Biologists have been trying to answer the age old question of how organisms can be so complex if evolution is a completely random process. Scientists at Princeton University have developed a new theory as an extension of Darwin’s theory. Researcher Raj Chakrabarti explains, "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 discovery came when the scientists were doing experiments on proteins in the electron transport chain (ETC), which is a biochemical network used for metabolism. The experiment showed the protein chains were correcting imbalances placed on them through artificial mutations and keeping the chain in working order far outside what statistical analysis would predict without the corrections. Furthermore, the data also supports predictions made with equations of control theory.
This work is also supporting the theories made in 1858 by Alfred Wallace, who co-discovered the theory of evolution with Charles Darwin. Wallace had theorized some systems in the process of natural selection can adjust their evolutionary course in a manner "exactly like that of the centrifugal governor of the steam engine, which checks and corrects any irregularities almost before they become evident."
Chakrabarti states, "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. Control theory offers a direct explanation for an otherwise perplexing observation and indicates that evolution is operating according to principles that every engineer knows."
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