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New genetic information

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Whether or not random chance mutations can create "new" genetic information has been discussed by creationists for many years. Many creationists have used the argument that mutations do not add information to the genome, but contribute to an overall loss of genetic information. Others believe that mutations play a major role in the diversification of organisms, which includes the creation of new alleles and "new information".

"New" genetic information is defined as genetic information that was not previously present in the organism. Often, Evolutionists will say that Creationists are successful with the "no new information" argument because they leave "information" undefined. However, Creationists often differ in the definitions of what they consider to be "new information".

"new information" is usually defined in two manners.

  • new information is defined as "new codes". In this case the argument is often made that new genes are always made from old genes. This is in fact the case with all forms of mutations except for random insertions, which place a completely random nucleotide into a sequence, and substitutions, which replace a nucleotide with a different one.
  • new information is defined as "information that is useful". This is often contrasted with "random noise" where the addition of a mutation disrupts the code. It is also pointed out in many articles, that increases in information are actually decreases in information

While both definitions can be used to make the argument, it needs to be determined if in fact this is the case 100% of the time, as is usually stated, or if there needs to be a redefining of the argument.

Proposed mechanisms

Mutations

Main Article: Mutation

While it is clear that populations often experience diversification and speciation, it remains under debate by most prominent Creation Scientists whether or not this is the result of truly "new" information by mutations.

The issue in question is regarding mutations only. This excludes any mechanisms that might be responsible for obtaining new information intentionally or from the environment. There are known instances where an organism has been shown to harvest the DNA of other organisms for its own benefits. It is also possible to intentionally inject DNA into an organisms pre-existing DNA, which appears to happen naturally in the case of ERVs. Environmental stimulation to direct genetic change has also been suggested. All of these cases are support of a neo-lamarckian concept which is not the topic of this discussion. In all of these cases, mutations are not at the cause.

It is also important to remember that organisms such as animals can not inherit DNA mutations caused during the parents life cycle unless the mutations directly effect the germline cells, eggs, sperm, or development stage of an embryo. This would have to occur early in the organisms life. In prokaryotes, however, any mutation to the DNA is inheritable. Mutations during transcription and translation are not inheritable.

This said, mutational inheritance is subject almost strictly to replication, and in sexual organisms, only mutations occurring before or during the development of sperm and eggs, or during the zygote forming event, will be inheritable. This drastically reduces the amount of mutations which will be inherited.

Do mutations add "new" information to the genome in a hereditary fashion?
*new is defined as information that was not present inside the organism before the mutation. For example: AA + BB = BC?
Organization Answer Comments
Creation Ministries International Never or extremely rare Not impossible, but if it does occur, it is extremely rare and far to much so to be of any use to the Neo-Darwinian mechanism. CMI has stated that there are instances that deserve some credibility.[1]
Answers In Genesis No Answers in Genesis has always believed that ‘new information’ cannot arise by natural processes—it can only be explained by a Creator who pre-programmed specific traits in the genetic codes of all living things - Dr Purdom January 30th, 2008 [2]

types of mutations

  • Insertion mutations result in the addition of a nucleotide to a gene sequence. Usually, this occurs during translation, or transcription. By our first definition, this could be considered new information because the information is now increased at the nucleotide level. However, by our second definition, any insertion that would prove successful would have to be in combinations of 3, as to not disrupt frame shift. They would also have to lead to a successful protein, as most insertions would denature the protein in the long run, causing that protein to fail at its original function. This could be argued as new information, but it could also be argued as a loss of information. More correctly, it should be argued as a change in information.
  • Substitution mutations can occur at different levels, but the most common substitution occurs when a single nucleotide is replaced by a different nucleotide of the same structure. For example, a purine might be replaced by another purine. If this were to occur you would then have a different sequence not presently in the genome before. By our first definition, you would then have new information. However so, the current gene would be altered, thus in the best case scenario, coding for a different protein. While this is new to the genome, this also is taking away from the current genome. By our second definition, this is changing the genes, not adding information.
  • Duplications also occur. Though they are most popular for their destructive nature, such as in Down's Syndrome and fragile x disorder, it is yet to be seen whether there are duplications within the genomes of organisms that are successful to function as identical copies. Evolutionists often site duplications as adding information that can then be altered by subsequent mutations.

Examples of new information

There are many examples of scientific papers that are supposed to show how "new" information has been added to the genome of an organism. This section will examine proposed references.

Example Reference Case
"Adaptive evolution of a duplicated pancreatic ribonuclease gene in a leaf-eating monkey" Zhang J, Zhang Y-P, Rosenberg HF, Nature Genetics 30:411-415, April '02' An example of Duplication and then Divergence to produce a "new" gene in the colobine monkey foregut.

Duplicated pancreatic ribonuclease gene

Langur 2.jpg

A very common listed example of "new" information being added to the genome of a creature is the introduction of RNAse1B to the colobine monkey. It is believed by evolutionists that RNAse1 was first duplicated and then the second copy mutated.

Functional assays revealed that the colobine-specific RNASE1B achieves maximal efficiency at pH 6, which is within the pH range of the colobine foregut. This is in contrast to RNASE1, which functions optimally at the pH 7.4 characteristic of the human small intestine. Thus, the preponderance of negative substitutions in the evolution of RNASE1B seems directly related to the enzyme's role in the low-pH colobine foregut. By contrast, site-directed mutagenesis revealed that seven of the nine substitutions that distinguish the sequence of RNASE1B from that of RNASE1 reduce its efficiency in degrading double-stranded RNA, a task of the ancestral enzyme. It appears that the evolutionarily innovative features of RNASE1B arose at the direct expense of efficiency in its ancestral function. [3]

A mutation could have occurred that has created a gene with multiple effects. While this gene increases the efficiency of one function, it loses its ancestral function.

Assuming that this was a mutational DNA change in the first place(there is no DNA to test this against), this is an example of a new gene, which was created out of old genes. While this could be considered “new” information, this information could not have arisen without the pre-existence of the information in the organism. It can be hypothesized that the mutations would never have been able to successfully occur without the duplication of RNAse1 in the first place. While duplications are responsible for some adaptation in different populations of organisms, duplications usually have a negative effect on the organism [Reference needed]. Clearly, in the case of the colobine monkey, two copies of RNAse1 were not harmful. It is possible that the only reason RNAse1B was not eliminated, was because it proved beneficial to the monkey instead of catastrophic, thus being passed on generationaly. This would be considered a rare instance of increased information and the new gene could be considered “new” information. However, creationists could easily argue that this is not new information, just re-arranged information and definitely not morphologically changing information. Evolutionists would consider this “specialization of the gene” and “evidence for evolution.” It does not however fall outside of the creation paradigm.

So the evidence shows that, while there is a new gene, the genes “new” information is a re-arrangement of old information. Also, this new gene has suffered a loss of function. There are nine substitutions in RNAse1B. A substitution mutation is a mutation caused by a nucleotide base being replaced by a different one. A type of mutation where one of the bases of a genetic sequence is replaced by another, and therefore does not cause frameshift further along the genetic sequence.[4]


See: RNAse1 and RNAse1B comparison chart

References