The Genetic Code: Expected Before it was Found

IDists often act as though there is something surprising about the DNA code. A recent post at UD highlights a letter from Crick containing the line “Now we believe that the D.N.A. is a code.” The typical implication is that somehow it came as a surprise that DNA would involve a code.

But there was nothing new about such an idea. Indeed, what is difficult is to imagine how genetic information could be held without being coded. In 1943, a decade before DNA’s structure was revealed, Erwin Schrodinger explained how a code would work in life, writing:

THE VARIETY OF CONTENTS COMPRESSED IN THE MINIATURE CODE

It has often been asked how this tiny speck of material, nucleus of the fertilized egg, could contain an elaborate code-script involving all the future development of the organism. A well ordered association of atoms, endowed with sufficient resistivity to keep its order permanently, appears to be the only conceivable material structure that offers a variety of possible (‘isomeric’) arrangements, sufficiently large to embody a complicated system of ‘determinations’ within a small spatial boundary

Page 21 of the pdf What is Life?

Indeed, and DNA fits quite well with that description. In addition, the linear nature of the DNA code allows for a straightforward geometry for producing transcripts and eventual translation of DNA information. The fact that Crick underscores “is” before “a code” appears to be nothing but recognition that what had been predicted is what was actually discovered, a genetic code.

Of course Schrodinger, like Crick and Watson, had no doubt that life had evolved. To be sure, this does nothing to demonstrate that DNA did evolve or any such thing, just that while the IDists simply assume that a code must be designed, people who lacked their biases merely considered how a genetic code was functional within life. The DNA code is just something that well fits the requirement for compact information storage and provides for a straightforward output of that information into proteins, RNA, and other needed molecules.

The evolution of the genetic code may well involve certain affinities between RNA and amino acids, and thus may not be entirely arbitrary in its origins, but that is a subject beyond the scope of this short post. The point at present is merely that one should not be hung up on the word “code” as if that means anything about its origins, for the fact is simply that it stores and puts out information in a manner that functions well for life. The term “code” denotes something important about DNA’s function, but not about its origin.

NAS admits it, evolution was a good joke

NAS president, April Furst, said today that evolution was a very good joke, but it’s gone on long enough. She stated, “It was an incredible setup, over a century and a half of teaching and ‘research’ into evolutionary theory, but we were waiting until people began to catch on to finally admit the joke. But with UD, and stellar minds like Kairosfocus, blowing our cover, we thought it was time to have a good laugh at the idea of Darwinism.”

There were some protests. Gull Able asked, well, what of the tree of life, why do organisms group into clades as they do? April responded, it’s a clear case of design for the sake of our ability to categorize and understand organisms. What order would you expect from the Designer, anyway? Something like the periodic table?”

Charl Atan tweeted April Furst, asking, “So who made the apparent transitionals, like Archaeopteryx and the various hominin fossils like Homo erctus?” Furst responded, “Haven’t you heard of prototypes?” Cen Sor said, “You were paid not to admit this secret. And anyway, why are later organisms made of strangely modified earlier parts and organs, like bat wings made out of mammalian hands?” April Furst was not abashed in the least, saying, “We were always going to admit the evolution hoax someday. And the Designer just happens to be a strong traditionalist, reworking organs incessantly while making little entirely new. The Designer wants kinds to be recognizable, after all.”

So there you have it, the evolutionary hoax is entirely exposed now. Have a good laugh, and get over it.

Why consciousness must be electric

Nested hierarchies have been discussed adequately, one should think. So here is an alternative matter.

I would propose that consciousness must be electrical in nature, due to two crucial facts:

1. The information that becomes conscious is some of the information being carried by the action-potentials of the nerve cells. It is not any other kind of information, such as quantum states of molecules, it is simply the information that nerve cells are known to carry via action-potentials.

2. Electric fields are the only physical phenomenon in the brain that have both the ability to extend in space significantly beyond nerve conduction itself and to be able to change and interact exceedingly swiftly, just as we experience conscious changes occurring “instantly.”

There are many other issues involved, of course, however, the fact remains that the physical phenomena underlying consciousness must be able to account for how consciousness appears to have the kind of extension and interactivity that creates consciousness, as electric fields would seem to be able to do. And that physical phenomenon must be tied to the information being carried as nerve impulses, as the electric fields of the nervous system ineluctibly are.

There does not seem to be a realistic option of a different sort of phenomenon that can unify that information encoded in the nerves into a conscious whole, and to do so exceedingly swiftly and surely. Certainly quantum physics offers nothing beyond electric fields interacting that could magically account for consciousness, no matter how much hocus-pocus people try to coax out of quantum phenomena. In the end it can’t be strange loops or the “illusion of consciousness” either, as one has to explain the difference between the consciousness and the unconscious (I would propose that the amount of, and type of, interaction of electric fields is what is crucial).

A great many issues could be discussed, however it seems to me that beginning with the basics is appropriate. There really is only one good candidate for consciousness in the physics of the brain at all, which is the electric fields that are unquestionably a necessary part of nerve conduction in the first place. If consciousness simply is what it is to be like a highly structured and unified (always becoming unified) electric field from the inside, so to speak, then it is the one phenomenon that we know not just abstractly, but as reality itself.