When I was growing up, one of the truisms of Creation Science was that there were no beneficial mutations; that they were all destructive, and therefore random mutations could not have resulted in the overwhelming diversity of life on earth.
Let’s take the domestic cat, for example. There are a great many mutations which are prized by cat lovers around the world. Let’s run down the list (taken from Wikipedia.)
- Shortened tails (Japanese bobtail gene, recessive; Manx tailless gene, dominant)
- Curly tails (such as the American Ringtail; the gene(s) responsible have not been identified)
- Short legs (Munchkin gene, dominant)
- Split Foot (Syndactyly) (This is a dominant gene, and is considered undesirable)
- Extra toes (Polydactyl) (Multiple genes, both dominant and recessive)
- Extra toes near the dew claw (Thumb-cat polydactyly gene, dominant)
- Backwards curling ears (American Curl gene, dominant)
- Forwards curling ears (Scottish Fold gene, dominant)
- Diminutive (a germ-cell mutation, dominant)
In each case, the mutation created a trait that was considered desirable by cat lovers, enabling cats with those traits to survive and breed. To those cats, the mutation was certainly beneficial.
Let’s talk about grain. Most grasses have weak stalks that bend over when the seeds grow large and heavy. Modern wheat is the result of a mutation that created a stronger stalk, which made it easier for humans to harvest. Those seeds were saved and re-sown. Modern wheat is the result of millennia of selective breeding of various beneficial traits, but it all began with a single mutation.
Let’s talk about humanity. Much of the diversity of human beings is the result of genetic mutations.
- Blue eyes are the result of a mutation in the OCA2 gene. All blue-eyed people have the same switch on the same location of the same gene. My blue eyes are the result of a genetic mutation which conferred some degree of survival advantage. Perhaps it was simply a matter of sexual preference. Who knows?
- Red hair is a recessive trait, occurring in the MC1R gene. People with two of the recessive genes have red hair, light skin, and will freckle rather than tan. On the other hand, red-haired people have a naturally higher pain tolerance. People with only one copy of the mutated MC1R gene will not have red hair, but will have a tendency to both freckle and tan.
- Around 35% of the population are born without wisdom teeth. The genetic mutation responsible has not been found, although it is thought to have originated in China between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago.
- A small community in Italy has a mutation that allows them to produce a modified HDL that is more effective at cleaning cholesterol from artery walls. There is a different mutation occurring on the PCSK9 gene that has much the same affect.
- A mutation in the LRP5 gene amplifies bone density, resulting in stronger bones and resistance to age-related skeletal degeneration.
- Sickle cell anemia is caused by a mutation in the HbS gene. This mutation is recessive; people with one copy are naturally resistant to malaria, while people with two copies of this gene come down with sickle-cell anemia.
- A mutation to the HbC gene confers resistance to malaria; people with one copy are 29% less likely to get malaria, while people with two copies are 93% less likely. People with two copies of the gene may experience mild anemia, but it is certainly not life-threatening.
- Some women have a mutation that gives them four color receptors instead of the normal three. Thus they can see millions more colors than the rest of us.
- A Finnish family has a mutation on the erythropoietin receptor gene, which gives their blood the ability to carry 50% more oxygen.
- A mutation on the DEC2 gene gives about 5% of the population the ability to sleep far less than normal people.
- A genetic mutation is what gives most people of European ancestry the ability to tolerate lactose, which allows them to digest milk as adults.
- The ccr5-Δ32 mutation gives people with two copies resistance to HIV-1, as well as plague and smallpox. But two copies of the gene also makes people more susceptible to the West Nile Virus.
- Other mutations are light skin and blond hair, leading to the inescapable conclusion: white people are mutants.