Monday, April 10, 2006

Very Reducible Complexity

Study, in a First, Explains Evolution's Molecular Advance:
By reconstructing ancient genes from long-extinct animals, scientists have for the first time demonstrated the step-by-step progression of how evolution created a new piece of molecular machinery by reusing and modifying existing parts.

The researchers say the findings, published today in the journal Science, offer a counterargument to doubters of evolution who question how a progression of small changes could produce the intricate mechanisms found in living cells.

New research chips away at the "irreducible complexity" argument behind intelligent design.
Lehigh biochemistry professor Michael Behe and his cronies in the intelligent design community have attempted to poke holes in evolutionary theory using an idea dubbed "irreducible complexity"—the notion that complex systems with interdependent parts could not have evolved through Darwinian trial and error and must be the work of a creator, since the absence of any single part makes the whole system void. However, a paper published in the April 7th issue of Science provides the first experimental proof that "irreducible complexity" is a misnomer, and that even the most complex systems come into being through Darwinian natural selection.

"We weren't motivated by irreducible complexity," said Joe Thornton, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oregon and a co-author of the paper. "How complexity evolved is a longstanding issue in evolutionary biology per se, and it's once we saw our results that we realized the implications for the social debate."

Update: For a really good explanation of the study, read Evolution of IC: Evolution of Hormone-Receptor Complexity by Ian Musgrave (hat-tip: PZM)

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