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CMI - Tomcod poison resistant

Poison-Resistant Tomcods and the Meaning of ‘Evolution’

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In response to the article on the mutated tomcod fish in the polluted Hudson River, evolution-defender Steven L. wrote in claiming that it contained “blatant mistakes” and gave substantial detail and detailed reasons. We first publish his email intact, then again with a point by point interspersed response by the article author, DrCarl Wieland of CMI-Australia.

Steven wrote:

Your article on the evolution of the Tomcod possesses a few blatant mistakes.

First of all, it assumes that mutations are some form of “damage”. That is not the case. Mutations are a fact of life (and are necessary for evolution to occur), and the vast majority of mutations are strictly neutral—that is, they are not expressed, or their expression has no effect on the life of the organism.

Secondly, the article posits that information gain is a necessity of evolution. This is false—evolution is simply change, whether it be through the addition, deletion, or alteration of base pairs. While we tend to see a net gain of information as demonstrated by the increasing complexity of the fossil record over time, it is not a requirement.

Third, the article references the deletion of the base pairs in the tomcod as a sort of “downhill damage”, but it is not taking the environment in to account with this assessment. In their current environment, the mutation is anything but. The overall cost/benefit analysis of a mutation has to be made within the context of the environment in which it occurs.

Fourth, the article states as fact that the mutation happened in one generation. This is not necessarily the case, but the author has assumed it to be true and has stated as such without any evidence to back his position. Because the mutation also exists occasionally in the non-poisoned populations elsewhere, it suggests that the mutation already existed in the overall population of the animal. It is a similar situation to the 1952 Lederberg experiment. Further still, the continued existence of the mutation in roughly 5% of the population from uncontaminated waters shows that the relative cost of the mutation isn’t so large as to make it a major hindrance to reproductive success. Like any other healthy, genetically diverse population, we see a variety of different genes existing in greater or lesser numbers within the population….

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