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Thoughts on genetic entropy

Hello all, I was curious what other atheists thought about this. I myself am an atheistic agnostic and read up on a concept created by the creationist John C. Sanford called genetic 'entropy’. In accordance to his “concept”, he believes evolution is bogus/false because according to his supposed tests, our DNA as well as other animals’ DNA is deteriorating so therefore evolution is not true (and yet here we are now). He claims that there is no way that animal DNA could have survived as long as it has on an old earth, to summarize. He is an advocate of intelligent design, of course! Having seen much of the evidence for evolution, I find his claims silly. So I wanted to know everyone else’s thoughts.

Thanks

Posted: April 20th 2012

George Locke

I haven’t read his book, but Sanford seems to have rediscovered Muller’s Ratchet, an effect known to evolutionary biologists at least since 1932. Indeed, the population genetics literature on genetic load goes back more than fifty years. Sanford isn’t bringing any essentially new facts to the table; we may attribute his anti-evolutionary conclusions to bias rather than evidence.

Horizontal gene transfer is generally sufficient to quell the accumulation of deleterious mutations.

A more detailed rebuttal may be found here (scroll down a bit to find the section on Sanford).

Posted: July 10th 2012

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Eric_PK

I like what Brian wrote.

I’d also note that what we think of junk DNA may both be useful, both for existing organisms (see evo-devo for more information), and as a useful mining ground for mutations to turn on and off.

Or, to put it another way, how DNA turns into plants and animals is far more complex than we used to think.

Posted: June 30th 2012

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brian thomson www

A full treatment of this non-issue requires a lot more space (e.g. here ), but the short answer is that detrimental mutations don’t build up, because they don’t survive to the next generation: that is the definition of “detrimental” in evolutionary terms. We are the sum of many “beneficial” (i.e. survivable) mutations, and we’re not the weirdest species on this planet. (I want to tell these folks to look at a hyena or a duck-billed platypus before arguing for “intelligent design”!)

What you do get building up is non-coding or “junk” DNADNA which doesn’t need to be there, but doesn’t do any harm, because it isn’t “expressed”. There is thus no evolutionary pressure against it, so it remains in the DNA. The origins and frequency of “junk” DNA are currently open questions, but experiments support the notion that it’s evolutionary “leftovers”.

Our lives today are relatively comfortable, and we can see the huge genetic variety surrounding us, so it’s tempting to imagine that there’s some “slack” in the system, and that species can survive while accumulating “bad” genes. But (as noted above) “bad” is only meaningful in evolutionary terms in the way it affects our chances of survival and reproduction in the short term, from generation to generation. (Evolution only allows us a long-term view in hindsight!) Sanford has his own fuzzy definition of “bad” that has nothing to do with survival and reproduction – and it doesn’t work. If genes are “bad”, they aren’t going to accumulate, because evolution is a harsh mistress who, historically, hasn’t given species much “slack” at all.

Posted: May 2nd 2012

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