The animals that preceded this mutation apparently were finding food just fine, so were they really that handicapped compared to this new mutant?
No, they weren't "really that handicapped" compared to the mutant. Obviously, one new beneficial mutation within a population does not require that all members without the mutation get out-competed. Natural selection is about statistics, it's about likelihood of survival, and all other things being equal (as they should be given a fair-sized sample), squirrels with a small increase in gliding ability will have a subtly higher probability of surviving and passing their genes on.
The mutation would have had to have been exactly symmetrical on this mutants body to be of any use at all.
Mutations do tend to be symmetrical on the body. If this weren't so, then everytime an animal mutated we would see increased assymetry. Since we don't see rabbits hopping around with one small ear and one large one as the norm, you're just blowing smoke.
How much further could a squirrel with a little flap of skin jump compared to one with none, a few inches?
Enough to make such squirrels more statistically likely to survive.
Were there other mutations also going on within the population that were giving other individuals advantages, that the one with the flap of skin didn't have? Or did every other individual stop gaining any beneficial mutations during this time that helped them in another way? In other words, that one mutant individual had one kind of benefit, but perhaps others had bigger stomachs, or bigger jaws, or any of thousands of other advantages that this guy didn't have. Or are we to believe all of these other mutations and selections are happening consecutively but not concurrently?
Naturally. As I said, it's not about being better than the rest of the population. Because of interbreeding, good traits will combine and build up in the population. Those individuals that have an advantage due to stronger jaws will breed with those that have bigger wingflaps. And the traits will combine. You need to stop thinking of individual squirrels and start looking at the problem in terms of a gene pool.
This zero point mutant (the original) gives birth to a second with a similar mutation. Once again, this small advantage is trumping all other advantages within the population, even though there could be some things this mutant has that are not good at all, like the wrong color fur?
You are assuming the mutation arises only once and in one individual. You are also still making the fallacious assumption that the mutation must trump all other mutations in the population. The point is, that a small group of mutants with the advantageous mutation will have a statistically higher chance of survival than those who don't.
How many generations do you want to continue down the line of this squirrels ancestry before the next mutation that improves upon this one occurs? Ten generations, 20, 100? How long before this next one pops up which does exactly what the previous one did, only better? Not a flap of skin elsewhere, or one that makes the skin mutate smaller again, or what have you, but one that once again directly benefits this previous one?
How about one? Do you have the exact same bodily proportions as your parents? Do you expect the children of a flying squirrel to have wingflaps the exact same size as their parents? Some will have slightly larger wingflaps, and they will stand a better chance of survival over the span of several generations.
Could the descendant of this squirrel get a different mutation, like say better camouflage which could help it to survive, but not for the reason of jumping better, but because it hid better? Now are we selecting for both at the same time, or for one or the other, or does he get a slight advantage this generation for his camouflage, and the next generation for better jaws, and the next generation, for better hearing, etc,etc..
Don't think of it as individual squirrels, but as an entire squirrel gene pool. Each generation, lots of new mutations will appear in the gene pool, some more beneficial than others. Those that increase the survival odds of their carriers (and hence, the survival odds of the genes themselves) will spread throughout the population. Natural selection is only indirectly selecting for larger wingflaps. What it really selects for is survival, and whatever traits that appear in the gene pool that promote survival will soon become the norm across the population.
While we are sifting through these generations upon generations of selecting, are the needs for survival staying constant? Is one generation struggling for more food, while another generation is struggling to hide from predators, while another is struggling for water, while during another generation the food source has changed from being in the trees to being on the ground?
Conditions do change, but rarely in the absurd fashion that you are detailing. Usually, a trait that is advantageous to a squirrel will prove advantageous to its descendants for many generations to come. There will always be predators to run from, so the wingflap will always be useful for flying squirrels (unless the trees disappear, but how often has this happened in the evolution of the flying squirrel?).
Did the guy who got the first beneficial mutation (beneficial mutations don't happen very often right, much less often then detrimental ones, correct?) also happen to be born with a parasite in his intestine which caused him to die before he could reproduce?
Let's pretend a beneficial mutation in people would be longer legs. How often does a person get born with slightly longer legs than his parents? About as often as shorter legs. 50% of the time, in other words. Larger, more dramatic mutations are rarely beneficial, but for evolution, small step-by-step mutations are generally what's needed.
The same applies to your squirrel wingflaps. It is not rare for a squirrel to be born with slightly larger wingflaps than its parents, is this not a beneficial mutation? Furthermore, if an unlikely mutation does occur and it proves beneficial, and 2 million years later we're sitting here asking ourselves if the original mutant died before reproducing, aren't we being a bit ridiculous? Of course the mutant survived long enough to reproduce, otherwise there wouldn't be any offspring! It's probable that many times in the history of evolution, individual creatures with wonderfully unusual and beneficial mutations were born, only to be killed by a falling coconut. Had they survived we would have had different creatures living today with completely different traits.
Or was he at the wrong place at the wrong time and happened to have gotten picked off by an eagle when he was only 6 months old? Whoops one good mutation that could have really gotten our team off to a good start, and now we have to wait ANOTHER 500 generations for the next beneficial mutation.
Once again you are asserting that beneficial mutations are very rare. Are they really? Can you back up your claim that in a gene pool of thousands of squirrels, beneficial mutations would only occur once in 500 generations? I think you're just blowing smoke out your ass. But if you can back this up with some reference I'd be happy to have a look.
If the first zero mutant of such good fortune didn't happen to get picked off by the eagle, but his son did, we are right back to the same problem again right?
No, because his five other sons and daughters would be still be humping like crazy (we're talking squirrels here after all) and passing on the mutation to an even larger third generation.
Can we list ANY examples of beneficial mutations that we have observed in nature as a starting point, that has the potential to give one individual a bio mechanical advantage which could lead to the creation of a new trait? ONE? Ever?
Nylon-eating bacteria These bacteria had a rare mutation that allowed them to digest nylon. Seeing as how the mutated population was living in a nylon-rich environment, it's obvious why the mutation was selected for.
The peppered moth The peppered moth recently developed a remarkable camoflauge for city-living.
Now I honestly believe I could go on and on with the logical difficulties your theory faces, but the problem is that your side wants to brush EVERYONE of these difficulties aside, and claim it is the ID's or creationists who are living in a faiy land void of empirical evidence.
You will say to the ID side, well how do you account for this, and for that, and so on...and yet you can't account for any of these issues, let alone all of them. But you STILL claim to have science on your side.
I haven't brushed any of these "difficulties" aside, mostly because they aren't "difficult". I don't even have a college degree yet, and even I can see how you're just blowing smoke. Is this the best you've got, or do you actually have some truly difficult problems that go beyond the grasp of a College undergrad who isn't even studying biology? Or do you want to go on blowing smoke out your ass? I leave that up to you.