Lenski’s E. coli and Evolution

One of the most common arguments evolutionists put forward for their position is that of Richard Lenski’s E. coli bacteria.  These bacteria, it is claimed, provided evidence that new function could arise as a result of mutations, something that creationists have claimed for decades had not been observed. As such, evolutionists often will put this forward as the “checkmate” argument for their dogma, nevermind the fact that their dogma has thousands of other things it has not explained. However, when digging into this issue, there is a lot more here than meets the eye.

Richard Lenski began working with E. coli in 1988. The experiment is still ongoing. Since E. coli have a very short generation time, Lenski and his lab have gone through tens of thousands of generations of E.coli. Every so often in the process, they pulled some E. coli from the population and set them aside, freezing them to preserve them as a “fossil” as it were.  Lenski plated these bacteria on different media, including citrate, which, under aerobic (oxygen rich) conditions, cannot be metabolized by E. coli. The population started out in glucose, which E. coli has no trouble eating in aerobic conditions.

There were two primary results of the experiment. In one result, Lenski and his team found that the bacteria had adapted to be better able to extract even low levels of glucose from the media. They had done this by supposedly changing their levels of gene expression and activity in 59 separate genes. In multiple, independent lines, these genes all changed and, more importantly, all changed the same way.  Lenski, and later Richard Dawkins, views this as evidence for parallel evolution.

This, however, was not nearly enough to make a claim of molecule to man evolution. However, the citrate mutation was. Lenski and his team plated some of the E. coli on citrate medium. Citrate cannot be ingested by normal E. coli under aerobic conditions. Naturally, this led to the E. coli colonies on this medium largely withering and dying. However, after 33,000 generations, one of the cultures suddenly started growing on the citrate. The E. coli had mutated to metabolize citrate.  Lenski and his team catapulted to overnight stardom within the evolutionary community as it was believed that they had proved the evolutionary dogma.

Both of these finds, of course, do not present the whole picture. Darwinists rarely do, particularly when leaving out the rest of the picture is harmful to their dogma.   In the case of the 59 genes that all adapted in the same way, the evolutionists left out a key piece of information. The 59 genes that changed in multiple lineages are all under the control of a single gene. In other words, the same mutation happened in both lines, breaking the control gene. This caused the two lines to develop identical traits. In other words, the control switch broke.  When the control switch broke, the system changed in the same way. This is hardly a shock.

The far bigger issue is the citrate metabolizing bacteria.  However, again, all the facts have not been presented.  It turns out that E. coli can metabolize citrate normally. The genes to do so only turn on in aerobic conditions (oxygen-poor).  What even Lenski seemed to think happened is the citrate metabolizing system in these E. coli got turned on due to a mutation, or perhaps two in the regulation of the system. Nothing new has evolved here. The E. coli just reproduced long enough for their genome to begin breaking down, causing the citrate metabolism system to suddenly become available.  Since citrate was the only food available, this was advantageous and thus was selected for in the E. coli population and quickly took over.

Despite the claims to the contrary, the change in E. coli was not an example of evolution in action. If anything, it is the result of devolution.  The genes involved are broken and the genome of the E. coli is deteriorating. The bacteria have not changed into a new species, let alone gone from bacteria to a multi-celled organism. These kinds of changes get evolution nowhere. No new structures, genes, or even information has been formed. All that has happened is a bunch of stuff has broken, exactly what creationists would predict based on genetic entropy.

 

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