Home » The Design of Life » Reverse evolution? Or reverting to an older version? And other stories from The Design of Life blog

Reverse evolution? Or reverting to an older version? And other stories from The Design of Life blog

Are the stickleback fish in Lake Washington really reversing evolution, as the media releases claim? Or just tailoring their existing design?

A much more remarkable example of apparent reverse evolution is a little fish in Washington State, U.S.A. The threespine stickleback is named for its bony armour plate. But as Seattle’s Lake Washington became highly polluted over the years, the predatory trout population could barely see the sticklebacks. Many threespines got by with relatively little armor plate.

However, when the lake was cleaned up during the mid-twentieth century, trout could see better. The threespine once again developed body armour which made it unpalatable to trout. It dug back into its genetic code to find traits to survive in a changing genetic niche.  

Read more here.

More on mitochondrial Eve: Researchers claim long separation between human groups

Colour vision appears early in vertebrates. It’s tempting to call it the big bang of colour vision

Tree of life: Would a mergers and acquisitions chart better explain the more complex organisms (eukaryotes) than a tree of life?

Tree of life: Will gene-swapping fell the prokaryotes’ tree of life?

Also, Just up at The Mindful Hack:

Twins who literally share a body have different selves, personalities

Does neuroscience leave room for God?

Human mental abilities: the result of cultural cross-fertilisation As if.

Language: No current theory of its origin is worth much

Language: Not a sophisticated version of primal screams

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13 Responses to Reverse evolution? Or reverting to an older version? And other stories from The Design of Life blog

  1. Please forgive me, but I’m going to go completely off topic with this post.

    I posted a question a while back on here, but since I posted it too late, it got drowned out in the sea of comments and I only got one response. I’m still curious to hear your responses to it, so I’d like to post it again.

    Let’s say that, hypothetically, scientists duplicate the evolution of early life in a laboratory in conditions similar to the early Earth. It’s a purely naturalistic process, and it’s readily repeatable.
    How would that affect your faith?
    How would that affect your position on Intelligent Design?

    Thanks,
    ~fdsa

  2. You asking me, fdsa?

    Several responses come to mind, though admittedly it is late here in Toronto:

    1. Let’s say that, hypothetically, centaurs are discovered on a remote island somewhere. How would that affect my faith? (= A lot, but it hasn’t happened, and I don’t expect it to.)

    2. There is no way of determining exactly how life originated. We might be able to demonstrate that a naturalistic process is possible. However, with naturalistic OOL, as with centaurs, there comes a point when one doesn’t think much about it any more.

    3. If the process is supposed to be readily repeatable, I would immediately wonder why it isn’t happening as we speak. That is, if naturalistic OoL really worked, so should spontaneous generation in general. Yet, it doesn’t.

    (Unless we agree that that dust bunny over in the corner is either someone coming into existence or someone going out of existence (dust thou art … and all that) … )

    I don’t know that my position on ID would be much affected because the amount of information existing in most life forms must be accounted for, and design is the most plausible explanation. I suspct that is true about OOL as well.

  3. fdsa,

    It should have zero effect. Until the 1860′s most in the world suspected life arose spontaneously and faith was stronger then for most people then it is today. Then a man of faith proved otherwise.

    There is a large group of religious people called Theistic evolutionists who believe God set the whole thing in motion and the results we see are the results of this process initiated by God, including OOL and evolution without any further input.

    So the answer to your question in terms of faith is “zero” for me and I think a lot of others here. However, the forensic evidence does not support such a position. Only faith that God does not exist and a naturalistic answer must exist drives the anti design advocates. Certainly there is no scientific evidence that is credible or substantive.

    Now as far as ID is concerned, such a process would point to an even more powerful God for many and His design would indeed be incredibly intelligent. There has been a debate going on at other websites as to the essentialness of proteins and how they are an ingenious design and necessary for life in all its forms including the first cell. So the incredibly fine tuned universe and its natural laws which lead to the amazing properties of proteins is just another piece of the design puzzle or the foresight of a designer.

    All this by chance. You got to be kidding? But people have a strong faith in the chance hypothesis so we shouldn’t mock their faith even if it is so illogical.

  4. fdsa you said

    Let’s say that, hypothetically, scientists duplicate the evolution of early life in a laboratory in conditions similar to the early Earth. It’s a purely naturalistic process, and it’s readily repeatable.
    How would that affect your faith?
    How would that affect your position on Intelligent Design?

    Let me ask you a question: if scientists could show how the computer you are using could arise from nothing more then early earth conditions would that change your belief about how computers came into existence?

    My question is stupid because we know that early earth conditions canot produce a computer because a computer is far to complex to be the product of random mixing of chemicals.

    The simplest form of life is far more complex then your computer, so I think the chance of scientists creating a computer using only early earth conditions is more likely then creating life.

  5. Zero effect for me, on both counts. A ‘naturalistic process’ that results in the origin of life could well be one more thing that was designed. And the experiment would on the spot prove that along with the pathway.

    Though I’d ask you in turn – if programmers could prove that it’s entirely possible to code a universe that looks like ours in a computer simulation, would you therefore conclude that design were the most likely explanation for just about everything you experience? What if it were demonstrated that all of what you see and experienced, from the world to other people, could well just be a figment of your imagination, rather than a reflection of reality?

    I think what can hypothetically be shown to possibly be the case is faith-affecting (atheist and theist) before needing to get to OoL thoughts.

  6. 6

    This post is on-topic.

    The original post says,

    Are the stickleback fish in Lake Washington really reversing evolution, as the media releases claim? Or just tailoring their existing design?

    Darwinists claim that a lot of evolution is just natural selection acting upon pre-existing variations in species.

    Freshwater fish are particularly useful in studies of evolution because individual species of freshwater fish are often separated into groups that exist in isolation from each other. The three-spine stickleback has been a particularly important subject of studies of microevolution. A New York Times article says,

    . . . take three-spine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus). These little fish usually live in the ocean, but like salmon, they come into rivers to spawn. As the glaciers retreated at the end of the last ice age — a process that went on between ten and twenty thousand years ago —- a series of lakes began to form in the northern hemisphere, and the sticklebacks moved into them. Initially, the lakes would have been linked to the oceans by streams and rivers, but as the glaciers retreated, the land rose up (ice is heavy), and the exits to the lakes closed, leaving the sticklebacks in each lake marooned and isolated. And so the animals stuck there began evolving to live exclusively in freshwater.

    Which is a real-life version of the evolutionist’s dream: each lake is an evolutionary experiment, a natural laboratory. Because there are so many lakes, the experiment has been repeated many times; and because we know the ages of the lakes, we know roughly how long each experiment has been going on. And sure enough, fish in different lakes have evolved a variety of similar features, repeatedly and independently.

    What I find particularly mystifying is the natural occurrence of freshwater species — fish, plants, etc. — over wide ranges in isolated bodies of water that may have never been connected to each other, where it is often not clear how these species spread from one body of water to another. The isolation of the golden trout – considered to be a subspecies of the rainbow trout — is interesting. Related articles on my blog are here and here. Darwinists sneer at what they call “arguments from incredulity,” but such arguments often raise important questions.

  7. H’mm:

    Robert Shapiro in Sci Am:

    RNA’s building blocks, nucleotides, are complex substances as organic molecules go. They each contain a sugar, a phosphate and one of four nitrogen-containing bases as sub-subunits. Thus, each RNA nucleotide contains 9 or 10 carbon atoms, numerous nitrogen and oxygen atoms and the phosphate group, all connected in a precise three-dimensional pattern. Many alternative ways exist for making those connections, yielding thousands of plausible nucleotides that could readily join in place of the standard ones but that are not represented in RNA. That number is itself dwarfed by the hundreds of thousands to millions of stable organic molecules of similar size that are not nucleotides . . . .

    The RNA nucleotides are familiar to chemists because of their abundance in life and their resulting commercial availability. In a form of molecular vitalism, some scientists have presumed that nature has an innate tendency to produce life’s building blocks preferentially, rather than the hordes of other molecules that can also be derived from the rules of organic chemistry. This idea drew inspiration from . . . Stanley Miller. He applied a spark discharge to a mixture of simple gases that were then thought to represent the atmosphere of the early Earth. ["My" NB: Subsequent research has sharply undercut this idea, a point that is unfortunately not accurately reflected in Sci Am's caption on a picture of the Miller-Urey apparatus, which in part misleadingly reads, over six years after Jonathan Wells' Icons of Evolution was published: The famous Miller-Urey experiment showed how inanimate nature could have produced amino acids in Earth's primordial atmosphere . . .] Two amino acids of the set of 20 used to construct proteins were formed in significant quantities, with others from that set present in small amounts . . . more than 80 different amino acids . . . have been identified as components of the Murchison meteorite, which fell in Australia in 1969 . . . By extrapolation of these results, some writers have presumed that all of life’s building could be formed with ease in Miller-type experiments and were present in meteorites and other extraterrestrial bodies. This is not the case . . . .

    The analogy that comes to mind is that of a golfer, who having played a golf ball through an 18-hole course, then assumed that the ball could also play itself around the course in his absence. He had demonstrated the possibility of the event; it was only necessary to presume that some combination of natural forces (earthquakes, winds, tornadoes and floods, for example) could produce the same result, given enough time. No physical law need be broken for spontaneous RNA formation to happen, but the chances against it are so immense, that the suggestion implies that the non-living world had an innate desire to generate RNA. The majority of origin-of-life scientists who still support the RNA-first theory either accept this concept (implicitly, if not explicitly) or feel that the immensely unfavorable odds were simply overcome by good luck.

    Of course, as Orgel rebutted, the same strictures also apply to Shapiro’s preferred metabolism first scenario.

    GEM of TKI

  8. @ fdsa

    “Let’s say that, hypothetically, scientists duplicate the evolution of early life in a laboratory in conditions similar to the early Earth. It’s a purely naturalistic process, and it’s readily repeatable.
    How would that affect your faith?
    How would that affect your position on Intelligent Design?”

    Let’s say that scientists had 100 different ideas about what life was like on early earth and developed two ways for life to begin in each of those proposed environments. What should you believe?

    I don’t think that scientists have a clue as to what the early earth environment was like.

    Forensic evidence and analogic experiments have zero credibility as far as I’m concerned. Data destroying processes kill all forensic reliability and inference into the past from results to cause is irrational. One type of cause always generates one type of effect repeatably. One type of effect may map to many different types of causes. Inference into the past is irrational.

  9. Naturalistic abiogenesis on the “backs of crystals” is a good one. Just using the word crystal in this context was probably thought to have wonderful appeal to pop-culture which always seems to have a place for the “power and energy” of crystals.

    Crystals probably reached the height of their cultural popularity in the eighties but they still seem to capture the imagination of many people – and not just new-agers.

    A popular book in this category is:
    “The Essential Crystal Handbook: All the Crystals You Will Ever Need for Health, Healing and Happiness”

    Perhaps this will be eventually amended to “All the Crystals You Will Ever Need for Health, Healing, Happiness and Solving the Origins of Life” :-)

  10. Jerry, good point w/regard to spontaneous generation.

    And would the consensus of an eternal, infinite universe harm your faith? That was the way things were for the last few hundred years until relatively recently. It didn’t hurt the faith of those who had it, and I think as many people had it then as they do now.

  11. What do they have a time machine?l0l….

    Ultimately, what the conditions are for early earth are always going to be questionable..

    I’ll go with your question, I do not feel design is an unnatural process nor do I feel it is necessarily an direct one.

    You can look at the seemingly random natural processes and miss the man behind the curtain.

    I think that if there is a design, it’s source may be immaterial, but the forces inacted by that force are likely themselves material.

    So, this would do nothing to sway me…

  12. fdsa:

    “How would that affect your faith?
    How would that affect your position on Intelligent Design?”

    Easy enough. My position on ID would certainly be affected, because that would certainly be pertinent evidence. How it would be affected, I really cannot say, without knowing the exact details of that supposed evidence. Moreover, I really don’t believe that such evidence will ever exist, so my position on ID will probably never be affected in that sense.

    About centaurs, however, I have no prejudices…

    As for my faith, it’s even easier. My faith is not based on my scientific views, although it is usually in good accord with them. Therefore, my faith would certainly not be affected, but I would certainly consider with honesty a new scenario in the relationships bewteen my faith and my scientific convictions, “if” my scientific conviction should suddenly change.

  13. Or gosh, let’s just pose the question in a slightly different way, boys and girls!

    What if scientists continued to be unable to demonstrate anything even remotely resembling the development of life from that which is not life in the lab? How would that affect faith in Darwinism?

    Answer: Not at all! Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

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