By Greg Neyman
© Old Earth Ministries
This question was published in Dr. John's Q&A by John Morris in October 1998. Yes, it is a fact that bacteria become immune to antibiotics. Does this prove evolution? As Morris points out, he believes it does not. Morris says they develop this resistance "through a fortuitous genetic ability," and "No new genetic information was produced; indeed, genetic information was lost."
Is new genetic information involved? According to this report, new genetic material is essential for bacteria to develop a new resistance to antibiotics.
In regard to bacterial resistance to antibiotics, the genetic material necessary to code for proteins facilitating the removal of antibiotics from the microbe is not encoded in the DNA of the bacterium. In fact, in colonies of non-resistant bacteria, there is no genetic modification to produce strains resistant and all will die out. However, if you introduce plasmids containing resistant genes to a colony of bacteria, they will incorporate this genetic material into their own genome and produce the proteins that prevent antibiotic effectiveness.
This incorporation of genetic material operates outside Mendelian laws and in theory can result in vertical evolution of single celled organisms. In fact, it's one of the strongest arguments for observation of macro evolution on a micro time scale.1
It appears that Morris does not know what he is talking about when it comes to this subject. It may be that Morris is playing a game of "semantics. He claims that no new genetic information is produced. This is correct, because the bacteria incorporate previously existing information from the plasmids. However, this is extremely misleading, for in fact one organism, the bacteria, does indeed gain genetic material.
Morris appears to make a good argument with the discussion about sailors that were frozen for over a hundred years. Bacteria from these sailors was tested, and they showed resistance to several modern-day antibiotics, including penicillin. He says that "such traits were obviously present prior to penicillin's discovery."
However, this argument by Morris omits several key pieces of information. Although the antibacterial effect of penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1929, penicillin has been around for many thousands of years. Penicillin comes from fungus, and what better place is there to grow fungus than a dirty ship from the mid-1800's. The ills faced by the unclean living conditions, and poor nutrition, of sailors prior to the 1900's is well known. And we all know that penicillin is in the mold that grows on bread. In all likelihood, these sailors had probably already been exposed to penicillin and other natural antibiotics, rendering any study of the sailor's bacteria useless.
1 David Tamang, Molecular Cell Biologist, in a post at Talk Origins.org
Dr. John's Q&A #118, published on the web at http://www.icr.org/index.php?module=articles&action=view&ID=1186
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