I appear to have been partially successful because if you scroll down to the bottom of Vincent Torley's post you'll see an "update" that pretty much refutes his entire post.
The comments on Torley's post reveal that there are very few creationists who have ever heard of population genetics and Neutral Theory. Now that they've been exposed, their response is to reject it because they don't understand it. Salvador Cordova (scordova) pops up in those comments to explain that modern evolutionary theory is all wrong because of "unfixing." Apparently, evolutionary biologists have missed something important that only creationists can see. This happens a lot.
Fixation rate, what about breaking rate?. One gets the impression that some of the creationists are a bit worried.
The irony is that the vast majority of creationists will have absolutely no idea what Cordova is talking about. To them, it's like he's speaking gibberish. In this case, it means that the average IDiot isn't even posting comments under Cordova's post because they don't know what to say. This is all news to them.
So, what is the great discovery that refutes population genetics and Neutral Theory? It's got something to do with the idea that for neutral alleles the rate of fixation is equal to the mutation rate. Cordova agrees with the math but thinks it is "flawed from a functional standpoint." Why? Because ...
Ok, so let’s do an experiment. Let’s subject bacteria or plants or any organism to radiation and thus increase the mutation rate mutation rate by a factor of 1 million or 1 billion. Do you think the above formula will still hold? We tried it in the lab, it killed the plants, and at some point rather than speeding evolution we are doing sterilization.Cordova is correct. An organism will die if you subject it to massive amounts of radiation. This blast doesn't have much to do with mutation rate but later on Cordova comes closer to a serious discussion of evolutionary theory.
Here's what upsets him ...
... even with moderate rates of mutation per individual per generation, genetic deterioration will happen. Further, this claim is reinforced by the work of Nobel Prize winner Hermann Muller who said a deleterious mutation rate of even 0.5 per individual per generation would be sufficient to eventually terminate humanity. So the simple model I present is actually more generous than Muller’s. Current estimates of the number of bad mutations are well over 1.0 per human per individual. There could be hundreds, perhaps thousands of bad mutations per individual per generation according to John Sanford. Larry Moran estimates 56-160 mutations per individual per generation. Using Larry’s low figure of 56 and generously granting that only about 11% of those are bad, we end up with 6 bad mutation per individual per generation, 6 times more than the cartoon model presented, and 12 times more than Muller’s figure that ensures the eventual end of the human race.He's talking about genetic load although he goes out of his way to avoid using that term.
Sal Cordova is correct that if the deleterious mutation rate is too high, the species will go extinct. We don't know the exact minimum number of deleterious mutations that have to happen per generation in order to cause a problem. It's probably less than two (2). It's probably not as low as 0.5. It should be no more than 1 or 2 deleterious mutations per generation.
Genetic load arguments have been around for over forty years [Non-Darwinian Evolution in 1969: The Case for Junk DNA]. Back then, they were used to explain that most of our genome is junk and mutations in that part of the genome have no effect. We now know that those arguments were correct and 90% of our genome is junk.
Imagine that there are 130 new mutations per generation. Since only 10% of our genome is functional DNA, this means that only 13 of these mutations occur in DNA that has a biological function. We know that in a typical coding region about 25% of all mutations are seriously detrimental so if all the functional region of the genome were coding region that would mean 3.25 detrimental mutations per generation.1 However, less than 2% of our genome encodes protein. The remaining functional regions are much less constrained so they can tolerate more mutations. It's likely that there are fewer than 2 detrimental mutations per generation and this is an acceptable genetic load.
All of this information is readily available in textbooks and scientific papers. It's basic evolutionary theory and facts about the human genome.
Cordova is correct to raise the point about genetic load but he is quite wrong in his calculation.
Still, we seem to be making a bit of progress because at least the creationists are talking about evolutionary theory from the 100 years after Darwin died.
Better late than never. Now all they have to do is get the facts right and they'll be ready to move into the 21st century.
Lynch, M. (2010) Rate, molecular spectrum, and consequences of human mutation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107, 961-968. [doi: 10.1073/pnas.0912629107]
Keightley, P.D. (2012) Rates and fitness consequences of new mutations in humans. Genetics 190, 295-304. [doi: 10.1534/genetics.111.134668]
Kondrashov, A.S. (2002) Direct estimates of human per nucleotide mutation rates at 20 loci causing Mendelian diseases. Human mutation 21, 12-27. [doi: 10.1002/humu.10147]
1. Estimates of the percentage of deleterious mutations in coding regions are all over the map. I figure that most distantly related genes are only 30% identical in amino acid sequence. Some mutations in the conserved amino acid codons will be synonymous. But even if this value is 50% instead of 25%, the total number of deleterious mutations in coding regions would only be 50% × 2% × 130 = 1.3 deleterious mutations.