Evolution’s Speed – How Common Are Inversion Mutations?

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This is part of a series: How Fast is Evolution?

I might have figured out how to push evolution to its limit, but it’ll only be practical if the theory of evolution needs good mutations to be reasonably common.  The first step is to find the different kinds of mutations that are out there, and how common they are.  Today I’ll cover inversion mutations.

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Evolution’s Speed – How Common Are Single Insertions and Deletions?

Every time you make a typo, the errorists win

This is part of a series: How Fast is Evolution?
Previous: Evolution’s Speed – How Common Are Point Substitution Mutations?

I might have figured out how to push evolution to its limit in a lab, but I need to find if it would be practical.  To do that, I need to know how common a good mutation must be if life really appeared by evolution.  I’m starting by reading up on the different kinds of mutations.  In my previous post I covered point substitution mutations, and in this post, I’ll cover insertions and deletions – also known as indels.

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Evolution’s Speed – How Common Are Substitution Point Mutations?

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This is part of a series: How Fast is Evolution?
Previous: Evolution’s Speed – What Kinds of Mutations Are There?

I might have figured out how to test for evolution’s limit in a lab, and I’m reading up on genetics and evolutionary biology to find if it’s practical.

Today, I’m learning about the most common kind of mutation: point mutations.  Specifically, I want numbers for substitution mutations, as opposed to single insertions or deletions.

Continue reading Evolution’s Speed – How Common Are Substitution Point Mutations?

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?

Evolution’s Speed – My Assumptions and First Guesses

Fortune cookie says: "You are about to finish reading a fortune cookie"

This is part of a series: How Fast is Evolution?
Previous: How to Find Evolution’s Limit
Next: Evolution’s Speed – What Kinds of Mutations Are There?

In my previous post, I laid out my idea of how to test for evolution’s limit (irreducible complexity) in a lab.  Basically I’d try so many mutations on so many creatures that I’d be almost guaranteed to get a good one – assuming, of course, that life really appeared by evolution.

I have a big problem, though: I need a really big population to make this work.  Based on what I currently know of genetics, I might need such a big population that even a lake full of bacteria wouldn’t be big enough.

As I do the math to find out if my idea is practical, here are some assumptions I’m making.  I’ll also make some educated guesses about what would really happen.

Continue reading Evolution’s Speed – My Assumptions and First Guesses

How to Find Evolution’s Limit

Dice spiral

This is part of a series: How Fast is Evolution?
Next: Evolution’s Speed – My Assumptions and First Guesses

I might have figured out how to test for evolution’s limit in a lab.  In my previous series, I fixed a loophole in the definition of evolution’s limit.  In this series, I plan to learn whether my idea is practical.  I’ll list a bunch of info related to calculating how fast evolution must happen if it’s really how life appeared.  I hope to finish by calculating how big of a population I’d need to make my experiment work.

Here’s my idea:

Evolution is a game of chance.  It has rules – like the laws of physics, the current environment, and interaction with other creatures – and each mutation is a roll of the dice.  A good mutation is like rolling three 6’s in Risk – it’s very rare.  I want to cheat.

One rule of evolution is that it usually happens too slow to see.  If someone wants to study evolution – whether to test or confirm it – they must wait millions of years.  Since we humans don’t live that long, we have to speed up evolution to see it happen.  One way is to roll the dice very quickly – do mutation and natural selection to something with incredibly short generation times.  Another way is to roll a big bucket of dice all at once.

I already tried the first one.  Now I want to find if the second is practical.

Continue reading How to Find Evolution’s Limit