Some sixteen months ago, we here at The Big Upshot took note of an amazing 21 year study in which bacteria were grown in a high citrate environment to which they were poorly adapted. After some 40,000 generations, the bacteria actually invented a new phenotype, true evolution in action.
This was not mere adaptation, but real bona-fide generation of novel “designed” attributes. This is like an animal with a beak turning into an animal with teeth given sufficient time and incentive. It turns out that what might seem “irreducibly complex” is not actually all that irreducible. Richard Lenski’s lab carefully saved samples of the little creatures all along the way, like an artificial fossil record. So not only is the proof eating citrate in a petri dish, something its ancestors couldn’t do, but the precise genetic changes that got it there are all “on file,” so to speak.
I’ve been waiting with bated breath for the follow up study where they go through the lineage of the Strain that Evolved. And lo, it has arrived. I’m going to level with you all, this is really, really cool. Kudos to all of the authors. If anybody ever tries to sell some intelligent design (deity-sign?) to you, slap this on the table like it’s your enormous stick of science.