Pollution Evolution

on February 26, 2011
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NPR: “Toxic Avengers: Pollution Drove Fish EvolutionAnother prominently reported example of “evolution” illustrates just the opposite—and supports the creationist critique of Darwinian evolution.

NPR reports on tomcod fish living in heavily polluted New York and New Jersey rivers. General Electric companies discharged waste products into the rivers for years, and by the 1980s nineteen out of every twenty tomcod in some areas had liver tumors.

But a new study of tomcod populations in the rivers reveals that, surprisingly, some of the fish populations inhabiting the river today are doing just fine. New York University toxicologist Isaac Wirgin found in the course of his study that a number of tomcod populations were “very resistant” to the toxins that had been discharged in the river. In a perfect example of natural selection, a small group of fish who were resistant to the toxins thrived while fish without resistance died off, leaving populations of all-resistant fish.

Creationists emphasize that nearly all cases of so-called “evolution” are actually examples of natural selection, whereby the makeup of a population changes over time because some individuals survive better than others. This is considerably different from the “molecules-to-man” meaning of evolution, which suggests that new mutations confer new abilities in the population that did not exist before—and that, over millions of years, these new abilities can turn single-celled life into mammals. In fact, Wirgin specifically points out that the toxin resistance in the surviving tomcod is not due to genetic mutation.

Although evolutionists cannot deny that most mutations (even those with some benefit) carry a price, Darwinian evolution requires hundreds of millions of years of beneficial mutations accumulating.

Moreover, creationists make the argument that natural selection often comes with compromise: while the surviving individuals may be more fit in some ways, there is actually a reduction of fitness or overall genetic information in the population. Duke University toxicologist Richard Di Giulio, commenting on Wirgin’s research, notes that the resistance of killifish in Virginia to another pollutant made it harder for the fish to cope with “natural stressors,” including decreasing oxygen levels and rising temperatures in the water. Although evolutionists cannot deny that most mutations (even those with some benefit) carry a price, Darwinian evolution requires hundreds of millions of years of beneficial mutations accumulating. If all beneficial mutations we observe come with a price (some quite steep), that casts more doubt on the Darwinian story.

Thus, yet another headline about “evolution” in action actually serves to reinforce the creationist argument that natural selection—which is entirely compatible with biblical creation—works in the opposite direction of Darwinian evolution.

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