Aug 27, 2013

"Nothing in Molecular Biology is Gradual"

(Per Doug Axe) To see where he says this, first, watch this video:

Then, read this post ...
 a sample from something I've been writing on recently as I make my way through 'Signature in the Cell' (all references are from that book). It is in essence my commentary on this piece.

French biologist Jacques Monod wrote 'Chance and Necessity' in 1971. The thrust of the work was that “scientists can, and should, explain all phenomena by reference to chance, necessity, or the combination of the two” (page 144). But can chance and necessity really account for the origin of life? Or, to put a fine point on it, for the origin of information?

First, we must ascertain what chance *is* and if it has any causal power. Meyer explains that “when scientists say that something happened by chance, they do not usually mean that some entity called ‘chance’ caused something to happen. Instead, they mean there is a process in play that produces a range of outcomes each of which has a chance or probability of occurring, including the outcome in question” (page 142). Further, chance is a null hypothesis: it is “the hypothesis to be nullified or refuted by alternative hypotheses of design or lawlike necessity” (page 143). THIS LAST SENTENCE IS IMPORTANT.

Ronald A. Fisher developed a statistical method which can eliminate chance as a hypothesis based on a rejection region, which is “a set of outcomes that deviate dramatically from our statistical expectation” (page 146). Probability theorist William Dembski took this insight and applied it to a paradox in probabilities based upon pattern recognition. The question was this: why are some outcomes ruled as chance, and others are not? The answer is “since patterns signal the presence of deeper causal factors or regularities at work, the presence of patterns negates chance. Because patterns negate the null hypothesis (that ‘nothing is going on’) and the null hypothesis is the chance hypothesis, patterns negate the chance hypothesis” (page 151).

In the 1950’s, biochemist George Wald said that” given so much time, the impossible becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain.” In the 1960’s, Francis Crick mused that the genetic codes’ origination may be attributed to a “frozen accident” (page 157). Any origin of life theory *must* account for the origination of biological information. 

On that note, Meyer summarized Christian De Duve’s work on the importance of pattern recognition in relation to chance hypotheses this way: “we should be skeptical that the random interaction of molecular building blocks will produce functionally specified sequences in DNA (or proteins) by chance alone” (page 162). 

Underscoring this point is the simplest living cell, mycoplasma genitalia, which requires 482 proteins and 562,000 bases of DNA to assemble said proteins. Building a functioning cell requires not only genetic information but a suite of pre-existing proteins and RNA molecules to process the information. In addition, for life to originate would require ATP as well as a membrane and cell wall to protection the cell. Thus, even a so-called minimally complex cell requires considerable integrated complexity. 

Scientists calculating the chances of “chance” producing such a system have been greatly impressed with the challenges facing biochemical evolution. Along these lines, a conference was held in 1966 titled “Mathematical Challenges to Neo-Darwinism”. Since then, many important studies have been conducted in this area, a number of which were headed by biochemist Robert Sauer. Recently, Doug Axe’s work has confirmed that “the odds are prohibitively stacked against a random process producing functional proteins” (page 171).

For another brief but related video (NOT designed to answer everything, as no singular piece of info is. This should be common sense but some people miss this reality), check this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyEVuCugQj4

*Page numbers may be wrong for the Paper version, as they are from the Sony eReader version of the book!

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