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“Demonstrations” of Evolution in Laboratory

on May 22, 2010

PhysOrg: “Quickly Evolving Bacteria Could Improve Digestive HealthAccording to one scientist, it’s “one of the best demonstrations of evolution ever carried out in a laboratory.” So just what is it, and is he right?

“The bacteria started to mutate and quickly lost the [special function] that had been engineered into them.”

We last mentioned Duke assistant professor of surgery William Parker in an unrelated item on the appendix in June 2008. Now, Prof. Parker has turned up in the news again, this time in a Duke University news release concerning an alleged case of evolution in the lab.

Parker and other researchers at Duke University and North Carolina State University were conducting a study on the effects of a specially engineered bacterium on laboratory mice. “We were surprised, because we thought we would be able to study this engineered bacterium for a while, but we were wrong,” explained Parker.

What happened? “The bacteria started to mutate and quickly lost the [special function] that had been engineered into them,” the news release reports. “The single homogeneous strain was rapidly evolving into a diverse community of organisms.” Over the course of three years, the team observed the bacteria population as it adapted well to living in the mice digestive tract. (The team reportedly cleared the mice of other bacteria before the study began and ruled out contamination as a source of the adapted bacteria.)

While Parker called the study “one of the best demonstrations of evolution ever carried out in a laboratory” and said that the team observed “a number of evolutionary adaptations occurring in the bacteria,” we have no reason to believe this experimental result is a case of genuine evolution—that is, bacteria-to-bacteriologist change of one kind of creature into a completely different kind of creature. That hypothesis of evolution, claimed to have produced all modern life from a simple common ancestor, requires huge increases in genetic information—increases we do not observe in nature or the lab. What we do observe can be called “evolution” only in a weaker sense: a population that changes and adapts to new environments, but only through changes that rearrange or destroy existing genetic information. Although the scientists have not yet studied the genetic mechanisms behind the bacterial evolution in this case, we are confident it will once again be shown to be only variation within a bacterial kind—not evidence for evolution at all, but actually further confirmation of Creation and God’s curse on His creation when Adam sinned.

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