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Friday, August 08, 2008

Fish swap genes? Or Darwinists swap stories?

A research scientist friend writes to tell me about yet another example of Darwinism as a science stopper:
These scientists found that the antifreeze proteins of diverse species of fish are nearly identical. But they don't share a recent common ancestor. So even though they say that the chance of such similar proteins emerging in unrelated species is "vanishingly small" they would not think of seeing this as evidence for design; no, they propose another option. They think the genes for antifreeze proteins jumped from one species to another.

[ ... ]

And why is the Economist promoting Evolution?
Well actually, friend, The Economist is promoting magic.

Increasingly, as far as I can see, evolution is treated as magic. It is the all-purpose explanation whenever we come across anything in the world whose origin we don't understand: Evolution" (an immense, undefined power) dunit.

While plants and bacteria do swap genes, the idea that fish would swap them is certainly novel. From the article:
Fish species swap genes in a way that looks a bit like genetic engineering

SOME fish have special proteins in their blood to stop them from freezing to death—a remarkable evolutionary trait made no less so by the fact that biologists have known about it for some time. How this trait spread, though, turns out to be even more remarkable. If Peter Davies of Queen’s University in Ontario and his colleagues are right, it demonstrates in fish an evolutionary mechanism hitherto seen mainly in bacteria, viruses and genetic-engineering laboratories.
But okay, let's go there for a moment.

The male fish typically fertilizes the eggs after the female lays them. So gene swapping via escaped sperm is theoretically possible. (Whether it ever really happens is another story. )

If genes can truly jump between fish, as they can between plants, that would make ancestry irrelevant - hardly good news for the Darwinism the researchers are trying to save!

Think how much effort goes into tracing the ancestry of various fish species from earlier species. But gene swapping/protein swapping - assuming it actually happens in fish - would make such efforts irrelevant or time wasting. The occurrence of common traits between species of fish would not be proof of their common ancestry.

One reason that Darwinism is approaching a crisis is that Darwinists can only fend off design by adopting ideas that are almost as damaging to their basic thesis.

I wonder when they will try to tell me that park pigeons and dumpster raccoons swap genes without mating ... which is why [insert just-so story here .... ]

Another scientist friend has just (11:15 a.m. EST) written me to draw my attention to this article:

EVOLUTION: Taking the Long View

Laura M. Zahn

It can be difficult to establish the phylogeny of microorganisms because they are composed of genes that have moved vertically (via inheritance) or horizontally (via lateral transfer mechanisms such as conjugation) or both. Dagan et al. have applied a network analysis approach to estimate the cumulative impact of lateral gene transfer in the genomes of 181 fully sequenced prokaryotes. By examining the presence or absence of all genes and by tracing the evolutionary history of these genes on the basis of genome size, they were able to calculate the rate of lateral gene transfer and have concluded that approximately 80% of the genes in each genome appear to have been involved in lateral transfer at some point in their history. Hence, well-defined phylogenetic trees, which describe genetic relationships accurately on short-term evolutionary time scales, become rather less clearly delineated when looked at over very long time periods. -- LMZ

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105, 10039 (2008).

Remember this when some Darwin fanatic demands that you "accept" commmon ancestry, as if it matters.


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