Are you astounded by the complexity of biological information? Do you marvel at the magnificence of the human cell? Are you excited by scientific breakthroughs, watershed moments, and paradigm shifts?
Get ready for a shift.
I recently had the privilege to meet Dr. J.C. Sanford at the 2013 Ratio Christi Symposium at Southern Evangelical Seminary. Dr. Sanford is semi–retired and works as a Courtesy Associate Professor in the Department of horticulture at Cornell University. He holds a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding/Genetics form the University of Wisconsin and is the author of Genetic Entropy and The Mystery of the Genome.
Information is the Key
During our brief conversation, I was able to learn several things about biological information and the process of communicating new discoveries.
But this brief isn’t about the information he gave me,
It’s about the information in his cells which enabled him to give me information.
Biological Information: New Perspectives is the product of a 2011 symposium at Cornell University and explains the findings in 24 scientific papers by 29 scientists specializing in fields to include:
- Information theory
- Computer science
- Numerical simulation
- Evolutionary Theory
- Whole organism biology
- Developmental biology
- Molecular biology
(CLICK HERE to view an introduction titled “Biological Information–What Is It?)
The 563-page book is extremely technical. Fortunately, they published a companion booklet–Biological Information–New Perspectives: A Synopsis and Limited Commentary–to make the material more accessible (hey, if a guy like me can understand it. . .).
While I have been unable to locate a way for you to view the Synopsis and Limited Commentary, I have linked the article titles to available online content.
Three Important Points
The Introduction contains three important points which all the scientists agreed on:
- Information is the key to understanding life.
- Such information systems cannot possibly operate until all the countless components of the system are in place.
The third point sums up the conclusion from their findings:
3. “The enormous amounts of information found within any cell, and the irreducibly complex nature of information systems, can no longer rationally be attributed to just the mutation/selection process. New perspectives are needed that might help us better understand the nature, origin, and maintenance of biological information”1
The contributors believe that due to the evidence presented in Biological Information – New Perspectives, “it is necessary that biologists begin to re-examine neo-Darwinian theory.”2
In other words, there is more to biology than mutation and selection.
And information is the key.
The remainder of this brief is intended to whet your whistle by sharing what I gleaned from the Limited Synopsis and Commentary.
“Biological Information – What Is It?” – Werner Gitt, Robert Crompton Jorge Fernandez
- Biological information entails language, meaning, and purpose
- Information itself is a non-material entity–it is neither matter nor energy
- Mere matter cannot create information systems3
“Pragmatic Information” - John W. Oller, Jr.
- Biological information systems depend on a “deeply layered heirarchy of inter-connected sign systems.”
- The complexity of biological signaling systems grows exponentially with each ascending heirarchy
- The chances for meaningful combinations of data also drops exponentially
- The higher the heirarchy, the more intelligence required4
“An Ode to the Code: Evidence for Fine-Tuning in the Standard Codon Table” – Jed C. Macosko and Amanda M. Smelser
- The genetic code is not arbitrary, it is incredibly optimized and must have been so even before the first living cell5
- Darwinian theory cannot explain the origin of biological information in cell membranes6
- A possible new vibrational communication system suggests that molecules may interact at a distance, which would transcend DNA-based genetics7
“Multiple Overlapping Genetic Codes Profoundly Reduce the Probability of Beneficial Mutation” – George Montanez, Robert J. Marks II, Jorge Fernandez, and John C. Sanford
- The genome has multiple overlapping codes
- Beneficial mutations must be extremely rare
- This complexity makes the genome seemingly impossible to “improve” via Darwinian processes8
What is the significance of these findings?
- Inanimate matter cannot give rise to complex information systems without a guiding force.
- High-level languages embedded throughout all biological systems suggests an underlying intelligence.
- The genetic code must have already been established before the first living cell.
- Neo-Darwinian theory cannot explain newly understood codes such as the membrane code, splicing code, methylation code, histone code, and epigenetic code.9
There are many more fascinating discoveries to share.
Would you like to see a Part 2 to this post? Please let me know in the comments.
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1 J.C. Sanford, Ph.D., Biological Information – New Perspectives: A Synopsis and Limited Commentary (Waterloo: FMS Publications), 2.
2 Ibid., 2-3.
3 Ibid., 4.
4 Ibid., 5.
5 Ibid., 6.
7 Ibid., 7.
8 Ibid., 8.
9 Ibid., 4-7.
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