email - March 2007

Spontaneous Information

Can bacteria gain information by chance?

We received this email from Michael.

Hello, Your site is awesome and has been very helpful.

I soon will be joining, but could you help me with this link? http://www.evolutionpages.com/Streptomyces.htm

From what I can tell a lot of assumptions are being made from the evolutionists concerning this bacterium.

What are your thoughts on this?

Thanks!

Michael

The web page in question discusses three bacteria, Streptomyces coelicolor, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Corynebacterium diptheriae. The crux of its argument is that the three bacteria

… have very many genes which show a great deal of similarity. Even more telling, all three genomes (the core of S coelicolor and the entire genomes of M tuberculosis and C diptheriae) show considerable synteny - that means that not only are the same genes present but they are in the same sequence on the genome - they are arranged in the same order. It is therefore likely that the core of S coelicolor and the entire genomes of the other two bacteria have a common ancestor.

However, the genes outside the core region of S coelicolor (in those arms before 1.5Mb and after 6.4Mb) show no synteny (genes in the same order) with the other bacteria. So for the following reasons, in S coelicolor, the leading arm up to 1.5Mb and the trailing arm after 6.4Mb are later additions to the genome:

And the web page concludes,

So we see that functionality and DNA has been added to genome of S coelicolor since its divergence from M tuberculosis and C diphtheriae [sic]; evidence which stand in contradiction to the claim that information cannot be added to the genome through evolution.

Their conclusion is based on the assumption that S coelicolor diverged from M tuberculosis and C diptheriae. How do they know that? Well, the three bacteria are similar in some ways, and similarity is evidence of evolution from a common ancestor. Furthermore, the three bacteria are different in some ways, and difference is evidence of evolution from a common ancestor. Since they are similar, and different, they must have evolved from a common ancestor!

Seriously, they looked at the genome and found a lot of similarity, and defined that to be the “core region.” The part that wasn’t the same they assumed to be “additions.” They assume that the core region is the same because the presumed common ancestor had that genetic code, and they assume that the additions are different because they evolved differently. Their “logic” is nothing more that circular reasoning. Evolution caused the changes, and the changes prove that evolution occurred.

Unless S coelicolor was observed to have appeared spontaneously in an otherwise sterile laboratory container that originally had only M tuberculosis and C diptheriae, one can't prove S coelicolor is the offspring of either one.  S coelicolor might be similar to M tuberculosis and C diptheriae because it was always similar (i.e., it was created that way). They might have similar genes because they live in a similar environment which necessitates similar functionality. Most land vehicles have wheels simply because their designers recognized wheels are useful for terrestrial locomotion. Similarity is just as strong evidence for design as it is for evolution.

But even if S coelicolor did descend from M tuberculosis or C diptheriae, it does not support the conclusion that useful genetic information can arise spontaneously. It is possible that S coelicolor assimilated some previously existing genetic information from another source. Asexual exchange of genes actually has been observed, as we discussed in a previous essay (Sex and the Single Bacterium). If S coelicolor assimilated genes from M tuberculosis or C diptheriae, it does not explain how M tuberculosis or C diptheriae acquired those genes in the first place.

The fact that three bacteria have similar genetic structure is equally consistent with two different hypotheses: specifically, the similarity may reflect the decisions of a common designer; or it may reflect inheritance from a common ancestor.

The asexual transfer of genetic information from one individual is no more significant than sexual transfer of genetic information from parents to a child. Genetic diversity is either a survival-enhancing ability that was programmed into living things by a designer, or it is a survival-enhancing ability that arose by chance. The fact that genetic diversity is useful and exists in all living things tells nothing about its origin.

The fact that there is information in an encyclopedia does not prove that information arises spontaneously. Similarity of the information in an encyclopedia with information in other literature could be an indication of a common author, or evidence of plagiarism; but it is not evidence that information can arise spontaneously. Even plagiarized work depends upon previously existing information.

The existence of information in the genome tells nothing about its origin. Information in the genome confirms creationists’ prejudice that the information was put there by an intelligent designer, and it confirms the evolutionists’ prejudice that the information arose by chance.

Evolutionists need proof that information can arise by chance. Existence of information does not supply that proof.

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