…And Brian Thomas breaks his pattern, putting out a DpSU on a Friday, leaving me with two to catch up on. Typical…
yesterday’s Thursday’s DpSU, “The Human Mutation Clock Is Ticking”, we have the claim that the human genome is denigrating, and will eventually “become extinct due to mutation overload”. For the staunchly biblical ICR, I am surprised at this idea – it strikes me as being somewhat against the ethos of the Bible, with the idea that humanity, rather than having been redeemed by Christ, is doomed to slow denigration jarring a bit with my perceptions. But, anything to disprove evolution, eh?
I was originally going to call this post ‘The Subtleties of Mutations’. The original, much maligned study was studying the possibility that the mutations that you receive from your parents may vary between your father and mother. This makes a lot of sense – after all, sperm cells divide much more often than eggs, giving them a much greater chance of producing a mutation that is passed on to the ensuring embryo. The results seem a bit unhelpful, varying wildly – to quote the abstract, “Most strikingly, in one family, we observed that 92% of germline DNMs were from the paternal germline, whereas, in contrast, in the other family, 64% of DNMs were from the maternal germline.”
The entire article seems to be an excuse to talk to John Sanford, who helped invent the gene gun in the 1980’s, but has since slid downhill into Creationism. In 2005 Sanford wrote a book called Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, about how mutations look to be limiting the amount of time that humanity can remain on earth, and by extension, the amount of time that we could have been on the earth. Sanford says:
All these studies just look at genic regions. The most mutable parts of the genome are the tandem repeats and satellite DNA. If these parts of the genome were included, I am confident it would at least double the total mutation rate.
Which could be true, in the circumstances…
Where’s the meat?
The vast majority of these 60 to 200 new mutations are irrevocably added every generation, causing what Sanford called “backwards evolution.” Using such mutation rates, Sanford modeled the maximum number of generations and length of time that humans could exist before they become extinct due to mutation overload.4 Since there is no natural process that repairs these kinds of mutations faster than they accumulate, they continuously amass until organisms eventually can no longer tolerate the high level of genetic error.5
Like so many other natural clock processes, by confirming a mutation rate of at least 60 per generation, this Nature Genetics study confirms that the “backwards evolution” in humans limits the entire history of mankind to only thousands, not millions, of years.
(See the ICR article itself for the references. 4 is Sanford’s aforementioned book, 5 is this old DpSU).
“No natural process”? Ever heard of Natural Selection? Most mutations are ‘sideways’ – they do nothing good or bad, except possibly making the potential for something that does have an effect of the fitness of the organism, such as in the famous Lenski experiment. Also, the variation in the amount of mutations between parents would also mean that there is a variation between people generally. This means that different people will have different amounts of these degenerative mutations, and so selection could occur between them. I would presume that Sanford has covered this (I should hope so), but if Mr Thomas isn’t going to elaborate, neither can I.
Meanwhile with today’s (now yesterday’s – these take too long to write) – NASA Data Derail [sic] Nebular Hypothesis – we’re back to astronomy. In 2004 the Genesis spacecraft returned a sample of the solar wind to earth. As it malfunctioned on re-entry – the parachute failed – it crashed in the desert, and it has taken longer than it might to analyse the results. The data we’re talking about here is the proportions of Oxygen (16O, 17O and 18O) and Nitrogen isotopes (14N and 15N). As the proportions of these isotopes in the planets vary, scientists wanted to take a look at the proportion in the sun. The idea is that it is believed that the surface of the sun, from which the matter collected by the space probe came, has not changed in it’s composition of these isotopes for billions of years. Therefore, it could provide information as to the composition of the matter that originally formed the sun – hence the name Genesis. It is interesting that this is not mentioned by the ICR article – if the sun was not billions of years old, this data wouldn’t be nearly as interesting, and would be the equivalent of finding out the data from just another planet.
The data returned by Genesis just muddies the waters, however. It seems that the ratio of oxygen isotopes is different to all the planets, while that for nitrogen is different to the inner planets, but not Jupiter. According to the not-exactly-perfect Nebular Model of stellar and planetary formation, all the bodies in the solar system should have similar ratios of the isotopes, as there is no known mechanism that could change them. This discrepancy, along with the other unresolved problems of the hypothesis, has led to speculation about other ways that the solar system could have been formed. For example, the sun may have formed first, and the planets from a second nebular. Or, alternatively, we could be wrong about the sun being accurate about the isotope proportions. Or everything else could be inaccurate. After all, the sun and Jupiter are the biggest things in the solar-system, and therefore would have had a better ability to retain different atoms.
Brian Thomas, naturally, wants to go even further. He concludes:
The bottom line is that the sun is “highly enriched” in oxygen, and astronomers have no idea why.2 And it’s hard for an investigator to “discover” the past when he or she is unwilling to follow the forensic clues wherever they may lead, even if they lead to a purpose-minded designer.
The nebular hypothesis is dead, and no other naturalistic origins scenario has fared any better. Clearly, the solar system is not a product of natural forces but of supernatural. And only supernatural beginnings can account for the peculiarities of the solar system, including the unique amounts of oxygen contained in the sun, planets, and moons.
(Where the 2 is the original paper on the oxygen isotopes. The nitrogen isotopes were analysed in a second paper, which, as you would expect as it doesn’t really help Thomas’ point, is not mentioned by the ICR article. Find out more here and here)
The problem is that, if there really was a “purpose-minded designer”, He or She (or It) is messing with us. Seriously, there is a mountain of evidence for an old earth (the ICR is a YEC group, remember?), and, while there a few places like this where everything is not worked out completely, it mostly works. While I realise that God is supposed to be a bit of a dick, surely not this much? Alternatively, the Designer could have been the Right Honourable Lucifer “The Light” Satan, which would explain a lot, in the circumstances…