Friday, February 20, 2009

Horizontal Gene Transfer


I gave you a link in the last post to the New Scientist article from January 21, 2009. The cover page pictured a tree on which was written "Darwin was wrong." The related article describes why new scientific discoveries have proven him wrong. The ability of scientists to "read" all the letters of the DNA of many different species has allowed them to compare each of them with the other. The comparisons are not what they expected. They do not show a small increase over the time and species changes which were predicted by Darwin and his followers. The gene patterns do not match, they do not blend from one to another. Even though all species are not tested, the differences are so large that fitting in the spaces even over a few billion years and the species yet to be discovered would not be possible. (This is not a case of ignoring the fossils of so-called missing links. It is the fact that the predicted progression of cell structure from bacteria to human does not "match" with recent discoveries of scientists.)

The researchers now shift their attention to what is called "Horizontal Gene Transfer" or sometimes "Lateral Gene Transfer" (HGT or LGT for short). They are looking at the genes themselves and saying they have a history of their own, going from one species to another by a variety of mechanisms. The link given to HGT at Wikipedia gives more description. In other words, they are implying that genes evolve by complete chance, and organisms just turn out the way they do because the genes end up where they do. The small steps of gene mutation and natural selection of the neo-Darwinists is of much smaller consequence.

One scientific article about LGT is "Ancestral genome sizes specify the minimum rate of lateral gene transfer during prokaryote evolution," from PNAS, Jan. 16, 2007 by Dagan and Martin. This, like many of the technical papers that I link to, is for those who know something about genetics. But anyone can understand that things are changing in biology. And the simple picture of one cell happening by chance and slowly changing to all the present species does not fit the new facts.

I talk here about LGT because it already has become the new mantra to replace or at least co-exist with neo-Darwinism (the modern version of Darwin's theory). But many people(mathematicians and engineers, for example) had told biologists that neo-Darwinism was wrong, starting over 40 years ago at the Wistar Institute, once the structures of proteins and DNA were discovered in the 1950's. The biologists were told that these structures could not have developed by chance mutation and selection. The book from the Wistar conference is Mathematical challenges to the neo-Darwinian interpretation of evolution by Paul Moorhead et al.

Mathematics can also tell us, as William Dembski among others has been saying, that materialistic, naturalistic HGT, alone or in combination with neo-Darwinism, is insufficient for life. Will people listen?

The world is a beautiful place, and there is still much to learn. The next generation has multiple challenges: cure disease, clean the environment (whether or not there is global warming), provide enough food and water for all people. We cannot find complete answers if we start with false information. And each of us can learn how to pursue what is true.

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Clip art from http://www.gif.com/ , Jupiterimages s.v. tree.

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