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Discovery Magazine 7/1/2008

“Evolutionary Detective Story”? No Clues Here

Blood is very important, because it delivers nutrients to every part of the human body. In fact, God told the Israelites that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). Normal red blood cells are very flexible. They are smooth, round, shaped like a doughnut without a hole, and can slide through blood vessels easily. Sickle cell anemia is a blood disease in which red blood cells become stiff and shaped like a sickle (or a crescent). In this shape, cells tend to clump together and block blood flow. People who have sickle cell anemia often feel weak or unusually tired. They have pain, fever, strokes, and swelling. They typically get infections more easily, and frequently die unusually early.

Sickle cell anemia is inherited—passed from one generation to the next. A child gets sickle cell anemia if he receives two mutant hemoglobin genes (one from each parent) that cause his red blood cells to change. Most states test newborn babies for sickle cell anemia. If a child receives only one sickle cell gene, he is said to have the sickle cell trait, but not anemia, and can live normally.

In the 1940s, some doctors in Africa noticed that patients with the sickle cell trait were more likely to survive malaria (a deadly disease spread by mosquitoes). Red blood cells tend to “sickle” when infected by the malaria parasite, and so the spleen works hard to cut out the infected cells. Evolutionists claim that the survival of the sickle cell gene in Africa is an example of natural selection at work. One popular evolutionary Web site calls it an “evolutionary detective story.”

However, only those who have the sickle cell “trait,” rather than anemia, are protected from malaria. Those who have sickle cell anemia can suffer from both malaria and the symptoms of the mutation. Those who carry the trait for sickle cells may have anemic children. Either way, sickle cell mutation is not helpful, and it adds no new genetic information to change a person into a different kind of creature. Sickle cell anemia is another example of harmful mutations. 

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