Saturday, June 11, 2005

People who are stupid shouldn't be spokespeople

One of the ID blogs says University of Chicago study overturns conventional theory in evolution:
EurekAlert posts a public release from the University of Chicago which announces that an important component of Darwinism is not exactly spot on. New data suggest that the accumulation of genetic changes is not solely determined by natural selection. It turns out that the rate of mutations determines how many are incorporated into the genome. While this certainly does not scream that ID is true, it does show that "things ain't often as they are advertised."
The release is here. Did you see how a conventional theory in evolution morphed into a critique of "Darwinism." All the study says is that higher mutation rates can cause more rapid entry of protein changes into the population.

That's not what people assumed. They assumed that selection was all that might control the rate at which protein-changing mutations would enter the population.

But most mutations, even protein-changing mutations, will have a relatively small effect on protein structure. A new structure may be slightly disadvantageous, but day to day that difference will be swamped by all the other differences between individuals.

If mutations accumulate slowly, even small differences in fitness will get hammered out pretty fast. But if the mutations are more frequent but the time to eliminate them is longer, you expect to see exactly this pattern.

The press release is a bit ambiguous about what exactly they found, but if I read it right, this is the sort of thing that is obviously true, but may not have been obvious before someone pointed it out.

Does it do any harm to "Darwinism" ("evolutionary biology" as we call it here on Earth)? No. This is a different model of how mutations and genetic diversity is maintained in a population. Not only doesn't it scream that IDC is true, it puts another nail in the coffin. The more we understand about life, the less relevant a magical designer seems.

If I'm misreading the release and what the researchers found, let me know.