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Matti Leisola on evolution and the recent Nobel Chemistry prize

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Matti Leisola Matti Leisola, author of Heretic: One Scientist’s Journey from Darwin to Design, offers some thoughts on the recent announcement:

I am an enzyme bioengineer, so I greeted with enthusiasm Wednesday’s announcement… that part of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry went to a fellow enzyme bioengineer. She is Frances H. Arnold, a professor of chemical engineering at Caltech.

There is one point of confusion in descriptions of this year’s prize winners. It’s the talk of “directed evolution.” The Nobel Prize organization itself has encouraged such talk.

If it is “directed” by researchers engineering the rates for specific purposes, sorting according to specific goals, it isn’t “evolution” in the usual schoolbook sense at all. It is more like plant breeding.

In his book The Edge of Evolution biochemist Michael Behe draws upon research on E. coli, malaria, and HIV mutations. From this he calculates the upper limit for a random mutational process in nature at two to three simultaneous mutations in one protein. This is in harmony with Barry Hall’s results with lactase mutations.

Bioengineers, including the 2018 Noble Laureates in Chemistry, are demonstrating a way beyond this limit — intelligent design. These brilliantly designed experiments involve mutation rates artificially engineered to occur at 10,000 to a million times the rate typical in nature, carefully selected reaction conditions, the intelligently selected use of genetic engineering tools (tools that are themselves intelligently designed), and the mindful selection of variants towards a desired goal.

All of these are hallmarks of intelligent design. Matti Leisola, “How the 2018 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry Harnessed Intelligent Design” at Evolution News and Science Today:

See also: Matti Leisola: Another gifted scientist poised over the memory hole?

Matti Leisola on why lignin (wood) remains enigmatic, in terms of evolution

Is ID-friendly bioengineer a heretic or just a minority reporter?

4 Replies to “Matti Leisola on evolution and the recent Nobel Chemistry prize

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    It is interesting to note the tremendous medical benefits behind their Nobel Prize winning work:

    Use of Evolution to Design Molecules Nets Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 3 Scientists – Kenneth Chang – Oct. 3, 2018
    Excerpt: An antibody is like a key that fits into a specific protein lock. The body’s immune system uses antibodies to identify invading pathogens.,,,
    Dr. Winter built on Dr. Smith’s work and used phage display to develop antibodies that could serve as new treatments for diseases like multiple sclerosis and cancer. Traditional drugs use small molecules to alter processes within cells. The development of antibodies was outside the expertise of major drug companies.
    “In the early 90s, people didn’t believe antibodies could be therapeutics,” Dr. Winter said during a telephone news conference on Wednesday.
    Dr. Winter inserted the gene for producing an antibody into the phages and then examined variants of the antibodies, selecting the ones that bound most effectively to the desired targets. Repeated evolution of the gene led to more effective antibodies.
    The first antibody drug developed this way, adalimumab, which is sold under the brand name Humira, was approved in 2002 to treat rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel diseases.
    Other antibodies are used to kill cancer cells, neutralize anthrax and slow the progress of lupus, an autoimmune disease. Additional antibodies are in testing to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/03/science/chemistry-nobel-prize.html

    So, due to this work, it appears that specific disease causing cells, such as cancer cells, can be more readily targeted for destruction by medicines and/or perhaps by the bodies own immune system.

    So, other than their conflating their own intelligent selection of a pre-desired result, a pre-desired result that they had in mind all along, with natural selection which has no pre-desired result in mind, this is very impressive work and is also great news for medicine in general.

  2. 2
    Nonlin.org says:

    Exactly! Where is the “directed evolution” oxymoron in this story? The process used is simple organism breeding as done by mankind for thousands of years, in this case sped up by advanced technologies. “Random mutations” are not entirely random as the mutations desired had to converge towards a clear, specified target. Random generator devices also generate within specific ranges, say 0 to 9, rejecting outright any “randomness” outside that range (‘a’, ‘#’, ‘21’ will all be rejected). “Natural selection” is also missing as the selection has been clearly done by qualified researches pursuing a specific goal. At best this would be called “artificial selection”, but even that is misleading since organism breeding is a human activity that goes well beyond simple ‘selection’.
    http://nonlin.org/chemistry-nobel-2018/
    http://nonlin.org/natural-selection/

  3. 3
    PaV says:

    Let’s just read the following and then answer the question it raises: does this work impress upon us a sense of the “power” of natural selection?

    Bioengineers, including the 2018 Nobel laureates in Chemistry, are demonstrating a way beyond this limit — intelligent design. These brilliantly designed experiments involve mutation rates artificially engineered to occur at 10,000 to a million times the rate typical in nature, carefully selected reaction conditions, the intelligently selected use of genetic engineering tools (tools that are themselves intelligently designed), and the mindful selection of variants towards a desired goal.

    All of these are hallmarks of intelligent design.

    Leisola then adds:

    For more on the promising field of enzyme engineering, how it demonstrates the limits of natural evolutionary processes and the reach of intelligent design, see Chapter 10 of my recently co-authored book Heretic: One Scientist’s Journey from Darwin to Design.

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    Oh yes. You see, genetic algorithms running on computer hardware use natural selection. No, really. It really is natural selection taking place inside the computer. Honest.

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