Last week The New York Times ran this article by Kenneth Chang. He was reporting on recent work on protein evolution:
Offering insight into how evolution progresses inside a gene, scientists have pinpointed mutations in an ancient protein that transformed its shape and function more than 400 million years ago. Scientists at the University of Oregon and the University of North Carolina used modern technologies to conduct an archaeology of genes and help answer a longstanding question about how proteins change over time and develop new roles. “We have now seen the mechanisms by which a new function evolves at the atomic level, how evolution sculpted the protein structure to produce a new function,” said Joseph W. Thornton, a biology professor at Oregon who led the research.
Fascinating stuff! There’s nothing novel in the idea that proteins can acquire new functions through evolution, but the level of detail here is simply astounding.
Of course, this work has obvious relevance to evolution/ID dust-ups. It was not long before Michael Behe devoted a lengthy blog entry to showing – are you sitting down? – that this work actually provides stronger evidence for design than it does for evolution. Over at EvolutionBlog, I have a lengthy discussion of why Behe is wrong. Comments can be left there. Enjoy!