woensdag 5 februari 2014

Miraculous Mutations

A reflection on mutation rate after Noah's Ark.
I watched the debate between Bill Nye (the Science Guy) and Ken Ham (the director of the Creation Museum). It was painful to see how Ken Ham sticks to the literal interpretation of the Bible. This obviously includes the Flood and the building of the Ark by Noah. In order to explain how all animals fitted on the Ark, creationists refer to Biblical "kinds". A special discipline called Baraminology (see a previous post) studies these kinds. Creation "scientists" believe that the kinds present on the Ark evolved into different species by micro-evolution. They even use hybridization to determine which species can be traced back to a certain kind. And my PhD focuses on hybridization in geese...
Two goose species that extensively interbreed are Greylag Goose (Anser anser) and Canada Goose (Branta canadensis). I calculated the genetic distance between them based on the cytb-sequence: they differ about 9%. The current molecular clock for mitochondrial DNA is 2% per million year. That means that these 2 species diverged approximately 4-5 million years ago (which has been confirmed by fossil evidence).

If, however, we assume that these species evolved from the "Biblical Goose-kind" about 4000 years ago, the mutation rate would be about 1125 times faster. With such a mutation rate, the possibilities seem endless! Maybe even a goose that lays golden eggs... Which could actually be possible in the fantasy world of Ken Ham.  

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