Big Bad Bacteria

Yes, folks: That's a Video!

This fortnight we have the question of antibiotic resistance, in “Evolving Bacteria”:

With all the bad bacteria out there, scientists are working hard to develop new antibiotics to combat them. But these microbes often mutate when they reproduce, making some of them resistant to medicine. Is this process “evolution in action”?

The ICR obviously thinks the answer to that is a ‘no.’

That's a Fact - Evolving Bacteria (click to view)

Doctors tell us that keeping our hands clean is essential. Why? Because bacteria is everywhere: on things you touch, in the air you breath, in the food you eat, and even living inside you.

Judging by this and the previous video, the ICR seems to have a new-found respect for medical science. This is the second in a row to open with basic medical advice. The poor grammar surrounding ‘bacteria’ is their fault, by the way.

Some of these microbes are good for us, like those that help us digest food or fight off infections. But with all the bad bacteria out there scientists are working hard to develop new antibiotics to combat them. Even then bacteria often mutate when they reproduce, making some of them resistant to medicine and dangerous to our health.

Intriguingly in this video the ICR is willing to concede that the genetic coding required to be resistant can be produced by mutations and wasn’t already there from the beginning, in contradiction with their late-nineties FAQ article that they link to on the subject.

Is this process evolution in action, like some claim? Hardly. That’s because researchers have discovered that bacteria are, well, still bacteria. For instance, in a twenty year study of E. coli, which can cause food poisoning, scientists looked at 40,000 generations of the bacteria and confirmed that the E. coli did not evolve into anything other than E. coli.

That’s a funny way of talking about the Lenski experiment, to say the least. This argument that the ICR puts forward is the classic micro/macro evolution false dichotomy: it’s like denying the observation of motion because the subject did not land up in a neighbouring country. The “still bacteria” bar is extremely high. Multicellular bacteria exist, for example, but I’m sure the ICR would declare them “still bacteria.” Bacteria with membrane-bound organelles and even primitive nuclei also exist, surprisingly enough, but I’m sure the same applies. And note again that, but any sensible definitions of the terms, we are ‘still’ Apes, and even still fish! That is because when a new variety of organism appears, at whatever level of the hierarchy, it does not loose the characteristics that made it what it had been previous. The ‘still n‘ argument is without basis.

A similar study used fruit flies, which are made of many more cells than bacteria.

Actually they, like us, probably contain more bacteria than cells. But that’s not what they mean. 😉 (I’m not sure how what they do mean is relevant.)

After 600 generations – about 12,000 human years – they were still just fruit flies.

The study that they are talking about here doesn’t spring to mind – I’m sure it’s been brought up before – but I doubt that was what was actually being measured. Note that this example is particularly weak as 12,000 years ago people were still people too. “Fruit fly” isn’t so broad as bacteria, at least, but its still easily enough.

And for scientists who carefully examine the bible these results make a lot of sense. That’s because God created each creature with the ability to reproduce only after its own kind.

It was always going to come to this. But which is the ‘kind’ – “bacteria” or “E. coli“? “Fruit fly” or “Drosophila”? By not defining this key term creationists can shift the goalposts as far as they like, never having to concede that “evolution” has taken place. There was a time when speciation was outright denied, but the ICR at least no longer does so. In a decade they may easily find themselves having to accept things they still do deny today. But we’ll be waiting a long time indeed to get a concession of common descent.

So bacteria will never be anything other than bacteria, which means you still need to wash your hands.

This concluding line should be held up as proof of the abysmal reasoning skills of the ICR – the logic is nonsensical.

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5 thoughts on “Big Bad Bacteria

  1. I’m reminded of another creationist I saw admitting that an organism can mutate, those mutations can give rise to new features and some of them can be beneficial, eventually leading to speciation. But he didn’t call this evolution but “variation.” It would seem many creationists are discovering their position is untenable and as a result, unwittingly or otherwise, redefining evolution so they won’t have to admit they were wrong.

  2. This is a brilliant little piece by Potholer54 about creationist “kinds” and shifting goal posts

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