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Love, Chocolate, and Neutral Evolution

Ann Gauger

neutral evolution

With Mother’s Day approaching on Sunday, many people’s thoughts turn to…chocolate. I have a sweatshirt with sequins that say “All I need is…LOVE” in one direction, and “All I need is…CHOCOLATE” when flipped in the opposite direction with a stroke or two of the hand. In  case you are wondering if I have gone crazy, this is my illustration of why neutral evolution won’t work, but intelligent design can.

Neutral evolution means mutations are occurring all the time, and most of the time they are neutral, or nearly neutral. Thus they aren’t selected against and can remain in the population. The theory is that if things drift far enough this way, by neutral changes, new functions can be reached. 

Suppose there were a chocolate-loving caterpillar, waiting for the right set of mutations (sequin flips) to spell “chocolate.” The problem is that the number of changes typically required is too great. You lose the first function and have garbage before you reach the second. See my transition from “Love” to “Chocolate” below. 

neutral evolution

The picture helps you imagine an increasing number of mutations (swipes of my fingers). If the hungry caterpillar needed chocolate he would wander far in sequence space, because the other lesson in this illustration is that the only way to find chocolate was to uncover a pattern that was already there. If chocolate was not already written on the other side, he would not find it.

neutral evolution

If there is a natural protein capable of flipping from one fold to another, from love to chocolate, with just a few changes, it had to be designed that way.