Grey Thoughts
Evolution - Natural Selection is not Evolution
One of the most common problems in looking at evolution is that the word is used in too many different senses. In one sense, evolution is definitely a fact. Evolution, when defined as changing allele frequencies in a population over time is observed every day. Indeed it is a trivial claim, as any variation within a population coupled with mortal creatures will show this to be the case. The problem is when Evolution is defined as the theory that chance mutation and natural selection operating over time has caused all life as we know it to evolve from a common ancestor by creating new functional dna (big "E" evolution)).

The latest release over at Science new daily continues in this great tradition of equivocation. From the article
Researchers Trace Evolution To Relatively Simple Genetic Changes

In a stunning example of evolution at work, scientists have now found that changes in a single gene can produce major changes in the skeletal armor of fish living in the wild.

Wow...evolution in action?? A beneficial mutation that creates new functional information?
Just in case you think the article is not claiming anything about big 'E' evolution the article continues
"Our motivation is to try to understand how new animal types evolve in nature," said molecular geneticist David M. Kingsley, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "People have been interested in whether a few genes are involved, or whether changes in many different genes are required to produce major changes in wild populations."
New animal types evolving in nature...The news release had my attention... It continues
"It's rather like a military decision, to be either heavily armored and slow, or to be lightly armored and fast," Kingsley said. "Now, in countless lakes and streams around the world these low-armored types have evolved over and over again. It's one of the oldest and most characteristic differences between stickleback forms. It's a dramatic change: a row of 35 armor plates turning into a small handful of plates - or even no plates at all."
Uhoh. Warning signs are flashing....this type of stickleback has evolved over and over again? That doesn't sound very random does it?

I begin to suspect that instead of some wizzygig new feature we are dealing with a loss of a feature or a variant gene that pre-exists and is merely selected for. The only other alternative is of course if the creatures were designed to evolve that way...but we won't go there...

But now we get to the real meat of the science release
Now, Kingsley said, "it turns out that armor plate patterns in the fish are controlled by the same gene that creates this clinical disease in humans. And this finding is related to the old argument whether Nature can use the same genes and create other traits in other animals."
Obviously, the gene malfunctions nicely if this mutant becomes dominant.

The research with the wild fish also shows that the same gene is used whenever the low armor trait evolves. "We used sequencing studies to compare the molecular basis of this trait across the northern hemisphere," said Kingsley. "It doesn't matter where we look, on the Pacific coast, the East coast, in Iceland, everywhere. When these fish evolve this low-armored state they are using the same genetic mechanism. It's happening over and over again. It makes them more fit in all these different locations."

Because this trait evolves so rapidly after ocean fish colonize new environments, he added, "we wondered whether the genetic variant (the mutant gene) that controls this trait might still exist in the ocean fish. So we collected large numbers of ocean fish with complete armor, and we found a very low level of this genetic variant in the marine population."

So, he said, "the marine fish actually carry the genes for this alternative state, but at such a low level it is never seen;" all the ocean fish remain well-armored. "But they do have this silent gene that allows this alternative form to emerge if the fish colonize a new freshwater location."

Wow. Look at that...the gene existed all along? Good thing they are trumpeting EVOLUTION and 'new features'.

I was ready to leave it there...obviously natural selection operating on existing variation is not a support for big 'E' evolution, but, foolishly, I read on, and the article continues to astound
Kingsley said, "the mutations that we have found are, we think, in the (gene's) control regions, which turns the gene on and off on cue."...."And it turns out that the mechanisms are surprisingly simple. Instead of killing the protein (with mutations), you merely adjust the way it is normally regulated
Wow, a simple mutation that destroys existing functionality (In this case the creation of armor plating).

Ultimately, a loss of existing functionality by a mutation switching off a gene is not useful to demonstrate the vast number of beneficial mutations creating new functional information that is necessary for evolution to be possible. We constantly get bombarded with cries of 'Evolution in action' and yet without fail they always fall short of actually supporting that claim. Where are the hundreds of thousands of observations that should exist in order to support the claim? They don't exist. Evolution is a fairy tale.
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