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Author Topic:   Disadvantageous Mutations: Figures
Gregory Rogers
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Posts: 7
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Joined: 10-15-2016


Message 1 of 93 (794453)
11-16-2016 5:33 AM


Hi,

This will be my second post re the Creation-Evolution controversy, in an attempt to resolve the issue in my mind once and for all.

This time I have a query on the issue of genetic mutations, their possibilities and implications.

Once again (for those on the site who’ve corresponded with me in the past) I am not a scientist (my area being theology) so please understand any misapplied terms, etc.

As I understand it, one of the key arguments of the Creationist school runs as follows:

1. The vast majority of mutations in evolutionary history are said to be disadvantageous. One debate I watched suggested that 80 to 90 percent were so.

2. Consequently, it would be very difficult for life forms to ascend and evolve to more complex life forms with a 90 percent 'failure rate', as it were.

Conversely, the evolution argument, as I understand it, runs as follows:

1. The percentage of failed mutations is not in fact 90 percent, but a lot lower.

2. Moreover, a lot of those mutations are neutral, not negative per se.

3. Further to this, although a mutation may be neutral and not immediately benefit the organism in the intended way, an alternate positive use may be found for it.

4. Furthermore, as the evolution-mutation process wore on, year after year, DNA learned from its mistakes, and so made fewer mistakes than it did in the earlier stages of the evolution of life. Thus we would expect to find a lower rate of failed mutations now and in recent evolutionary history.

I am not going to query the above arguments at this stage, as I suspect they’ve been done to death (although if anyone on either side wishes to add to the above set of points, feel free).

Rather, the first question I have in mind runs as follows: if a great many mutations fail (whatever the percentage of disadvantageous mutations, it is still, I presume, rather high, or at least it was at the beginning of evolutionary history), then would we not expect to find a high degree of examples of these failures in the fossil and skeletal records?

Simply, then, what is the percentage of fossils and skeletal remains unearthed so far where clear negative, that is, disadvantageous, mutations, are in evidence?

Once again, all input welcome.

Regards,
Greg


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Message 2 of 93 (794455)
11-16-2016 8:05 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Disadvantageous Mutations: Figures thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
RAZD
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Message 3 of 93 (794457)
11-16-2016 8:18 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Gregory Rogers
11-16-2016 5:33 AM


4. Furthermore, as the evolution-mutation process wore on, year after year, DNA learned from its mistakes, and so made fewer mistakes than it did in the earlier stages of the evolution of life. Thus we would expect to find a lower rate of failed mutations now and in recent evolutionary history.

There is some evidence that the rate of mutation increases during times of stress to the individual organisms, so this may act as a regulator on the amount of change that occurs.

I am not going to query the above arguments at this stage, as I suspect they’ve been done to death (although if anyone on either side wishes to add to the above set of points, feel free).

Okay, I'll take that as background info for the main question:

... if a great many mutations fail (whatever the percentage of disadvantageous mutations, it is still, I presume, rather high, or at least it was at the beginning of evolutionary history), then would we not expect to find a high degree of examples of these failures in the fossil and skeletal records?

Let's stop for a minute and think what any fossil represents: a dead individual. We can tell sometimes that they are juvenile -- ie did not live long enough to breed, but can we tell that it was due to genetic mutations? That would be very difficult to say.

Simply, then, what is the percentage of fossils and skeletal remains unearthed so far where clear negative, that is, disadvantageous, mutations, are in evidence?

Probably near zero, not because they didn't happen so much as because this would be very difficult to ascertain.

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PaulK
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Message 4 of 93 (794459)
11-16-2016 8:40 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Gregory Rogers
11-16-2016 5:33 AM


quote:

Rather, the first question I have in mind runs as follows: if a great many mutations fail (whatever the percentage of disadvantageous mutations, it is still, I presume, rather high, or at least it was at the beginning of evolutionary history), then would we not expect to find a high degree of examples of these failures in the fossil and skeletal records?

It is always a good idea to clarify the question, and see what it means. For a start, we are obviously talking about phenotypic rather than genetic variations - simply because the latter are not visible in the fossil record. That in itself makes quite a difference.

So, what we are looking for is mutations that would be seen in fossils, that would be obvious as mutations, and can be identified as "failures". (And the question of what it means to be a "failure" is also of interest - how long can it persist, and in how many individuals ? And given the sparseness of the fossil record how can we tell if a particular variation falls below the threshold ?)

Remembering that the fossil record is a sampling of life, we would expect such mutations to be as common in the fossil record as they are in living populations.
(Note that we would expect the biggest failures to be rare because they would not be passed on - the more successful a variation the more likely it is to be found)

So, at this stage I will turn the question around. Since you, presumably, have a decent idea of your criteria for "failure" how common are failed mutations in living or historic populations ? What proportion would be visible in a fossil ?


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jar
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Message 5 of 93 (794460)
11-16-2016 8:49 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Gregory Rogers
11-16-2016 5:33 AM


too many basic errors.
Way too many errors or misstatements or incorrect terms in there.

Examples:

1. The percentage of failed mutations is not in fact 90 percent, but a lot lower.

Not at all sure what a failed mutation is.

3. Further to this, although a mutation may be neutral and not immediately benefit the organism in the intended way, an alternate positive use may be found for it.

Nothing "finds" uses. Nor is there any intent involved. This sounds like the old nonsense that evolution involves some goal; it does not.

4. Furthermore, as the evolution-mutation process wore on, year after year, DNA learned from its mistakes, and so made fewer mistakes than it did in the earlier stages of the evolution of life. Thus we would expect to find a lower rate of failed mutations now and in recent evolutionary history.

DNA never learns anything and does not make fewer mistakes. In fact DNA does not make anything by choice. Nor is there any evidence of any changes in the rate of mutations failed or otherwise.

Rather, the first question I have in mind runs as follows: if a great many mutations fail (whatever the percentage of disadvantageous mutations, it is still, I presume, rather high, or at least it was at the beginning of evolutionary history), then would we not expect to find a high degree of examples of these failures in the fossil and skeletal records?

There is no reason to expect to find any examples of failed mutations (whatever that means) in any fossils.

Simply, then, what is the percentage of fossils and skeletal remains unearthed so far where clear negative, that is, disadvantageous, mutations, are in evidence?

I would expect that to be close to zero.

So some real basics.

There is no goal involved in evolution; no goal towards better or more fit or any other directed result on the mutational side of the process.

Changes happen. Copy errors happen. Duplicate copies get made.

The environment exists and it involves terrain, temperature, abundance of food, presence of predators, storms, volcanic events, meteor impacts, time, personal tastes (ain't she a looker); everything that describes the surroundings and period when a critter lives. But those factors constantly change.

The measure of success or failure of an organism (not of DNA) is whether or not that individual lives long enough to breed and reproduce; that's it. It really is that simple.

If something lived long enough to become a fossil then its a sign that it was fit enough to live at least that long. Now sometimes you might be able to tell why it died but I can see no way to tell anything about any mutations from fossil bones. We can tell things like infections or fractures or abscesses and but unless you have a large enough sample of bones from a particular critter it would be hard to identify any mutational abnormalities.

Now back to the environment.

Imagine a pack of protodoggies. Some are born with a genetic abnormality that causes them to have webbed feet. All the other protodoggies might make fun of them and call them duck-foot-doggies and refuse to play with them. But that is something that is unlikely to show up in fossils. It isn't a serious enough mutation to keep the duck-foot-doggies from living long enough and even hooking up with other duck-foot-doggies to mate and reproduce.

But conditions change; the land is subsiding and soon the area that once was a plain is now a marsh. The duck-foot-doggies find the new environment great and it's easy for them to catch fish and so they become more successful there and then than the other doggies. The other doggies though hate the water and so move to higher dry ground.

Now you have two populations that are isolated, that go down to different paths. They are both equally evolved. They are both so similar that the only way people can tell the two apart from fossils is not the difference in the fossils but rather in the evidence of the environment where each lived.

What we would see superficially from the evidence would be the sudden appearance of two species of protodoggies, one that lived on the plain and one that lived in the swamp. The period when all the protodoggies lived together would show only one species, plains doggies.

Major mutational variations that might be seen are few simply because the odds of anything born with some major mutation that is disadvantageous is unlikely to live long enough to get big enough to become a fossil. Consider some such things we see today, two headed critters, things with extra limbs, things with missing organs. Unless special care is given such critters even today don't live long and are rare enough to be an oddity. Minor mutational mistakes like having an extra finger or toe or eyes with different colors seem to do pretty well but even there they are the oddity and so many such examples are things that just would not show up in the fossil record.

Edited by jar, : appalin spallin


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Stile
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Message 6 of 93 (794462)
11-16-2016 8:57 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Gregory Rogers
11-16-2016 5:33 AM


Never settle
Gregory Rogers writes:

This will be my second post re the Creation-Evolution controversy, in an attempt to resolve the issue in my mind once and for all.

Oh really?

What makes you think resolving such an issue "once and for all" is a good thing?
A true seeker-of-knowledge never "settles" any issue. Things just have a higher or lesser degree of confidence.

I drove to work today.
I have high confidence that my keys are in my pocket.
Is this issue "setteled once and for all"? Of course not. I could be mistaken. Maybe I dropped them and didn't know. Maybe a very sneaky thief robbed me and I don't know.

The point is... unless we have ALL the information, there never really is a valid position to consider "settled once and for all."
Just varying degrees of confidence.

Newtonian laws of motion were groundbreaking when discovered.
They described every and all movement. It was amazing.
However, if everyone considered the issue "settled once and for all" we never would have discovered the theories of Relativity, and how Newtonian motion is simply... incomplete.

Does this mean Relativity is also incomplete? Maybe. Maybe not. The point, again, is to never "hit a wall and just say you're done."

Evolution is a very good description of the facts we have for life.
But I would consider it poor thinking to label the facts as "resolved once and for all."
Perhaps one day we will find another layer that actually shows how our understanding of evolution is currently... incomplete.
Maybe not. But if we consider the matter finalized... how would we ever know?

Keep thinking!
Keep learning!
Keep moving forward!
Keep growing!

Remember the difference between being confident in an answer... and being absolute.

Tip of the century: Absolutes are for fools.


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Dr Adequate
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Message 7 of 93 (794463)
11-16-2016 9:43 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Gregory Rogers
11-16-2016 5:33 AM


I am not going to query the above arguments at this stage, as I suspect they’ve been done to death (although if anyone on either side wishes to add to the above set of points, feel free).

I agree with jar that you've got some of the argument wrong: DNA cannot "learn from its mistakes".

You have also omitted an important part of the argument: natural selection. Bad mutations will not persist long in the gene pool, because they are bad. Consequently, if a species did have a 10:1 ratio of bad mutations to good ones, this would not cause it problems, indeed it would improve over time. (Unless it had a small fixed population --- I mean really small, like low double figures. In that case a "genetic meltdown" would be possible.)

I would add that before you can judge any scientific theory as being right or wrong, you need to know exactly what it says. I have seen someone on the internet reject the law of conservation of energy --- because he didn't know the difference between energy and force! So when you're talking about the theory of evolution, and on the one hand you say that DNA "learns from its mistakes", and on the other hand you never mention natural selection, then you're getting it wrong, and until you know exactly what the theory says you shouldn't be convinced either way. Even if I convince you that it's right --- which I would like to --- you'd be a sucker to believe that it's right on my say-so if you don't really know what it is.

Simply, then, what is the percentage of fossils and skeletal remains unearthed so far where clear negative, that is, disadvantageous, mutations, are in evidence?

That's quite small. Nor would be expect it to be large. Look at our own species, and see how many disadvantageous mutations would be visible in the fossil record. Most clear disadvantageous mutations are diseases of metabolic function. (It is likely that in fact most disadvantageous mutations simply prevent gestation.)

Then consider those mutations that would show up in the fossil record, such as achondroplasic dwarfism. We would certainly notice it, but even in that case we would only know that it was the record of a disadvantageous mutation because we already know that that's what achondroplasic dwarfism is, if you see what I mean. So if we found a fossil trilobite (say) that had suffered a similar mutation, we wouldn't in fact say "here is a trilobite with a deleterious mutation", we'd say "here is a new species of trilobite".

And then if we did find something clearly wrong, it might not be clear whether it was a mutant. Here, for example, is a two-headed fossil.

Surely, you say, surely this is a clear example of a deleterious mutation. Nope, it's probably a developmental disorder. But without knowing whether the condition is heritable, how would we tell for sure?

I hope this helps.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


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New Cat's Eye
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Message 8 of 93 (794465)
11-16-2016 10:42 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Gregory Rogers
11-16-2016 5:33 AM


Rather, the first question I have in mind runs as follows: if a great many mutations fail (whatever the percentage of disadvantageous mutations, it is still, I presume, rather high, or at least it was at the beginning of evolutionary history), then would we not expect to find a high degree of examples of these failures in the fossil and skeletal records?

I wouldn't.

I figure most of the deleterious mutations lead to non-viable offspring that we wouldn't expect to grow to a state to where they could become fossilized.

Further, even if they were viable, but simply could not reproduce, you wouldn't be able to tell that by looking at a fossil.


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Dr Adequate
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Message 9 of 93 (794466)
11-16-2016 10:42 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Stile
11-16-2016 8:57 AM


Re: Never settle
What makes you think resolving such an issue "once and for all" is a good thing?
A true seeker-of-knowledge never "settles" any issue. Things just have a higher or lesser degree of confidence.

Well, y'know, epistemological quibbles aside, I am fairly sure that the Earth is not flat; I am certain enough that I have basically stopped thinking about the question. In practice, we regard some questions as closed.

(You may reply that by participating in this forum I am in practice treating evolution as an open question, to which I would reply that yeah, that is kind of an odd hobby I have here. Which is why this is a fairly small forum.)

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


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Dr Adequate
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Message 10 of 93 (794467)
11-16-2016 10:52 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Gregory Rogers
11-16-2016 5:33 AM


Why Is This The Crucial Question?
This will be my second post re the Creation-Evolution controversy, in an attempt to resolve the issue in my mind once and for all. [...] Simply, then, what is the percentage of fossils and skeletal remains unearthed so far where clear negative, that is, disadvantageous, mutations, are in evidence?

But I am slightly puzzled, now I think about it. Why in the world would the answer to this question, of all questions, resolve the issue in your mind once and for all? Why is this the crucial question?

Its relevance is so obscure that I can't even see which way the answer would sway you. If I tell you that there are few clear examples of deleterious mutations preserved in the fossil record, would that make you (a) a convinced evolutionist (b) a die-hard creationist?

(I'm guessing (a), but I do vaguely recall Anne Coulter saying that the paucity of such fossils is an argument against evolution. But then she's a moron and you are not.)


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Taq
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Message 11 of 93 (794472)
11-16-2016 12:09 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Gregory Rogers
11-16-2016 5:33 AM


Gregory Roberts writes:

As I understand it, one of the key arguments of the Creationist school runs as follows:

1. The vast majority of mutations in evolutionary history are said to be disadvantageous. One debate I watched suggested that 80 to 90 percent were so.

Assuming that we are talking about eukaryotes with genome sizes above 500 million bases or so, then that is wrong. Most mutations are neutral (i.e. neither advantageous or disadvantageous).

Of the mutations that do significantly change fitness, I would agree that the majority are going to be disadvantageous. However, natural selection will remove these mutations from the population, so that isn't a problem. Rare beneficial mutations will be selected for and amplified in the population. This is why the rate of deleterious mutations can be greater than beneficial mutations and still lead to an overall increase in fitness or complexity.

Let's look at an example in a living population. There is a wild murine species called the rock pocket mouse. As it turns out, they come in two different colors, black and brown. The black mice came about through a random mutation that occurred in brown mice, and we find these mice in isolated basaltic outcroppings where their black fur allows them to hide in the black lava rocks. You can read the scientific paper here. This is one of the figures from the paper:

As you can see, the brown mice are well camouflaged in the brown desert, and the black mice are well camouflaged on the black lava rocks. The scientists also sequenced the DNA of the brown and black mice and they found that there was free interbreeding between black and brown mice. They also found that the allele for black fur was dominant, meaning that offspring only need one copy of the black allele in order to have black fur.

Here is the interesting thing. They didn't find any black mice in the brown colored desert that spanned the hundreds of miles between the black lava outcroppings. They also didn't find any (or very few) brown mice on the black lava rocks. Why? The obvious answer is natural selection in the form of predation.

This leads to another question. Is the mutant black allele beneficial or deleterious? The answer is that it is both. In the brown desert, the black allele is deleterious. On the black lava rocks, the black allele is very beneficial. So is the black allele a "failed" mutation?
When you speak about mutations, it is these sort of things that you have to keep in mind.

Rather, the first question I have in mind runs as follows: if a great many mutations fail (whatever the percentage of disadvantageous mutations, it is still, I presume, rather high, or at least it was at the beginning of evolutionary history), then would we not expect to find a high degree of examples of these failures in the fossil and skeletal records?

Do the vast majority of "failed" mutations show up in human skeletal remains? What differences would there be in a human skeleton from an indivudal who had hemophilia or diabetes? We would probably see achondroplasia like someone mentioned earlier, but how common is that in the human population?

We often only have 5 to 10 fossil specimens for any given fossil species. If you randomly picked 10 human beings from the entire population, what would be the probability that you would pick someone with a genetic disease which produces a physical difference in their skeleton? Probably pretty low, right?

Edited by Taq, : No reason given.

Edited by Taq, : No reason given.


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Pressie
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Posts: 1605
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Joined: 06-18-2010
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Message 12 of 93 (794556)
11-17-2016 5:35 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Gregory Rogers
11-16-2016 5:33 AM


Gregory Rogers writes:

1. The vast majority of mutations in evolutionary history are said to be disadvantageous.

That's not true. Mutations in the germ line can be disadvantageous, neutral or advantageous. And mutations can be advantageous in one environment and disadvantageous in another.

Gregory Rogers writes:

One debate I watched suggested that 80 to 90 percent were so.

Watching debates are not useful. People tend to tell porkies in oral debates, because there's not time to check the sources.

What would be more useful would be to do research. And research doesn't mean this one said this; this one said that, at all. That's not research and the opposite of science.


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Pressie
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Posts: 1605
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Message 13 of 93 (794560)
11-17-2016 7:42 AM


This one was funny.

Gregory Rogers writes:

This time I have a query on the issue of genetic mutations...

It seems as if this guy is really, really not too bright, while pretending to be brilliant. 'The issue of genetic mutations', hey?

Let's take a guess and be a Prophet. Gregory doesn't know how to measure 'genetic information', yet would go on about telling everyone in the world exactly how to quantify "more'' or "less'' genetic information because he read someting about it on some religious website.

Edited by Pressie, : No reason given.

Edited by Pressie, : No reason given.

Edited by Pressie, : No reason given.

Edited by Pressie, : No reason given.

Edited by Pressie, : No reason given.


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dwise1
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(3)
Message 14 of 93 (794566)
11-17-2016 10:34 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by Pressie
11-17-2016 7:42 AM


First, I want to say that I do want to give Greg the benefit of the doubt and will continue to try to deal with him in good faith.

There is a dishonest creationist tactic in which a creationist will join a forum presenting himself as someone who is fair-minded and wants to objectively evaluate both sides of the argument. However, they avoid examining the creationist claims and instead concentrate on the "evolution model" (which bares only very superficial similarity to actual evolution). It doesn't take long for them to finally drop the pretense and they reveal themselves as yet another typical YEC trying to attack his "evolution" boogey man.

I'm sure that there's fundamentalist/creationist training materials out there that present this tactic (I had read a lot of such materials during my association with the "Jesus Freak" fundies circa 1970 and I continue to see them applied to this day). And certainly, the best way to get away with this dodge is to avoid participating in the discussion, which is what we've observed Greg doing.

Of course, we should expect the smarter and more honest creationists to reach a point where they start to question what they've been taught and try to seek the truth. It is unfortunate that this dishonest creationist trick should poison the well for them. Certainly, an honest seeker of the truth should be concentrating on examining the creationist position instead of asking the opposing side to defend the false position that the creationists have present as being the opposing position. At the very least, an honest seeker of the truth should be concerned with what the terminology actually means and what the science actually says.

As I said, I will continue to give Greg the benefit of the doubt here and continue to try to take him at face value. Even though I've been around this particular park far too many times already.


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PaulK
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(3)
Message 15 of 93 (794572)
11-17-2016 10:55 AM
Reply to: Message 14 by dwise1
11-17-2016 10:34 AM


I just want to say I agree very much.

It is not absolutely 100% impossible that Gregory is secretly a devious creationist fanatic, but I really see no reason to believe it. And even if he were, angry dismissive replies at this stage only serve to make our side look bad. Pressie, you can keep your guard up, if you must, but let us keep to civil, respectful discussion until there is good reason to change tack.


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