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A Strong Delusion 1.2
Part 1 Genetic Entropy; Post 2 Mutations Are Bad
In our first post in this first section of this series, we touched on the very complicated genome and the improbability that such a complicated information system could have just happened randomly.
In this post we will consider mutations, the supposed mechanism for evolution.
Mutations are the ‘mistakes’ that occur in the instruction manual we know as our DNA. Mutations are overwhelmingly negative for us, some of which cause debilitating pathologies and even aging itself is largely a result of accumulating mutations. Health policies generally (except for COVID policies) include aims to reduce mutations - mitigating the risk of cancers, degenerative diseases and all manner of other pathologies that result from the mutation of cells. Yet it is the mutation of cells that evolutionary theory holds up as the great mechanism that creates diversity for which selection of the fittest can be made.
So far we have not been able to identify an example of a random mutation that has created information that ends up beneficial to the newly modified organism. Certainly there are mutations that have destroyed information and may be beneficial to the organism in a local context. Antibiotic resistant bacterium have a chromosomal mutation causing it to be defective in a helpful way when it comes to antibiotics. But such a strain is quickly replaced by superior, non-mutant, strains once there is no antibiotic to deal with. The same with selective breeding of animals - there may be features that are amplified and other features that are suppressed, there may be local adaptation, like a hairless dog in a hot climate, but there is no new information being created. There is either selective features based on the existing information within the genome or a loss of information.
There are over 3 billion potential points of mutation in a human genome. Mutations are happening all the time and the vast majority of these don’t seem to have critical impacts on us (on the phenotype, that is, the whole functioning person). Sometimes a mutation will have an impact on us and will manifest in a way that is pathological - cancer, or being born with any number of disorders because our genetic code isn’t carrying out the proper instructions. These pathologies are obvious in the phenotype, but the more subtle ones, happening in ‘non-critical’ parts of our DNA are not so. Nevertheless they are still happening. With every generation very small, unnoticed mutations are happening that is degrading the highly organised information of our genome. We are not getting more fine tuned and evolving into better humans. It’s the exact opposite. We are becoming more mutant.
And dare I say that with the mRNA gene therapy jabs this state of genetic entropy has just accelerated profoundly.
Now more mutations should be a good thing right? I mean that’s how we get natural selection, by selecting the better mutations! But beneficial mutations are vanishingly rare and when there are any it’s at the loss of information, not adding information (remember we are considering a theory that takes us from a bacteria to Einstein - a lot of additional information).
But the problem with natural selection is that it is based on the selection of the whole organism, not selecting undetectable minor mutations of the genome. We have to see remarkable and beneficial mutations that add more useful information to the genome, for us to climb the evolutionary tree of life. So again, most mutations on the phenotype level are negative and not the ‘survival of the fittest’ type of subjects evolution is looking for. Evolution needs a high rate of beneficial mutations at the phenotype level, adding functional complexity, to be selectable - not mutations that are at best adaptive degeneration of the genome and thus shrinking the functional genome size and potential.
We are not evolving, we are devolving! There have been a lot of studies on the rates of deleterious mutations in human populations and all such researchers agree there is a lot of mutation going on - the rates, however, are debatable. To give you a bit of a feel for the numbers, a human mutation rate of 75-175 nucleotide substitutions (the mistakes in the DNA) per person per generation is widely accepted. However some believe the actual mutation rate is as high as 300. Whichever way you look at it, there is a lot of mutation going on in the opposite direction to evolutionary theory. In fact it’s much worse than this as there are many classes of mutations that can be passed on from one generation to the next. Among these mutation classes are mitochondrial mutations, nucleotide substitutions, satellite mutations, deletions, duplications/insertions, inversions/translocations, conversions, which can add up to possibly thousands of mutations per person per generation. Now again, most of these are not detected at the whole person level, but we are being mutated with each generation nevertheless. Most human geneticists will agree that the human race is genetically degenerating , with information being lost and thus reduced fitness of our species. This reduced fitness may be somewhere between 1%-5% per generation. We are in trouble and so is the theory of evolution!
Now with this in mind let me tell you a little metaphorical story about natural selection - somewhat contrived but it will give you a bit of a handle on the selection problem…
I’ve got a large book in my library, Principles of Neural Science. It’s as big as my Oxford Dictionary and could possibly kill you if it fell from my high shelf onto your head. It’s dense 1,706 pages is crammed with highly specific and complex information. This book will be a stand-in for your DNA, albeit a ridiculously simplified substitute.
Now say this book was printed with a faulty print-on-demand printer that would insert typographical errors now and then. I estimate this book has just over 1 million words and about three thousand diagrams, so let’s say the printer makes 10,000 spelling errors and 30 errors in the diagrams (about 1% error rate) in each book it prints. The errors are completely random for each book it prints (these are the random mutations - think of the letters as nucleotides and the ‘book + student results’ as the whole organism).
The book goes out to all the undergraduate students learning about neuroscience, each student getting a uniquely ‘mutated’ book. The book is so large and the spelling errors so few, that for the most part students learn a significant amount about neuroscience and few are severely handicapped. There may be the odd spelling mistake, like one unfortunate, albeit rare, incident where the title came out as “Pinaples Of Neubal Science”, but the student is still relatively sure she has the right textbook and isn’t that phased (and ends up putting a bright pineapple sticker over the title anyway to avoid embarrassment).
At the end of the semester the students are tested and ranked - the very best student’s books are taken as the “best copies of Principles of Neural Science”, and naturally they are selected to be the basis for next semester’s students. These books are then fed into our somewhat unreliable print-on-demand machine as the starting point for a fresh batch of textbooks. Now, the next generation of copies has the same error rate of 1%, but this on top of the previous error rate of 1% - so the text slightly degrades again because of random errors. Seemingly no new theories or more accurate descriptions of endoplasmic reticulum membranes come about because of these random errors. Surprisingly the diagram on page 1204 of different neurotrophic factors promoting the survival of distinct populations of dorsal root ganglion neurons, doesn’t become more clear. In fact some very precise placements of letters and numbers get jumbled up and confusing for the student on that particular diagram.
Once again students are rated at the end of the semester and the top student’s books are taken as the starting point for the next generation of text books. Again, with the same random error rate.
How many generations of ‘mutations’ do you think it will take to ‘select’ a more improved version of Principles of Neural Science that will end up serving students even better than the original version?
The fitness (total biological function of the organism) of the book is what selection is acting on, but in which direction is fitness going in? This is genetic entropy, not increased complexity and order.
This is to illustrate the selection aspect of evolution - we have to select the whole book, not just bits from within the book.
But of course the metaphor doesn’t go far enough to grasp the implausible scenario (remember we need to go from the first ‘simple’ cell to Einstein) - we’d have to start with something like the Neuroscience for Dummies cheat sheet (still an impressive combination of letters to create an intelligible code for learning) in the memory of our slightly faulty print-on-demand printer. The errors from the printer in every generation of printing the cheat sheet would have to eventually produce the actual book Neuroscience for Dummies or some equivalent. And then, using the same method of selection as above, produce eventually, a copy of Principles of Neural Science, fifth edition, and then, eventually, improve on that work to get to the sixth edition. The printer knows nothing about neuroscience of course and the spelling errors (mutations) are completely random.
Now you might stop and think, “Wait a minute Winston! What about all those genetically modified plants we have that are drought resistant and can produce more fruit!? Isn’t that evolution right before our eyes!!”
Well, no. Breeding plants and animals selectively can produce better attributes for certain conditions but it’s not adding information (unless you are genetically engineering and inserting sequences, and that is not part of Darwinian theory). Selection can sometimes produce helpful local adaptations but it cannot create more complex genomes. And from what we know about human mutations we seems to be careening down the river of entropy in the opposite direction to evolutionary theory.
Well that’s probably enough to chew on for now. There’s a lot of detail we can drill down to, or other aspects to consider. I’ll see what happens in the comments and then choose a path forward.
Oh, and don’t let Big Pharma mess with your genome - they know next to nothing about what they are altering!
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