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Mutations are rare (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Mutations are rare (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CB100:

Evolution requires mutations, but mutations are rare.


CreationWiki response: First of all, this claim is not an accurate representation of what Morris said. He was saying that major mutations in higher organisms are rare. (0.0001 to 0.000001 per gene per generation)

Thus Talk Origins is using a straw man argument. (However, it should be noted that evolutionists themselves have admitted in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that "Beneficial mutations are especially difficult to identify because of their scarcity."[1])

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. Very large mutations are rare, but mutations are ubiquitous. There is roughly 0.1 to 1 mutation per genome replication in viruses and 0.003 mutations per genome per replication in microbes.

  1. Viruses are living organisms, they employ gene transfer methods that require a living cell in order to reproduce. It is also likely that viruses acquire some genetic material from the host thus inflating the mutation rate.
  2. Morris was only speaking of higher organisms so this is actually irrelevant to the real claim.

Mutation rates for higher organisms vary quite a bit between organisms, but excluding the parts of the genome in which most mutations are neutral (the junk DNA), the mutation rates are also roughly 0.003 per effective genome per cell replication. Since sexual reproduction involves many cell replications, humans have about 1.6 mutations per generation. This is likely an underestimate, because mutations with very small effect are easy to miss in the studies. Including neutral mutations, each human zygote has about 64 new mutations. Another estimate concludes 175 mutations per generation, including at least 3 deleterious mutations.

While Talk Origins and Morris give estimated mutation rates they do not use the same units. Talk Origins uses mutations per generation, while Morris uses mutations per gene per generation. To translate Morris’ mutation rates to Talk Origins units requires multiplying Morris’ mutation rates by the estimates number of genes in the human genome. Currently it is estimated that there are 20,000 to 25000 protein-coding genes in the human genome.

The higher end of Morris’ mutation rates is 0.0001 mutations per gene per generation and the lower end of the gene count is 20,000 genes. This results in 2 mutations per generation for protein-coding genes. Talk Origins mutation rate for protein-coding genes is given as 1.6 mutations per generation. So Morris and Talk Origins basically agree on the number of mutations per generation for protein-coding genes. They only disagree on whether or not that figure makes such mutations rare.