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Milk-Digestion Gene Disabled, Evolution Proved?

on December 16, 2006
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ScienceNOW: Milk Tolerance Evolved More Than Once

“Recent instance of human evolution!” is the cry of evolutionists this week (that phrase coming from The New York Times), who are cheering an analysis of mutations that have led to lactose tolerance in various human populations.

But what's the real story? Simply put, the genetic mutations that allow some humans to properly digest milk throughout life are different between various people groups:

Lactose-tolerant individuals can digest milk due to a variety of mutations.

The researchers sequenced the DNA of 110 individuals and tested them for milk tolerance. They found three new mutations in the same stretch of DNA as the European variant. The mutations turned up in varying frequencies in the Masai and other Nilo-Saharan populations in Tanzania and Kenya, in Afro-Asiatic speaking Kenyans, and in the Beja from Sudan.

In other words, lactose-tolerant individuals can digest milk due to a variety of mutations. But are these the sort of information-adding mutations molecules-to-man evolution would require? Of course not. The Science NOW article explains that: “All humans digest mothers' milk as infants, but [when] cattle were domesticated it became advantageous for [humans] to digest milk, and lactose tolerance evolved.” All humans are able to digest milk from birth; the mutations allowing lifelong lactose tolerance don't “add” any new ability; they merely cause a malfunction in the automatic shutdown of lactose digestion in children. The article also notes that this mutation may have happened as recently as 3,000 years ago.

Of course, scientists glorify evolution for providing this mutation-which, while perhaps beneficial, is still a loss of information: “Anthropologist Ken Weiss at Pennsylvania State University in State College adds that the study is an elegant example of how evolution can find several different solutions to the same problem.” What's agonizing is that, based on the superficial hype some news organizations give to this story, some may come to believe evolution is that much more “proven.”


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