Thursday, November 13, 2008

This press release deserves some sort of award ...

Just got pointed by Ruchira Datta to a new press release from Princeton (Princeton University - Evolution's new wrinkle: Proteins with cruise control provide new perspective) that makes some interesting claims about evolution. Ruchira asked if the press release made sense to me. And alas, it does not. It has all sorts of bizarre evolution claims in it including the following
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.
...

"Our new theory extends Darwin's model, demonstrating how organisms can subtly direct aspects of their own evolution to create order out of randomness."

"What we have found is that certain kinds of biological structures exist that are able to steer the process of evolution toward improved fitness,"
....
Unlike Darwin, Wallace conjectured that species themselves may develop the capacity to respond optimally to evolutionary stresses. Until this work, evidence for the conjecture was lacking.
....
"In this paper, we present what is ostensibly the first quantitative experimental evidence, since Wallace's original proposal, that nature employs evolutionary control strategies to maximize the fitness of biological networks,"
It sounds like complete nonsense to me. But I am not sure. Anyone else out there know more?

4 comments:

  1. thanks ryan

    not sure why those did not show up when I tried to search for people writing about this

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  2. Andrey Kislyuk11/13/2008 1:24 PM

    I saw this release and was really confused too. The claims they are making don't fit well with what I know. So I tracked down the paper that they pulled this out of (Mutagenic Evidence for the Optimal Control of Evolutionary Dynamics, Chakrabarti et al., 2008) and couldn't understand how it supports these claims. It may be because I don't know optimal control theory and the paper is written from a very physics perspective, but I suspect that these claims are really unsupported extrapolation.

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  3. All I can figure is they're either describing a protein network that is robust against disruption or that the protein folding/arrangement is in some way self-catalytic. But neither of these would be new or change evo theory. If they think they found a protein that interacts with it's own genes, they sure aren't clear about it...

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