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Pteryxx's avatar

Science. Class.

Fanart for a scientist. Story continues below, or skip to the end for such technical specs as I can provide.

Richard Lenski's lab has been patiently growing common E. coli, observing their evolution, since 1988. Twenty years, 44,000 generations of bugs. Recently they discovered that one of their descendant flasks had become able to metabolize and grow on citrate - something E.coli doesn't do. They proved that the citrate-eating bugs weren't contaminated and had arisen directly from the original E.coli through a series of mutations. They showed evolution in action.

The discovery alone would be spectacular enough; but Lenski's work and Lenski himself were promptly attacked by an anti-evolution ideologue, claiming everything from lying to fraud and ordering Lenski to 'turn over his data'. Lenski responded with grace, with patient explanation, and only a touch of sarcasm - impressive considering the insults flung at him. And he uses the honed tools of a scientific mind to calmly demolish every accusation and logical fallacy.

"First, it seems that reading might not be your strongest suit given your initial letter, which showed that you had not read our paper, and given subsequent conversations with your followers, in which you wrote that you still had not bothered to read our paper. You wrote: "I did skim Lenski's paper ..." If you have not even read the original paper, how do you have any basis of understanding from which to question, much less criticize, the data that are presented therein?"

Lenski says on his own site that he does not consider himself one of the champions of science, on equal footing with those crusaders whose sites are now following the discussion. However, his work, and now his response defending it, proves he can rise to the challenge.

"I offer this lengthy reply because I am an educator as well as a scientist. It is my sincere hope that some readers might learn something from this exchange, even if you do not."

Acclaimed science writer Carl Zimmer's article on Lenski's recent discovery:

PZ Myers's blog entries on Lenski's replies (Be warned, PZ Myers fights mysticism and is often disrespectful of it):


Link to Richard Lenski's website at Michigan State University:

This drawing continues my experimentation with white on black. I think I did better at building a human face, again my weakest subject, by patches of bright and brighter areas and leaving voids for the dark bits. I also learned that the dark areas don't actually have to be brightened in proportion to the skin tones, say... if it's built up enough, something in the eye takes over and normalizes the whole to what was intended. The texture still sucks - it looks like a bad woodcut close up, but if I hold it at arm's length and squint, it does seem to blur into a real, dimensioned shape.

Dr. Richard Lenski's image was drawn with close reference to the photograph on his webpage cited above, taken by Bruce Fox of MSU. The molecule at the bottom is citrate, for his discovery. At the left is a culture flask, stretching into the distance in recognition of the sheer amount of work that has gone into, and is still continuing in, this project. At right are a tall tree and a sapling, to connote the twenty year span of this experiment, and a 5% difference between their shadows is intended to represent the 20-minute generation time of E.coli. And at top are two stylized E.coli rampant.

Time taken, three hours. White 'charcoal pencil' on black construction paper, and courage.
Image details
Image size
2403x2484px 5.72 MB
HP pst3300
Date Taken
Jun 28, 2008, 12:20:19 AM
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godofwarlover's avatar
All I know is this pissed off Assfly and Ken Ham denied it as usual