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More experimental evidence for limits to Darwinian evolution:

I never thought it would happen but, in my estimation, Richard Lenski has acquired a challenger for the title of "Best Experimental Evolutionary Scientist." Lenski, of course, is the well-known fellow who has been growing E. coli in his lab at Michigan State for 50,000 generations in order to follow its evolutionary progress. His rival is Joseph Thornton of the University of Oregon who, by inferring the sequences of ancient proteins and then constructing (he calls it "resurrecting") their genes in his lab, is able to characterize the properties of the ancestral proteins and discern how they may have evolved into more modern versions with different properties.

I have written appreciatively about both Lenski and Thornton before, whose work indicates clear limits to Darwinian evolution (although they themselves operate within a Darwinian framework). Thornton's latest work is beginning to show a convergence with Lenski's that greatly boosts our confidence that they both are on the right track. In a recent review (Behe, 2010) I pointed out that all characterized advantageous mutations that Richard Lenski has observed in his twenty-year experiment have turned out to be degradative ones -- in which a gene or genetic control structure was either destroyed or rendered less effective. Random mutation is superb at degrading genetic material, which sometimes is helpful to an organism. In his latest work Thornton, too, shows evolution of a system by degradation, although he speculates that the changes were neutral rather than advantageous.
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