Evolution’s New Wrinkle

A team of Princeton University scientists has discovered that chains of proteins found in most living organisms act like adaptive machines, possessing the ability to control their own evolution. The research, which appears to offer evidence of a hidden mechanism guiding the way biological organisms respond to the forces of natural selection, provides a new perspective on evolution, the scientists said.

“The discovery answers an age-old question that has puzzled biologists since the time of Darwin: How can organisms be so exquisitely complex, if evolution is completely random, operating like a ‘blind watchmaker’?” said Chakrabarti, an associate research scholar in the Department of Chemistry at Princeton. “Our new theory extends Darwin’s model, demonstrating how organisms can subtly direct aspects of their own evolution to create order out of randomness.”

Another instance where “nature” is the intelligent designer

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7 Responses to Evolution’s New Wrinkle

  1. Brandon Haught says:

    PZ isn’t too sure that this is anything valid.

    Unfortunately, the puff piece writer and the scientists involved seem incapable of actually explaining what they found, which makes me extremely suspicious.

  2. Jonathan Smith says:

    I agree with PZ and Brandon,and I think it was “my bad” for not looking deeper into these claims. It is really going to be interesting as more papers and other labs try to figure out what is going on in this system. Time and good science will give us the answer

  3. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    PZ’s article and comments (link above) summarize well worn lessons:
    1. You can’t go by press releases
    1. a) The “quotes” used by press may be the writer’s summary of a much longer conversation, modulated by the writer’s lack of comprehension and preconceptions and his need to produce exciting copy. Don’t assume they are real quotes.
    1. b) This particular press release is plainly flaky, but remember you can’t judge the paper by the press release.
    3. If there were as many scientific revolutions and giant breakthroughs as you read about in the news (mostly started by university press releases) science would be in a perpetual state of chaos.

    The paper (pdf) does not study evolution, but does include some handy (to the author) assertions about how evolution is supposed to work. Finally though it seems to add up to the umteenth rediscovery of co-adaptation in proteins. The authors use terms they are familiar with such as “optimal control”, without really knowing what is optimal.

    Look for real progress in understanding the fine points of evolutionary processes to come from actual biologists actually studying evolution.

  4. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Caveat: Preprints including those at arxiv are not final papers. A comment at PZ’s says the final paper in Physical review Letters (which I can’t get at the moment) is quite different.

    And by the way, the whole notion of evolution “seeking” “optimal solutions” is bogus on both counts.

  5. Dr. A. E. Edgeworth says:

    Now if they can just figure out how these very complex mechanisms got here by blind chance. A highly complex mechanism to give purpose and direction to evolution. Hmmmm.

  6. Spirula says:

    how these very complex mechanisms got here by blind chance. = FAIL

    (bold added)

    See, biologist go here to test their hypothesis


    and then they publish the results in one of thousands of peer reviewed journals you can read here


    IDologist go here to get their hypothesis


    and then they get their results from this publication


    (this would work better with hidden links but I don’t think this site will take them)

  7. PatrickHenry says:

    Sorry for the delay. The system held your post because it had all those links.

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