Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mutant mice!

Our friend, Brian Thomas at the ICR, makes another ignorant stab at evolution.

Human Stem Cells Cure Mutated Mice
by Brian Thomas, M.S.*

Researchers are intelligently designing techniques to combat mutations that cause neurological disorders.

Excellent! And here we were worried that they were wasting their time eating caviar and salsa dancing.

If evolution works according to the standard neo-Darwinian model of time + selection + mutation, then why are we interfering with the process?

Is this a trick question? Because we have particular goals in mind that we want to accomplish. That would be the same answer as to why we clean the house instead of just letting nature eventually clean it for us.

Shouldn’t we let evolution run its course?

That would depend on what course nature is running and what we want to achieve.

Perhaps these diseased individuals would grow a new organ or something, and become the next step in our naturally upward progression from hydrogen to human and beyond.

I'm betting not. And I think you agree.

It seems that such evolutionary philosophy becomes practically unlivable.

Your bizarro world evolutionary philosophy is, I agree!

Rather than let ”evolution” take its course, researchers are thankfully taking steps to remedy mutations’ harmful effects.

Woot! Yay for the researchers!

Nature News reported on June 41 the successful treatment of mice that are born with a mutation that prevents myelin from forming around their nerve cells. Without myelin, the mice live tortured, short lives. Myelin-related disorders in humans include multiple sclerosis and adrenoleukodystrophy. The lead researcher of the study, Stephen Goldman from the University of Rochester in New York, described these as “awful, awful diseases.”

Very nasty! Ouch!

His treatment involved injecting human nervous tissue stem cells into the spinal cords of newborn mice. Untreated mice with this mutation typically died young, but some of the treated mice grew myelin and were normalizing as they developed. The successful stem cells were harvested not from human embryos, but from human adults.
As always, the mutation in these mice represents a loss of valuable genetic information. It is this very loss that these researchers are seeking to restore with stem cell treatments.

Very reasonable.

Does anybody else find it ironic that biomedical researchers are pouring their lives into reversing the effects of mutations, after having been taught in our universities and medical schools that mutations are the essential engines of evolution? Perhaps time + selection + mutation isn’t such a good formula after all.

Nope, not in the slightest. The reason why is that those scientists are not stopping evolution, they're stopping that undesirable mutation in mice. Evolution can and will continue on. Rather than challenging the formula above, they're demonstrating that it's true. And then going forward and using that knowledge to help mice and perhaps someday help humans in much the same way.

It is ironic that a group that prides itself on easing human suffering does it's level best to prevent the people who are actually doing real work to help ease suffering.

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