The discovery of nylon-eating bacteria has been used by critics of creationism and intelligent design, in both print articles and on websites, to challenge creationist claims. These bacteria could produce novel enzymes that allowed them to feed on by-products of nylon manufacture that had not existed prior to the invention of nylon in the 1930s, and critics of creationism have stated that this contradicted creationist claims that no new information could be added to a genome by mutation, and that proteins were too complex to evolve through a process of mutation and natural selection. Creationists have posted responses to these challenges on their own websites, which have in turn generated more responses from their critics.
The issue was first raised by critics of creationism such as the National Center for Science Education, and New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR) who stated that research refutes claims made by creationists and intelligent design proponents. The claims were that random mutation and natural selection can never add new information to a genome and that the odds against a useful new protein, such as an enzyme, arising through a process of random mutation would be prohibitively high.
Physicist Dave Thomas, the President of NMSR, has stated that gene duplication and frame-shift mutations were powerful sources of random mutation. In particular, in response to comments by creationists such as Don Batten, NMSR has stated that it was these mutations that gave rise to nylonase, even if the genes were part of a plasmid as suggested by Batten.
Creationists have cited analyses posted by Don Batten, described as a plant biologist and tropical fruit expert on the Answers in Genesis website, that cited scientific research that showed the genes involved were on a plasmid, and stated that the phenomenon is evidence that plasmids in bacteria are a designed feature intended to allow bacteria to adapt easily to new food sources or cope with toxic chemicals.
MSNBC published an editorial from science writer Ker Than that stated that the evolution of the enzymes, known as nylonase, produced by nylon-eating bacteria were a compelling argument against the claim made by intelligent design proponents that specified complexity required an intelligent designer, since nylonase function was both specified and complex. The intelligent design proponent William Dembski posted a response that questioned whether the genetic changes that produced nylonase were complex enough to be considered specified complexity. Ken Miller said that intelligent design proponents claim that we can't see either design or evolution taking place and that therefore intelligent design and evolution are both just matters of faith or world view. However, Miller said, the evolution of the enzyme nylonase, which scientists were able to repeat in the lab with another strain of bacteria, is one of a number of cases that show that evolution can be observed as it occurs.