Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Now Something Else For Creationists To Ignore!

One gene may drive leap from single cell to multicellular life - life - 22 June 2015 - New Scientist

Creationists need to isolate themselves as far as possible from the reality around them - which why they're oblivious to that fact that, to normal people, they resemble a comical King Canute, ordering the tide to retreat, except that they also have their eyes shut and are pretending to not even notice the tsunami of scientific evidence engulfing them.

Actually, to be fair to the much maligned Canute, whose tale was told by the eventual winners, he was almost certainly trying to demonstrate to his army that even a king's powers are limited, so he shouldn't really be compared to a creationist.

This latest piece of evidence, for example, lays to rest one of creationism's favourite mantras - that evolution is all about increasing complexity but increasing complexity can't be produced by mutations and natural selection. This is only ever an assertion copied from some creationist fraud site by people who lack the science to understand why that might be (and to see through the misinformation). Ken Ham/Erich Hovind says so, so it must be true because they're 'brilliant scientists' too (keep sending the money!) It also ignores the fact that evolution very frequently results in loss of complexity and that a highly complex genome is no guarantee of a complex organism.

One of their favourite assertions is that the evolution of multicellularity from singe-celled ancestors was an impossibly big step, so all higher organisms must have been made by a magic man in the sky (I kid you not! This rates as grown-up science in some backward societies.)

A team led by Matt Herron of the University of Montana in Missoula exposed the single-celled algae, Chlamydomonas, to predation over some 600 generations. This predator can ingest single cells but not clumps of cells. In two of the five culture lines, chlamydomonas evolved into predation-resistant multicellular organisms consisting of balls of 4, 8 and even 16 cells. This ability was conveyed by a single mutant gene.

This supports a similar 2011 finding by evolutionary biologists William Ratcliff and Michael Travisano at the University of Minnesota in St Paul, that a single mutation could cause single yeast cells to stick together to form branching 'snowflake' patterns (I assume even a creationist would recognise that a branching snowflake produced by clumps of yeast cells is more complex than a single yeast cell - but I bet you won't be able to get one to admit it).

The natural selection in this instances was speed of settling out in a culture. Larger clumps settle out more quickly so, by sampling them and using them for the next generation, 'snowflake' yeast was quite quickly produced. Ratcliffe and Travisano have now shown that the way daughter cells stick together after division is controlled by a single gene, ACE2. Again, this was found to be due to a simple mutation.

So, although these are not truly multicellular organisms in the sense that there is division of labour and specialisation in the colony, this shows that, far from the evolution of multicellularity being the impossibly large step that creationists like to assert, it could actually have progressed, like all other evolutionary change, by a sequence of accumulated small steps.

The observable fact that a single mutation can give increased complexity through Darwinian natural selection of course give the lie to creationist frauds' assertions that this is impossible. The test of whether something is possible or not is to observe whether it happens. Thing which happen are not impossible no matter how many times a paid hireling of the Creation Industry, with no academic reputation to worry about, asserts that it is.

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