(Addressing the upcoming "International Darwin Day," to take place February 12, 2016).
by Dr. J.C. Sanford, Courtesy Associate Professor, Cornell University; President of FMS Foundation. Chapter Director for Ratio Christi at Geneseo State University of New York
A very significant scientific paper was recently published in the journal Theoretical Biology and Medical Modeling. This paper is entitled; “The Waiting Time Problem in a Model Hominin Population,” and was authored by my colleagues and myself. It was one of the journal’s most highly accessed articles. The article demonstrates that it takes an enormously long time to establish even the simplest “genetic word” (string of genetic letters) within a genome. It turns out that there is simply not enough time for any meaningful Darwinian evolution to happen.
Historically, Darwin-defenders have argued that time is their hero. They have claimed that given enough time, any evolutionary scenario is feasible. They have consistently maintained that given millions of years, any amount of new information can arise by the Darwinian process of mutation/selection.
Careful analysis of what is required to establish even a single genetic word within an organism’s genome proves just the opposite. In a pre-human population, even given tens of millions of years, there is not enough time to create the genetic equivalent of a simple word. Even given 100 billion years (much more than the age of the universe), there is not enough time to establish the genetic equivalent of a simple sentence. This profound problem is lethal to Darwinian theory.
The book Genetic Entropy (book website) previously outlined the waiting time problem (for example see 2014 edition, chapter 9, page 133-136). The calculations in Genetic Entropy, as well as the calculations published by others (Behe, Snoke, Axe, Gauger et al.), all demonstrate the same basic problem as the linked paper. This newest publication has accomplished independent validation (by a totally different method) of the conclusions found in Genetic Entropy and the previous work by Behe and others.
The new paper examines the waiting time problem in a new way. It employs state-of-the-art, rigorous, comprehensive numerical simulation programming to empirically document the time required to create a specific string of mutations (instead of employing mathematical approximations). These experiments realistically enact the establishment of short genetic words within a realistic model hominin population, and demonstrate in a new, clearer, and more compelling way that the waiting time problem is real. In this light, the new paper provides strong independent validation of earlier mathematical approximations. What is seen is that as “genetic word size" increases linearly, waiting time increases exponentially (see figure and table below – taken from new publication).
The basis of the waiting time problem has four basic components: (1) It takes a very long time for any specific nucleotide (genetic letter) to mutate into a specific alternate nucleotide. (2) It takes vastly more time for a given string of nucleotides to mutate into a specific alternative string of nucleotides (as is required to create a new beneficial genetic “word”). (3) Any specific new word that arises is quickly lost due to genetic drift and so must arise many times before it “catches hold” within the population. And (4) Even when the new word catches hold, it takes additional time for natural selection to amplify the new beneficial mutation to the point of fixation within the population.
This new paper shows that the waiting time problem is so overwhelming that classic neo-Darwinian theory is clearly no longer credible. Even given best-case scenarios (using parameters settings that are grossly over-generous), waiting times are consistently prohibitive, even for the shortest possible words. Establishment of just a two-letter word (establishing two specific mutations in a hominin population of 10,000) requires at least 84 million years. A three-letter word requires at least 376 million years. A six-letter word requires over 4 billion years. An eight-letter word requires over 18 billion years (see figure and table above). The waiting time problem is so profound that even given the most generous feasible time frames, evolution utterly fails. The mutation/selection process completely fails to reproducibly and systematically create meaningful strings of genetic letters. This is especially true when considering any small mammalian population, such as the presumed pre-human population that is thought to have evolved into modern man.
While authors who have published on the waiting time problem have consistently acknowledged the reality of the waiting time problem, some authors have then tried to dismiss the problem (see table below). In each case the dismissive authors have first shown the waiting problem is serious, but then these authors invoke very special, atypical conditions to try and reduce waiting times as much as possible, hoping to save neo-Darwinian theory. When these “special conditions” are carefully examined, in every case they are far-fetched and ad hoc, and amount to grasping at straws. The mutation/selection process simply cannot reproducibly, systematically, and rapidly create vast numbers of new and meaningful strings of genetic letters as is required by macroevolution.
Some of you will note that in Genetic Entropy, the calculations suggested a waiting time of 18 million years for a one-letter word (a single specifically placed mutation), while in the recent publication a one-letter word only took 1.5 million years. This is because in the recent paper the 1.5 million years reflected a scenario wherein the fitness benefit of the genetic word was 10 percent, while in the book the fitness benefit was 1 percent. When the same experiment was done using the more realistic fitness benefit of 1 percent (see discussion section of paper), mean waiting time was 15.4 million years (close to the 18 million years derived by mathematical approximation in the book).
Given that genomes are constantly accumulating new deleterious mutations (see Genetic Entropy), and given that beneficial mutations are vanishingly rare, and given that evolution cannot create meaningful genetic words (even given deep time) - it seems that neo-Darwinian theory has essentially come undone on every level. Darwin’s evolutionary mechanism has reigned over the academic world for more than 150 years, but it finally appears that Darwin has "run out of time."
How will the evolutionary community deal with the waiting time problem and these numerous related problems? At this point, shouldn’t all honest scientists begin to acknowledge that there really are serious challenges with the currently ruling paradigm?
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