[asa] Molecular Biology and Design

From: Nucacids <nucacids@wowway.com>
Date: Fri Dec 26 2008 - 13:51:30 EST

Biology is one of the most rapidly advancing sciences right now largely because of molecular biology. And molecular biology was institutionalized when scientists imported engineering concepts into biology.

 

See: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/molecular-biology/

 

Look at it this way. How would a mainstream, non-controversial molecular biologist describe the process of protein synthesis? Well, something like this:

 

To make a protein, a molecular machine, known as the ribosome, translates a messenger RNA molecule using the genetic code.

 

Machine.

Message.

Translate.

Code.

 

All of these concepts play key roles in molecular biology's understanding of protein synthesis and these are all concepts derived from engineering and the information sciences.

 

It's also important to realize this description is not some modern interpretation or some spin from an ID theorist. The terms "message," "translate," and "code" are associated with molecular biology becoming institutionalized in the 1950s and 1960s ("machine" became common in molecular biology in the 1990s as explained by Alberts). For example, consider this observation from R. C. Lewontin:

 

"Many biologists in the late 1950s (I among them) regarded with a certain contemptuous hauteur the attempts of renegade physicists to illumine the relation between gene and protein by engaging in the sort of cryptanalysis that became so romantic as a result of the wartime triumphs of Bletchley Park. But Kay shows quite convincingly that, although these codebreaking techniques could not in themselves provide the right answer, *the view of DNA as code and amino acid sequence as plaintext was absolutely essential in the very conception of the critical experiments at the beginning of the 1960s.* The brilliant paper by Crick, Barnett, Brenner, and Watts-Tobin, which demonstrated so elegantly that the DNA sequence was processed from a fixed starting point using each successive non-overlapping triplet to determine the next amino acid in the chain, and Nirenberg and Matthaei's path-breaking demonstration that poly-U RNA in an in vitro synthetic system resulted in the construction of a polypeptide consisting solely of phenylalanine, *would have been conceptually impossible without the metaphor of the code.*

 

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/291/5507/1263

 

 

There is no doubt that experiments are key to scientific progress, but experiments involve at least two essential elements. First, they require instruments/tools. In molecular biology, electron microscopes, centrifuges, electrophoresis apparatus, and even radioisotopes, opened an unseen world. Second, the experiment must be designed, and the data must be interpreted and appreciated. Here, the engineering concepts helped open the unseen world.

 

If engineering concepts have helped to shape molecular biology, it is worth noting that molecular biology has been shaping developmental biology for some time. And developmental biology has been rewriting our understanding of evolution that renders front-loading more plausible. People sometimes ask me what science would look like if life was designed. I say it would look a lot like it looks right now.

 

- Mike Gene

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Received on Fri Dec 26 13:52:23 2008

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