September 12, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Is the Evolution of Bacterial Resistance a Just-So Story?

Evolutionists frequently point to the emergence of bacterial resistance to antibiotics as an example of Darwinian evolution occurring right under our noses.  Bruce R. Levin of Emory University, writing in the Sept. 10 issue of Science,1 is not so sure about that.  He points out that cells might just have a built-in mechanism to shut down growth and reproduction in times of stress (the SOS response), to minimize the damage from toxins in the environment.  He points to two studies in the same issue that indicate how noninherited resistance to antibiotics can be generated without reference to Darwinian natural selection.
    What’s more interesting in his report is his rebuke against fellow Darwinists who leap to unsubstantiated tales of evolution to explain how these mechanisms come about.  His final paragraph states:

It is easy to concoct just-so stories to explain the evolution of a mechanism that, like the SOS response, produces quiescent cells that are refractory to lethal agents.  Yet it seems unlikely that ampicillin was the original selective force responsible for the evolution of the induction mechanism observed by Miller and colleagues.  A bigger challenge to those in the evolution business is to account for the generation of lower fitness cell types when they do not provide an advantage to the collective, like the persisters of Balaban et al. in the absence of antibiotics.  Then again, just like people, bacteria do some seemingly perverse things that are not easy to account for by simple stories of adaptive evolution. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)


1Bruce R. Levin, “Microbiology: Noninherited Resistance to Antibiotics,” Science, Vol 305, Issue 5690, 1578-1579, 10 September 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1103077].

Thank you, Dr. Levin, for your well-aimed rebuke to the Darwin Party.  So you see, it is not only creationists who accuse the Darwinists of laziness in concocting just-so stories whenever a phenomenon presents itself.  One might almost think Levin is a secret reader of Creation-Evolution Headlines.  We agree; if you want just-so stories, read Kipling, not Science.
    It might be noted that perversity is in the eye of the beholder.  Levin says that “bacteria do some seemingly perverse things that are not easy to account for by simple stories of adaptive evolution.”  To the bacteria, it might be that the Darwinians are the perverse ones.  They might be complaining, “these lazy storytellers dishonor us by claiming to be our descendants.”

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Categories: Cell Biology

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