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There has been a failure...on the INTERNETS

The next kind of mutation seems to be somewhat rare, and I’m not sure if anyone knows exactly how rare it is.

Photo credit:

  • Failure on the Internets
    I don’t think that she created this lolcat, but I’m not sure who did, and this is the site I got it from.

Evolution’s Speed – What Kinds of Mutations Are There?

Collage of x-men

This is part of a series: How Fast is Evolution?
Previous: Evolution’s Speed – My Assumptions and First Guesses
Next: Evolution’s Speed – How Common Are Substitution Point Mutations?

I might have figured out how to test in a lab for irreducible complexity the practical limit of evolution.  One of the main arguments of the Intelligent Design movement is that many parts of living things are too complicated to appear by evolution.  Intuitively, this makes sense, and I ran into evolution’s practical limit even in self-copying computer programs.  But how can someone test for irreducible complexity in a lab?

One way is to try Michael Behe’s knockout test – systematically try knocking out every piece of a machine, and see if there are any parts that aren’t absolutely essential.  If everything’s critical, the system clearly couldn’t appear by evolution, because there simply is no previous step.  Either the whole thing appeared fully formed, or it wouldn’t have appeared at all.  I have a different idea: push evolution fast enough that you can see it happen, and watch for it to hit a wall.

I laid out the details here, and now I want to find out if this experiment would be practical – I might need an impractically huge population of bacteria to make it work.  The first thing I need to learn is all the types of mutations that happen to living things:

Continue reading Evolution’s Speed – What Kinds of Mutations Are There?