June 10, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Darwinism Demonstrated in the Lab

Lenski’s done it.  The champion of Avida, a computerized evolution demo (see Evolution News) has demonstrated Darwinian evolution with real live organisms.  His achievement announces his inauguration into the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.1
    Lenski and team ran one of the longest-running evolution experiments ever with E. coli bacteria.  After more than 30,000 generations, some of the bacteria traversed several random mutations to achieve a new function: the ability to digest citrate.  This occurred without any guidance and quickly made the new variety more fit in the culture.  New Scientist trumpeted this as a demonstration of a “major evolutionary shift in the lab” that has unfurled right before the researchers’ eyes.
    Darwin critic Dr. Michael Behe, biochemist at Lehigh University, author of Darwin’s Black Box, seems unconvinced.  He thinks, as he discusses on his Amazon blog that Lenski has only demonstrated something far less Darwinian: the Edge of Evolution.  A response was also posted on Access Research Network.


1.  Zachary Blount, Christina Borland and Richard E. Lenski, “Historical contingency and the evolution of a key innovation in an experimental population of Escherichia coli,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, June 4, 2008, 10.1073/pnas.0803151105.

It’s a good thing Dr. Behe quickly dispelled the significance of this experiment.  It saves us a lot of work having to trudge through the overhyped claims in the paper.  Basically, the E. coli already had the machinery to digest citrate, but just lacked a gateway to get the nutrient inside, which was not that improbable a hurdle for a couple of mutations to permit.  This accomplishment is orders of magnitude simpler than the kind of luck required to build the machinery in the first place.  It’s like blindly pushing and finding a weakness in a fence.  This is all the longest-running lab experiment in evolution was able to accomplish in 20 years of trying, with almost 40,000 generations.  Are you impressed?  If you can tell a lawyer is lying when his lips are moving, you can tell an evolutionist is lying when the reporters go wild about how Darwin has been vindicated. 

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