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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New papers confirm: Sorry Mr. Dawkins - No free lunch today

Molecular biologist Douglas Axe, whose specialty is proteins, has published TheLimits of Complex Adaptation: An Analysis Based on a Simple Model of Structured Bacterial Populations in BIO-Complexity, assessing whether current standard models of evolution are plausible.

A friend writes to explain,
This is a very important paper. It takes on a major problem in population genetics, a problem that has provoked a number of recent papers from our opponents, precisely because they know this issue must be solved before neo-Darwinism can work on any level except the trivial.

Warning: heavy sailing ahead, but the introductory section that challenges Lynch and Abegg is worth reading carefully.

The take home message: gene duplication and recruitment as a model for the evolution of new genes is very limited. It works only if very few changes are required to reach a new selectable function. If the duplicated gene has a slightly negative fitness cost, the maximum number of mutations (in addition to the duplication itself) that a new innovation in a bacterial population can require is two or fewer. If the duplication is cost-free the number of mutations jumps to six or fewer.
Ann Gauger at the Biologic Institute draws attention to this paper as well:
Evolutionary Algorithms: Are We There Yet?
Yes, heavy sailing - in more senses than one, as trolls armed with their iron rice bowls pile on. Author Axe takes a relaxed view of the smoke, mirrors, and noise:

For more, go here.

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