Evolution

I read with interest the article by Robert Moss ("The Problem With Evolution: Where Did We Go Wrong?", The Scientist, Oct. 13, 1997, page 7). I am in complete agreement with his point that there should be clear distinction between evolution and the origin of life. The term "evolution" derives from "evolve," which implies nothing about "origin." I would like to present an example of evolution that does occur in a very short period, namely the development of bacterial resistance to modern-day ant

Nov 24, 1997
Jackson Roberts Ii

I read with interest the article by Robert Moss ("The Problem With Evolution: Where Did We Go Wrong?", The Scientist, Oct. 13, 1997, page 7). I am in complete agreement with his point that there should be clear distinction between evolution and the origin of life. The term "evolution" derives from "evolve," which implies nothing about "origin."

I would like to present an example of evolution that does occur in a very short period, namely the development of bacterial resistance to modern-day antibiotics. Unfortunately, this process frequently occurs in a shorter time than that required for us to develop new antibiotics that are effective in killing the new resistant strains. The development of resistance to antibiotics, for example to penicillin by the production of penicillinase, cannot be attributed to anything but a chance mutation followed by survival selection in an era when the use of antibiotics is widespread and common. The odds that a random mutation would yield a gene product that inactivates penicillin far exceeds the odds against my winning a lottery. This suggests an almost incomprehensible rate of ongoing mutations in these organisms.

Perhaps Moss's inclusion of this example in his discussions and teachings about evolution will be convincing to others that life does indeed evolve and that evolution, meaning "descent with modification," can occur in just a blink of time.

L. Jackson Roberts II
Professor of Pharmacology and Medicine
Department of Pharmacology
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, Tenn. 37232-6602