ScienceBlogling Mike Dunford reminds us that Michael Egnor‘s creationist stupidity, like Camus’ plague, never disappears, but only wanes. Egnor has unleashed his formidable stupidity on the concepts of artificial and natural selection.
So many fucking morons, so little Mad Biologist. Fortunately, I’ve written about this before:
The difference between artificial selection and natural selection isn’t that the selective agent (e.g., pesticides) is a result of human activity. The difference is in what determines what is the ‘fittest’: a person’s decision as to what traits are preferable, or differential survival and reproduction. Artificial selection occurs when organisms with a certain trait or traits, such as looking like a Pomeranian, are chosen and allowed to survive and to reproduce. The ‘fitness criterion’ involved isn’t survival and reproduction: it’s the judgement of the human running the experiment that defines what is the most fit (I don’t think Pomeranians in the wild would be very fit, but rather, a yummy snack for some nasty carnivore).
In the case that Egnor discusses, the researchers exposed bacteria to antibiotics; however, they did not select which types of mutations would allowed to propagate. There are all sorts of mutations that can give rise to resistance (e.g., over-expression of gene products, production of mucus, up-regulation of efflux pumps). The selective regime used was not specifically designed to enrich (select) mutants with an enzyme with increased stability, so this is an example of natural, not artificial, selection. Whether or not humans are involved has nothing to do with the type of selection, it has to do with the selection criterion.
Of course, in the midst of all of this, it’s worth keeping in mind that the larger creationist strategy is to highlight any work that does not explicitly discuss evolution, and thereby proclaim TEH DARWINISMZ ARE DOOOMMED!!