Challenge: Can mutations build new structures?

(tom) #1

SO…I am new here…thanks in advance for any warm welcomes :slight_smile:

So I don’t believe in evolution or common descent because I have seen no scientific evidence that mutations can innovate in a way that adds new anatomical structures. Mutations do not add parts of cells, parts of organs, parts of joints, tissues, or anything else. Naturalists claim that the origin of life – the first primitive cell – somehow came into existence via naturalistic processes, and that all of life unfolded after that via the selection of random mutations.

Both of these assertions are unscientific. So if someone could prove me wrong, I would love to see a peer reviewed paper that demonstrates that a mutation can add either a new whole structure, or a new part to a pre-existing structure. I’m looking for new, novelty. New structures. Not duplications of existing structures and not changes in eye color or skin color. Structures. Parts of bodies. Mutations have been shown scientifically to do all kinds of things (resistances, etc) but they are not innovators, do not add information and do not add new structures. As it is right now, all of biology is unaccounted for via mutation…the challenge is to prove me wrong and overturn my disbelief in evolution/common descent. thanks.

(Christy Hemphill) #2

Warm welcome! :slight_smile:

(Christy Hemphill) #3

I’m sure some more knowledgeable science types will chime in eventually, but here is a blog series on this topic by Dennis Venema that goes into lots of detail.

(tom) #4

the “what is information” argument is fun for some, but I’m more of a nuts and bolts guy (aka simplistic) and go right for the jugular when it comes to evolution. If mutations really do add information (whatever that is) then I’d like to see a peer reviewed paper showing it and (more importantly) I’d like to see the new structures that the new information builds. As it is, mutations seem to be really good at breaking things, reducing specificity and causing degeneration, but not so good at actually being an innovative constructor of complex machinery or anatomy. I don’t believe, in short, that the theory of evolution is a legitimate innovator and builder – nothing that could act as a substitute for God and His creative, miraculous hand.

(Stephen Matheson) #5

I could provide scores of citations to papers on evolutionary innovation but there’s a nice one to start with.

(tom) #6

what structure was added and what was the name of the mutation you are referring to?

(Stephen Matheson) #7

The paper is a review article about how new genes come about. It falsifies the claim (which is already well-known to be wrong) that mutations can’t “add information”. I think it makes sense to start there. Your demand for a single mutation that yields a new “structure” overnight is (if I’m reading you right) mostly nonsensical since evolutionary theory doesn’t claim that such things happen.

So, what do you think of the paper?

(tom) #8

I’m not really interested in a theory about how new genes come into existence. that might be interesting to some but it’s not addressing how animals’ bodies got built up. I could show you a thousand and one papers about the different things mutations do but none of them will demonstrate that mutations can add new structures. They change eye color “overnight.” They change skin color “overnight.” They alter reproductive clocks “overnight.” They generate resistance in bacteria “overnight.” (“overnight” meaning in an observable time frame for scientists to validate.) But they do not add new structures. They duplicate existing structures…(see cats and their multiple toes, for example.) But there is no novelty, just duplications of what was already there (polydactl cats can have up to 21 toes on one paw.)

(Stephen Matheson) #9

Well there’s your problem. That is in fact exactly how “animals’ bodies got built up”. It doesn’t sound like you understand evolution. No judgment; lots of people don’t.

If you are looking for examples of single-step evolution of “structures” then you are looking for something that is not postulated by evolutionary theory. You are “going for the jugular” of a strawman. I don’t think I can help as long as you seek affirmation of a scenario that is unrelated to actual science, but I will leave you with this very interesting recent paper about a small number of mutations that seem to explain (in large part) multicellularity. The work was covered in the New York Times.

(tom) #10

Single step. Multi step. However you want. One mutation, multiple mutations. Whatever. If you’re going to claim that it takes too long then what about the decades worth of thomas hunt Morgan and other teams systematically and tediously mutating fly genomes to see how it would affect phenotype…yet no such thing as new structures or features added. And.if single mutations don’t add anatomy how many mutations must arise simultaneously by chance to make it happen? This isn’t going to end well for you. You might want to let someone else give it a shot.


Evolution doesn’t depend only on mutation. Evolution is the accumulation of a lot of small changes that add up to big changes.

There are links to examples of evolution that has been observed over in another thread ERV evidence for pastor with a lawyers mind

(Christy Hemphill) #13

Just a reminder that the purpose of this site is dialogue and understanding why people hold the positions they do, not “winning.” We try really hard to keep the overall tone from being antagonistic. Which basically means I and the other moderators delete people’s posts if they get too snarky. There is no “going for the jugular,” just presenting evidence and rationales that everyone else is free to accept or reject or question. If you never change your mind, everyone else will sleep just fine at night.

(Curtis Henderson) #14

Good morning, Tom, and welcome! Just a little suggestion - you will get out of discussions what you put into them. Being dismissive of people that are trying to help you answer your questions is only counter-productive.

There was a tantalizing article that came out about a decade ago about some lizards that were introduced from one small island to another in the southern Adriatic. In about 30 years, the lizards shifted from a largely insectivorous diet to more of a plant-based diet. There were some rather dramatic phenotypic changes that accompanied the diet change, including cecal pouches to aid in the digestion process. I have not seen any follow-up since the article to see what genetic changes may have accompanied the anatomical changes, but it may address what you are looking for.

You can read a little about the study here:

I have the original article saved somewhere if you’d like to take a look at it, too.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #15

So have you already decided how your exchanges here will end? While many here (like Stephen) do not share in our Christian beliefs, yet many (including Stephen) also show much patience in helping all of us come closer up to speed on how God’s creation works. You can dismiss him if you insist, but you miss out on an opportunity to learn if you do. Resist the temptation to lapse back into pronouncements about where argument must lead. I speak with experience on this as I often struggle with taking on triumphalistic tones too --which almost never appear as my better moments on later sober reflection.

For my own part, I’ll at least respond to this with a theological observation.

Nothing can ever be a substitute for God. Rain or warmth or food or material wealth --none of these are substitutes for God, and yet that doesn’t mean God never makes use of such things.

Welcome to the forum, by the way! May you and all of us gain benefit and wisdom in Christ through our exchanges here.

(Stephen Matheson) #16

You’re right, in one weird sense, that it didn’t end well for me. The triumphalism of evangelicals, especially on scientific topics they don’t understand at all, drove me first out of evangelicalism then out of Christianity and theism altogether. This is not the bad ending; it’s a great one so far. But since the behavior of Christians was such a big part of my deconversion, I am humbled by grace and decency shown by evangelicals, as just happened on this thread. What’s a good atheist to do!?!? Alas!

It seems to me that you came here to boast about your victory over a strawman. I will leave you in the hands of your fellow Christians here on the Forum, many of whom are very well qualified to explain your errors. Rest assured that evolutionary biology is not even touched by your critique. Christianity, on the other hand, does indeed have to answer for conversations like this. Sometimes, to my unreasonable surprise, it is able to.

(George Brooks) #17

@sfmatheson… excellent observation!


So does the modification of sweat glands into mammalian mammary glands qualify as a new structure?

Does the appearance of large mammals that chew cud qualify?

Does the appearance of kangaroos in Australia qualify?

Does the ability of bacteria to suddenly resist 1000xs the normally lethal level of anti-biotic qualify?

Does the disappearance of 4 legged proto-whales… replaced by finned whales qualify?

(Benjamin Kirk) #18

[quote=“supersport, post:10, topic:36626”]
Single step. Multi step. However you want. One mutation, multiple mutations. Whatever.[/quote]
You’re really misunderstanding evolution. Metaphorically, mutation is like a faucet dripping a tiny drop of variance every generation into a bathtub full of a population’s genetic variance; IOW the ratio of new variation to existing variation is not metaphorical, between 1/100000 and 1/1000000.

Without this reservoir of existing variation, removed by things like inbreeding, your population becomes extinct and mutations won’t save it (this alone falsifies the notion that mutation is immediately driving evolution). You don’t seem to know that. You seem to think that evolution doesn’t happen without new mutation.

Given that ratio, if God stopped all new mutations tomorrow, evolution wouldn’t slow down perceptibly for a very long time.

Decades are a very short time. I think you’ll find that if you extrapolate decades out to evolutionary time scales, the numbers work out. Have you tried that?

None must arise simultaneously. You’ve got major misunderstandings of evolution, population genetics, and developmental biology.

[quote]This isn’t going to end well for you.
[/quote]Why? What’s going to happen to him?

I think you’ve set up a movable goalpost with the deliberately vague term “structure” that you’ll move as people provide examples of how evolution (not mere mutation) creates new structures.

(Benjamin Kirk) #19

Instead of putting false words in the mouths of others (most naturalists accept that both Darwinian and non-Darwinian mechanisms are important, many with the latter playing a larger role than the former), why not quote some?

So why do you pretend that non-Darwinian mechanisms neither exist nor are acknowledged by naturalists? And why do you manufacture what you attribute to them instead of providing actual, in-context quotes?


Would bithorax count? There are lots of mutations that affect the location and number of various body parts.

(Christy Hemphill) #21

Here’s the (Nobel prize winning) paper:

Lewis, E. B. (1978). “A gene complex controlling segmentation in Drosophila”. Nature. 276 (5688): 565–70.