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Can life arise from basic molecules?

“SAN DIEGO: Can life arise from nothing but a chaotic assortment of basic molecules? The answer is a lot closer following a series of ingenious experiments that have shown evolution at work in non-living molecules. For the first time, scientists have synthesized RNA enzymes – ribonucleic acid enzymes also known as ribozymes – that can replicate themselves without the help of any proteins or other cellular components. What’s more, these simple nucleic acids can act as catalysts and continue the process indefinitely. “There’s nothing in biology in this system: no proteins, no cells, no biological matter. We just provide them with the building blocks,” said molecular biologist Gerald Joyce of the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.

The researchers began with ribozymes known to occur naturally, and put these in a growth medium, heated them and allowed the ribozymes to replicate.”

Dr. Robert Shapiro, a self-declared agnostic and opponent of ID theories, wrote the following in his book Planetary Dreams (page 102) in 1999 regarding the future engineering of self sustained RNA systems:

“When that event takes place, the media probably will announce it as the demonstration of a crucial step in the origin of life. I would agree with one modification. The concept that the scientists are illustrating is one of Intelligent Design. No better term can be applied to a quest in which chemists are attempting to prepare a living system in the laboratory, using all the ingenuity and technical resources at their disposal…the search for ribozymes invokes the same feeling of achievement and beauty in me that I get when I see a skilled golfer playing a difficult course at well under par.  To imagine that related events could take place on their own appears as likely as the idea that the golf ball could play its own way around the course without the golfer.”

On 1/26/2010, Dr. Shapiro posted the following comment to an article by Carl Zimmer on the SCIENCE Magazine website under the heading “Origins, a history of begnnings”.  “Despite the clarity of his prose, Carl Zimmer has fallen into a trap that has impeded progress in the origin of life field for the last half century. He has confused the process of total organic synthesis with the abiotic chemical reactions that may have taken place on the early Earth. Total synthesis involves the preparation by skilled chemists in laboratories of substances that we isolate from biology. The late Nobel Laureate Robert Burns Woodward was a master of this endeavor… On the early earth, however, there were neither chemists nor laboratories. No driving force has been demonstrated that would direct complex mixtures of organic chemicals of modest size to assemble themselves into a functional RNA.  According to Gerald Joyce and the late Leslie Orgel, such an event would constitute a near miracle…

Scientific American has a free access paper here

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34 Responses to Can life arise from basic molecules?

  1. The answer is a lot closer following a series of ingenious experiments that have shown evolution at work in non-living molecules.

    So does or does not the ToE apply to ool?

  2. Mr Tribune7,

    If we define ToE as “what happens because of repeated cycles of variation, replication and selection in an environment of scarce resources”, then it can be applied to some kinds of molecules, just as it can be applied to viruses or prions. This molecular evolution is an important bridge between the OOL stages of abiotic synthesis of building blocks and full-on cellular life.

    In the article the main form of selection discussed is crowding out, using up all the food first. But this basic selection mechanism can encourage different changes in the population – faster replication, less error in replication, more efficient use of resources, etc.

    Did you also notice Joyce’s estimate of 30 bits of information? Is that CSI? FCSI? I wonder how he calculated that!

  3. Is it even theoretically possible for a scientist to perform an experiment that does not illustrate the concept of ID?

  4. that can replicate themselves without the help of any proteins or other cellular components.

    Nope- no self-replication.

    It took/ takes two to tango.

  5. hrun0815:

    Is it even theoretically possible for a scientist to perform an experiment that does not illustrate the concept of ID?

    They need to remove their involvement as much as possible.

    For example if they can remove all involvemnet except for the initial conditions that would be a great start.

    Then they would just have to figure out how those initial conditions could have happened without their involvement.

  6. Just a reminder that I am a layman…

    Even so, I spent a couple of years debating these Origin of life issues in an enemy forum. I read a good deal of Behe’s Black Box, took it upon myself to critique and study (with much difficulty) published ‘scientific papers’ available in PDF, but only so far as the debates pushed me.

    To some degree, that allowed me to focus on what I think are the core issues. And this article captures them nicely.

    What I am impressed with time and again is the honesty of some in the prebiotic chemistry field. Shapiro and Joyce both add the refreshing disclaimers (aka ‘proper context’) pretty consistently. They remind me of others such as Robert Jastrow in the astronomy field. I respect them as scientists and genuine intellectuals.

    In my opinion, others, such as Jeff Bada are not so balanced. Bada has used ‘super sophisticated cutting edge’ (I am making some fun of) methods that supposedly ‘extract’ key amino acids from objects like the Murchison meteor. These are essential components to biological systems. and they are manufactured by the organism itself.

    Bada (again, in my opinion) clearly was desperate to find some of them. And many in the prebiotic field seem eagerly desperate to latch on to any hope.

    Fortunately, those like Shapiro confirmed my own doubts about such methods. Namely, that the amounts supossedly ‘extracted’ were so minute (parts per billion), that the extraction methods themselves were capable of synthesizing the components in the process.

    Even so, those eager to ‘believe’ and spread the ‘Good news’ of prebiotic evolution run like Olympic flame carriers to shout the glory of such findings.

    So many articles such as this have the flavor of getting us much closer to discovering how evolution worked its magic.

    That is, until one acually reads it:

    “They are synthetic genetic systems, and they are evolving. But they’re not living because they don’t yet show the capacity to invent a whole cloth of functions.

    “The idea is to given them enough information wherewithal [genetic building blocks] so they can start inventing their own solutions rather than just optimizing existing solutions,” he added.

    Joyce said it was not practical to synthesize the more complex DNA-based life we know from scratch; it’s too complex and probably beyond today’s science. But it is conceivable to start with a much more basic form of life-like molecules based on RNA, and use evolution to build on them”

    Key words: ‘The idea’it is conceivable’

    All this is, is another article supposedy based on empirical evidence, to push the ‘philosophy’ of materialism. And I agree with them… it is an idea, and it is conceivable.

    If only there were actual empirical evidence to back it up.

    If their god were able to show itself materially ‘in the flesh’ as it were…

    like Jesus Christ did for Christian…

    it would almost be worth the energy, worship, and sacrifice given to it by nations, peoples, and tongues.

    It is simply astonishing!

  7. Nakashima-san If we define ToE as “what happens because of repeated cycles of variation, replication and selection in an environment of scarce resources”, then it can be applied to some kinds of molecules,

    And I would have no complaint. Some — who are not IDists :-) — seem to get quite upset, however, when that is done.

    Did you also notice Joyce’s estimate of 30 bits of information? Is that CSI? FCSI? I wonder how he calculated that!

    I’d imagine it’s based on information entropy.

  8. Along the same lines as I wrote above, I have always enjoyed listening to the many ‘conceivable ideas’ regarding the mysteries surrounding life. And not just life’s origins, but also the problems surrounding purpose and meaning. I have considered fully commmiting myself to many of them along the way.

    But here, regarding origins, and particularly the empirical side of the equation, I confess myself to be alot like the disciple Thomas. I want the best possible proofs before bending me knee to any given philosophy.

    The best way to do that is for one of these competing theories to quite literally embody itself/Himself as an empirical reality.

    I know that not everyone on the ID side is a Christian like myself, nor are most on the evo side of the issue.

    I am hopelesly evangelical about it all, so my apologies beforehand, but it is worth noticing something…

    To express it let me first thank everyone leading the ID charge, for so much hard work in the face of often unreasonable opposition. It is you who make it possible for so may laymen like myself to remain encouraged in this dangerous climate.

    Both the churches (at times) and much of the scientific establishment now give, or have given, the impression that ‘they alone’ hold the keys to knowledge. The implication is that the ‘simple folk’ must rely on them as the priest (or mediator)to have communion with truth and reality.

    Jesus preached fervently against such a view.

    I will not provide the verses for all of this. Most of you have already heard them.

    Suffice it to say that anyone can know God (reality) if he “loves Him/it and searches with all his/her heart, mind, soul, and strength”.

    Naturally this is never a perfectly performed search being finite (and dare I say ‘fallen’) beings. But there also, Jesus reminds us that , it is enough for the student to be like his teacher”.

    So, as these debates inevitably continue, it is my hope that those on both sides who are not Christian (and specifically those who despise it as void of intellectual power or empirical legitimacy) reflect for themselves on the fact that it is the only theory among so many that even claims to be the source and fullfilment of both.

    Jesus came in the flesh. He gave us the empirical reality we say is so important and necessary for belief and commitment.

    But is it really?

    Or is this matter of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding (in the truest scientific sense) really a matter of the heart, and of honesty?

    Seeking with all our heart something untrue will never bring us closer to reality. It will only bring us further into sophisticated delusion.

    We must individually take stock, and make sure we have not predetermined our philosphical search. The objective search was always about ‘what philosphy’ best explains and emobies the evidence.

  9. “The researchers began with ribozymes known to occur naturally…”

    Naturally as a product of geological processes, or naturally as a product of already-living systems?

    If the former, then this is something; but if the latter, nothing of great moment about the origin of life has been proved. Surely, it is no great feat to discover that the fragments of living things exhibit some of the properties of living things.

    This really points to why spontaneous abiogenesis cannot be proven to have happened, only assumed to have happened. We simply do not know exactly what conditions prevailed at the time life arose. Every model of spontaneous abiogenesis assumes that certain conditions prevailed, but none of these assumptions are testable.

  10. Evil Snack

    ““The researchers began with ribozymes known to occur naturally…”

    Naturally as a product of geological processes, or naturally as a product of already-living systems?”

    They were from living systems. They are about 1000 specific nucleotides long.

  11. If only there were actual empirical evidence to back it up.

    If their god were able to show itself materially ‘in the flesh’ as it were…

    like Jesus Christ did for Christian…

    If only there were actual empirical evidence to back it up.

    If their god were able to show itself materially ‘in the flesh’ as it were…

  12. I wonder, why so much interest in ool research from ID-ers?

    The general public is of course ready and willing to believe that life could not come from non-life without God the creator, and that won’t change as long as ool research remains pure speculation.

    Wouldn’t the time and effort be better spent on teaching scientists why they are dead wrong in their relentless effort to prove that evolution – the “from the first cell to today’s diversity” is the result of purely natural causes without involvement from intelligent designer(s)?

    The real problem lies in convincing the general public that evolution is more compatible with the Bible when seen from the perspective of ID than from the scientific perspective.

  13. Biologic Institute Announces First Self-Replicating Motor Vehicle – Doug Axe -
    Excerpt: “So, advertising this as “self-replication” is a bit like advertising something as “free” when the actual deal is 1 free for every 1,600 purchased. It’s even worse, though, because you need lots of the pre-made precursors in cozy proximity to a finished RNA in order to kick the process off. That makes the real deal more like n free for every 1,600 n purchased, with the caveats that n must be a very large number and that full payment must be made in advance.”
    http://biologicinstitute.org/2.....r-vehicle/

    Stephen Meyer Responds to Fletcher in Times Literary Supplement – Jan. 2010
    Excerpt: everything we know about RNA catalysts, including those with partial self-copying capacity, shows that the function of these molecules depends upon the precise arrangement of their information-carrying constituents (i.e., their nucleotide bases). Functional RNA catalysts arise only once RNA bases are specifically-arranged into information-rich sequences—that is, function arises after, not before, the information problem has been solved.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2....._flet.html

    Materialists have not even created all 4 “letters” of RNA by natural means:

    Response to Darrel Falk’s Review of Signature in the Cell – Stephen Meyer – Jan. 2010
    Excerpt: Sutherland’s work only partially addresses the first and least severe of these difficulties: the problem of generating the constituent building blocks or monomers in plausible pre-biotic conditions. It does not address the more severe problem of explaining how the bases in nucleic acids (either DNA or RNA) acquired their specific information-rich arrangements.
    http://www.signatureinthecell......l-falk.php

  14. Cabal:

    I wonder, why so much interest in ool research from ID-ers?

    ID is all about origins Cabal.

  15. Cabal: “Wouldn’t the time and effort be better spent on teaching scientists why they are dead wrong…

    You cannot tell a scientist he/she is wrong. But you can usually tell a child. It’s typically a pride issue.

    Often you cannot even suggest it with gentleness and respect.

    “…in their relentless effort to prove that evolution – the “from the first cell to today’s diversity” is the result of purely natural causes without involvement from intelligent designer(s)?”

    First catch your cell…

  16. Joseph: “ID is all about origins Cabal.”

    I agree, and so is Darwinian evolution.

    We must make the distinction between the theory of evolution, and the observed process of natural selection.

  17. “The idea is to given them enough information wherewithal [genetic building blocks] so they can start inventing their own solutions rather than just optimizing existing solutions,” he added.”

    The key word here is information. The key issue is how does a philosophy (naturalism) explain the existence of information within the confines of its explanatory resources? Since the very definition of naturalism includes the idea that the universe is causally closed (that is all causes ultimately resolve in physical laws – NOT mind) and therefore that the laws of physics ONLY have explanatory power, how then do they account for information?

    They cannot. Information requires language. All languages are comprised of symbols and rules for the arrangement of those symbols. It is impossible to have information apart from a language. It is equally impossible for the laws of physics to explain either symbols or the rules that govern the use of those symbols. Therefore, naturalism can never, ever, explain information, and thus life. When darwinism succumbs to the next naturalist explanation of life (eve-devo or whatever) the new explanation will face the same insurmountable challenge. How to explain information in terms of physics and time? The game is over but we seem to still be playing. Why is that? I think it must be rebellion against Reason.

  18. evo-devo. oops.

  19. Emergence, Tom. Emergence.

    Information is an emergent property of matter. Mind is an emergent property of matter. Free will is an emergent property of matter. Irreducible complexity is an emergent property of matter. Specification is an emergent property of matter. Semiosis is an emergent property of matter. Homeostasis is an emergent property of matter. Functionality is an emergent property of matter. Discontinuous coordination is an emergent property of matter. Algorithms are an emergent property of matter.

    Now, exactly how this all happens, no one has even a conceptual clue, but that is precisly the beauty of its explanatory power.

    Emergence is an emergent property of matter.

    It’s just the kind of powerful empericism that the unsophisticated God-of-the-Gaps crowd is literally too dense to appreciate.

  20. tgpeeler @17,

    They cannot. Information requires language. All languages are comprised of symbols and rules for the arrangement of those symbols. It is impossible to have information apart from a language.

    It’s not information that requires a language, messages do.

    If I have no requirement to transfer information, then I don’t need a language.

    Information is a description. It doesn’t exist in the object under study, it’s our way of describing that particular object.

  21. Toronto,

    You cannot create information without semiosis. When you see a cloud pass by, one does not appear in your head.

    The first message, and the language that permits it, is perception.

    All you can do is argue that the immaterial structure of language is an emergent property of matter. Good luck.

  22. Thanks Upright! I GET IT now!! :-)

  23. Upright BiPed @21,

    When you see a cloud pass by, one does not appear in your head.

    When that cloud passes by, you and I both may have different ideas of what information we get from viewing it. I realize I’m going to get my garden watered and you realize your baseball game is going to be cancelled.
    We can decide to tell each other what that cloud means to us. To do that, we use language. If we don’t exchange information in a message, that information still exists for both of us. If we didn’t have a common language, it would make it harder to communicate, if at all, but the info is still there in each of us.
    A language is strictly an agreed upon protocol for communication.

  24. I’ll repeat it here. Emergence is another name for the problem we are trying to solve, not a solution.

  25. absolutist @24,

    I’ll repeat it here. Emergence is another name for the problem we are trying to solve, not a solution.

    I think that may be the best description for the entire ID/Evo debate that I have ever seen.

  26. Upright, 24&25, agreed, Emergence is just another name for Evolve or Evolved.

    Different words do not solve the problem. It is just another way to temporarily shift a meaningless gap word holder out of the way for another meaningless gap word holder.

    How did it happen? Evolve
    How did it happen? Emerge
    How did it happen? It evolved.
    How did it happen? It emerged.

    How convenient, begins and ends with same two letters and same number of characters with the same triviality of non-answer space.

    But it sounds good in a sci-fi way.

    To actually admit they don’t know is to much for someone spending millions of dollars. Welcome to government financed snake oil salesmen of the 21st century.

  27. Toronto, Upright,

    So, reducing to…

    Matter, Information, Language, Messages, Mind.

    If you eliminate Mind from the list, Language and Messages are removed.

    But do properties of Information still exist about the Matter independent of mind?

    IDist say yes and Materialist say no? Is it that black and white?

  28. “But do properties of Information still exist about the Matter independent of mind?”

    Are you asking whether truths exist (e.g., 4 is the answer to 2+2; Nicole Kidman is beautiful; cowardice is a vice) whether or not minds exist?

    It seems so. It is as if a non-material source which grounds these truths is ever present.

  29. …irreducible.

  30. absolutist @28,

    Are you asking whether truths exist (e.g., 4 is the answer to 2+2; Nicole Kidman is beautiful; cowardice is a vice) whether or not minds exist?

    It seems so. It is as if a non-material source which grounds these truths is ever present.

    But if that is true, then if all the minds that currently think Nicole Kidman is NOT beautiful cease to exist, then she would continue to be NOT beautiful.

  31. Toronto: “When that cloud passes by, you and I both may have different ideas of what information we get from viewing it. I realize I’m going to get my garden watered and you realize your baseball game is going to be cancelled.
    We can decide to tell each other what that cloud means to us. To do that, we use language. If we don’t exchange information in a message, that information still exists for both of us.

    If we didn’t have a common language, it would make it harder to communicate, if at all, but the info is still there in each of us.
    A language is strictly an agreed upon protocol for communication.”

    Very good Toronto. But I think you missed something. The real power of language itself can be expressed through many different mediums. We can use sign language, English, Swahili, or German. We can use computer code… etc.

    Those are the surface mediums you are focused on. As you say, we can choose any of them, but there is the common language they are all founded upon that cannot be choosen. That is the real language.

    It is simply necessary. And we all use it. You were using it above, but appearently, without even comprehending it.

    And it is this language that so many appear to be in rebellion against.

    It is called reason, and logic. That is the universal language upon which the cosmos and all order was formed. Without it, there is no such thing as form.

    It reminds me of a student asking a speaker, “are not logic and coherence just more Western ideas we try and force upon the rest of the world?”

    To which the speaker replied, “would you like my answer to your question to be coherent”?

  32. Lock @31,

    The real power of language itself can be expressed through many different mediums. We can use sign language, English, Swahili, or German. We can use computer code… etc.

    I see now that our definition of language is not the same. You seem to be implying that German or Swahili are different mediums of language while I think that saying German IS a language is more in line with the term. That is the traditional way of defining what a language is, .i.e, a set of rules for the transfer of information, not the information itself.

    TCP/IP and x.25 are both protocols for the exchange of information. They are completely separate from the data, (the information), that they pass on to the receiver, to the point of being able to say, “This data packet has no information in it”.

    We are in danger here of re-defining commonly accepted terms like language, into a much more metaphorical usage.

    For instance, saying “Music is the language of love” is a metaphor that shouldn’t be seen as equating certain notes with a standardized way of expressing your feelings for someone.

  33. Toronto: “I see now that our definition of language is not the same. You seem to be implying that German or Swahili are different mediums of language while I think that saying German IS a language is more in line with the term. That is the traditional way of defining what a language is, .i.e, a set of rules for the transfer of information, not the information itself.”

    I am well aware, and am not trying to redefine that usage of the term.

    Forget traditional usage. We can accept that and move on. I was asking you to look deeper into the information itself.

    Let me try again…

    If you presented me with imput that was not logical, you could use any language you wish. Obviously you would be better off using one upon which we both speak. The fact remains that I would probably reject it if it were semi-intelligible, but just shrug my shoulders or nod politely if it were utterly nonsensicle.

    My point was that the real communication is made only by way of reason.

    I was trying here to support Upright in #21, because I did not think you grasped it.

    Hoever, it is late here, and I am not sure I grasp it any more either. And if that is the case, then surely no communication is taking place in spite of all this ‘language’. Ironically, that makes my point.

    If only I could remember why I thought my point was relevant to the discussion… :)

  34. Toronto @23

    When that cloud passes by, you and I both may have different ideas of what information we get from viewing it. I realize I’m going to get my garden watered and you realize your baseball game is going to be cancelled.

    The fact that we perceive things differently has no bearing on the issue.

    We can decide to tell each other what that cloud means to us. To do that, we use language. If we don’t exchange information in a message, that information still exists for both of us.

    We certainly use language to exchange our perceptions of reality, but that is hardly the beginning of semiotic systems – again, you do not have a cloud in your head, you have a representation of a cloud. We may not understand the rules by which that representation functions, but it is most assuredly there, and it most assuredly must operate within the rules of a semiotic system in order for the perception to even take place (or be available for recall).

    If we didn’t have a common language, it would make it harder to communicate, if at all, but the info is still there in each of us.

    Without the input of rules it would be impossible. If I wanted to communicate “cook the fish” and I ran around in circles to mean “cook”, and I threw a stone to mean “the”, and I scratched out a square on a flat rock to mean “fish”…how long will it take you to understand me if all I can do is repeat myself?

    A language is strictly an agreed upon protocol for communication.

    Bingo.

    The question, returning to the topic of the thread, is the origin of life. At the very center of all living things is information being communicated within the organism by means of semiotic coordination (chemical protocols). Transcription, DNA proofreading, trans-membrane receptors, feedback regulation circuits, exported signals, cellular surface signals, epigenetic regulation, logic gates, exo-genetic transfer, checkpoints, regulatory RNA, etc, etc, etc. One thing means (ie. stands for, results in) another, but only because of context-specific rules providing the necessary coordination for function.

    There is absolutely nothing whatsoever about Adenine that means Lysine. Lysine is not the product or byproduct of Adenine, no matter what you do to it. Only in the context of living tissue do the two have anything whatsoever to do with each other. Place three Adenine nucleobases in a genetic sequence and that arrangement will be decoded with Lysine being added to a polypeptide chain. That same phenomenon will happen every time an organism has three Adenine nucleobases being transcribed, and there is not a shred of evidence that it has ever been any different. Likewise, there is nothing about cAMP that has anything whatsoever to do with Glucose. Yet, the elevated presence of one is a representative signal indicating the available level of the other. But it signals this only within an organism where such an association has been established.

    What is required is coordination (the protocol you mention) at an unfathomable level in order to perform the work of living systems, i.e. metabolism, replication, repair, and growth. And there is the rub. The functionality of living organisms is inextricably based upon the use of information. The use of information is inextricably dependent upon context. How did that, which is necessary for function, precede it in order to create it?

    Foregoing an appropriate dash of humility, this is a question we are not likely to improve upon until we stop making up ideological stories about how you can most certainly in due time figure out that a square scratched out on a flat rock means “fish”.

    And by the way (giving suitable heed to the power of chance) if you should by chance coordinate the meaning of a square-on-a-rock with “fish”, you’ll only have a few others to coordinate in order to equal, as a example, that of the smallest bacteria genome known to exist.

    Something on the order of 150,000 base pairs, 180 proteins, and the various regulation networks necessary for function.

    Of course, the ideologues would counter that such elementary thought excercises are both stupid and meaningless; the first life forms were incredibly simple and driven without purpose by purely physically-dependent chemical forces.

    Driven? Driven to what? Driven to complex functionality? Driven to import and convert energy and expel waste? Driven to coordinate information for heredity? Driven to outperform other organisms? Driven to survive?

    - – - – - – - – - -

    Informatic rather than mechanical processes control cell functions. The prevailing 20th-century conception of living cells arose out of the mechanism/vitalism debates of the 1890s-1920s. The cell was often viewed as a complex mechanical device that operated on a large set of independent linear responses to conditions. This dominant mechanistic view began to break down at the end of the 20th century with the discovery of increasingly dense and interconnected regulatory circuits controlling the basic operations of metabolism, biogenesis, the cell cycle, damage responses, and multicellular development. Genetic studies of virtually any biological process reliably identify regulatory molecules as well as the expected functions needed to carry out the particular process under investigation. A variety of nonlinear modeling approaches are routinely applied to biological circuits. These modeling attempts reflect a growing awareness that information processing is a central aspect of all vital functions.

    Signals play a central role in cell operations. Inspection of Figure 1 shows that “signals” are included as molecular components in several of the Boolean propositions. These signals include diverse chemical classes, such as growth factors bound to surface receptors, small molecule pheromones, cytoplasmic second messengers, and chemical modifications on histones bound to DNA. It would actually be possible to add “signals” to all of the statements in Figure 1 because every one of these information transfer processes can be influenced by various signaling events. The use of signals is critical for such basic vital functions as homeostatic regulation, adaptation to changing conditions, cellular differentiation, and multicellular morphogenesis. The presence of unpredictable signals in biological processes generates an inescapable indeterminacy that contradicts the central dogma and other reductionist statements of genetic determinism. Signal dependent indeterminacy also produces phenotypic differences between genetically identical cells that is fundamentally distinct from the kind of stochastic noise assumed in most studies of individual cell phenotypes.

    In its information processing, the cell makes use of transient information about ambient conditions and internal operations. This information is carried by environmental constituents and signals received from other cells and organisms. The cell’s receptors and signal transduction networks transform this transient information into various chemical forms (second messengers, modified proteins, lipids, polysaccharides and nucleic acids) that feed into the operation of cell proliferation, checkpoints, and cellular or multicellular developmental programs. These chemical forms act as symbols that allow the cell to form a virtual representation of its functional status and its surroundings. My argument here is that any successful 21stcentury description of biological functions will include control models that incorporate cellular decisions based on symbolic representations. – James Shapiro, University of Chicago Biological Sciences

    Perhaps one day, when we are finally able to create de novo life by programming the information and chemical protocols necessary for function, the one thing occuring in nature that has been removed from the conversation by the materialists will suddenly reappear as being the essential element in the eventual success.

    Perhaps we will find what ID proponents of all stripes have come to expect by means of the evidence. Life was never in the matter itself; it was in the action of a purposeful agent.

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