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    I have something to say to the religionist who feels atheists never say anything positive: You are an intelligent human being. Your life is valuable for its own sake. You are not second-class in the universe, deriving meaning and purpose from some other mind. You are not inherently evil--you are inherently human, possessing the positive rational potential to help make this a world of morality, peace and joy. Trust yourself.
    Dan Barker

    He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool; he that dares not reason is a slave.
    William Drummond

    The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
    Richard Dawkins

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Micro, Macro And Darwinism Foolishness


I have been hearing these comments many times lately. For the most part I have heard them from fundajelical Christians who claim microevolution happens while there is no possible way macroevolution could happen. Also for some reason they continue to call the modern theory of evolution Darwinism as if there have been no advances in the theory and it was finalized by Darwin in 1859. It is also interesting to notice that fundajelicals often call evolutionary theory Darwinism as if they are saying “yes, we have an irrational belief in a religion but you have an ‘ism’ too.” The saddest part is that I have heard these same three statements made by a self-proclaimed agnostic that believes in an intelligent creator (which means he is a theist not an agnostic). Since these mistaken beliefs are apparently so widespread, I figured writing an article addressing them would be a very good idea. Continue reading

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Life


Phylogenetic tree of life

Phylogenetic Tree Of Life

Life, it’s origins hold an extreme fascination to me. From a chemical standpoint life, as I wrote previously, was inevitable from the moment of the big bang. Quite an interesting concept when you really understand that means man is an inevitable and unavoidable outcome. In the past I have written about life’s possible inorganic origins and how it then underwent a chemical evolution changing it into biological life as we know it today. Today I would like to look at it from a different angle. Continue reading

Stem Cells: What And Why?


Blastocyst, labeled in English

Blastocyst

Stem cells are a topic that definitely causes tons of arguments based on a misunderstanding of what they are and what they are capable of. In my previous article Church and Scientific Advancement I wrote a fairly short description of what an embryonic stem cell is and where they come from. Continue reading

Synthetic Life


I have heard time and again the tiresome creationist canard that life can’t be created in a lab. I have heard it again yesterday and it really irritated me to no end. Why was it so irritating this time? Besides being said by the same lady I wrote about in my article Evolution And Speciation, I have written two articles dealing with the subject and was reading a fascinating paper on the subject at the time. Continue reading

How Did Life Begin?


Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

DNA

Quite  often I have  heard the objection that life could not have formed until the first replicator, such as DNA or RNA, had formed. Usually this objection came to me via Jehovah’s Witnesses but I have occasionally heard the same objection from other creationists. Firstly, DNA does not replicate itself in the absence of DNA polymerase which is a protein that catalyzes the reaction by adding nucleotides to the DNA strand.  In concept RNA could replicate itself but that has not been observed. What has been observed in a sort of autocatalytic reaction is that RNA through Ribozymes, which are molecules of RNA, have been found to catalyze either the hydrolysis of one of their own phosphodiester bonds, or the hydrolysis of bonds in other RNA molecules.  Another objection is that life can not come from non-life. Formic acid, the simplest organic acid and still found in those painful bee stings, can be fixed from Carbon Dioxide under UV light which coincidently were the conditions on the primordial Earth.

Continue reading

How Fast Does A Mutation Spread


Bailey's Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus baileyi) is...

Pocket Mouse

The Rock pocket mouse (Chaetodipus Intermedius) is both sandy colored and black. They inhabit in the American southwest and I am writing specifically about those inhabiting Pinacate Peaks New Mexico. The natural predators of this mouse are owls. That is why their sandy coloration is beneficial to their survival. About 1.7 million years ago there were lava flows in the area that hardened into a dark almost black rock. Against that background the survival benefit from a sandy colored coat vanished. There is one mutation, totally random, which is why evolution works, that gives the mouse a black or dark coat. In 2003 the DNA of the mice was sampled from both variations of mouse and it was found the difference was in the Melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R). Light colored mice have 2 light-colored genes while 1 or 2 of the genes are the dark variety in black mice.

How often a black mutation randomly appears depends on the mutation rate,  the reproduction rate and the population size. Considering the mutation rate, there are 2 Billion sites in the DNA of the mice, 10 sites in MC1R gene x 2 genes multiplying out to a 1 in 25 million chance that a mouse will have a black coat due to random mutation. Sounds pretty small doesn’t it? The rate of reproduction varies between 3-6 with an average being about 5 offspring per year per female. In a population of 5000 females that means there will be 25000 offspring per year. Multiplying the mutation rate by 25000 tells us that there will be at least 1 black mutation every 1000 years. Considering the pinacate lave flows are 1.7 million years old, that means the black mutation could have arisen at least 1700 times during that time span.

How long would it take to spread through the population? That depends on population size and s which is a selection coefficient (measure of advantage) it is a relative measure of fitness and a product of reproduction and survival. A 1% advantage is written as s= 0.01. An  s= 0.01 means at 1000 generations 95% of the population has the mutation and would be totally black. In real life, the survival advantage is over 10% which is written as s=0.1 and after a mere 100  generations 95% of the population would have black coats.

In conclusion, a 1% survival advantage is really not low or as some history deniers (creationists) would claim highly improbable. Mutations can and do spread faster than most people realize.

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