I wanted to talk about a new ID/creationist argument I heard the other day, but it’s useful to give you a rundown on the history of the idea first, so bear with me.
Creationists/ID proponents (same thing if you didn’t know, just with another PR strategy) started out claiming that all mutations are harmful and cause birth defects, and that mutations are very rare. This, if it were true, would make evolution impossible. However it has never been true and was just made up out of thin air. After a decade or two of making this claim incessantly and it being pointed out over and over again that they were lying even their audience started questioning it, so they changed tack – they then said “sure most mutations are harmless, but no useful ones ever occur”. To which the other side responded by giving many examples of useful mutations observed to occur.
Here the arguments split into several forms, all based on simply making stuff up. Some insisted that those mutations are beneficial, but contain no new “information”, using analogies like languages and saying that adding new genetic “information” is like adding new “letters” to a language. Not new words, but new letters, suggesting a new type of base pair had to be added to count (for no apparent reason). Others claimed that mutations only ever remove information and break down a genome, claiming that the genome of every species was breaking down as a result of the “fall” (how scientific) and some even claimed that god ingeniously designed DNA so that it would break in ways that would produce beneficial results, and that that is where all useful mutations come from. This confusing mess was pointed out to be untrue and misleading and it was shown that gene duplication mutations and other things add genetic material to the genome which is then modified by subsequent mutations and can produce new traits and useful, modifications of old ones. Examples of new DNA and new “information” by any definition were provided.
Now though they are apparently pointing to examples of beneficial mutations and citing the biological cost, claiming that the only valid form of new “information” is a mutations which produces a novel trait which has no biological downside whatsoever. This is like arguing that a fast race car isn’t more advanced than a crappy clunker because it uses more fuel and requires more maintenance.
Everything in nature has a cost and a benefit. Eyes are among the most useful traits in nature and in species of fish that have migrated to a point in the ocean so deep there is no visible light, they are starting to lose their eyes. This is because there is a biological cost to having eyes – they require more food to be eaten and calories burned to grow and maintain, they are more susceptible to injury and infection than other tissues etc. So even the most exquisitely useful traits have a downside. Natural selection does not favor a mutation because it has no downside or is perfect, it favors it because the upside outweighs the downside. Flight is I’m sure unbelievably useful (as evidenced by the success of birds, bats and winged insects which are among the most prolific in nature), but surely this must take a great biological toll, stress the organs, burn calories like crazy, create tremendous wear and tear on the joints etc. But nature produced wings because their usefulness outweighs their detriment.
So according to this new creationist argument, if they saw an eye or a wing evolve from scratch, it would not be an example of any new information arising in the genome.
Me thinks creationists are playing with a stacked deck.
Now creationist websites attack their critics by claiming that they never said any of the previous things and viciously accusing them of lying and misrepresenting their views, and since I heard this new argument two creationists have accused me of lying about the creationist position, before and after saying several times the words they accuse me of putting in their mouths. One of them criticized a video I linked to about positive mutations, claiming it distorted the creationist position by… responding to a creationist video explicitly making these claims.