Thursday, June 26, 2008

Creationists pwned by Prof Richard Lenski

As many of you would be aware, CASE has been following the story of Richard Lenski of Michigan State University and his ground breaking discovery of Citrate consuming mutant E.coli bacteria. CASE has also presented these finding to several creationist who (without any technical qualification in biology or science generally) have dismissed the results.

The Lenski experiment shows mutation in a laboratory. This is important because scientists have not previously seen such mutation under controlled conditions, although, we can see evidence of mutation between existing animals and fossilised remains. Of course, this isn't sufficient for creationists who make up fanciful stories about things like dinosaurs:-

Above: Jesus was a DinoRider

Richard Lenski has been dealing with his own set of kooks from Conservapedia. Conservapedia is essentially a right wing publication that seeks to replace wikipedia with what they consider to be the "correct information". CASE electronic warfare division is currently obtaining passwords as an editor of Conservapedia (BTW, We succeeded with CreationWiki and will be posting funny things soon) in order to set the record straight on issues such as the conservative christian view of facism.

Back to the topic, Conservapedia was indignant at the apparent (or imminent) defeat of creationism by evolutionary biologists. Accordingly, they wrote a letter which had very little to do with science and in which the chief kook of Conservapedia admitted that he had not read Prof Lenski's report or had any knowledge about genetics. Lenski's first response was civil. However, when badgered further Lenski loses it - with what is an excellent example of pwning theistic ignorance. If Conservapedia take down the response in shame, it has been saved here for posterity.

Lenski's experiment is confused by many creationists with the idea of saltation. Saltation is the concept that a species remains the same until it mutates into the next species. Not even Darwin considered such infrequent and drastic mutation is possible. The theory of natural selection states that within a given genome, certain genes will become more popular because the carriers of those genes are more successful. For instance, Homo Heidelbergensis mutates 800,000 years ago with a brain volume of 600 cubic centimeters ('cc'). Over time, individuals with bigger brains are more likely to succeed - accordingly, brain volume expands until 250,000 years ago when it reaches 1100 cc. Then a freak mutation occurs which allows for greater brain growth but the brain size of the first homo sapiens is also around 1100 cc. The reason for this is that the first homo sapien inherits almost all the same genes as the previous generation of Homo Heidelbergensis. From there the homo sapiens (with lighter skulls and more room for brain developments) continue to increase in brain size over many generations until it reaches the 1400 cc that we are at today.

Thus mutation (macroevolution for the creationists) is only a single part of the genetic puzzle of evolution. While many creationists accept the concept of natural selection (microevolution) they are incredulous to the concept of massive change - then again, so are biologists, its just that the theory of evolution doesnt say that massive change will happen either.

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