Mutations: No Friend of Evolution

The evolutionary prime axiom says that every nucleotide, codon, protein, gene, chromosome, protein molecule, cell, tissue, organ, individual and entire species is the result of random, unguided mutations. But what exactly are mutations? Mutations are accidental copying errors in the DNA and RNA transcription (copying) processes that lead to structural change. There are many different types of mutations. The most common one is called a point mutation which occurs when the processes of cellular transcription to RNA make a single spelling mistake. Other types of mutations include accidental deletions, insertions, duplications, translocations, inversions, conversions and mitochondrial mutations. Contrary to common sense, evolutionary theory assumes these copying mistakes can add genetic complexity to all DNA, turning simple life into sophisticated life. It is the same as assuming copying mistakes in a manual for little red wagons can, over millions of years, produce a space shuttle.

Mutations are very dangerous for any organism and are a major curse in modern medicine. So, in the 1930’s, in an effort to save evolutionary theory from the rediscovery of Mendelian inheritance and a new-found awareness of mutational damage, influential geneticists such as Ronald Fisher, Sewall Wright and John Haldane suggested mutations must fall into a typical bell curve, with half deleterious and half beneficial. Because they believed in the prime axiom, they assumed the deleterious half were then eliminated via natural selection, while the beneficial mutations caused ever upward evolutionary advancement.

Fisher’s knowledge of genetics was rudimentary compared to our own. We now know the real ratio of deleterious to beneficial mutations. It is definitely not 50/50. It is hideously skewed toward the deleterious side. By 1979 the famous geneticist Mootoo Kimura no longer even bothered to record any beneficial mutations on graphs in his research papers, showing mutations to be universally deleterious and exponentially more common as their effect diminishes. In 1998 Phillip Gerrish and Richard Lenski estimated the ratio of beneficial mutations to deleterious mutations to be about 1,000,000:1. That figure is not a typo. They believed there was only one single beneficial mutation to about one million deleterious mutations. This is much closer to common sense and light years away from the assumptions held by Ronald Fisher.

A year 2000 research paper by Thomas Bataillon stated “…the net effect of spontaneous mutation is indeed deleterious. Mean decline of the fitness components of MA lines ranged from 0.1% to 1–2% per generation…Fitness erosion seems to be the rule over a broad range of organisms.” Bataillon believed the ratio of deleterious to beneficial mutations so low as to thwart any actual measurement.

Bataillon and Bailey in 2014 stated that “Direct experimental evidence confirms predictions on the DFE (distribution of fitness effects) of beneficial mutations and favours distributions that are roughly exponential but bounded on the right. (In other words, they agree with Mootoo Kimura. They go on to say…) “The conventional assumption…is that populations are very close to their fitness optimum, and so beneficial mutations are exceedingly rare and can be safely ignored. Thus, in most cases, assumptions of the models do not allow for beneficial fitness effects to be estimated at all.”

We can therefore safely estimate the ratio of deleterious to beneficial mutations at somewhere between 1,000:1 up to 1,000,000:1, and closer to the second figure. For arguments sake let’s be generous to evolution and put it at 100,000:1. Unfortunately you will not find this hard science on popular evolutionary websites. Ronald Fisher’s lovely bell curve turned out to be vastly one-sided, with an exponentially larger number of mutations as they diminish their impact on heritability and effects on the organism. Most of these mutations are the smaller point mutations and are therefore skewed to the central near-neutral zone no-selection zone you see below. This is because the smaller the mutation, the more easily it will slip through the cell’s thirty-plus layers of proof-reading systems.

This 100,000:1 ratio raises a profound problem for evolutionary theory. It leaves species development with both too little material to work with and too little time, even given billions of years.

Let’s go through the figures for a transitional species, our theoretical ancestors. Here are the assumptions:

  1. 300 mutations per individual (more on that figure later), per generation
  2. A 6 year reproductive cycle stretching to a 20 year cycle in early humans, so an average of 10 years.
  3. A ratio of 100,000 deleterious mutations to every beneficial mutation

Given these realistic assumptions it would take an average of 3,000 years for the very first beneficial mutation to appear, at any random location. Most of the time this mutation will be then lost due to drift, noise, epistasis, linkage blocks, epigenetics and a host of other factors discussed further on in this essay. This pushes our time frame out by a factor of ten. It’s actually a factor of 100 but we will once again be generous to evolutionary theory. So then we have to wait 30,000 years for first mutation to stick. Now the second mutation could be anywhere, no one and nothing determines where in the 3 billion-nucleotide genome it will occur. So, in 60,000 years you could get your second mutation at opposite ends of the genome! But you want them to occur next to each other so that meaningful change can take place. Don’t hold your breath, as you are looking at a 3-billion-to-one chance of this happening every 60,000 years! In the meantime our pre-human primate has accumulated and locked in some 1.8 million deleterious mutations, and it doesn’t matter if they are in random locations. They will all cause damage.

To get around this problem, many human geneticists have arbitrarily assumed unlimited time when constructing their mathematical models. They have also assumed nearly all mutations have zero negative effect on biological fitness. They assume the perfect heritability of all beneficial mutations, mutual cancellation of deleterious mutations via epistasis, and artificial selection instead of natural selection. But clearly these assumptions do not reflect reality. Yet they are constantly included in research papers to get around the intractable problem of this mutational ratio. They, and the entire world of biological science, are stuck with a deleterious mutation ratio that has destroyed the prime axiom, and is destroying the credibility of evolutionary theory.