Dear Huff Post: Do Your Homework!

by Dr. Georgia Purdom on September 7, 2012

In two recent Huff Post articles on the Bill Nye video and AiG’s rebuttal videos they have stated, “Purdom did not comment on studies that have shown that evolution has been observed in a laboratory setting.”[1] Curious, I clicked on the link provided and was directed to an article about Richard Lenski’s work on E. coli “evolution” at Michigan State University. In 2008, Lenski published a paper showing that E. coli he had been culturing in his lab for 20 years had gained the ability to utilize citrate.[2] A New Scientist writer proclaimed, “A major innovation has unfurled right in front of researchers’ eyes. It’s the first time evolution has been caught in the act of making such a rare and complex new trait.”[3] Really?

As I stated in the title, the Huff Post didn’t do their homework because contrary to their claims, I published a semi-technical article[4] on the AiG website on June 30, 2008, in response to Lenski’s research! E. coli (such as those found in our gut or in the soil outside our home) have the ability to utilize citrate when oxygen levels are low. They transport citrate into the cell and break it down. Lenski’s lab observed that the E. coli they had been culturing in the lab for many years could now utilize citrate under normal oxygen levels (likely through mutation, although no genetic studies were released in relation to the finding). Rather than “a major innovation” or the “making of a rare and complex new trait” it was simply a change in the regulation of when citrate is used by E. coli!

As I stated in the article,

Since E. coli already possess the ability to transport and utilize citrate under certain conditions, it is conceivable that they could adapt and gain the ability to utilize citrate under broader conditions. This does not require the addition of new genetic information or functional systems (there are no known “additive” mechanisms). Instead degenerative events are likely to have occurred resulting in the loss of regulation and/or specificity.
In other words, the types of changes in E. coli observed by Lenski do not add new genetic information that over eons of time can lead from microbes to man. They simply alter (in a degenerative fashion) genetic information that was already present.

I’ll conclude with this:

It is interesting that in spite of the clear evidence for the adaptation of E. coli, Lenski refers to his findings as evidence for bacteria developing a “key innovation” and a “new function” and a “fascinating case of evolution in action.” Obviously, presuppositions (human reason apart from God vs. God’s Word) play a major role in interpreting the evidence. Richard Lenski and I are looking at the same evidence but drawing different conclusions based on our source of truth—man’s ideas or God’s ideas. It is only possible to obtain truth about the past if we start with the only source of absolute truth in the present—the inerrant Word of God.
So there you have it, Huff Post, I’ve responded. Enjoy!

Keep fighting the good fight of the faith!

[1] Dominique Mosbergen, “Bill Nye ‘The Science Guy’ Slammed by Creation Museum, Pastor Ray Comfort, September 2, 2012.

[2] Zachary Blount, et al., “Historical Contingency and the Evolution of a Key Innovation in an Experimental Population of Escherichia coli,” PNAS 105 no. 23 (2008): 7899–7906.

[3] Bob Holmes, “Bacteria Make Major Evolutionary Shift in the Lab,” New Scientist, June 9, 2008.

[4] Georgia Purdom, “A Poke in the Eye? Lenski and the Adaptive Acrobatics of E. coli,” June 30, 2008.

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