Thursday, December 11, 2008

Evolutionary Control Systems

Work out of Princeton suggests that there may be control mechanisms that control how much evolution occurs in some organisms. The report, from News at Princeton by Kitta MacPherson, states in part:

The researchers -- Raj Chakrabarti, Herschel Rabitz, Stacey Springs and George McLendon -- made the discovery while carrying out experiments on proteins constituting the electron transport chain (ETC), a biochemical network essential for metabolism. A mathematical analysis of the experiments showed that the proteins themselves acted to correct any imbalance imposed on them through artificial mutations and restored the chain to working order.

"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."

The story mentions that this was an idea first proposed by Alfred Russel Wallace who thought that evolutionary mechanisms acted like a governor on a steam engine, ensuring that it operates optimally. If this kind of mechanism can be found in the flagellar motor, would that be the nail in the coffin for ID? Is it built-in design? The article also notes:

Chakrabarti said that one of the aims of modern evolutionary theory is to identify principles of self-organization that can accelerate the generation of complex biological structures. "Such principles are fully consistent with the principles of natural selection. Biological change is always driven by random mutation and selection, but at certain pivotal junctures in evolutionary history, such random processes can create structures capable of steering subsequent evolution toward greater sophistication and complexity."

Read the whole thing.

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