Home » Intelligent Design » ‘That Wild-Haired Man And That Dapper Fellow’- Homing In On The Secret Of Life

‘That Wild-Haired Man And That Dapper Fellow’- Homing In On The Secret Of Life

Synopsis Of The Third Chapter Of  Signature In The Cell by Stephen Meyer
ISBN: 9780061894206; ISBN10: 0061894206; Imprint: HarperOne
 
Watson, with his wild hair and perfect willingness to throw off work for a Hedy Lamarr film, and Crick, a dapper and no longer especially young fellow who couldn’t seem to close the deal on his dissertation“(p.59).  These are the uninspiring words that Stephen Meyer uses to describe the two men who would ultimately unravel the structure of DNA and thus ring in the molecular biology revolution. 

With the chemical composition of DNA sufficiently well established, the world of science appeared poised for a major shake-up in its understanding of heredity.  Still, the road of discovery up until that time had been anything but a ‘walk in the park’.  While important details concerning the components of DNA had been ironed out as early as 1909, several erroneous turns at the beginning of the twentieth century had thrown biologists ‘off piste’ into thinking that protein and not DNA lay at the heart of heredity.

In the 1940s the pioneering work of Erwin Chargaff brought heredity firmly back into its rightful place.  Having shown unequivocally that DNA was made up of non-equal proportions of its constituent bases, Chargaff recognized that DNA might possess a language-style code that could act as the medium for inheritance.  The intellectual journey that led James Watson to Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory in 1951 eventually finished of course with a stunning confirmation of Chargaff’s suspicions. 

Key to both Watson’s and Crick’s triumphant entry into the DNA race was their uninhibited drive to ask questions even if that meant revealing their ignorance.  While others feared tarnished reputations should they expose any gaping holes in their understanding of the matter at hand, Watson and Crick had little to lose in their rise from obscurity.  The Watson-Crick duo took valiant stabs at the DNA structure problem using data that others, notably Rosalind Franklin and Linus Pauling, had amassed. Indeed history tells of the tensions that existed between these rivals although many considered Watson and Crick to be nothing more than laughable ‘know nothings’ who had no business being where they were. 

Using little more than plastic and metal models Watson and Crick brought substance to the idea that a double helix with phosphate backbones running on the outside accorded best with the data.  The ‘staircase structure’ that they ultimately arrived at was in all senses revolutionary as was the nine hundred word-long 1953 Nature paper they published just weeks later.  Famously, Crick entered the Eagle pub just around the corner from the Cavendish laboratory to inform the masses that the ‘secret of life’ had at long last been found.

Meyer does a marvelous job in conveying the personal tensions that so characterized the DNA story.  His extensive coverage of ’turning point’ historical moments reveals an in-depth knowledge of the subject matter.   Like few other scientific discoveries, that of the structure of DNA brought fundamental changes to our understanding of the chemistry of life since life itself could no longer be considered to be a mere product of matter and energy.  As Meyer elaborates, information in the form of a DNA code had emerged as the critical player in defining the hereditary makeup of nature.

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

7 Responses to ‘That Wild-Haired Man And That Dapper Fellow’- Homing In On The Secret Of Life

  1. Here is an interview of Dr. Meyer on Signature in the Cell
    http://downloads.cbn.com/cbnne.....f?aid=8497

  2. Very nice synopsis. In my opinion, Watson is the real discoverer of DNA’s structure. He doggedly insisted against the advice of his less inspired colleague that the consistent finding of “twoness” in nature meant that DNA’s structure had to be a double helix.

    Watson had tapped into an extremely powerful and fundamental aspect of nature that Chinese philosophers had understood for millenia, the yin and the yang. I believe that the yin-yang concept is the key to understanding everything about reality. Soon it will lead to a breakthrough in our efforts to grasp consciousness. Cristoph Koch, the Cal Tech scientist who has been searching for the “neural correlates of consciousness” for decades (without success, of course, since he denies duality from the outset), would do well to meditate on Chinese philosophy in his spare time.

    In this regard, Dr. Meyer’s work is a continuation of the dualistic theme. Just as consciousness requires a knower and a known, a code requires a coder. It’s that simple. Note also that duality is not the exclusive domain of Chinese philosophers. Judeo-Christian theology is based on the same idea (“I and the father are one”; “the two shall be one flesh”, etc.).

    In sum, opposites are ONE. This should be the basis of all science.

  3. “bornagain77″ (#1) wrote: “Here is an interview of Dr. Meyer on Signature in the Cell…

    That interview is on the Christian Broadcasting Network. So “Signature,” published by a religious publishing house and carried in the Religious Books section of Amazon, is now getting public relations time on a religious broadcasting network. Doesn’t this make it look like “Signature” is more about religion than science?

  4. 4

    PaulBurnett,

    ——”That interview is on the Christian Broadcasting Network. So “Signature,” published by a religious publishing house and carried in the Religious Books section of Amazon, is now getting public relations time on a religious broadcasting network. Doesn’t this make it look like “Signature” is more about religion than science?”

    And here we are discussing it on a science blog. So by your criterion, it is must be scientific.

  5. Clive Hayden (#4) wrote: “And here we are discussing it (“Signature In The Cell”) on a science blog. So by your criterion, it is must be scientific.

    Well, lessee:

    (1) published by a religious publishing house

    (2) carried in the Religious Books section of Amazon

    (3) getting public relations time on a religious broadcasting network

    (4) And here we are discussing it on a science blog. So by your criterion, it is must be scientific.

    Looks like it’s about 1/4 scientific, by my criterion. Sounds about right.

  6. 6
    CannuckianYankee

    PaulBurnett,

    “That interview is on the Christian Broadcasting Network. So “Signature,” published by a religious publishing house and carried in the Religious Books section of Amazon, is now getting public relations time on a religious broadcasting network. Doesn’t this make it look like “Signature” is more about religion than science?”

    Your argument about who is discussing ID, and where they are discussing it, and who’s publishing it and so on, is getting rather old. I noticed that you make the same argument on blogs other than ID. I don’t think most people are convinced by the argument. What matters is the mertits of the argument rather than the medium. The medium is not the message.

  7. 7
    CannuckianYankee

    woops, should be “blogs other than UD.”

Leave a Reply