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The Low Bar of Evolutionary Biology — More on That Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Experiment


Darwinists are clueless. To wit, biologists lead by Michael Baym of Harvard Medical School published an article in Science, “Spatiotemporal microbial evolution on antibiotic landscapes,” on which Evolution News commented last week. The biologists filmed a large plate of agar with discrete regions of antibiotic concentrations that contained bacteria. You can view it in the accompanying video, here.

Over time, you see new clones of resistant bacteria emerge and grow onto the higher concentrations of antibiotic and eventually spread across the plate. It’s neat to watch, and as the authors say, “Its relative simplicity and ability to visually demonstrate evolution makes the MEGA-plate a useful tool for science education and outreach.”

“Outreach.” It’s a marketing strategy for Darwinism, which is sorely in need of marketing. Why this is to be categorized as science, rather than as advertising, is unclear. In fact, the experiment demonstrates two things that count strongly against Darwinian inferences:

First, it’s a fine demonstration of artificial selection, not natural selection. Not only is the entire experimental apparatus contrived (in a clever way), but of course antibiotics are manmade, and are not natural substances. The entire experiment, in its essentials, is based on intelligent design. It demonstrates that mutations that render bacteria resistant to the (intelligently designed) antibiotic on the plate allow the mutant clones of bacteria to proliferate. Bacteria that aren’t killed by the antibiotic grow, and bacteria that are killed by the antibiotic don’t grow. Not exactly cutting-edge science, but, it seems, it’s genuine cutting-edge evolutionary biology. A low bar.

Second, antibiotic resistance is nearly always the result of a functional loss on the part of the mutant bacteria. Bacteria lose the ability to take up or metabolize the antibiotic, which renders then resistant to the toxicity of the antibiotic. Thus, the evolutionary change demonstrated in the experiment is the loss, not the gain, of function. Of course, no one doubts that mutations change bacterial populations by impairing function.

The radical Darwinian claim is that mutations and genetic recombination accrued by natural selection are responsible for all of the adaptive gain in function in living things. This experiment demonstrates the opposite: the mutations accrue by artificial selection and represent loss of function.

That Darwinists use this experiment to market their ideology is evidence of the low estimate they have of the insight of the scientific community. Darwinists underestimate their fellow scientists, and junk-science infomercials such as this only make them look ridiculous.