How Are New Genes Made?

The evolutionary apologist Jerry Coyne describes Darwinian evolution as,

life on earth evolved gradually beginning with one primitive species—perhaps a self-replicating molecule — that lived more than 3.5 billion years ago; it then branched out over time, throwing off many new and diverse species.

Ignoring the nonsensical suggestion that a single molecule "lived," Coyne illustrates that evolution requires some very elaborate and dramatic forms of change. Indeed, evolution claims that during the course of earth history invertebrates transformed into vertebrates, non-flying creatures developed wings and started flying, and marine animals evolved legs and began walking.

The Evolution Motor?

The standard scenario is that chromosomal DNA undergoes changes (e.g., mutations) that can eventually form new genes. These new genes can alter the physical features and abilities of an organism. Eventually, enough new genes can change a dinosaur into a bird. Thus, evolutionists conclude that "the birth of new genes is an important motor of evolutionary innovation."

How Are New Genes Made?

Evolutionists offer two basic mechanisms:

1. Gene Duplication

During chromosome replication occasionally an extra copy of a gene will be formed. If this extra copy is not needed by the organism, then subsequent mutations can transform it from the original gene to a new gene.3 Similar genes in other organisms are assumed to be related—providing an evolutionary lineage of the new gene.

2. de novo Genes

Unused DNA in the chromosome can serve as a type of "gene nursery." This DNA can be from the so-called "junk" DNA or sometimes from other sources, such as viral or horizontally transferred DNA. All DNA is potentially subject to mutations, so this "unused" DNA can begin to randomly mutate. Because the DNA supposedly has no function, presumably it is free to mutate until something useful is formed. From this unused DNA, genes can evolve from scratch (i.e., de novo). These de novo formed genes are sometimes called orphans because they "suddenly" appear in the evolutionary record with no apparent lineage of similar genes in other organisms.

Does This Work?

There are several problems with these scenarios. First, real-time analysis of mutations fails to support these claims. For example, overexpression of P450 genes contributes to insect resistance of DDT. This overexpression results from mutations that reduce a regulatory control. Bacteria can become resistant to some types of antibiotics following a mutation that eliminates specific transport proteins. Mice can gain a protective camouflaging of fur color when a mutation decreases the amount of fur pigment produced. Mutational loss of specific proteins on the surface of human blood cells can contribute to resistance of AIDS and malaria. The cotton bollworm gains resistance to some insecticides by mutations that prevent production of a transporter protein.

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