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Mutations can improve normal protein function resulting in increased fitness relative to the environment. Many mutations work by generating more effective enzymes or through novel catalytic mechanisms. Explore Evolution is wrong to claim that mutations must impair a protein's normal functioning and impose a fitness cost.
Explore Evolution ignores mutations in non-protein-coding cis-regulatory sequences (CREs). Furthermore, research has shown that mutations in the coding regions and in CREs of the genetic toolkit are both responsible for evolutionary change.
Unfortunately, Explore Evolution makes a confusing definition of "structural mutations" which significantly differs from normal scientific usage. Also, Explore Evolution remarkably fails to mention the major cause of mutations, errors in copying DNA.
A straightforward definition of mutation can be found in any genetics or evolution textbook. For example, the recently published Evolution textbook by Nick Barton and colleagues explains:
Evolutionary developmental biology – evo-devo – is one of the most dynamic fields in modern biology, and is often poorly covered by introductory textbooks. Rather than providing students with background that would let them conduct scientific inquiry into this field, Explore Evolution provides an account that is too brief and deeply misleading. Perhaps the greatest failing of the book is its misrepresentation of authors, citing them in support of claims that they directly disagree with.
A great shame of creationism and intelligent design is their appropriation and mischaracterization of genuine scientific concerns about whether we currently possess a complete explanation for the unity and diversity of life. Explore Evolution thoroughly mixes up scientific issues of gene-centric vs. epigenetic phenomena with much broader unsupported anti-evolutionary claims that genes do not control development and that new body plans need new sets of non-genetic instructions.
Mutation is the raw material of evolution. Understanding what evolution is, what its sources are, and how different forms of mutation operate is crucial for students. Instead of offering that information – information crucial to the inquiry Explore Evolution purports to encourage – the book misdefines and mischaracterizes mutation and ignores basic concepts in mutation.
Summary of problems:Peppered moths do rest on trunks. Kettlewell placed moths on both branches and trunks, covering the spectrum of moth resting places.
Kettlewell was aware that peppered moths rested on both trunks and branches. In Kettlewell’s experiments, he actually placed the moths on trunks and branches, in relatively unexposed locations, thus covering the natural resting places of the peppered moth.
Summary of problems:Research scientists do not find Kettlewell's work invalid because he released moths in the daytime. This claim is found nowhere in the research literature.
Summary of problems with claim:Textbooks do not use peppered moths as an example of something new being created, they use it to demonstrate what natural selection can do in mere decades.
Summary of problems:The hybridization observed in the finches is not enough to merge two species, and observations in the field have actually shown substantial evidence of incipient speciation.