Recent press releases show the Junk Theory of excess DNA to be wrong, with one swipe eliminating a rich lode of sci-fi speculative material. It seems that excess DNA has a regulatory function, therefore cannot be the encoded library of our alien creators, as many ancient alien theorists believe.
But wait, the story regarding the functionality of excess DNA has so many facets that I’m a lion caught in the headlights, unable to decide which fawn I want to eat.
So I’ll attack the first few that jump out at me.
I am impressed by the scientists and their work, despite the over-hyping, which I suspect helps generate support for the next grant cycle. There I go, already mocking them. Anyway, read the articles as well as my diatribe. The main thing to remember is that science is moving forward, careening here and there, like a drunk on horseback, but moving forward none the less.
Fawn number one: Hype in alleged scientific reporting. In the Scientific American article we read that the newly discovered regulator units make up about 8-9% of the DNA. Ancient alien theorists and sci-fi writers take heart, that plus the original 3% used for genetic encoding totals only 12%, leaving 88% for us to play games with.
Alas, further into the article, the number is pushed “aggressively” to 50%. What does that mean? To me, who has pushed numbers, it means “abandon all reasonable constraints”. Further in the article, the number is pushed again, to 80%. How you go beyond abject free license? Could be worse, the other writer starts at 80%.
So what are we, the uninitiated, to do? Why apply your irrational philosophical and political bent, of course. However, one should consult their dogma guru first because the implications are not as you might think. The implications are like DNA itself, a fur ball that untangles into a ten foot string, all coming from one tiny microscopic cell. There, you have one useful fact out of this.
Fawn number two: Creationism vs. Evolution. Don’t get me wrong, I support evolution; I just don’t know how much life evolved and how much of it was directed by an intelligent force. Evolutionists once threw junk DNA in the faces of creationists, saying that an intelligent designer would not have put junk DNA in his design. As such you evolutionists might want to argue for a lower regulator DNA number, leaving more junk to shoot at your philosophical opponents. Of course, more controller switches would support faster mutation in a changing environment. In that case, you may want to go for the higher estimate, 80%. Be forewarned that an intelligent designer would have thought of that too.
In fact, the theory of evolution is that life, through mutation, moves toward the most efficient design, haphazardly, but just as surely as intelligent design. For example if you put 1,000,000,000 monkeys before typewriters, eventually one would type Shakespeare, “To be or not to encyclopedia?”
Statistics, the backbone of experimentation, does hack down some elegant theories.
Fawn number three: Spontaneous generation. Francis Crick, the discoverer of DNA, estimated that only 3% of it was used for genetic coding. Even at that low percent, he said it was too complex to have spontaneously generated from inanimate chemicals.
Given that the ten foot string of DNA contains 3.2 billion units, his 3% would involve 98 million units. 98 million units being arranged haphazardly is a lot more complicated than a line of Shakespeare, and as many fail to realize, these 98 million units don’t just sit quietly waiting for the others to flop into place—they keep moving around or disintegrating. Statistics says no to this one. Even those who insist it happened say it was a miraculous accident.
Well now you can raise the number to 360 million that have to haphazardly arrange themselves from chemicals. That’s using only 9% of the DNA for the control functions. To put it in perspective, all of the origins of life research has not arranged a string of even 2 units, and this is only the DNA part of the cell, there are more parts, like the cell membrane, etc. The more we learn, the better that intelligent designer looks.
Oh, by the way, even at the outlandish 80%, the scientists are leaving 544 million bits for our aliens to encode their secret message to us.
Life is still good; write on.
Probable, Possible, and Ugh
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