Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Does gravity explain why basketballs fall down?

Lamarck fish
Billy Dembski asks Does Darwinian Evolution Explain Antibiotic Resistance?, and quotes from a Science paper which says unambiguously:
Soil-dwelling bacteria produce and encounter a myriad of antibiotics, evolving corresponding sensing and evading strategies.
That would be a "yes." Not that this is surprising.

In the comments, DaveScot revives the undead corpse of Lamarck. Or perhaps just Lamarck's children, who obviously acquired everything their ancestor learned and believed.
It's not clear what Dembski thinks the article proves. Soil bacteria turn out to be highly resistant to many antibiotics, even really new ones. Soil bacteria live with fungi, and most antibiotics have historically been derived from fungal products, or are modified from an existing fungal antibiotic. The soil bacteria have experienced things that human pathogens haven't, and have had more time to evolve resistance.

This is what you'd predict. It's what the researchers predicted. And they predicted it because of evolution. They explain:

The presence of antibiotics in the environment has promoted the acquisition or independent evolution of highly specific resistance elements in the absence of innate antibiotic production [such as vancomycin resistance in Streptomyces coelicolor, Paenibacillus, and Rhodococcus]. The soil could thus serve as an underrecognized reservoir for resistance that has already emerged or has the potential to emerge in clinically important bacteria. Consequently, an understanding of resistance determinants present in the soil--the soil resistome--will provide information not only about antibiotic resistance frequencies but also about new mechanisms that may emerge as clinical problems.
So, because of evolution, the researchers thought they'd find a lot of antibiotic resistance in the soil bacteria and they did. Evolution wins again.

And it only took Billy Dembski 18 days to find this paper.

D'Costa, et al. (2006) "Sampling the Antibiotic Resistome," Science, 311(5759), pp. 374-377.