Friday, 3 February 2012

Is human evolution slowing down?

Listening to the radio this morning I hear that BBC atheist Professor Steve Jones, styled an evolutionary biologist, is on ‘Question Time’ this evening. He is introduced by a reference to the thesis associated with him that ‘human evolution is stopping.’ Which he supports by saying that since fewer older men are fathering children, the ‘mutations on which evolution depends’ are declining in frequency.’

There is nothing to be gained by cussing at the radio or throwing it across the room, less still to be gained by writing to the pro-Darwin BBC. So I do some Googling and confirm that Jones apparently does believe this utterly irrational statement.

Here are Jones views lifted from a Canadian science blog

Human evolution is grinding to a halt because of a shortage of older fathers in the West, according to a leading genetics expert. Fathers over the age of 35 are more likely to pass on mutations, according to Professor Steve Jones, of University College London.

Speaking today at a UCL lecture entitled "Human evolution is over" Professor Jones will argue that there were three components to evolution – natural selection, mutation and random change. "Quite unexpectedly, we have dropped the human mutation rate because of a change in reproductive patterns," Professor Jones told The Times.

This is because cell divisions in males increase with age. "Every time there is a cell division, there is a chance of a mistake, a mutation, an error," he said. "For a 29-year old father [the mean age of reproduction in the West] there are around 300 divisions between the sperm that made him and the one he passes on – each one with an opportunity to make mistakes.

"For a 50-year-old father, the figure is well over a thousand. A drop in the number of older fathers will thus have a major effect on the rate of mutation."

Professor Jones added: "In the old days, you would find one powerful man having hundreds of children." He cites the fecund Moulay Ismail of Morocco, who died in the 18th century, and is reputed to have fathered 888 children. To achieve this feat, Ismail is thought to have copulated with an average of about 1.2 women a day over 60 years.

Another factor is the weakening of natural selection. "In ancient times half our children would have died by the age of 20. Now, in the Western world, 98 per cent of them are surviving to 21."

Decreasing randomness is another contributing factor. "Humans are 10,000 times more common than we should be, according to the rules of the animal kingdom, and we have agriculture to thank for that. Without farming, the world population would probably have reached half a million by now – about the size of the population of Glasgow.

"Small populations which are isolated can evolve at random as genes are accidentally lost. World-wide, all populations are becoming connected and the opportunity for random change is dwindling. History is made in bed, but nowadays the beds are getting closer together. We are mixing into a global mass, and the future is brown."

Apparently, nobody has told Jones that mutations degrade the precious and highly ordered information stored on the DNA and so cause damage. John Sanford has explored this in his book ‘Genetic Entropy: the Mystery of the Genome’ which contains startling evidence in support of a recent creation of a once perfect genome which then became subject to corruption, since the human genome is degrading due to accumulating corruptions and looks to be on a downhill trend towards extinction. Unhappily for evolutionists, the copying errors which are the only possible source of the variations that natural selection can only act by conserving (as Darwin wrote) are pretty uniformly unhelpful.

Ans as Michael Behe writes in ‘The Edge of Evolution’, when mutations do confer benefit, it is limited and situational (like sickle cell disease) and results from broken or blunted genes, not the creation of new meaningful information. Order does not arise from random mutations. Jones does the intelligent design and creationist movements a favour by coming out and (unless I misinterpret him) saying that more mutations would build better humans. They wouldn't, but if he actually believes that the decline of mutations from older fathers is slowing down evolution, why doesn't he argue for other means of inducing a higher rate of mutations to make up for it? Of course, I do not wish to imply that Jones is a cruel man or delights in the suffering that most mutations large enough to matter cause. It is his reasoning that I question, not his personal ethics. But what he appears to believe is that mutations are somehow good for us. On my reading of evolutionism, this is an article of faith as there is no other source of the random variations which allegedly created us.

Jones could easily blow the intelligent design movement out of the water by, for example, offering a realistic scenario for the evolution of Krebs cycle or even showing us a handful of examples of random mutation creating meaningful new DNA information that coded for a useful NEW characteristic not previously present in the genome. No luck so far. Perhaps that is why he has to rely on absurd philosophical grandstanding  like the above.

It is a basic tenet of Darwinist belief that at least a significant minority of mutations are creative and lead to selectable advantages at the level of the whole organism. Empirical observations reveal the complete opposite, as the intelligent design hypothesis predicts. But since when were directly observable facts a hindrance to the pure faith of men like Jones? They rely on their Darwin of the gaps to fill in the disconnect between their evolutionist religion and the facts of science.

If Jones is worried about evolution running out of steam, perhaps he should be in favour of nuclear war? This would reduce the human population and increase mutations by radiation. The red in tooth and claw struggle among the irradiated survivors, without contraception, vaccination or rule of law, should speed evolution up again, if that’s what Jonesey wants. Former atheist Kurt Vonnegut wrote about something similar in his novel 'Galapagos'.

Over to you, Mr Ahmadinajad.

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