How to Get Something from Nothing: Genetic Code, Syntax Explained?

first_imgTwo articles in recent science literature attempt to show that complex entities, like the genetic code and the syntax of human language, are no big deal.  They can emerge from precursors by chance.    In PNAS recently,1 veteran researcher Harold J. Morowitz (George Mason U) and two colleagues proposed a new theory for the origin of the genetic code.  Today’s code, written in DNA, is composed of triplet nucleotide “words” called codons that match the amino acid “words” in the language of proteins.  Noting some regularities, namely that the first letters of each codon have a strong correlation with the precursor of the amino acid for which it codes, and the second letters determine whether the amino acid is hydrophobic (water-resisting) or hydrophilic (water-attracting), the scientists came up with an idea.  Maybe the amino acid precursors (alpha-keto acids) first attached to pairs of DNA bases (dinucleotides) that were floating around in solution.  From there, (take a breath): “The bases and phosphates of the dinucleotide are proposed to have enhanced the rates of synthetic reactions leading to amino acids in a small-molecule reaction network that preceded the RNA translation apparatus but created an association between amino acids and the first two bases of their codons that was retained when translation emerged later in evolution” (emphasis added in all quotes).    They point out that their proposal differs substantially from earlier suggestions about the origin of the genetic code: the “stereochemical” hypothesis that chiral molecules attracted one another, the “coevolution” hypothesis that small numbers of amino-acid/nucleotide pairs grew gradually, and Francis Crick’s old suggestion that the code is a “frozen accident.”  This new hypothesis basically creates a set of amino acids linked to pairs of nucleotides: like proline linked to CC, and glycine linked to CA.  It presupposes that the genetic code began in doublet, rather than triplet, form.    What happened next?  As more amino acids were added to the repertoire, the third nucleotide was needed.  The simplest four amino acids require only one reaction step, they say, but problems arise with the construction of amino acids with more complex side chains – problems left as uncertainties requiring further research.  One hopeful benefit of their model is that it might produce an excess of one hand of the amino acids.  A solution to the homochirality problem (see online book) might therefore be at hand: “Thus, this model provides a plausible and testable hypothesis for the dominance of L-amino acids, a problem that has challenged prebiotic chemists for decades.”    All this is a suggestion about the early stages of chemical evolution, before the emergence of macromolecules (proteins and DNA strands).  In conclusion, they explain:The emergence of translation was obviously associated with expansion to a triplet code and selective pressures that led to codon assignments using the third position that minimize susceptibility to adverse effects of mutation and errors in translation.  Furthermore, translation requires an association of amino acids with their anticodons [i.e., the base-paired RNA “negatives” of codons on the DNA] not with their codons.  There are many ways in which these next steps toward translation might have occurred, and we have not yet examined these possibilities in detail.  One intriguing possibility is that amino acids might be removed from their dinucleotide catalysts by transesterification to the 2’ hydroxyl of an RNA oligonucleotide.  If this oligonucleotide were to recognize the base-pairing surface of the dinucleotide with a complementary sequence, then transesterification would lead to attachment of an amino acid to an RNA containing its anticodon.  This would result in an early version of a charged “tRNA.”  Furthermore, the base following the doublet anticodon would be equivalent to the third position of an anticodon in a triplet code in which there was as yet no information content associated with the third position. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)Another something-for-nothing paper on a different subject was proposed in Nature last week.2  Ricard Sole pondered the puzzle of the origin of syntax in language, the so-called “communicative Big Bang” unique to humans.  He was intrigued by a suggestion in a Royal Society paper that “a simple word-object association matrix can provide the basis for syntax almost for free.”  For instance, the words “eat” and “meat” overlap with the meaning “edible organic matter,” even though one is a verb and one is a noun.  If all the linked words are arranged in a matrix, they start forming word networks that may have been the beginnings of syntax.  Add to that the fact that, according to Zipf’s law, the frequency of appearance of a word is proportional to its generality, and a basis for the emergence of syntax can be envisioned: “the possibility that early ‘protolanguage’ might have been ready-made for the development of a full syntax.”  They admit that this is only a “very rough way of associating symbols,” but hope that further studies might find this suggestion useful:The study also suggests that Zipf’s law could have been a precondition for syntax and symbolic communication.  Once such a condition was met, the basis for the combinatorial explosion characteristic of human language was ready for selection to shape it.  The new theory will be subject to debate, but the remnants of the communicative Big Bang are evidently hiding somewhere inside modern language networks.1Copley, Smith and Morowitz, “A mechanism for the association of amino acids with their codons and the origin of the genetic code,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, published online before print March 11, 2005, doi 10.1073/pnas.0501049102.2Ricard Sole, “Language: Syntax for free?” Nature Nature 434, 289 (17 March 2005); doi:10.1038/434289a.We can lump these two theories hypotheses suggestions into the category of MCS proposals (mighta, coulda, shoulda).  William Dembski proved rigorously in No Free Lunch that information must always come from prior information.  He also exposed the tricksters who try to sneak it in the back door to fool people that you can get something for nothing.  Here are two information-rich systems – the genetic code and human language – that pose daunting challenges to the Darwinists.  Both suggestions presented in these papers are fatally flawed, because by sneaking information in surreptitiously, hoping we wouldn’t notice, they violate their own naturalistic requirements.  Both failures strengthen the case for intelligent design.    Morowitz’ proposal is so easily falsified it is surprising that someone of his reputation couldn’t see through it.  Did you notice that he tried to sneak natural selection before it is allowed? (see online book).  “The emergence of translation…” Hold it right there!  No miracle words allowed.  Emergence is not an explanation.  It is a circular argument that presupposes what he needs to prove, that the genetic code, and its elaborate translation apparatus, is amenable to a naturalistic explanation.  But we digress.  “The emergence of translation was obviously [speak for yourself, buddy] associated with expansion to a triplet code and selective pressures that led to codon assignments…”  Aha!  There it is, in black and white: “selective pressures.”  Foul.  There are no selective pressures without presuming the very thing he needs to explain: an accurate translation and replication process that can preserve carbon-copy descendents that will maintain any gains in functional information.  That disqualifies this proposal at the outset, but there are more problems with it.  He only gets an excess of one hand: not good enough.  It must be 100% pure (see online book).  He only gets pairs of dinucleotides with simple amino acids: such entities contain no value for a code, because there is no syntax.  They are as worthless as scattered Scrabble letters shuffled by chance.  Despite their knowledge of chemistry, Morowitz et al. have offered nothing more than a weak, implausible, partial suggestion that presupposes the very thing they need to prove and is disqualified because, by sneaking in miracle words, it contradicts its own naturalistic presuppositions.    The second article tries to explain the origin of syntax by chance, this time in the sphere of human language.  Again, it is only the meagerest of suggestions, a flimsy straw tossed to slay Leviathan.  The origin of language has no evolutionary explanation, only just-so stories that replace each other from time to time.  The observations show 17 distinct language groups with no relation to one another, just as would be expected from a Tower of Babel incident; each is complex with grammar, syntax and vocabulary, with no precursors or analogs in the animal kingdom.  The suggestion that Zipf’s law is a “precondition” of syntax assumes what they need to prove.  In short, their word-association game theory is a paltry offering that fails to bridge the gap between “eat meat” and the sophisticated abstract reasoning of human beings.  They missed their day in court; human evolution was already falsified on genetic grounds (see 12/30/2004 entry) and logical grounds (see 02/16/2005 entry).  It was put out of business as just another free-lunch scam (02/18/2005).  Therefore we must reject this latest myth as “too little, too late.”    Both these stories would never pass peer review if it were not for the Darwinists’ need to bridge the canyon between chance and design, between meaninglessness and meaning.  They get published in hope that they might help prop up the reigning world view.  To them, progress in science is made by proposing partial answers, no matter how implausible, that might be assembled some day into a complete something-from-nothing theory of everything (see helicopter in the canyon analogy, 05/22/2002 commentary).  Without the requirement of naturalistic philosophy, both logic and common experience lead the honest observer out of the dark cave into the light of day.  How does one get a code?  How does a communicative Big Bang happen?  Not from nothing, not by “emergence,” but from prior, superior Information.  Let the Darwin Party name one exception without assuming the philosophy of naturalism.(Visited 43 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Ian McKellen Narrates Homeless Charity TV Campaign

first_imgSir Ian McKellen has narrated the first ever Crisis at Christmas TV advert.The advert – which was made with professional actors and homeless clients from Crisis Skylight London – is accompanied by a radio advert also narrated by Sir Ian McKellen.Sir Ian McKellen said: “Please support this year’s Crisis at Christmas Appeal. In these troublesome times of rising homelessness, you can reserve a place at the Crisis at Christmas table for someone to whom it will make a real difference. Without your generosity, people living on the streets would have nowhere to go over the festive season and would not have this life-changing opportunity to take those first, very difficult steps out of homelessness.”This year Crisis at Christmas will run from 23-30 December across ten centres in central London. The target for the TV Campaign is to raise £50,000 to help pay for Crisis at Christmas and year-round Crisis Skylight Services.Leslie Morphy, Crisis chief executive, said: “For the first time we are taking our Crisis at Christmas Appeal directly into people’s homes via their TV screens. We expect to be busier than ever this year, as homelessness continues to rise. We really appreciate Sir Ian McKellen giving his time to support our first television advertisement.” read more

A Montreal Friendship Centre serving aboriginal youth to close doors

first_imgAPTN National NewsMontreal’s only centre serving aboriginal youth will be closing their doors.The Inter-Tribal Youth Centre has seen many aboriginal youth through their ups and downs but due to a funding dispute, those days may be over.APTN‘s Ossie Michelin files this report.last_img