Can Evolution Hurdle the 'Mutation Protection Paradox'?

A new study published in The Open Evolution Journal described a paradox that particles-to-people evolution has failed to resolve. Called the "mutation protection paradox," it could be an intractable problem that would leave creation as the only viable origins hypothesis.

Study researchers observed that both living organisms and computer programs that copy and transmit coded information have built-in error detection and error correction systems. These systems are required to maintain the information's integrity, which would otherwise be eroded by constantly accumulating random mutations.

The coded information, organized in small sets called "bytes" in binary computer code and "codons" in the DNA of living organisms, is able to tolerate some mutations. But the study's authors show that these mutations must occur within the boundaries of the error-correction systems or the whole program—or whole organism—will be irreparably harmed.

Each byte in which computers store information contains seven bits of code that include either a "0" or "1" at each position, plus one "parity bit" to make eight bits per byte. The parity bit is "1" if the total number of ones in the other seven bits is even, and "0" if it is odd.

Programs constantly scan the bytes to check whether the parity bits accurately reflect the number of ones in each byte. Sometimes, through nearby magnets, heat, or friction, bits are mutated. If a mismatch is found, an alert is sent to other programs that employ various schemes to correct the information. For example, a backup copy could be used to replace the mutation-corrupted file.

The detection and repair mechanisms in living systems are much more complicated and ingenious, but they share similar goals. The authors pointed out that in living systems, if a DNA base—analogous to a computer "byte"—is mutated, it is sometimes corrected by referring to backup copies in the cell. The incorrect base could be repaired by referring to its paired base on the opposite strand (since DNA is double-stranded), or the alternate copy on its sister chromatid, or yet another copy found on the second chromosome. DNA detection and repair mechanisms are very robust in cells, and a few repair enzymes add whole new DNA "patches." A few hundred others work hard to detect and correct mutations.

The dilemma this poses for naturalistic origins hypotheses is that big-picture evolution requires various genetic alterations, such as certain mutations and the wholesale addition of new information-rich sequences. But for the most part, mutation repair mechanisms guard against these very changes! So, in order for evolution to proceed, mutation protection has to be put on hold. And without mutation detection, errors quickly build up and wreck the system—hence the mutation protection paradox.

Coded information in living things gives the full appearance of being purposefully programmed to resist just the kinds of DNA alterations that would harm organisms. Unfortunately for evolution, these are also just the kinds of DNA changes that would be required to turn microbes into man. Evolutionists have yet to find any realistic resolution to this problem, but for creationists it is no paradox at all. Instead, it is another cellular signature from the Creator.

References

  1. DeJong, W. and H. Degens. 2011. The Evolutionary Dynamics of Digital and Nucleotide Codes: A Mutation Protection Perspective. The Open Evolution Journal. 5: 1-4.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on May 3, 2011.


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