele variation even though the flower follows the same basic phenotype. I guess thats the crux of my doubts about the Evolution argument - the time factor. I can't accept the millions/billions of years idea when the evidence of my own eyes supports rapid changes or adaptation. When I go into the bush and study insects like I did 20 years ago, I see entirely different insects and all the ones familiar from my youth are not to be found. At least the Creationists' explanations fit the observable facts, and even the most fervent supporter of Evolution must admit many, many holes in dating methods, using a single bone to draw an entire skeleton, exponential growth of human population, fossils at 7 km deep, etc. (for a really interesting read check out the Russian deep hole link here in my blog - fascinating stuff, especially all the 'what we expected vs what we found' stuff).