Evolution in the News - November 2011
by Do-While Jones

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics don’t cause evolution.

One of the classic “proofs” of evolution is antibiotic resistance. Evolutionists claim that the use of modern antibiotics caused bacteria to evolve resistance to those antibiotics. (Of course, the bacteria are still bacteria, so even if the claim were true, it would not prove macroevolution.)

You have probably seen one of the TV “science” programs in which an evolutionist says that the use of antibiotics causes more deadly bacteria to evolve, and then makes the illogical leap that the only way to save the human race from annihilation is to teach evolution in the public schools. Although their advice to avoid the over-use of antibiotics is certainly good, it has nothing to do with the alleged importance of teaching evolution to young children.

Creationists have long argued that some bacteria already had resistance to some antibiotics, and the antibiotics simply changed the proportion of resistant to non-resistant bacteria by eliminating the non-resistant bacteria. Since they are just creationists, publishing their results in creationist journals, those claims have been summarily dismissed by “real scientists.”

The prestigious, peer-reviewed journal, Nature, has finally agreed with creationists. It recently published an article with this abstract:

The discovery of antibiotics more than 70 years ago initiated a period of drug innovation and implementation in human and animal health and agriculture. These discoveries were tempered in all cases by the emergence of resistant microbes. This history has been interpreted to mean that antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria is a modern phenomenon; this view is reinforced by the fact that collections of microbes that predate the antibiotic era are highly susceptible to antibiotics. Here we report targeted metagenomic analyses of rigorously authenticated ancient DNA from 30,000-year-old Beringian permafrost sediments and the identification of a highly diverse collection of genes encoding resistance to Beta-lactam, tetracycline and glycopeptide antibiotics. Structure and function studies on the complete vancomycin resistance element VanA confirmed its similarity to modern variants. These results show conclusively that antibiotic resistance is a natural phenomenon that predates the modern selective pressure of clinical antibiotic use. 1

The first paragraph of the article says,

Recent studies of modern environmental and human commensal microbial genomes have a much larger concentration of antibiotic resistance genes than has been previously recognized. In addition, metagenomic studies have revealed diverse homologues of known resistance genes broadly distributed across environmental locales. This widespread dissemination of antibiotic resistance elements is inconsistent with a hypothesis of contemporary emergence and instead suggests a richer natural history of resistance. 2

The rest of the article goes into detail about how and where they took the samples, how they analyzed the DNA, and how they reached their conclusion. It is largely incomprehensible to someone who is not an expert in the field; but the conclusion they reach is perfectly clear.

This work firmly establishes that antibiotic resistance genes predate our use of antibiotics and offers the first direct evidence that antibiotic resistance is an ancient, naturally occurring phenomenon widespread in the environment. This is consistent with the rapid emergence of resistance in the clinic and predicts that new antibiotics will select for pre-existing resistance determinants that have been circulating within the microbial pangenome for millennia. This reality must be a guiding principle in our stewardship of existing and new antibiotics. 3

We want to stress that this was published in a peer-reviewed journal written by 13 real scientists affiliated with these seven scientific institutions:

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1 D’Costa, et al., Nature, 22 September 2011, “Antibiotic resistance is ancient”, pages 457-461, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v477/n7365/full/nature10388.html
2 ibid.
3 ibid.