Answering The Critics
Genetic Entropy Part 5: Virus Extinction?
By Steve Hudgik
Genetic entropy means all life is accumulating damaging mutations, slowly degrading and heading toward death and extinction. This leads to the question, why are viruses and bacteria still around today? They have much smaller genomes than humans, accumulating mutations should have killed them off a long time ago. Since bacteria and virus are still around, genetic entropy must not be happening.
Everyone knows about mutations. They are errors in our DNA... copying mistakes that cause problems such as cancer, diabetes, and birth defects. With each generation we pass on about 100 new mutations to each of our children. Most are not visibly harmful, however they all degrade our genome at the molecular level.
But don't be concerned. The theory of evolution says that natural selection preserves the strong and eliminates the weak. If an organism is weakened by mutations, it will be eliminated and that gets rid of the bad mutations. Except, that's not how it works in the real world.
Here Are The Facts:
In the first article in this series I defined genetic entropy. Basically what it means is that: With every human generation about 100 new mutations are added; all of which are harmful at the molecular level; and those mutations are not eliminated by natural selection... they are continually building up. That means as we accumulate mutations we are becoming less fit to survive. And that means evolution is not happening, and never did happen.
Genetic entropy provides powerful evidence against evolution, and that means believers in evolution have to show that genetic entropy is not happening. This is the fifth article refuting the most common arguments against genetic entropy in popular articles and Youtube videos. You can read the previous articles here, here, here, and here,
Evolution proponents have a question they hope will save evolution. If mutations continually accumulate, shouldn't organism with small genomes (small amounts of DNA), and short times between generations, such as viruses and bacteria, have already been destroyed by mutations? If genetic entropy is real, why do viruses and bacteria still exist?
The real question should be, why are humans still here? With our large complex genome it is very easy to break something. As an example, let's compare a bicycle and a sports car. Both provide transportation. I have used my bicycle for decades and occasionally have applied a little lubrication and maybe twice fixed a flat. There is some rust, and a lot of scratches, but the bicycle works fine. A sports car, on the other hand, requires regular maintenance to keep it running. What is the difference? The sports car has many more necessary components, and is much more complex. In other words, there are more things that can wrong.
As with a sports car, humans present a large genetic target with greater opportunities for serious damage. For humans, geneticists have determined that, if we pass on more than one mutation to the next generation, the damage will build up and humans will eventually go extinct. What is the current estimate of the number of mutations passed to the next generation? About 100. No, this is not a typo. One hundred is the correct number. That says that humanity is not ancient. We have only been around for thousands of years, otherwise we'd have mutated into extinction. The actual number of mutations humanity has accumulated loudly proclaims that we have not been around for hundreds of thousands of years, and certainly not the millions of years required for evolution to take place.
If humanity has such a genetic problem, why are viruses and bacteria still here? There are a number of reasons.
- The have lower mutation rates
- Massive populations make it difficult for mutations to become fixed
- Short generation times
- Simple genomes
- Mutations can't hide as recessives
- They can remain dormant for long periods
Lower Mutation Rate, Massive Population
Dr. Robert Carter writes in an article titled "Genetic Entropy and Simple Organisms," that:
"The mutation rate in E. coli has been estimated to be about 1 in 10–10, or one mutation for every 10 billion letters copied. Compare this to the size of the E. coli genome (about 4.2 million letters) and you can see that mutation is rare per cell. Now compare this statistic to the estimated rate of mutation per newborn human baby (about 100 new mutations per child) and one can begin to see the problem. Thus, there are nearly always non-mutated bacteria around, enabling the species to survive."
Combine this with a massive population that has very short generations, and it becomes easy for bacteria to eliminate mutations. For example, the entire population of E. Coli can replace itself within hours. Any mutation that has even a slight disadvantage will be quickly overwhelmed and removed by differential reproduction.
The vast majority of mutations are small changes. However, even a small mutation will make a big impact on a small genome. That means small mutations in bacteria DNA become visible to natural selection and are quickly eliminated. On the other hand, a small mutation does not result in significant changes in a large genome. As a result natural selection will not be able to "see" it and the mutation will not be eliminated. This allows damaging mutations to build up in organisms with large genomes, slowly degrading the fitness of the organism. In addition, because these slightly harmful mutations will accumulate in all of the organisms, fitness will slowly degrade in all. There will be little to no differential fitness to trigger selection (elimination of the less fit).
Mutations Can't Hide
Viruses and bacteria pass on their genes exactly as they exist in the original. If there is a mutation, it can't hide. It will affect the new bacteria and be eliminated by natural selection. However, in organism that reproduce sexually a mutation in one parent may be offset by the other parent's contribution. Let's turn to Dr. Carter once again for a description of what happens:
Eukaryotes, such as humans, inherit two copies of each chromosome—one from each parent. Thus, any mutation on one human chromosome is often masked by the good copy on the other chromosome. This interferes with differential reproduction based on mutational differences (e.g. ‘natural selection’) and increases the mutation burden of our species. This is not true for bacteria, which reproduce asexually and inherit their DNA from only one parent.
Viruses and Bacteria Can Remain Dormant For A Long Time
In spite of all of the above, viruses and bacteria are subject to genetic entropy. They do slowly degrade. However, they have one final method of recovery. Viruses and bacteria can go into a dormant state for long periods of time. When dormant bacteria revive, they will not have the mutations the active population has accumulated. Having very short generation times, and a massive reproduction numbers, they will quickly out-compete the existing bacteria, restoring the genome to an entropy-free condition.
How long can bacteria survive in a dormant state? Dr. Mark Armatage studies soft tissue found in dinosaur bones and horns. While examining dinosaur veins, which include small valves that prevent blood from flowing backwards, Dr. Armatage noticed bacteria trapped inside these valves, and the bacteria had revived. They were moving. Bacteria and viruses can survive in a dormant state for a long time.
Antibiotic Resistance: A Small Scale Example
Bacteria in hospitals become resistant to antibiotics various ways, all of which involve genetic damage. Overall the bacteria has become less fit. However, within a localized hospital environment rich in antibiotics, antibiotic resistance is a major benefit that allows the mutated bacteria to survive. One way to eliminate the resistant bacteria would be to stop using the antibiotics, and open all the windows and doors. The natural, non-mutated bacteria would come in, quickly replace the mutated bacteria... and the population of bacteria would return to its non-mutated state (no antibiotic resistance). The mutations are eliminated from the population.
These are the reasons why we still have bacteria... their characteristics make them highly resistant to genetic entropy.