The good folks over at the <A HREF=http://www.arn.org>Access Research Network</A> have <A HREF=http://www.arn.org/docs2/news/Magnuson072204.htm>this post</A> up about some recent work published in the <A HREF=http://www.pnas.org>PNAS</A>. The paper in question is entitled “Nitrate Assimilation in Plant Shoots Depends on Photorespiration” and is available <A HREF=http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0404388101v1?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=Arnold+Bloom&searchid=1091140042535_6730&stored_search=&FIRSTINDEX=0>here</A>. A readable summary of the paper’s findings can be found <A HREF=http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2004-07/uoc–prn072104.php>here</A>.
The primary finding of the paper is that the photorespiration system in plants, which decreases the efficiency of photosynthesis, also serves an important function in allowing plants to convert nitrate into organic forms of nitrogen. Prior to this work it was commonly thought that the photorespiration was just an evolutionary vestige from a time when the atmosphere contained more carbon dioxide than it does today.
The ID’s are presenting this as an indictment of evolutionary theory. The ARN summary concludes with this observation: “Evolutionary presuppositions stood in the way of scientific progress. A design model would have simply tried to determine the reason for the phenomenon. ”
To put it kindly, this is hardly the only interpretation of the facts. I have posted <A HREF=http://evolutionblog.blogspot.com/2004/07/nitrate-assimilation-in-plant-shoots.html>a complete reply</A> to this piece of ID silliness over at <A HREF=http://evolutionblog.blogspot.com>EvolutionBlog</A>. While crafting my reply, I contacted Dr. Arnold Bloom of UC Davis, the lead author of the paper. I showed him the summary of his work at ARN. He was not amused, and he gave me permission to use his reply in my posting. Check it out!