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GENETIC MUTATION, EVOLUTION AND THE HOLY QURAN (1)

The DNA molecule (Deoxyribonucleric acid) is the genetic blue print of life holding the key to the genetic code. It is very stable and naturally well protected from chemical changes. Yet present knowledge has discovered that changes called mutation can occur in it leading often to grave consequences. This topic of concern to all humans is being discussed alongside what the Quran predicted about it since inception.

The word blue print means a plan for achieving something or photographic print of a plan for a building, machine, etc. on a special blue paper. Thus the term genetic blue print of life means the basic pattern contained in living things that encodes its development and appearance. Let me bring the explanation further down to earth by saying that if you are in possession of the genetic blue print of a man (DNA) then you are in possession of the very secret of how that man can be recreated in the laboratory. Little wonder DNA test is now used as the standard unerring test for establishing the fatherhood of a disputed offspring for the fact that the father’s physical traits in the DNA are inherited by offsprings. If the father’s DNA and that of the offspring match then fatherhood is established. If not then fatherhood is refuted. Coming to the chemistry of DNA it is a nucleotide consisting of a sugar component, phosphate component and a nitrogen base component. Through the phosphate component the basic unit of the nucleotide molecule (DNA) is joined to one another to form a long helical chain (see fig1). The nitrogen base component comes from amino acids of twenty different kinds. When the DNA wants to reproduce itself (replicate), information is sent to a messenger molecule called the RNA (Reoxy nucleic acid) which then dictates the order of the sequence of the aminoacid that should appear in the protein being synthesized.. The three stages of the protein synthesis are: Replication, transcription and translation. The following statement by the Holy ProphetMuhammad, I think, is in reference to the role of the DNA as the blue print of life. On the authority of Hadrat Abu Hurairah, he reported that Islam’s Prophet is reported to have said:” Everything of the human being will be destroyed except the last disc of the spine. On the Day of Judgment the creatures will be recreated on the basis of this bone. Then Allah will send down rain from the sky which willcause the dead to grow like vegetables” (Bukhari, Muslim). Meaning that the last disc of the spine contains a DNA preserved in it.  The fact that creatures will be recreated from the DNA in the disc in the spine is exactly what scientists mean when they say that the DNA is the blue print of life. As at now research scientists have extracted DNA from the bones of neander that man who lived 150,000 years ago in the hope of using  it to recreate that  man who lived in that distant past. Also the DNA of a bee preserved in amber that is 40 million years old has been extracted. In short researchers are in the process of trying to recreate life using very ancient DNA . If humans are trying to recreate life in the laboratory using DNA then is it anything to be wondered when the Omnipotent Creator says that He will one day resurrect man to life after death? Obviously not.

MUTATION:

Returning once more to the topic under discussion, there can be mutation (chemical change) in a nucleotide sequence that can affect the function of the gene and subsequently of the human being..A spontaneous error in DNA replication can cause it. Another source of genetic mutation is when induced by sources such as chemicals and radiations called Mutagens.

Mutations can occur in one out of every one hundred thousand (0.00001) chance which is too low. Using chemicals that rate can be tremendously increased to one out of every hundred (0.001). Among chemicals that cause mutations are mustard gas and sodium nitrites .They lead to the addition or removal of several nucleotides in a row. On the other hand the use of radiations can break down DNA and cause thy mine dimers to form. Cosmic rays from space, UV rays from the sun, radiations from rocks etc can cause mutation. Theseradiation react with water to produce highly reactive hydrated electron that breaks down the DNA molecule and cells. When affected persons procreate the results is physically deformed offspring’s such as children born without ears or nose .With the above background in mind let me next site a classic example of a disease caused by spontaneous error. Sickle cell anemia is caused as follows: Red blood cells consist of hemoglobin molecules consisting of an iron containing group and a protein .Its main function is to carry oxygen to the cells and remove carbon dioxide from them. In normal bloodthe shape of the blood is round and disc like, while in the case of sickle cell anemia, the shape is like a sickle (see fig 2) . This change in shape is attributed to an error caused during the replication when valineamino acid accidentally replaced the glutamic acid in the amino acid sequence. The result is the sickle cell. In ample supply of oxygen it functions normally by carrying oxygen to the cells and removing carbon dioxide from the latter. But when oxygen supply is inadequate it assumes the sickle cell shape, which obstructs the free flow of blood to give the severe pain symptoms to patients. In addition the cells break down leading to loss of blood. Sickle cell patients are therefore anemic in pains, pale and lack vitality. Generally, they hardly live beyond twenty years of age. Here mutation in a DNA caused by misplacement has resulted in a variant weaker than the healthy variant. Natural selection sets in and approves the healthy one for the fact that it bests adapts to life, while the weak variant cannot,hence phases out. The strong variant reproduces and dominates in the environment. Evolution has taken place!

 Before the industrial revolution of 1874 the Manchester environment in Britain was dominated by light coloured moths who rested on the bark of light coloured trees. After the industrial revolution.the butterfly population was dominated by black peppered moths who rested on the bark of tress rendered dark by the enormous amount of sooth and fumes released into the environment from factories! Evolution accounts for it as follows: that due to mutation in the light coloured moth a black variant evolved in the pre-revolution years.The light dominated since birds could not detect them against the light coloured barks of the trees. The black moths were easily detected and eaten by birds. After the industrial revolution when the bark of trees turned black, the black moths escaped detection from the birds; hence survived.The light moths were easily detected by birds against the black background of trees and eaten up. First, there has been a mutation leading to the emergency of two variants. Second, natural selection as the birds eating the moths’ then sets in .Third, the black variant best adapted to the dark colour of the bark of trees survive produces and dominates. Evolution has occurred. Pertinent to state that evolution in the instance of the light and black coloured moths can move in either direction, namely either towards the light moth or black moth. Similarly, due to mutation in the staphylococci strain of bacteria as a result of the prolonged use of penicillin antibiotic, a strain resistant to the antibiotic has evolved. The resistant strain is able to survive antibiotic attack by synthesizing penicillin aseenzymes that can hydrolyse the penicillin to penicillanic acid, thereby rendering it in effective.

The following Quranic verse is a great indicator of mutation.” And assuredly I will incite them  and they will cut the ears of cattles and assuredly I will incite them and they will alter Allah’s creation .And whoever takes Satan for a friend instead of Allah, he certainly suffers a manifest loss”(Quran 4:20). Past Commentators considered the cutting of ears of cows by the polytheist Arabs as part of this alteration of Allah’s creation enshrined in the verse. But we of the modern age best understand that cutting the ears of cattle is a temporary change that cannot be passed on from parents to offspring. What is therefore indicated in the words “and assuredly I will incite them and they will alter Allah’s creation” is a permanent alteration. There is great emphasis on alter which is “gayyara” in Arabic, meaning a change or alteration for the worse. In other words any alteration effected in living creation is irreversible, in reference to genetic mutation as discussed above. For lack of space let me stop here. The Quran and hadith (statement by Prophet Muhammad) definitely talk about DNA and mutation, just as modern research has established

CONCLUSION:

Genetic mutation provides the raw material for evolution. The Quran and Hadith speak about it .

Khalid Kofi Ahmad

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