Lenski’s experiment: 25 years and 58,000 generations

| 56 Comments

25 years ago, according to a recent article in Science magazine, Richard Lenski put samples of E. coli bacteria into a dozen flasks filled with a solution of glucose and other nutrients, incubated them, stirred them, and every day removed 1 % and repeated the process, day after day, for 25 years (except for a brief interruption when he moved from one university to another). The author of the article, Elizabeth Pennisi, notes that Lenski’s bacteria

are proving as critical to understanding the workings of evolution as classic paleontology studies such as Stephen Jay Gould’s research on the pace of change in mollusks. Lenski’s humble E. coli have shown, among other things, how multiple small mutations can prepare the ground for a major change; how new species can arise and diverge; and that Gould was mistaken when he claimed that, given a second chance, evolution would likely take a completely different course. Most recently, the colonies have demonstrated that, contrary to what many biologists thought, evolution never comes to a stop, even in an unchanging environment.

You may read Pennisi’s article for yourself, but what I (a nonbiologist) found most interesting was that evolution keeps going, even in a stable environment; there are no fitness peaks (at least among E. coli in bottles). Equally, the fact that several different lines learned to metabolize citrate by means of different series of mutations suggests (as in the Pennisi quotation above) that the course of evolution might be more predictable than we had thought. Finally, the photograph of the graduate student sitting in front of a pyramid of Petri dishes convinces me that physics is better.

56 Comments

Why don’t we hear of Behe’s ID experiments?

I see…

Glen Davidson

Unfortunately I can’t get to the Science article due to lack of account.

Fortunately there is some decent non-paywalled coverage of this experiment. Ars Technica has a write-up that describes the basic experiment and the findings in this newest paper, with a link to coverage the earlier result about the evolution of a citrate metabolism among some of the populations.

I also found this article interesting regarding DNA in a broader sense than just e-coli itself.

“Bacteria Recycle Broken DNA: Modern Bacteria Can Add DNA from Creatures Long-Dead to Its Own” (http://www.sciencedaily.com/release[…]18155815.htm)

evolution keeps going, even in a stable environment;

Nucleic acid reproduction is imperfect so in one sense evolution must always keep going - the frequency of alleles in a population cannot be kept perfectly stable. However, frequency of alleles in a population can be much more stable in some populations in some environments than in other cases.

there are no fitness peaks

That depends on what one means by fitness peak. A creationist would howl that they’re still bacteria. They are, and they’re still gram negative rods, too, for example, because losing those adaptations would require selection for a whole string of physiological changes, each individual one unlikely to be favorable.

(The fact that they are still bacteria and still gram negative rods is what the theory of evolution predicts - what Lenski predicted, obviously, without bothering to make so obvious a statement directly; if he had thought they’d change into ducks or crocodiles he would have proceeded differently. Creationism holds that all types of organisms, including multicellular eukaryotes, appear miraculously out of nothing from time to time. Therefore a mysterious change to something other than bacteria would have supported creationism, broadly speaking, and challenged the theory of evolution. But that didn’t happen.)

I’m not sure it’s fair to say that this demonstrates that evolution might be more predictable than we thought. We put a bunch of critters in the same environment with the same selective pressures, and they evolved responses to those pressures through several mechanisms. I don’t see how that impacts Gould’s argument, since he was talking about evolution occurring in an environment that’s going to change constantly, with other species, each of which is adapting to it’s own environment in various ways. It seems to me that in such an environment, any small difference (say, in the different mechanisms for metabolizing citrate?) is just as likely to channel adaptation in other species in other directions, and so on…

harold Wrote:

Creationism holds that all types of organisms, including multicellular eukaryotes, appear miraculously out of nothing from time to time.

You know that only some forms of creationism hold that. The “from time to time” part suggests Progressive OEC. YEC and some OECs claim “all at once.” In Behe’s version, a cell appeared ~4 billion years ago, and is ancestral to all subsequent life, with in-vivo designer intervention from time to time. Yes I know that DI folk don’t commit to any origins account, but that’s the only one he - or any DI person to my knowledge - ever proposed. So:

Glen Davidson Wrote:

Why don’t we hear of Behe’s ID experiments?

When H. Allen Orr suggested that a human pseudogene for chlorophyll would support Behe’s hypothesis, any thought he might have had of testing it was quickly “expelled.”

Not to defend DI wordsmiths in any way, but several times they admitted that the first life was most likely assembled from existing matter, not from nothing.

Over at the Tooter’s website, failed scientist and ID poster child Behe gripes about Lenski being “ever optimistic” about the power of evolution, while pointing out what Behe calls “degradations.” Apparently, according to Behe, evolution can only degrade. Well, then, according to Behe, Lenski must be right, right?

I mean, where is the Intelligent Designer in all this 58,000 generations? On vacation?

I think that Behe expected the critters to grow wings, but that would have happened only if Lenski grew them in Red Bull.

Elizabeth Pennisi says,

… contrary to what many biologists thought, evolution never comes to a stop, even in an unchanging environment.

I can think of only one type of biologist who thought that. They have to misunderstand two things about evolution.

1. They have to be completely ignorant of one of the main mechanisms of evolution: random genetic drift.

2. They have to believe that all extant species are perfectly adapted to their present environment so that further evolution by positive natural selection is impossible.

Are there really a lot of biologists who think that way? Or is it just Elizabeth Pennisi who is confused about evolution?

Ars Technica has a write-up

Thanks for that link! The Ars Technica article gives a much more detailed account of the experiment (with which I am not otherwise familiar) and also discusses deleterious mutations – evidently, contrary to what certain people opine, deleterious mutations have not been very harmful to the population. Further, as the Pennisi article also noted, higher mutation rates lead to more fitness, not less.

psweet said:

I’m not sure it’s fair to say that this demonstrates that evolution might be more predictable than we thought. We put a bunch of critters in the same environment with the same selective pressures, and they evolved responses to those pressures through several mechanisms. I don’t see how that impacts Gould’s argument

Pennisi may be talking (in part) about the citrate digestion evolution. I believe they were able to repeat it with multiple colonies (i.e., after it happened they went back and grew a second group from some past generation, and the same mechanism evolved). If that’s the case, it would be a pretty strong bit of evidence that Gould was at least somewhat wrong about his “rewind the tape…” argument. They did rewind the tape, and instead of something very different happening, the same thing happened.

My point is that I don’t think Gould was attempting to make that point in the first place. A single species of bacteria in an unchanging environment is simply so far from a real-world situation that I don’t think it’s a valid test of his actual argument.

After 25 years, not one E. coli bacterium has turned into a human. Therefore, it follows that evolution is false.

eric said:

psweet said:

I’m not sure it’s fair to say that this demonstrates that evolution might be more predictable than we thought. We put a bunch of critters in the same environment with the same selective pressures, and they evolved responses to those pressures through several mechanisms. I don’t see how that impacts Gould’s argument

Pennisi may be talking (in part) about the citrate digestion evolution. I believe they were able to repeat it with multiple colonies (i.e., after it happened they went back and grew a second group from some past generation, and the same mechanism evolved). If that’s the case, it would be a pretty strong bit of evidence that Gould was at least somewhat wrong about his “rewind the tape…” argument. They did rewind the tape, and instead of something very different happening, the same thing happened.

Because they did not rewind the tape very far.

To use an analogy:

I roll a die. Using variation and selection, I want to achieve a sequence of seven rolls that adds up to exactly 21. Each time I roll, I either keep the result as part of my final seven, or select against it and roll again.

Eventually I achieve my desired result.

Now I decide to “rewind the tape”.

Well, if I start all over again from the beginning, there are a vast number of ways that I could come up with a sequence of seven rolls that add up to 21.

But if I only roll back one roll, and keep the first six from my original trial, then of course, as many times as I do that, I must end up with the same sequence of seven over and over again.

If I “roll back the tape” two rolls, and keep my original five, it may be less constrained (unless the final two rolls must total “2” or “12”, in which case, again, there’s only one possible solution).

The shorter the “rewind” I choose, the more constrained my set of acceptable outcomes is.

Lenski is deliberately using a simple model, which is an extremely insightful way to illustrate the particular point he is studying.

He starts with bacteria that are already a very homogenous strain of E. coli with a particular set of carbohydrate digestion alleles. He selects for ability to (efficiently) use citrate as an energy source.

In that constrained context, the same solution tends to be selected for.

We should not extrapolate from this that if we “rewound the tape” to proto-cells emerging billions of years ago, that subsequent billions of years of evolution would play out the same way. (Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t, I think “wouldn’t”, but at any rate, the Lenski experiment doesn’t apply. This isn’t a question Lenski is trying to answer.)

Frank J said:

harold Wrote:

Creationism holds that all types of organisms, including multicellular eukaryotes, appear miraculously out of nothing from time to time.

You know that only some forms of creationism hold that. The “from time to time” part suggests Progressive OEC. YEC and some OECs claim “all at once.” In Behe’s version, a cell appeared ~4 billion years ago, and is ancestral to all subsequent life, with in-vivo designer intervention from time to time. Yes I know that DI folk don’t commit to any origins account, but that’s the only one he - or any DI person to my knowledge - ever proposed. So:

Glen Davidson Wrote:

Why don’t we hear of Behe’s ID experiments?

When H. Allen Orr suggested that a human pseudogene for chlorophyll would support Behe’s hypothesis, any thought he might have had of testing it was quickly “expelled.”

Not to defend DI wordsmiths in any way, but several times they admitted that the first life was most likely assembled from existing matter, not from nothing.

While I basically agree, I defend my paraphrase of creationism, including ID/creationism.

“Once” is a subset of “from time to time”.

As for Behe, let’s recall what a strong evolution denier he actually is. He has argued, for example, that the bacterial flagellum, the vertebrate blood clotting system, and malaria parasites, are examples of things which could not possibly have evolved.

These systems are no more “complex” or “irreducible” than uncountable other biological systems. Therefore, by extension, Behe is making a broad argument against any significant role for evolution.

I’d like to note that while it is generous - and valuable - of you to clarify the exact positions of various ID/creationists, to the limited extent that actual solid positions can be determined or inferred, the creationists themselves never support you in this.

No current, relevant creationist ever says (imaginary example) “Frank is right! I believe that the earth is billions of years old but the Garden of Eden was created 6000 years ago at such and such a place by a miracle, and all living organism ancestors created at that time in such and such a way, please deal with my exact argument.”

It never happens.

As I’ve noted before, the only consistency they care about is negative consistency. “Evolution” must be contradicted in every way possible. Neither the details, nor consistency from one moment to the next, matters to them.

I also don’t have access to the original Science article, but from the brief quote, I don’t understand how this has any real relevance on Gould’s argument. Does Lenski make any reference to it?

Oddly enough, I think that a big point from the Lenski experiment is the importance of historical contingency. So, in this sense, the experiment strongly supports the Gould argument.

I don’t think we should let this moment pass without at least a passing mention of The Lenski Affair.

And lest you accuse me further of fraud, I do not literally mean that we have unicorns in the lab. Rather, I am making a literary allusion.” ~ Richard Lenski

Delicious.

As a result of Mr. Schlafly’s tomfoolery he raised the status of Prof. Lenski’s evolution-demonstrating paper from the status of “Highly Significant” to “Internet Science-blog Phenomenon.” It is difficult to think of any other action which would have so raised the profile of this research. [From RationalWiki.]

Do you think I could get Mr. Schlafly to attack Paul Strode’s and my book, Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails)? I will gladly send him a review copy. Right now. By overnight mail. At my expense.

“The Lenski Affair” … is that at all related to the infamous “Pensky File” from Seinfeld fame? Perhaps all Behe needs is a bigger office?

daoudmbo said:

I also don’t have access to the original Science article, but from the brief quote, I don’t understand how this has any real relevance on Gould’s argument. Does Lenski make any reference to it?

There are three occurrences of the sub-string “Gould” in the Science article. The first two were already quoted by the Original Poster. The third is:

But their [bacteria and viruses called bacteriophages] systems were still too complex to get at the question Lenski most wanted to answer: Was Gould right about evolution’s irreproducible nature, or would evolution often repeat itself if given a second chance?

The Man Who Bottled Evolution

Science 15 November 2013:

Vol. 342 no. 6160 pp. 790-793

DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6160.790

harold Wrote:

These systems are no more “complex” or “irreducible” than uncountable other biological systems. Therefore, by extension, Behe is making a broad argument against any significant role for evolution.

I’d like to note that while it is generous - and valuable - of you to clarify the exact positions of various ID/creationists, to the limited extent that actual solid positions can be determined or inferred, the creationists themselves never support you in this.

I hope you don’t mean that I’m being “generous” to ID peddlers. If anything I find everyone else too generous when they lump them in with honest believers. Of course ID peddlers would never support me. But of the ID peddlers that do reply (Internet amateurs, DI folk would just ban me) it’s far more revealing that they never deny it ether. They just reply with non-sequiturs, and eventually just ignore me when I refuse to take the bait and keep the “debate” on their terms.

Behe is wrong in all the ways you note, and as you know, many more. But what I find even more fascinating than the numerous misrepresentations of evolution, is what would be the case if he wasn’t wrong. IOW, if any of ID’s misrepresentations of evolution had the slightest merit. I realize that, for those of us who has seen more than a little of the evidence, it takes a lot of imagination to even conceive of that possibility. But if one does that, then applies the same “convergence, neither sought nor fabricated” approach as scientists use to conclude evolution, what results from ID’s “positive” claims is indistinguishable from evolution! I wish I had been the first to notice that, but at least one prominent critic (90% sure it was Taner Edis in “Why Intelligent Design Fails”) beat me to it.

Nevertheless, I agree that any pseudoscience that insists that a designer intervenes “somewhere, somehow, at some time” technically accommodates everything from a flat earth to Last Thursdayism, as well as “all the results of Darwinism” that Dembski admitted in 2001. That’s the ID scam in a nutshell. You can almost ID peddlers behind closed doors: “Yeah we know it’s still evolution, but we spin it so that people can believe any fairy tale they want.”

Carl Drews said:

daoudmbo said:

I also don’t have access to the original Science article, but from the brief quote, I don’t understand how this has any real relevance on Gould’s argument. Does Lenski make any reference to it?

There are three occurrences of the sub-string “Gould” in the Science article. The first two were already quoted by the Original Poster. The third is:

But their [bacteria and viruses called bacteriophages] systems were still too complex to get at the question Lenski most wanted to answer: Was Gould right about evolution’s irreproducible nature, or would evolution often repeat itself if given a second chance?

The Man Who Bottled Evolution

Science 15 November 2013:

Vol. 342 no. 6160 pp. 790-793

DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6160.790

Ah, well I attributed it to be the science reporter’s talk about it, and not necessarily from Lenski himself.

Frank J said:

harold Wrote:

These systems are no more “complex” or “irreducible” than uncountable other biological systems. Therefore, by extension, Behe is making a broad argument against any significant role for evolution.

I’d like to note that while it is generous - and valuable - of you to clarify the exact positions of various ID/creationists, to the limited extent that actual solid positions can be determined or inferred, the creationists themselves never support you in this.

I hope you don’t mean that I’m being “generous” to ID peddlers. If anything I find everyone else too generous when they lump them in with honest believers. Of course ID peddlers would never support me. But of the ID peddlers that do reply (Internet amateurs, DI folk would just ban me) it’s far more revealing that they never deny it ether. They just reply with non-sequiturs, and eventually just ignore me when I refuse to take the bait and keep the “debate” on their terms.

Behe is wrong in all the ways you note, and as you know, many more. But what I find even more fascinating than the numerous misrepresentations of evolution, is what would be the case if he wasn’t wrong. IOW, if any of ID’s misrepresentations of evolution had the slightest merit. I realize that, for those of us who has seen more than a little of the evidence, it takes a lot of imagination to even conceive of that possibility. But if one does that, then applies the same “convergence, neither sought nor fabricated” approach as scientists use to conclude evolution, what results from ID’s “positive” claims is indistinguishable from evolution! I wish I had been the first to notice that, but at least one prominent critic (90% sure it was Taner Edis in “Why Intelligent Design Fails”) beat me to it.

Nevertheless, I agree that any pseudoscience that insists that a designer intervenes “somewhere, somehow, at some time” technically accommodates everything from a flat earth to Last Thursdayism, as well as “all the results of Darwinism” that Dembski admitted in 2001. That’s the ID scam in a nutshell. You can almost ID peddlers behind closed doors: “Yeah we know it’s still evolution, but we spin it so that people can believe any fairy tale they want.”

We have no significant disagreement on these subjects.

harold said: No current, relevant creationist ever says (imaginary example) “Frank is right! I believe that the earth is billions of years old but the Garden of Eden was created 6000 years ago at such and such a place by a miracle, and all living organism ancestors created at that time in such and such a way, please deal with my exact argument.”

It never happens.

As I’ve noted before, the only consistency they care about is negative consistency. “Evolution” must be contradicted in every way possible. Neither the details, nor consistency from one moment to the next, matters to them.

Since you are refering to current, relevant creationists I assume Ray Martinez is excluded. Otherwise, he believe in an old Earth and young life to get around the problem. I may have got it wrong but I think he’s explained that the geological and paleontological record is irrelevant, a new start was made in accord with Genesis. He doesn’t seem interested in any facts, rhetorics is his game - that he expect to win very soon now with the hypothetical publication of his “Refutation of Darwin.”

Laurence A. Moran said:

Elizabeth Pennisi says,

… contrary to what many biologists thought, evolution never comes to a stop, even in an unchanging environment.

I can think of only one type of biologist who thought that. They have to misunderstand two things about evolution.

1. They have to be completely ignorant of one of the main mechanisms of evolution: random genetic drift.

2. They have to believe that all extant species are perfectly adapted to their present environment so that further evolution by positive natural selection is impossible.

Are there really a lot of biologists who think that way? Or is it just Elizabeth Pennisi who is confused about evolution?

To address 2, biologists wouldn’t have to think this. Many probably believe (or at least believed) that the reason organisms are not optimally adapted (not perfectly) is that the environment is constantly changing, unlike the test tubes in Lenski’s experiment.

Rolf Wrote:

Since you are refering to current, relevant creationists I assume Ray Martinez is excluded. Otherwise, he believe in an old Earth and young life to get around the problem.

Actually Ray might be the only relevant creationist nowadays. Before creationism evolved from honest belief to full-blown pseudoscience “old Earth and young life” (day-age, gap) was more common than YEC. The “old earth” part is still accepted by a majority of the rank-and-file, if not by the most vocal activists, who either peddle YEC or “don’t ask, don’t tell what happened when.” Ray is more like the latter, in that he has repeatedly refused to even speculate on how old or young (estimated years). Anti-evolution activists in general, and especially ID peddlers, have steadily retreated from any numbers that might support any alternate origins account, and resort mostly to slippery words, and even then, mostly obsessing about evolution than about anything that might be a better explanation.

I often wonder what will replace ID’s “big tent” scam, once people notice how evasive it is and start asking for details on its “theory” instead of just refuting its many misrepresentations of evolution. What seems most likely is the very new-agey “what is time anyway?” approach. That would be a perfect fit to ID’s “heads I win, tails you lose” gimmick. Since Ray has already used that as an excuse to avoid answering simple questions, he’s ahead of the curve among activists.

So let’s have some fun and see what the “creationism of the future” will be like. Since time depends on the observer, the earth can be billions of years old and 1000s at the same time. So YEC and OEC are both true! Ray once said that his magnum opus would be published by the end of 2007. So either it is published and “Darwinism” is dead, or 2007 is still in the future, and “Darwinism” is on the way out. ;-)

Actually, the fact that E.Coli, after 25 years, show no signs of requiring additional machinery, appendages, etc says a lot about evolution as a management tool rather than a development tool.

The issue is not that E.Coli will never turn into humans, but they don’t require it. They like their minuscule lives just the way they are.

And this can be said for all of life’s organisms.

Karen S. said:

After 25 years, not one E. coli bacterium has turned into a human. Therefore, it follows that evolution is false.

It would seem that E.Coli metabolizing citrate is not such a formidable feat.

After all, other bacteria are able to metabolize citrate and glucose at the same time. Meaning bacteria don’t need added machinery to make the jump from glucose to citrate. They can make the jump with existing tools.

A greater achievement would be for E.Coli to make an extraordinary jump between two substrates that do not have an affinity to each other like glucose and citrate apparently do.

Further, has Lenski sought to reintroduce the bacteria into the wild so to speak to see how well they perform in a natural environment. Would they out compete the ‘wild ones’?

Steven said:

It would seem that E.Coli metabolizing citrate is not such a formidable feat.

After all, other bacteria are able to metabolize citrate and glucose at the same time. Meaning bacteria don’t need added machinery to make the jump from glucose to citrate. They can make the jump with existing tools.

A greater achievement would be for E.Coli to make an extraordinary jump between two substrates that do not have an affinity to each other like glucose and citrate apparently do.

Further, has Lenski sought to reintroduce the bacteria into the wild so to speak to see how well they perform in a natural environment. Would they out compete the ‘wild ones’?

How about placing “wild” bacteria into the petri dish and see how well they compete?

Steven said:

Actually, the fact that E.Coli, after 25 years, show no signs of requiring additional machinery, appendages, etc says a lot about evolution as a management tool rather than a development tool.

Evolution is neither a management tool nor a development tool. It is a coherent explanation of millions of facts.

The issue is not that E.Coli will never turn into humans, but they don’t require it. They like their minuscule lives just the way they are.

And this can be said for all of life’s organisms.

Let’s see, anthropomorphizing, completely baseless assertion about all organisms, yes, yes, the scent is strong here…

Steven said:

It would seem that E.Coli metabolizing citrate is not such a formidable feat.

After all, other bacteria are able to metabolize citrate and glucose at the same time. Meaning bacteria don’t need added machinery to make the jump from glucose to citrate. They can make the jump with existing tools.

So it’s no big deal that the theory of evolution explains how E. coli mutates to metabolize citrates. It’s no big deal because other bacteria can already do that, right?

Steven, let me ask you this. Have you been born-again? Do you believe in intelligent design or special creation? Are you certain that the theory of evolution is evil, evil, evil, the very hell-spawn of the Deceiver?

I ask because the smell seems so strong.

Steven said:

It would seem that E.Coli metabolizing citrate is not such a formidable feat.

After all, other bacteria are able to metabolize citrate and glucose at the same time.

It would seem that breathing water is not such a formidable feat.

After all, other creatures do it all the time. It’s just a matter of extracting the same oxygen out of a somewhat denser medium.

Still, I suspect that if we tied Steven to a rock and dropped him in a lake, he’d find the task a little more daunting than it might seem at first glance.

phhht said:

Steven said:

Actually, the fact that E.Coli, after 25 years, show no signs of requiring additional machinery, appendages, etc says a lot about evolution as a management tool rather than a development tool.

Evolution is neither a management tool nor a development tool. It is a coherent explanation of millions of facts.

The issue is not that E.Coli will never turn into humans, but they don’t require it. They like their minuscule lives just the way they are.

And this can be said for all of life’s organisms.

Let’s see, anthropomorphizing, completely baseless assertion about all organisms, yes, yes, the scent is strong here…

Steven said:

It would seem that E.Coli metabolizing citrate is not such a formidable feat.

After all, other bacteria are able to metabolize citrate and glucose at the same time. Meaning bacteria don’t need added machinery to make the jump from glucose to citrate. They can make the jump with existing tools.

So it’s no big deal that the theory of evolution explains how E. coli mutates to metabolize citrates. It’s no big deal because other bacteria can already do that, right?

Steven, let me ask you this. Have you been born-again? Do you believe in intelligent design or special creation? Are you certain that the theory of evolution is evil, evil, evil, the very hell-spawn of the Deceiver?

I ask because the smell seems so strong.

OH, and do you, Steven, by any chance, market textiles in the East?

Steven said:

It would seem that E.Coli metabolizing citrate is not such a formidable feat.

After all, other bacteria are able to metabolize citrate and glucose at the same time. Meaning bacteria don’t need added machinery to make the jump from glucose to citrate. They can make the jump with existing tools.

A greater achievement would be for E.Coli to make an extraordinary jump between two substrates that do not have an affinity to each other like glucose and citrate apparently do.

Further, has Lenski sought to reintroduce the bacteria into the wild so to speak to see how well they perform in a natural environment. Would they out compete the ‘wild ones’?

I take it that you read absolutely nothing of what Lenski actually wrote.

If metabolizing citrate is “not such a formidable feat”, why do you suppose it took 20 years and 20,000(+) generations to do so?

The point of the experiment was to see if evolution could induce traits in the chosen bacteria which were novel to those bacteria. It doesn’t matter if other bacteria could do the same thing. If this set of bacteria did not have that feature before, and now they do, that is something new to this set of bacteria.

Secondly, it wasn’t just citrate metabolism that evolved. Other bacteria in the study evolved other traits as well. One set evolved the ability to generate mutations at 100 times the normal rate. Essentially, this subset of bacteria evolved the ability to evolve faster. They evolved evolvability.

Third, it is immaterial to the experiment whether Lenski’s bacteria can out-compete “wild” bacteria. That’s not the point. Evolution does not mean that Lenski’s bacteria are “better” than other bacteria. Evolution simply means that the child bacteria are different than their parents, and are more successful in the environment in which they currently live, meaning the beakers that Lenski put them in.

Lastly, I’m no scientist, but if you had read Lenski’s emails, you would have discovered that, far from intentionally releasing such bacteria into the wild, scientists are required to be very careful with the bacteria, and are required to destroy them when the experiment is finished, so that they cannot contaminate the “natural” environment.

Poor phhht, still the motive monger.

As for anthropomorphizing, design deniers do their fair share of attributing to evolution all sorts of capabilities like creating, choosing, co-opting; all sorts of intelligence activity. Yet evolution is a process, an outcome. How can evolution in fact create, choose, or co-opt? Yes, yes, just a figure of speech. Or is it?

It would be interesting to see any design denier here explain what evolution does without reference to any terminology that could be misconstrued as being anthropomorphic; meaning leaving off the use of words like create, adapt, choose, design, build, co-opt, assimilate, combine, integrate, process, etc. etc.

A true non-goal oriented, non-designed, non-purposeful evolutionary narrative would only make reference to chemical processes and their inevitable impact on subsequent processes, resulting in molecular configurations that, due solely to the physics and chemistry could only result in what we observe, thus avoiding the need or the desire to use anthropomorphic language, even as a convenience.

phhht, is there a strong smell of physics and chemistry in your area, that is so overwhelming, design speak becomes unnecessary, even obsolete?

phhht said:

Steven said:

Actually, the fact that E.Coli, after 25 years, show no signs of requiring additional machinery, appendages, etc says a lot about evolution as a management tool rather than a development tool.

Evolution is neither a management tool nor a development tool. It is a coherent explanation of millions of facts.

The issue is not that E.Coli will never turn into humans, but they don’t require it. They like their minuscule lives just the way they are.

And this can be said for all of life’s organisms.

Let’s see, anthropomorphizing, completely baseless assertion about all organisms, yes, yes, the scent is strong here…

Steven said:

It would seem that E.Coli metabolizing citrate is not such a formidable feat.

After all, other bacteria are able to metabolize citrate and glucose at the same time. Meaning bacteria don’t need added machinery to make the jump from glucose to citrate. They can make the jump with existing tools.

So it’s no big deal that the theory of evolution explains how E. coli mutates to metabolize citrates. It’s no big deal because other bacteria can already do that, right?

Steven, let me ask you this. Have you been born-again? Do you believe in intelligent design or special creation? Are you certain that the theory of evolution is evil, evil, evil, the very hell-spawn of the Deceiver?

I ask because the smell seems so strong.

STFW???!!!

This is an argument for stasis. In this generation, this colony is the fittest. But in the next genereation, that colony is the fittest. The end result is that that species of bacteria is alway fit. Evolution is not linear, but trapped within a range. When it starts to move outside that range, action is taken to bring it back to the mean (Just like in currency trading. When prices move far away from the 20 day average, the pressure is to come back to value. And it always does.)

IANS, Evolution is the observation of oscillating traits that maintain an organisms fitness. It is a maintenance junkie, not a building contractor. Lenski’s work proves the former, not the latter.

To prove evolution is a building contractor, Lenski would have to induce the bacteria to be able to metabolize a slew of substrates, further and further removed from its comfort zone of glucose and citrate. Bacteria are able to move back and forth between glucose and citrate precisely because there is an affinity; a closeness, mutation-wise; a foot bridge bacteria are able to navigate.

Lenski has not tested how big a bridge bacteria can cross. That would be the ultimate test of evolution’s capacity for building stuff.

An ID prediction made by Behe is that organisms like bacteria are only able to cross foot bridges; not able to cross expansion bridges. So far, Lenski’s work is actually confirming Behe’s prediction, not falsifying it.

And its a good thing, too. If bacteria were in fact able to cross expansion bridges, we’d be in a world of shit because they would be unstoppable. It is precisely because they can only cross foot bridges, that we can at least control the damage they can do, if not defeat them outright.

Third, it is immaterial to the experiment whether Lenski’s bacteria can out-compete “wild” bacteria. That’s not the point. Evolution does not mean that Lenski’s bacteria are “better” than other bacteria. Evolution simply means that the child bacteria are different than their parents, and are more successful in the environment in which they currently live, meaning the beakers that Lenski put them in.

Yep, it’s stevie p again. Hiya, steve, overthrown biology yet? Been offered the Nobel for finding out anything new? No? How’s the rag trade in Taiwan, then?

To the extent that steve’s post makes any sense at all, he appears to be decrying the terms in which evolution is described by biologists. But biologists have to communicate in human languages, especially when trying to describe their work to non-scientists, and all language carries implications from prescientific modes of thought. This is hardly surprising; the basic structure and the ordinary vocabulary of all languages was not designed any more than living things are, and arose long before science itself. Scientists have to make do with what communication tools they have.

Science has its own coined technical terms, but often uses common words in a specialised sense. This has the disadvantage that they often contain implications that are not applicable, nor meant, including implications of intent or conscious decision, and the words on steve’s list are examples of this.

Of course creationists make hay with this, but they do the same with scientific coined words of very precise meaning, too. Consider what they’ve done with “entropy”, for instance.

Suppose we stipulate that notwithstanding the possible implications of words like “create, adapt, choose, design, build, co-opt, assimilate, combine, integrate, process, etc, etc”, no biologist means to imply that some part of the process of biological evolution involves conscious thought, design, or intent.

Would that make you happy, steve?

Stevie has never explained any of the evidence for common descent. He is in fact completely and willfully ignorant of all of this evidence. And yet he demands that in order to prove evolution, one must get bacteria to change into something completely different in twenty years in a test tube.

If the administrators can indeed confirm that this is the poster who formerly posted under the name Steve P then he has violated the rules of this site and should be banned permanently.

If this is not Stevie P, then he should learn that evolution proceeds through processes such as random mutation, natural selection, genetic drift, etc. There is no evidence of any intelligence, forethought, planning or design in any of these processes. If there were, the natural world would look much different. Until Steve can provide evidence of such processes, we will just have to wait for pigs to evolve the ability to fly.

Steven said:

And its a good thing, too. If bacteria were in fact able to cross expansion bridges, we’d be in a world of shit because they would be unstoppable. It is precisely because they can only cross foot bridges, that we can at least control the damage they can do, if not defeat them outright.

This is hilarious. The shear amount of reality one has to ignore to make this statement boggles the mind. Bacteria have successfully conquered not only the most inconceivable of locations on and below the surface of the earth and make up the bulk of life on earth by orders of magnitude, but have also co-opted nearly every living thing on the planet as a environmental host. The different types of bacteria existing today are likely numbered in the billions. We could radiate the surface of the earth with nuclear weapons and they would in time return to conquer it. The grounds of Chernobyl are now brimming with microbial life using the radiation as an energy source. Thank the FSM that bacteria are so unsuccessful and stoppable.

SteveP, like the rest of us, is a walking colony. He is walking around made up of more cells that are not him than are. He ignores the fact that some types of bacteria are more different from each other than humans are from a slime mold. He also says …

Steven said: When it starts to move outside that range, action is taken to bring it back to the mean.

Tell me SteveP, how similar are the bacteria that inhabit the earth kilometers deep and the flora in your gut ? What “mean” are they going to return to ?

His argument is nothing more than a dressed up “but they are still bacteria” and “why are there still bacteria?” couched in a strawman that “Darwinism” says we should see them turning into something entirely different before our very eyes. He forwards, like Behe, a modern version of Plato’s Ideal Forms dressed up in current terminology which seems to be the latest trend in the trolls I’ve observed lately in the forums and websites that discuss evolution.

I should add that it’s obvious that SteveP will reject all of this and maintain that all of these types of bacteria are not related through decent and designed individually as they are. *poof* … no evolution as described occurs. Like strings on a guitar they just “oscillate” in place and …

Steven said: … action is taken to bring it back to the mean.

This of course ignores the common descent he denies, which by the way, Behe does not. In the case of bacteria we can now use evolutionary principles of descent in the lab to identify bacterial infections and specifically target them for treatment. Yet another thing IDCreationism “science” will never be useful for.

Never mind that SteveP will not and cannot describe what “actions” are taken to “bring it back to the mean”. It’s just another empty assertion of his.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Come out from behind your silly mask and state it plain, SkevieP: You only say “design” because you think it gives you some cover for your indefensible belief in the supernatural.

Got any evidence yet, Skevie? Can you show us a god? Can you tell us how to detect a god? Can you cite one single real-world effect which is unambiguously the work of your gods?

No, I thought not.

Steven said:

Poor phhht, still the motive monger.

As for anthropomorphizing, design deniers do their fair share of attributing to evolution all sorts of capabilities like creating, choosing, co-opting; all sorts of intelligence activity. Yet evolution is a process, an outcome. How can evolution in fact create, choose, or co-opt? Yes, yes, just a figure of speech. Or is it?

It would be interesting to see any design denier here explain what evolution does without reference to any terminology that could be misconstrued as being anthropomorphic; meaning leaving off the use of words like create, adapt, choose, design, build, co-opt, assimilate, combine, integrate, process, etc. etc.

A true non-goal oriented, non-designed, non-purposeful evolutionary narrative would only make reference to chemical processes and their inevitable impact on subsequent processes, resulting in molecular configurations that, due solely to the physics and chemistry could only result in what we observe, thus avoiding the need or the desire to use anthropomorphic language, even as a convenience.

phhht, is there a strong smell of physics and chemistry in your area, that is so overwhelming, design speak becomes unnecessary, even obsolete?

phhht said:

Steven said:

Actually, the fact that E.Coli, after 25 years, show no signs of requiring additional machinery, appendages, etc says a lot about evolution as a management tool rather than a development tool.

Evolution is neither a management tool nor a development tool. It is a coherent explanation of millions of facts.

The issue is not that E.Coli will never turn into humans, but they don’t require it. They like their minuscule lives just the way they are.

And this can be said for all of life’s organisms.

Let’s see, anthropomorphizing, completely baseless assertion about all organisms, yes, yes, the scent is strong here…

Steven said:

It would seem that E.Coli metabolizing citrate is not such a formidable feat.

After all, other bacteria are able to metabolize citrate and glucose at the same time. Meaning bacteria don’t need added machinery to make the jump from glucose to citrate. They can make the jump with existing tools.

So it’s no big deal that the theory of evolution explains how E. coli mutates to metabolize citrates. It’s no big deal because other bacteria can already do that, right?

Steven, let me ask you this. Have you been born-again? Do you believe in intelligent design or special creation? Are you certain that the theory of evolution is evil, evil, evil, the very hell-spawn of the Deceiver?

I ask because the smell seems so strong.

Just a nitpick with the word adapt. I don’t see why it should be included in the list of anthropomorphic terms. It is a technical term that does not imply any intelligence, consciousness, thought or planning. It is a well understood process that is observed every day in laboratory and real world populations. The Lenski experiment showed obvious adaptation with no intelligence involved, regardless of what Stevie claims.

Now if this really is Stevie PP, he does seem to have a problem with the concept of selection. So I guess to him, “adapt” might somehow seem anthropomorphic, but that’s his problem. Just because he doesn’t understand biology doesn’t mean that he gets to dictate how real scientists use technical terms. Unless of course he can demonstrate the “intelligence” involved in changing the beak size of Galopagos Finches. Hey Stevie, if that’s you, did you know that we have micro array data and in situ hybridization data and have identified the morphogenic factors that affect beak size? I would list the references but, if that really is you, experience shows that it would be a waste of time. Still waitin for any evidence of finch “intelligence” from you though.

And by the way Stevie, if bacteria are intelligent and that is why they can cross “foot bridges”, why can’t they cross “expansion bridges”? Ain’t they intelligent enough? Could more intelligent species such as dolphins cross “expansion bridges”? If not, why not? Come on Steve, explain it to us. We is all dying to know.

Steven said:

Poor phhht, still the motive monger.

As for anthropomorphizing, design deniers do their fair share of attributing to evolution all sorts of capabilities like creating, choosing, co-opting; all sorts of intelligence activity. Yet evolution is a process, an outcome. How can evolution in fact create, choose, or co-opt? Yes, yes, just a figure of speech. Or is it?

The difference in how scientists and ID/Creationists use anthropomorphic language is in no way similar. When an evolutionary biologist anthropomorphizes to explain a concept, he/she understands this is done only to make some aspect of a natural process more clearly understood. It is not done to imply the natural process is in some way intelligent as you suggest. OTH, ID/Creationists use these anthropomorphic words to beg the question just like you are doing.

It would be interesting to see any design denier here explain what evolution does without reference to any terminology that could be misconstrued as being anthropomorphic; meaning leaving off the use of words like create, adapt, choose, design, build, co-opt, assimilate, combine, integrate, process, etc. etc.

And why on earth would any evolutionary biologist do what you suggest? I’m sure you would love to make evolutionary science even more difficult to comprehend, but then again you don’t make the rules scientists follow when they explain their work, do you?

A true non-goal oriented, non-designed, non-purposeful evolutionary narrative would only make reference to chemical processes and their inevitable impact on subsequent processes, resulting in molecular configurations that, due solely to the physics and chemistry could only result in what we observe, thus avoiding the need or the desire to use anthropomorphic language, even as a convenience.

And some scientists do exactly what you suggest, however, the same also have the freedom to explain things however they see fit. Some people understand that even imprecise language can be used as a tool to convey ideas, others like to use that same tool to subvert ideas they don’t like. I wonder which category you fit into.

Steven said:

It would seem that E.Coli metabolizing citrate is not such a formidable feat.

After all, other bacteria are able to metabolize citrate and glucose at the same time. Meaning bacteria don’t need added machinery to make the jump from glucose to citrate. They can make the jump with existing tools.

A greater achievement would be for E.Coli to make an extraordinary jump between two substrates that do not have an affinity to each other like glucose and citrate apparently do.

Are you aware that all other strains of Escherichia coli can not metabolize citrate? This inability to metabolize citrate happens to be a defining trait of E. coli, and your arrogant ignorance of this trait sort of helps to shoot down the rest of your pitiful attempt at an argument.

That, and what do you mean by “existing machinery”? Do you mean “enzymes?” Are you aware that all living organisms need enzymes to metabolism food, and that different enzymes arise through mutation?

Further, has Lenski sought to reintroduce the bacteria into the wild so to speak to see how well they perform in a natural environment.

No, because such a concern is totally irrelevant to the purpose of Lenski’s experiment, which is documenting the differences between each of the different generations.

Would they out compete the ‘wild ones’?

If you actually ever bothered to read about evolutionary biology and microbiology, daughter populations that have adapted to a specific environment tend to fair poorly when taken away from their preferred environment. Either way, whether or not a daughter population fairs poorly or succeeds better in their parent population’s preferred environment is not an invalidation of Evolution: the fact that the daughter population has become distinct from the parent population is a validation of Evolution.

Rikki_Tikki_Taalik said:

Steven said: When it starts to move outside that range, action is taken to bring it back to the mean.

Tell me SteveP, how similar are the bacteria that inhabit the earth kilometers deep and the flora in your gut ? What “mean” are they going to return to ?

His argument is nothing more than a dressed up “but they are still bacteria” and “why are there still bacteria?” couched in a strawman that “Darwinism” says we should see them turning into something entirely different before our very eyes. He forwards, like Behe, a modern version of Plato’s Ideal Forms dressed up in current terminology which seems to be the latest trend in the trolls I’ve observed lately in the forums and websites that discuss evolution.

More importantly, why should anyone take SteveP’s pitiful “arguments” seriously? All of his arguments stem from his deliberate ignorance of science, which in turn, stems from his irrational hatred of education.

apokryltaros said: More importantly, why should anyone take SteveP’s pitiful “arguments” seriously? All of his arguments stem from his deliberate ignorance of science, which in turn, stems from his irrational hatred of education.

You certainly have a point. The truth is I’m tired from travel and I’m probably missing the mark anyway. Not that my facts are wrong or inapplicable, but that they don’t quite address the arguments he thinks he’s making. From Steve’s perspective, as long as he can conjure fictitious expansion bridges gaps for the designer (of whom we dare not speak)* to hide in, it’s all good.

I’m not sure why any creationist, including YECs, would have a problem with any evolution or “adaption” of bacteria anyway. Aren’t bacteria all of one or a few “kinds” that have “micro-evolved” into billions of species in the last 4,000 years or so since the big boat ride ?

Another sign I’m overtired is seeing that I mistakenly included Behe as someone who has engaged in some sort of an ideal form argument. I’m not sure where that came from. The posts I’ve made here are about as useful to anyone as the one time I attempted to engage Robert. I am enjoying the spanking new “design denier” bit though, so there’s that. At any rate, thanks for helping to bring me to my senses.

* kind of like Lord Voldemort

remind me again Luckett what grade you are in? It seems ‘stevie’ and ‘rag trade’ are some sort of feel good rhetoric, some emotional balm. This is the kind of stuff you accuse evolution deniers of doing. Why do you bother?

Simply say what you want to say. ‘stevie’s and rag trade’s are not gonna somehow rattle anyone. Just makes you look like that snot-nosed, immature, confused, grade schooler.

As to your comment, of course those words are chosen willfully. In order for evolution to compete with in the minds the ordinary public, it must avoid stale, cold, technical, abstract descriptions to gain traction. The NCSE show this well as do some prominent advocates of Darwinian evolution. So co-opting design language does the trick. and they do it shamelessly. Just look at Dawkin’s writings.

Yep, it’s stevie p again. Hiya, steve, overthrown biology yet? Been offered the Nobel for finding out anything new? No? How’s the rag trade in Taiwan, then?

‘Stevie”? Whatsupwiththat? Taking a cue from Luckett?? Most assuredly, your argument is better when adding a ‘stevie’.

As for your comment, it is YOUR (pl) claim that evolution can build stuff. Unfortunately, that claim resides in the realm of rhetoric. Lenski could continue his experiment for centuries but it would not yield any macro-evolutionary change because macro-evolution has been terminated; the program executed and completed. No need for any further macro-evolutionary change. All major niches are filled. Oscillating traits in tandem with oscillating environmental change is all that is required to maintain life. And that is what we observe. Nothing more.

Duh.

Stevie has never explained any of the evidence for common descent. He is in fact completely and willfully ignorant of all of this evidence. And yet he demands that in order to prove evolution, one must get bacteria to change into something completely different in twenty years in a test tube.

Rikki Tikki,

Reading comprehension remedial skills are in order.

IANS, because bacteria can only cross foot bridges, humans are able to keep the malevolent ones at bay. We can control infection for the most part. If bacteria could cross expansion bridges, they would be able to evade any human attack in short order. They are formidable even with their humble few mutation limit.

So, again its a good things they are reigned in by their design. Or we’d be in a world of shit.

And for the record, the fact that they evolve says nothing about non-goal oriented, non-purposeful, non-designed darwinian evolution. Bacteria come in all shapes and sizes. So what? Its because of chance and necessity? I think not. Bacteria like other microbes played a vital role in the development of,and now help maintain the correct rations of gases in the earth’s atmosphere.

Definetely design.

I’ll show you God when you SHOW me natural selection.

Until then, STFU. But you won’t. You live for this, phhht.

Got any evidence yet, Skevie? Can you show us a god? Can you tell us how to detect a god? Can you cite one single real-world effect which is unambiguously the work of your gods?

Not gonna say a single solitary word in defense of your loony beliefs in the supernatural, huh Skevie.

You can’t say why you believe gods are real. You can’t explain why you worship a reanimated corpse. You can’t say how to detect design objectively. Hell, you can’t even define the word.

Well, I don’t blame you for keeping your mouth shut. There is really nothing you can say. That stuff’s nothing but metastasized superstition, and you can’t defend it any better than any other sufferer.

Steven said:

Rikki Tikki,

Reading comprehension remedial skills are in order.

IANS, because bacteria can only cross foot bridges, humans are able to keep the malevolent ones at bay. We can control infection for the most part. If bacteria could cross expansion bridges, they would be able to evade any human attack in short order. They are formidable even with their humble few mutation limit.

So, again its a good things they are reigned in by their design. Or we’d be in a world of shit.

And for the record, the fact that they evolve says nothing about non-goal oriented, non-purposeful, non-designed darwinian evolution. Bacteria come in all shapes and sizes. So what? Its because of chance and necessity? I think not. Bacteria like other microbes played a vital role in the development of,and now help maintain the correct rations of gases in the earth’s atmosphere.

Definetely design.

DS, the grand Poobah of evolution weighs in with yet another clever ‘stevie” and a not quite grammatically correct ‘ain’t’.

The answer, design baby. Design.

Verified by experiment. Just ask Lenski. Just ask a pharmaceutical company.

Densities in ten cities. Which one do you live in, DS?

And by the way Stevie, if bacteria are intelligent and that is why they can cross “foot bridges”, why can’t they cross “expansion bridges”? Ain’t they intelligent enough? Could more intelligent species such as dolphins cross “expansion bridges”? If not, why not? Come on Steve, explain it to us. We is all dying to know.

Define “design.”

Go ahead, and make sure you do it well enough to allow us to distinguish the designed from the non-designed.

Not so much spittle-flinging now, huh Skevie. Oh no. When it comes to precision, when it comes to concreteness, well, suddenly the rest is silence.

Steven said:

DS, the grand Poobah of evolution weighs in with yet another clever ‘stevie” and a not quite grammatically correct ‘ain’t’.

The answer, design baby. Design.

Verified by experiment. Just ask Lenski. Just ask a pharmaceutical company.

Densities in ten cities. Which one do you live in, DS?

And by the way Stevie, if bacteria are intelligent and that is why they can cross “foot bridges”, why can’t they cross “expansion bridges”? Ain’t they intelligent enough? Could more intelligent species such as dolphins cross “expansion bridges”? If not, why not? Come on Steve, explain it to us. We is all dying to know.

No further comments from or about Steven, please. If there are any more I will disable comments on this thread.

Stanton hits the nail on the head. Zeroed right in to the crux of the matter. Ignorance, hatred. Thats what’s it all about.

It is never about evolution not being an intelligent process. Couldn’t be. God (uh, huh)forbid evolution should exhibit signs of intelligence.

Curious how humans, embedded in nature, design stuff. But the author of that design capability, namely nature does is not itself capable of designing stuff.

Howsthatwork, Stanton???

More importantly, why should anyone take SteveP’s pitiful “arguments” seriously? All of his arguments stem from his deliberate ignorance of science, which in turn, stems from his irrational hatred of education.

As you wish, Matt. My last comment.

Frank J said:

Ray once said that his magnum opus would be published by the end of 2007.

I wasn’t aware of that. He has been using the example of Darwin as a defense why he himself take so long to publish, ignoring the fact that Darwin had his theory of Natural Selection in place long before he decided to go public. Ray better hurry lest he will come in far behind Darwin by a solid margin even on that subject .

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on November 24, 2013 12:42 PM.

When President Kennedy was shot was the previous entry in this blog.

Corvus corax is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter