Evolution in the News - October 2018
by Do-While Jones

Directed Evolution

The 2018 Nobel Prize for Chemistry

We want to thank Steve for sending us this email suggesting the subject of this month’s Evolution in the News article.

I’m pretty sure you’ll have something to say about the below:

STOCKHOLM/LONDON, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Two Americans and a Briton won the 2018 Nobel Prize for Chemistry on Wednesday for harnessing the power of evolution to produce novel proteins used in everything from environmentally friendly detergents and biofuels to cancer drugs.

"This year's Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have been inspired by the power of evolution and used the same principles – genetic change and selection – to develop proteins that solve mankind's chemical problems," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

Smith developed a method using a virus that infects bacteria to produce new proteins while Winter used the same phage display technique for the directed evolution of antibodies, with the aim of producing more effective medicines.

“Directed” evolution?

Steve

We get Steve’s point, but it is subtle; so let’s make the comment Steve wants us to make.

Smith and Winter had a goal in mind and consciously manipulated circumstances to develop proteins for an intended purpose. Yes, it was “evolution” in the sense that they changed something—but it wasn’t “evolution” in the sense that undirected variation filtered by natural selection fortuitously resulted in a beneficial result. The “evolution” was an intelligent design.

They did not use the same principles as undirected evolution. They did not just sit idly by and watch as a virus just happened to infect a bacterium which fortunately caused the bacterium to produce a protein with a valuable property. It was intelligent design—not evolution.

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