Lenski’s Long Term Evolutionary Experiment | The Skeptical Zone

It’s simple enough. If you know nothing about the subject you are unable to judge anything about it. You can’t judge Behe’s work (such as it is), claims, or argument, you can’t judge mine, you can’t judge anyone’s. You can’t decide whether things Behe says make plain sense. And just because you’re a layman, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn. That’s an excuse.

But isn’t biochemistry just physics, at bottom? It’s all really just electrons finding new energy levels, quantum mechanics, and such. So if we really want to understand evolution, shouldn’t we forget about biochemists and ask physicists? In fact, shouldn’t physicists be the experts on everything, everywhere? Simple answer: no. Some things are best understood at a higher level than of interactions between outer shell electrons. Some things are even best understood at a higher level than that of molecules bumping into each other. Evolution is one of those things.

That’s true. In fact it’s simpler even than that. Evolution, at bottom, is changes in the DNA (or, in some viruses, RNA) sequences of genomes. But there’s much more to it than that, because some of those changes have effects on phenotype, and they all begin as mutations in single individual molecules. How and why the changes spread through populations, what changes are favored in any particular environment, how the effects work out in time and space, all those are way beyond biochemistry. The very best physicist may not know how to fix your car, and you’re better going to a mechanic. And if you want to understand evolution, you’re better going to an evolutionary biologist.

My suggestion is that all those strong motivations are on your side. Witness that you are confident in your view despite knowing nothing about the subject.


As a default, laypeople should accept the scientific consensus. I’m not saying that you have to believe the consensus is some absolute truth, only that you should respect the findings of tens of thousands of experts that all know more about the subject than you do.

Behe is not part of the scientific consensus. The vast, vast majority of experts think he is wrong and misguided. This includes thousands and thousands of Christian scientists, so it isn’t as if Behe’s claims are being rejected because the scientific community is philosophically opposed to religious beliefs.


As far as I can tell, neither did Darwin in the Origin of species.

I disagree

If you want to understand, I invite you to read or reread the mission and values statement of this blog.

Every evolutionary biologist knows this and knew it a long time before Behe ever came on the scene. Modern evolutionary theory has advanced past plain old Darwinism.

Hold your horses Sam. Data just disagrees with you. You keep saying these things but it seems you don’t know what they really are. Darwinian evolution can explain many aspects of evolutionary change in the past and present, but it is inadequate to account for all changes.

I don’t know anything about the Challenger disaster, but as far as evolutionary biology is concerned, scientists are not denying any plain truth, but are simply following the evidence where it leads. I can’t say the same for many YECs and ID proponents.


This surprises me. Do you have specific examples that show that evolutionary biology informs the biochemist?

A post was merged into an existing topic: Recapping the Challenger Disaster

I’ve already offered you one–the polymorphism of the MYH7 cardiac/slow-muscle myosin heavy chain gene. You and Bill whiffed.

Others offer many more below. I’m gonna go out on a limb and predict that you will go on ignoring them as if none of them ever existed. Am I right?

Testing hypotheses is not limited to doing experiments. Darwin was a naturalist and included a lot of field work in OoS. Behe has done nothing in the lab or in the field.

Maybe you haven’t bothered to read OoS?


How about the reconstruction of ancestral proteins, much discussed on this site?


Darwin spent 5 years gathering exciting new data from the ecosystems of the Amazon rainforest, the Galapagos Islands, etc., during his voyage on The Beagle. And he incorporated these data into his publication.

I’m sure Behe appreciates having your vote of confidence. Unfortunately for Behe, your vote won’t convince the thousands of Ph.D. biologists who participate in the peer review process. And so far, he has not made one iota of progress toward this presumably more important goal.



Time for another example of the three-step method for refuting creationists.

Step 1: Read what the creationist says.

Step 2: Check their cited source.

"I removed all the ants from about a group of about a dozen aphides on a dock-plant, and prevented their attendance during several hours. After this interval, I felt sure that the aphides would want to excrete. I watched them for some time through a lens…

Step 3: Note that their source does not match their claim.

Works every time.


Enough beating around the bush with these hypotheticals about possible biases and motivations. Yes yes, we get it, lots of people could be in denial all over the place, including on your side of the fence.

So, shall we proceed to discussing actual biology?

Like how irreducible complexity as Behe has defined it (remove a part from a multi-component system and it stops performing a function for which that part is critical) is not a barrier to evolution? That systems that demonstrably meet those criteria have been shown to evolve?


I was hoping that the example about Behe’s expectations regarding protein structure and function would get the point across. (" Specifically, Behe’s single-minded focus and blinders leads him to believe that protein function is highly constrained, impossibly so in an evolutionary context. Evolutionary biology, with a big assist from modern DNA science, that tells us that the opposite is in fact the truth of the matter. ")

The story about poly(A)-assisted RNA degradation in eukaryotes is another instance where evolutionary concepts drove the process of discovery and biochemical characterization. Enjoy.



I had forgotten that one. That clearly is an experiment, @Giltil, and therefore infinitely more than Behe has done.

Step 4: Wait a bit and they will falsely claim something like ‘both sides are interpreting the same evidence.’

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Which definition of IC has not?

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Here’s a selection:


the problem is that in many cases, to get the function we will need a complex starting point first.

but the same is true with evolution: we cant realy refute a theory that cant be refuted. i remind you the thread about “out of place” fossils. on the other hand, we can prove that nature was designed.

any system which is too complex to be the result of natural process can fit that definition. the flagellum is such a system since its basically a spinning motor. and since we know that motors are the product of design we can conclude that the flagellum cant evolve naturally.

from here:

“When Durrett and Schmidt (2008) noted that their own estimate of obtaining two needed mutations in humans was an unrealistically long 216 million years”

see above: its not my calculation, and anyway i gave it as a theoretical claim. this is why i said “for the sake of the argument”.

and yet we have cases were the creature stay basically the same creature after about 500 my.

My “Step 4” would violate PS decorum.

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Exactly. This is a perfect example of the redundancy in DNA sequences. There are numerous possible sequences that can produce the same morphology. This is yet another reason why a nested hierarchy is such powerful evidence for evolution.


Evolutionary/phylogenetic relationships between proteins is a better predictor of protein function than % residue similarity.


A recent example …

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