Great news! Michigan State University has been awarded $25 million by the NSF to create a Science and Technology center to study evolution in action. This center will utilize resources from many other universities and involve 30 researchers. I am really glad to see that the NSF is willing to spend its money on such an important issue.
The focus of the center is on evolution in action, an area of evolutionary biology that has not really been addressed in any large scale effort. Many of the missing details in evolution will be answered at this center. Having answers to these questions will both further our understanding of life and how it changes over time, but it will also address criticisms brought by people who doubt the theory. Objections by evolution deniers have been falling one by one, and this will hopefully continue that trend.
The center will perform experiments on both live organisms and virtual organisms. This approach has several benefits and has been used in other areas of biology, especially neuroscience. Experiments performed by virtual organisms (simulations) can then be tested on live organisms to confirm their predictive strength. Likewise, experiments can be performed on live organisms and then be tested against virtual organisms.
All and all, I think spending the money on this subject is valid. Many of the ideas learned from these experiments will have dual or multiuse applications. Not only will we learn about biology, but also about evolutionary actions of diseases, engineered projects, geologic phenomenon, etc.