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…on genetic information

Ben Stein says …

We drove through hellacious traffic between Paris and Brussels to interview a very famous Polish geneticist, who was in Brussels with the European Parliament. He made a point so brilliant, I’ve never heard anyone even come close to repeating this point. He said, “In random mutation and natural selection, genetic material is destroyed. But to advance and make a more sophisticated human being, you have to add to genetic material. So, how can you both destroy genetic material by random mutation and natural selection and have a more advanced creature by the addition of DNA?” So, nobody’s ever answered that even remotely. – interview with Jerry Newcombe, April 3, 2008, circulated via e-mail by Coral Ridge Ministries

Darwinism asks us to believe that you can destroy genetic material through random mutation and natural selection and yet end up with more genetic material. – Assist News Service, April 10, 2008

and Zachary Feakin replies

Natural selection does indeed eliminate genetic variation. Note, however, that over generations it preserves useful genetic information, which would otherwise be lost by mutations. If mutations would destroy that genetic information, does that imply that mutations do nothing but destroy genetic information? Not at all; the unnamed geneticist is simply wrong on this point. There are many types of mutations; among the most important for evolution are gene duplications. This, as the name would imply, leaves the organism with an extra copy of one or more genes; one of these copies can then continue to fill its original role, while the other is free to mutate and may eventually take on a new function in the organism. Is there evidence that modern organisms have genes which appeared in this way? Yes. After a gene duplication occurs, each copy will start to accumulate its own distinct mutations, moving further away from its sister gene as more time passes. By comparing genes, it is possible to deduce which genes share a common ancestor, and to group genes into families even when they occur in very different species. This, in turn, is a key piece of evidence for the common descent of all life (see Richard Dawkins’s “The Information Challenge” for a more detailed discussion).

and Cris Waller adds

Well, first of all, genes hadn’t even been discovered when Darwin was proposing his theories, so nothing in “Darwinism” should be expected to address such issues.

Secondly, the statement is scientifically untrue in so many ways. Mutation doesn’t destroy genetic material, it simply changes it. Indeed, in some cases such as polyploidy and gene duplication, mutation actually increases the amount of genetic material that organisms have. Natural selection doesn’t destroy genetic material; it acts upon the expression of genetic material by selecting those organisms best adapted to their environment. And, of course, nothing in evolutionary theory postulates that the total amount of genetic material in organisms must increase. This statement also misses the beauty of these two forces acting together – mutation provides the variation that natural selection acts upon. Together, they are the driving forces of evolution, not a recipe for destruction.