Antibiotic Resistance Is Shared, Not Evolved
Growing evidence undermines commonly-cited examples of evolution happening right before our eyes.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that organisms are in the business of preserving their information, not monkeying with it. Phys.org presented new work on “A catalog of DNA replication proteins,” describing a whopping 593 proteins that are involved in replicating DNA to make sure the copies are accurate.
Maintenance of genome integrity—and prevention of diseases such as cancer—requires complete and faithful replication of the genome every cell division cycle.
Evolutionists glibly present genes as playthings of some mystical Tinkerer that cobbles things together to see what comes up. One example they have often cited is the “evolution of antibiotic resistance.” In creation-evolution debates, some evolutionists have used the “evolution of antibiotic resistance” as prime evidence for evolution happening right before our eyes. The argument usually goes that Darwinism has no problem inventing new functions from scratch. Actually, as Michael Behe showed in Darwin Devolves, such “evolution” involves breaking or blunting genes, like desperate sailors tossing things overboard to keep from sinking in a storm.
Integrity with Generosity
Now, we are finding more and more that cells not only preserve their own information, but share information that can help other members of the species – or even members of other species – survive a crisis. That’s not evolution the way Darwin described it. It’s like sharing books with friends instead of writing new books.
This microbe is spreading antibiotic resistance to other bacteria (The Conversation). Most people have heard that antibiotic resistance is a growing threat, compromising our most valuable medicines for preventing infection. Sali Morris and James Horton recall the rise of a superbug called MRSA, a bacterium resistant to all our best antibiotics. Doctors have run out of options to defeat this threat, and are working feverishly to keep it from showing up in hospitals. Where did it come from?
Scientists would later uncover that rather than acquiring resistance through a simple mutation, the MRSA had instead been gifted a huge chunk of new DNA. Within this string of donated genetic code were the instructions for proteins that would keep the bacteria safe from the destructive work of the antibiotic. MRSA had been dealt a winning hand, but where had this DNA come from?
Morris and Horton say that a member of our own gut microbiota, Enterococcus faecalis, already has genes for antibiotic resistance. It only becomes a problem when all the other gut bacteria are swept away by antibiotics. Then, E. faecalis proliferates, because it is “intrinsically equipped with an arsenal of natural resistance mechanisms within its DNA, often allowing it to survive.” Not only that, it shares its knowledge!
When humans come together we often exchange ideas through language. But when bacteria come together they can exchange information through DNA-encoded instructions. This is known as horizontal gene transfer, where copies of DNA move from one cell to another. Unfortunately, E. faecalis and its superbug compatriots have all the best information to share, information that allows them to survive antibiotics.
These “nightmare bacteria” that resist all the antibiotics we have, an article on Science Daily says, are costing a fortune in efforts to fight. Doctors see a “chilling commentary” on the future of antibiotics. Perhaps the problem was that nobody understood the genetics of assumed evolutionary processes at the time penicillin was discovered in 1928. Antibiotics were viewed as “magic bullets” that fungi had evolved that would always neutralize infection. Now, seeing the bigger ecological picture, we’re watching sophisticated DNA-controlled machinery that can move between organisms, maintaining homeostasis in natural conditions. Hospitals are very un-natural environments where that DNA can get out of control, multiply, and cause harm.
Secretion Systems: Weapons, or Sharing Tools?
The cholera bacterium can steal up to 150 genes in one go (Science Daily). Some germs don’t only share information; they take it! The cholera bacterium, Vibrio cholerae, uses its Type VI Secretion System (T6SS) – a molecular machine a bit like a spear – to nab DNA from its host. Scientists at the World Health Organization (WHO) observed it hauling in 150,000 base pairs of information.
V. cholerae uses its T6SS to compete with other bacteria in its aquatic environment and acquire new genetic material, which the pathogen absorbs and exchanges against some parts of its own genome. This mode of “horizontal gene transfer” leads to rapid evolution and pathogen emergence.
They call this “evolution” but it’s more like theft of existing knowledge, like a person stealing books from a library. One of the researchers concludes that this method of sharing information might be very common in bacteria: “It suggests that environmental bacteria might share a common gene pool, which could render their genomes highly flexible and the microbes prone to quick adaption.” Nothing evolved that was not already present.
Architecture of the mycobacterial type VII secretion system (Nature). The secretion systems bacteria use to share information can be very sophisticated. One of them, the Type III, has famously been compared to the bacterial flagellum, but is different – and it appeared after the flagellum, evolutionists confess, instead of as a transitional form. In this preprint, scientists share new findings about the Type VII secretion system, which “differs markedly from other known secretion machines.” Its coupling protein “comprises a flexible array of four ATPase domains [i.e., domains that use ATP for energy], which are linked to the membrane through a stalk domain.” Perhaps it’s time to see the broader ecological purpose of these sophisticated mechanisms of information transfer rather than view them only as human pathogens, which they become when out of place in the environment.
Conservation: Where’s the Evolution?
Bacterial twist to an antiviral defence (Nature News and Views, 8 October 2019). Karen Maxwell, determined to preserve evolution in her story, says “The discovery of an antiviral defence system in bacteria that shares some components with a key antiviral defence pathway in animals provides insight into how this important response might have evolved.” Might have? Maybe it didn’t evolve. Maybe scientists have found another mechanism for information sharing.
Humans face a daily threat of infection by harmful viruses. To repel them, our immune system mounts an immediate response following invasion that depends on its ability to recognize general characteristics indicating that viruses are foreign entities. This type of reaction, generated by an ancient branch of the immune system known as innate immunity, occurs in all plants and animals. Many genes involved in innate immune responses are evolutionarily conserved and encode proteins that are used for defence purposes in different species. Writing in Nature, Cohen et al. report that some bacterial species fight viral infections by using an innate immune mechanism that is related to one of the central components of innate immunity in animals called the cGAS–STING pathway. Their findings reveal that this crucial antiviral defence system in animals might have its evolutionary roots in bacteria.
Notice that no evolution really occurred, because the system is “evolutionarily conserved” [see Sophoxymoronia] between very different organisms. Her story, built on the Stuff Happens Law, implies that things evolve except when they don’t. Winston Ewert’s Dependency Graph Model, based on intelligent design concepts (see ENV), explains why a designed system would re-use software modules in different organisms.
It’s a Gas! Communication Networks
Plants alert neighbors to threats using common ‘language’ (Science Daily). Here’s another amazing method of information sharing, this time between plants in the forest. Rather than sharing DNA via horizontal gene transfer, plants share information through chemical messages called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Cornell scientists studied this method of information transfer in goldenrods in a northeastern ecosystem.
The big finding is what Kessler calls “open-channel communication.” When plants are under attack, their smells — carried by VOCs — become more similar.
“So, they kind of converge on the same language, or the same warning signs, to share the information freely,” Kessler said. “The exchange of information becomes independent of how closely related the plant is to its neighbor.”
It’s as if the whole community works together for mutual benefit. This picture is very different from Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” mentality. Plants in a forest of different species would not be able to use this information unless they had (1) the genetic systems to create the VOC molecules on one end, and (3) the genetic systems to understand their meaning on the other end. Such a system of communication makes sense if designed with foresight, as Dr Marcos Eberlin has argued in his book, Foresight: How the Chemistry of Life Reveals Planning and Purpose.
Dr Eberlin, a world-class Brazilian scientist, can be heard explaining his premise with examples on several episodes of the ID the Future podcast. He has hit on a good way to explain ID concepts in ways people can “get” easily, and has many examples in the podcasts and in the book. Remember that Darwinism has NO foresight at all.