Chilli pepper genetics described in Science Shots 19 January 2014 and Nature Genetics 19 January 2014 doi:10.1038/ng.2877. An international team of scientists has completed the genome of the hot pepper, Capsicum annuum. The spicy heat in peppers comes from a chemical named capsaicin. The scientists compared the pepper’s genome with that of its “tame cousin, the tomato” and “discovered the gene responsible for fiery capsaicin production that appeared in both plants”. The gene codes for an enzyme named capsaicin synthase (CS). Science Shots goes on to explain: “While the tomato carried four nonfunctioning copies of the gene, the hot pepper carried seven nonfunctioning copies and one functioning copy. … The researchers believe the pepper’s capsaicin-creating gene appeared after five mutations occurred during DNA replication, with the final mutation creating a functional copy”. The article ends with: “One researcher even suggests that geneticists could activate one of the tomato’s dormant genes, enabling capsaicinoid production and creating a plant that makes ready-made salsa”.
Editorial Comment: You may be wondering why God would make a food that you can give to your worst enemy, or can be served straight between his eyes as pepper spray. We suggest the answer lies in the fact that many “toxins and terrible tastes” in plants function to stop you eating it until the seeds inside are mature and ready for dispersal. At that point such inhibitors are turned off, and animals eat the fruit and disperse the seeds, thus benefitting both eater and eaten. So it is not just enough to have a gene that makes capsaicin. That gene has to be turned on and off. If its regulators are damaged and the gene gets turned on, and left on, the plant will go on making the fiery chemical, and you end with a vegetable that is really a weapon, rather than a food. Such a loss of regulation is a degeneration of the plant, and fits the Biblical history of plants – originally all good, but now degraded. Change? Yes. Evolution? No!
Likewise, given that evolution is all about how non-peppers with non-CS genes somehow randomly evolved new genes as they ‘peppered’ towards the present, we do wonder what evolutionists think the selective advantage was of evolving, then holding onto, seven non-functioning copies of a gene whilst waiting for an eighth copy to evolve into a functioning CS gene. Given that mutations are well-known for destroying genetic information, it makes more sense to believe the plant started with functioning genes, but mutations have caused some to become defunct. Furthermore, if geneticists do manage to change one of the tomato’s non-functioning genes into a functioning Salsa-CS gene, it will not be achieved by random evolution. It will happen because intelligent scientists have correctly read the code for a functioning CS gene and transferred that information into the tomato genome. Note that the Science Shots writer describes this process as “creating” a plant that has a new function. They can’t avoid the obvious. (Ref. botany, spices, genetics)
Evidence News, vol.14, No.2
26 February 2014
Creation Research Australia