Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Carl Zimmer discusses the latest flurry of PR from the Discovery Institute.
Is it me, or is it strange that intelligent design advocates are telling biologists that they aren't working hard enough, that they are not getting enough results from their lab work? Remember, this is the same Michael Behe whose sole peer-reviewed paper in the past eight years was a computer model (and a pretty poor one, it turned out). Compare that to the work of Joe Thornton, the principal investigator on the new paper. In the past eight years he's published twenty papers on hormones and their evolution: he's been sequencing hormone receptor genes, working out how they respond to different hormones, determining how they're related to one another, and even resurrecting them after 450 million years of oblivion. All Behe is doing is complaining that Thornton hasn't done enough, without even bothering to explain how a scientist could even set up the sort of test he demands. The fact of evolution, which Discovery Institute folks like to ignore, is that natural selection is tough to measure precisely even in living populations. The challenge gets far greater after millions of years have passed. Scientists can detect the fingerprint of natural selection on various genes, but they may never be able to recover the precise chain of events that drove the evolution of a new kind of gene.

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