The Nobel Prize in Biochemistry 2009.
"for his contributions to understanding complex biological systems"
Michael Behe (1952 - ) wins the Nobel Prize in Biochemistry for his amazing work on complex biological systems, especially the concept of irreducible complexity.
Beginning with the publication of his first book, Darwin's Black Box, Behe has written numerous articles on the organization of molecular machines such as the snare complex of Mus musculus and the bacterial flagellum. He has shown that these systems exhibit a fundamental property that previous biochemists overlooked—they are so well integrated that their origin cannot be explained by the older naturalistic theory of natural selection.
His later work, The Edge of Evolution, is a seminal contribution to modern evolutionary theory. In that book he explains how previous versions of evolution are incapable of explaining the origin of protein-protein interaction sites.
The presentation speech highlights the importance of this work.
The development of protein features, such as protein-protein binding sites, that require the participation of multiple amino acid residues is a profound, fundamental problem that has stumped the evolutionary biology community until the present day (and continues to do so, as I explain below). It is a fundamental problem because all proteins exert their effects by physically binding to something else, such as a small metabolite or DNA or other protein, and require multiple residues to do so. The problem is especially acute for protein-protein interactions, since most proteins in the cell are now known to act as teams of a half-dozen or more, rather than individually. Yet if one can’t explain how specific protein-protein interactions developed, then it is delusional to claim that we can explain how anything that depends on them developed, such as the molecular machinery of the cell. It’s like saying “we understand perfectly well how a car could evolve; we just don’t know how the pieces could get fit together.” If such a basic requirement for putting together complex systems is not understood, nothing is understood. Keep this in mind the next time you hear a blithe Darwinian tale about the undirected evolution of the cilium or bacterial flagellum.
Posted on April 1st, 2009.
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