The Irrelevance of Darwinian Evolution to Antibiotic Resistance

Jonathan Wells

According to a February 26, 2008 report in ScienceDaily, a team of French scientists has unraveled the structure of a protein that allows bacteria to gain resistance to multiple antibiotics. Frédéric Dardel and his colleagues crystallized two forms of the antibiotic-modifying enzyme acetyltransferase and showed that it has a flexible active site that can evolve to enable bacteria to break down various antibiotics and render them useless. The research may aid in the design of new antibiotics to deal with this form of resistance, which is becoming a serious medical problem.
This is very good news! Unfortunately, Darwinists will probably claim — as they have done many times in the past — that their theory was indispensable to the achievement.
Yet Darwinian evolution had nothing to do with it.

First, some bacteria happen to have a very complex enzyme (acetyltransferase), the origin of which Darwinism hasn’t really explained. Come to think of it, most cases of antibiotic resistance (including resistance to penicillin) involve complex enzymes, and the only “explanations” for them put forward by Darwinists are untestable just-so stories about imaginary mutations over unimaginable time scales.
Second, the acetyltransferase story is about minor changes in an existing species of bacteria. But Darwin’s theory isn’t really about how existing species change over time. People had been observing those long before 1859, and most of the new insights we’ve gained since then have come from genetics, not Darwinism. Yet Mendel’s theory of genetics contradicted Darwin’s, and Darwinists rejected Mendelian genetics for half a century. And although an understanding of genetics is important when dealing with antibiotic resistance, Darwin’s theory of the origin of species by natural selection is not.
Third, Dardel and his colleagues made their discovery using protein crystallography. They were not guided by Darwinian evolutionary theory; in fact, they had no need of that hypothesis.
Fourth, their discovery may aid in the intelligent design of new antibiotics. Chemists will attempt to synthesize new drugs purposefully, by looking ahead to the desired goal and working toward it. No Darwinian evolution here.
So how, exactly, is Darwinian evolution essential to understanding and overcoming antibiotic resistance — as the Darwinists claim it is?

Jonathan Wells

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Jonathan Wells has received two Ph.D.s, one in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and one in Religious Studies from Yale University. A Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, he has previously worked as a postdoctoral research biologist at the University of California at Berkeley and the supervisor of a medical laboratory in Fairfield, California. He also taught biology at California State University in Hayward and continues to lecture on the subject.