Genetic Meltdown?

Discussion in 'Creation vs. Evolution' started by Administrator2, May 6, 2002.

  1. Administrator2

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    SCOTT PAGE

    The notion that some large number of offspring per breeding couple, usually presented at around 40 to as many as over 200, is required to prevent the human population from deteriorating and going extinct has been presented on this board and elsewhere. This is supposed to be some huge problem for evolution, but the proponants of this posistion seem to think that merely postulating it is sufficient.

    I was wondering if any creationists familiar with this line of argument would be so good as to explain, in detail, how this "40 offspring per breeding couple" keeps a population form deteriorating.

    Specifically, I would like to see the population genetics model that describes how this works (NOTE: I am not asking about the accumulation of mutations, I am asking how - exactly - having 40 offspring overcomes this accumulation). In addition, it would do you well to present some real-life examples, for surely there must be some corroboration for so obvious and ominous a phenomenon.

    Thank you.
     
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    HELEN

    Hi Scott,

    I certainly don't have the math answers for you. I know that genetic
    load (the accumulation of negative mutations in a population) is a
    problem and that there have been a lot of mathematical models
    constructed one way and other on this issue. I am aware of one YEC who
    is a really doomsdayer on this issue, but I have a real hard time with
    both his logic and his verbal approach. The population genetics course
    I had many years ago did not concentrate on the math for, as our
    professor told us, you can get anything you want depending on where you
    start. So it was mostly theory. The one solid piece of damaging
    evidence that I remember concerned endangered species, but that was
    because of a loss of genetic potential variability due to natural
    selection and not -- presumably -- related to mutations.

    Forty kids, eh? Imagine the fights over the TV set THEN! Imagine the
    food bill... imagine the laundry.... the carpools....

    Six was definitely enough!
     
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    WALTER ReMINE

    "Genetic meltdown," more commonly known as "error catastrophe," is when harmful mutations accumulate in a population faster than they can be eliminated. The population then deteriorates genetically and biologically.

    The issue is important, though it is assumed-away, brushed-aside, and ignored by virtually all evolution books aimed at the general public. Such books promote what I call "Naive natural selection," a view of natural selection that is naive and untrue. Basically, every obstacle to natural selection is assumed-away, brushed-aside, and ignored, in order to make the evolution of higher organisms seem simple, obvious, unavoidable, and fast. This is the primary importance of error catastrophe -- it pops the balloon of naive natural selection.

    Indeed, error catastrophe is a fascinating issue in its own right, and I brought it forward as essential for anyone's understanding of natural selection theory. Within the creationist or intelligent design movement, I believe I am most responsible for invigorating the issue of error catastrophe. Moreover, error catastrophe does not contradict creation/ID theory in any fundamental way. It may be that humans, perhaps even most species are in error catastrophe. It's a an intriguing possibility that had previously been overlooked, even by creationists.

    The behavior of error catastrophe depends on the details of a given case, such as:

    1) the harmful mutation rate,
    2) the reproduction rate,
    3) the size of the active genome and its degree of deterioration
    (which is different from the inert portion of the genome),
    4) the type of reproduction (e.g. sexual, asexual)
    5) the model of selection (the way epistasis is modeled)

    The problem is real, not merely someone's abstract speculation. ANY plausible computer simulation of natural selection will demonstrate an error catastrophe behavior if the above parameter values are properly adjusted for it. In other words, error catastrophe is a GENERAL and UNAVOIDABLE issue, whose resolution will depend on the above parameter values for a given case.

    If you rely on the parameters values used predominantly in evolutionary textbooks, then a human-like population is well-within or precariously close to error catastrophe. The issue is alive. Indeed, this recognition is the central issue in a paper "Why have we not died 100 times over," by evolutionary geneticist Alexi Kondrashov.

    In response to my arguments, some evolutionists now try to divert the issue. In their argument, if error catastrophe is occurring, then why aren't we extinct? To the contrary, a species must be NON-extinct in order for error catastrophe to be occurring. Also the RATE of biological deterioration will depend on the particular case and may be fast, or quite slow, perhaps even imperceptible to our current measurements.

    This thread was started by an evolutionist asking, in effect, how evolutionary theory can be saved from this issue. Well, that's not my part to answer. But any answer will require evolutionists to set aside their existing textbooks and abandon their promotion of naive natural selection. On this point anyone interested in the truth, whether evolutionist or creationist, can be pleased.
     
  4. Administrator2

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    SCOTT PAGE

    Mr.ReMine concludes with:
    "...asking, in effect, how evolutionary theory can be saved from this issue."

    Evolution need not be 'saved' from anything. If anything, it is the mathematical models that need 'saving', as mathematical models are not always accurate depictions of reality. As Haldane himself noted in his 1960 paper on the subject, individuals should be careful not to apply his model where it should not be applied.
    Inded, what I was asking for, was
    "I was wondering if any creationists familiar with this line of argument would be so good as to explain, in detail, how this "40 offspring per breeding couple" keeps a population form deteriorating.

    Specifically, I would like to see the population genetics model that describes how this works (NOTE: I am not asking about the accumulation of mutations, I am asking how - exactly - having 40 offspring overcomes this accumulation). In addition, it would do you well to present some real-life examples, for surely there must be some corroboration for so obvious and ominous a phenomenon."

    If breeding populations are having less than their 'required' numbers of offspring, they should be in 'genetic meltdown' (error catastrophe is a theoretical concept, by the way, as Lowenstein claims). As such, there should be many such exampkles ...it shoud be easy for the creationists that favor this type of argument to explain exactly what it means to say that "40 offspring per breeding couple" are required.

    Again - How does having X-number of offspring prevent/accommodate 'genetic meltdown'?
     
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    PAUL OF EUGENE

    In a sense, every stable population is living on the edge. They have achieved the maximum number they can have with that set of genes. This means that many of them are succumbing to disease, hunger, predation, competition with their fellows, and this holds their numbers in check. Obviously life cannot be comfortable for every member of the species in that condition. Perhaps this explains the "universality" of living on the genetic edge, so to speak.

    But artificially reduce the numbers . . .

    Consider what rabbits did in Australia!

    Or open up a whole new way of life -

    Consider what people are doing with technological abilities!

    Of course, people are going to suffer a population crash, if things keep up. War, Famine, Disease, take your pick.

    Or birth control.

    Inevitably, long term populations live at the edge. But this does not mean they are in danger of imploding genetically or going away. It only means they've maxed out on the opportunities their genes give them.
     
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    HELEN

    Putting two parts of Scott Page's post together for comparison:

    and

    Isn't he asking for a mathematical model here?
     
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    HELEN

    Paul makes some very interesting statements! First he says that every stable population is 'living on the edge'. I assume he means the edge of extinction. I think by the very definition of 'stable' population, this is not true. From what I understand, the concept of a stable population means that it is living in balance with its environment and is NOT in danger of extinction.

    Have they achieved, as he states, "the maximum number they can have with that set of genes"? I don't think genes have much to do with it! I think food availability and environmental 'friendliness' have a LOT more to do with it than anything genetic. The only way we can control bacteria, insects, rodents, etc., is to make the particular environment we are considering as 'unfriendly' as possible and deny as much food as possible. Ditto roaches, spiders and, in the area near here, deer as well! Their genes don't seem at all exhausted!

    But consider something he said, as rephrased in his last sentence: "It only means they've maxed out on the opportunities their genes give them."

    I absolutely agree that genetic opportunities are limited! That is one of the whole points I have been driving at for about five years on forums now! "Beneficial" mutations have NO way of keeping up with natural selection and the natural limits of 'genetic opportunities.'

    Oh yes I agree with that, Paul!
     
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    PAUL OF EUGENE

    Hmmm - but you don't agree that should the genetic structure elvove to a different state - this might allow for pursuing a different way of life? <gggg>

    Well, anyway, I was just trying to say that what looks like looming genetic implosion might actually be robust genetic ability! Like you say, all those gaunt, starved deer wandering around - how come there's so many of them? I hope your post taken with mine helps make my attempted point more clear.

    Now as for beneficial mutations keeping up - ya got me there. What do they have to keep up with, that might cause a problem if they didn't keep up?

    Bear in mind that harmful mutations disappear according to they way they harm the unfortunate organisms that try to use them.
     
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    HELEN

    But don’t I ‘agree that should the genetic structure evolve to a different state – this might allow for pursuing a different way of life?’

    Well, THAT is making a few jumps all at once! What do you mean by ‘a different state’? Just what mutations are you thinking of and what sort of a change are you postulating? The changes in genetic structure I am familiar with in the real life involve a different way of life, yes. The way of life of the handicapped…

    Gaunt, starved deer? I haven’t seen ONE of them around here! We have some of the fattest, healthiest things I’ve seen anywhere. They love the gardens people grow! Our squirrels are also fat and healthy and when some newcomer goes into the local feed store to ask for food for those ‘darling squirrels’ they get some pretty hot glares!

    You asked what I meant by beneficial mutations keeping up. Natural selection deletes sections of the population’s genome, large or small, each time it acts. If the genome is to keep its ability to vary, there has to be an input at least equal to that which was deleted. We don’t see that happening.

    Harmful mutations disappear? Hardly! Here, just to refresh everyone’s memory is the very partial list put out by National Geographic (an evolution-promoting publication) regarding humans’ problems associated with our accumulated mutations as a species:

    When are they going to disappear, Paul?
     
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    SCOTT PAGE

    Regarding Helen's list of maladies associated with a genetic component:

    How many of them are lethal?
    How many of them are NEW? That is, as per one of the repeated mantras of creationists that we are accumulating this huge number of 'bad' mutations since "the Fall", how many on that list have occurred only recently?

    As I pointed out the last time this list was presented, the list is getting bigger now because we have the technology to make the connections between a malady and a genetic component. Prior to this technology being available, these disorders were pinned on a host of other 'causes'. If we go back far enough, we will see that many of these disorders were blamed on 'sin', no doubt.

    Thee are observed mechanisms - some recently observed in the lab - that sexual populations of organisms employ to reduce the numbers of deleterious mutations while preserving beneficial ones.
     
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    PAUL OF EUGENE

    Greetings Helen, and praise the Lord for the opportunities He has obviously given us for observing His creative greatness!

    If predation is not allowed, sooner or later your deer and your squirrels will outbreed the local food supply. In addition, sooner or later, they will outbreed the local human tolerance supply. I don't know what they'll do then. But there are lots of places where guant, starved deer have been mentioned when predators were removed and the food supply used up. Culling deer by allowing an appropriate amount of hunting in order to maximize the health of the herd is a well known practice. Something has got to put a limit on the local deer and local squirrel population sooner or later. It's your backyard - what do you think will do it around there? But we are in agreement that it will not mean their genetic structure is bankrupt.

    You know, it might be a good idea to try to evaluate the relative well being of the average member of a species across a variety of species types, this is the kind of thing that should be evaluated scientifically instead of just speculated about. Do species have ways of assuring that the most of life for most individuals is fairly satisfactory or not?

    Well, it takes a long time! Here comes the ol clock anology again. When I was a kid, my mother told me the hands on the clock moved. But I knew better - I could just look at them and see they weren't moving. Somehow, tho, later in the day, they were at a different place. Hmmmm. How can that possibly be? Could it really be they were just moving slowly? Naah. My child mind rejected that idea. But my adult mind realizes she was right. My point is - whatever time it took, evolution had it to take it. Still does, so far. It has not been a short time. There's nothing that works against a BENEFICIAL mutation, so beneficial mutations - some of them, anyway - tend to hang around across the generations and get added to from the NEXT beneficial mutation, which might have actually occurred simultaneously in individual number 1,534,332 of the species and be sitting there in the egg right now, just waiting its chance to help out the new guy on the block.

    Because harmful mutations are steadily introduced and then removed by the process of differential breeding rates, at any one time you are going to see some harmful mutations in some of the population. It's like the bilge pump on a leaky boat, it keeps the boat floating, but you will see a wet floor. Sexual recombination helps a lot, because by chance, some individuals wind up having all the bad genes swapped away from them and they get to be the stars and the heroes and leave lots of kids behind.
     
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    HELEN

    To Scott Page: it does not matter how many of them are lethal and how many simply debilitating. The point is, they have accumulated and have not been balanced at all by any so-called beneficial mutations. Nor have they been wiped out by natural selection. Genetic load is a real thing!

    It does not matter how many of them are new, for the same reason. They have not been eliminated and they have not been kept up with by anything beneficial. That is the point! And the fact that we now have the know-how to connect for problems with genetics only means that there are more problems genetically than we were aware of before! This is an increase in the human genetic load, and does not help the case for evolution at all. Bringing in the idea of ‘sin’ is a total red herring, by the way. It would not matter to this discussion if sin caused them directly or indirectly or if witches from Saturn waved magic wands causing them or anything else. The point is that deleterious mutations are NOT being eliminated as evolution say they should and that genetic load is building without anything in the way of ‘beneficial’ mutations keeping up at all.

    If sexual reproduction were capable of deleting these mutations, I’m sure it would have done so at least to some degree by now.

    To Paul of Eugene:

    Hunting controls the deer population. Hawks and such control the squirrels, not to mention car hits! The ones that remain are fat and well-fed!

    You asked, “Do species have ways of assuring that the ost of life for most individuals is fairly satisfactory or not?” I guess that would depend on what you mean by ‘satisfactory’. The point of survival is simply survival. We may not think the existence of the wild mustangs herds of the west is terribly satisfactory, but they continue and have foals every year!

    The hands on the clock idea is interesting, but not germaine to the argument. The point of your argument is actually in the statement that follows: “whatever time it took, evolution had it to take it.” That is an amazing statement which puts evolution at the foundation of what you think of as truth regardless of any other data regarding time or anything else! That is your presupposition and conclusion all rolled into one. It is your belief. I cannot argue against your belief. I can only deal with data and logic, and how they affect any beliefs you have is not at all in my control! You do have wonderful faith, it is just that I don’t see anything in my own day to day life and work with animals or in history or in biology or in genetics or in any data which supports it.

    Lastly, if the idea of sports superstars leaving lots of kids behind them is supposed to improve the human species, why aren’t we seeing anything even remotely like that? Can you point to any children of any superstars who seem to be above average in terms of the entire human race to any greater degree than, say, the children of your average auto mechanic or computer programmer? I would be really interested in any statistics here you might have.
     
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    ROBERT RAPIER

    Helen, if these mutations don’t affect the ability of a person to reproduce and pass on their genes, then they won’t be selected against. How do you propose that something like Huntington's Disease be selected against when it doesn’t manifest itself until well after normal reproductive age? In addition, modern medicine has allowed many of the mutations to accumulate in the population. If we were suddenly thrown back into the Stone Age, we would see some very cruel natural selection going on.

    Also, how do you explain the fact that the worldwide population is at an all time high if the genetic load is really as bad a problem as you make it out to be? We are obviously thriving as a species, but naturally in a population of some 6 billion there will be a lot of individuals with deleterious mutations.
     

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