Readers will recall Michael Behe’s book Darwin Devolves, which posited that evolution consisted largely of breaking or blunting genes to secure an immediate selective advantage. It turns out others in the field agree with him without citing him:
Now Behe has been vindicated again by a 2021 paper in Nature Heredity, which agrees that “loss-of-function” mutations are prevalent in the evolutionary process:
“Views on loss-of-function mutations — those abolishing a gene’s biomolecular activity — have changed considerably over the last half century. Early theories of molecular evolution that emerged during the 1960’s and 1970’s saw little potential for loss-of-function mutations to contribute to adaptation (Maynard Smith 1970). Except in the case of inactivated gene duplicates, nonfunctional alleles were often assumed to be lethal, with adaptation being generally regarded as a process explained only by the fixation of single, mutationally rare alleles that improved or altered a gene’s function (Orr 2005). Only relatively recently, through discoveries enabled by the availability of molecular sequence data, were alternative views of adaptive loss-of-function alleles formalized, most notably with the “less is more” ideas proposed by Olson (1999). Classical paradigms of molecular evolution had by that time been challenged, for example, by evidence that natural loss-of-function variants of CCR5 lead to reduced HIV susceptibility in humans (Libert et al. 1998). Discoveries during the subsequent two decades have continued to support the idea that loss of function contributes to adaptation (Murray 2020), with cases of adaptive or beneficial loss of function being discovered across diverse organisms, genes, traits, and environments.” (MONROE ET AL., 2021, “THE POPULATION GENOMICS OF ADAPTIVE LOSS OF FUNCTION,” NATURE HEREDITY)
You might notice that the final citation in the quote above is to Murray (2020) — that’s the same Andrew Murray mentioned above, the Harvard geneticist I wrote about last year who similarly proposed that evolutionary adaptations frequently proceed by breaking functionality at the molecular level. Professor Murray’s paper was appropriately cited, but unfortunately this 2021 paper conspicuously avoids citing Behe’s 2010 paper in the respected Quarterly Review of Biology, “Experimental evolution, loss-of-function mutations, and ‘the first rule of adaptive evolution’.” There, Behe makes similar arguments. Nor does it cite Behe’s 2019 book Darwin Devolves. But it’s enough to accept the vindication even if we don’t get the citation.Casey Luskin, “Vindicated But Not Cited: Paper in Nature Heredity Supports Michael Behe’s Devolution Hypothesis” at Evolution News and Science Today
Well, if one must choose, it is better to be vindicated than merely cited.