Let's take a moment and reflect on some of the biggest major blunders by the Corporate Science Gang which has already had major consequences for our planet, some of which may never be reversed under the present system of things. This is of course the controversy of the Biotech Innovation called Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Now before we go there, let's first consider as an example the debates surrounding the informational content of the Genetic Code. Some say DNA is not real information. They say it is nothing more than meaningless patterns formed by blind undirected forces, while others say the informational content originated from some sort of intelligence. First off, I want to clarify that I am neither an Evolutionist nor a Creationist. I view both of these positions as nothing more than ideological power movements for the advancement of each one's personal biased politico-social agendas. Personally, I could never write a scientific paper and explain how these mysterious blind undirected forces of physics & chemicals or just how exactly any intelligence accomplished anything when it comes to the origin of the informational content of DNA. I simply recognize that this is impossible at this time. The best I can do is stick to personal observation and the reality of how nature really works (that is why I look at nature from a Biomimicry or Biomimetics viewpoint) as opposed to the religio/politico theories & hypothesis advanced forth and shoved down other's throats by both of these groups (no offense of course, just say'n). There is a HUGE difference between debating and arguing with an Ideologue as opposed to having an intelligent discussion with another civil human being who cherishes facts and evidence. But once again, I am bringing this up to highlight the glaring flaws behind the controversy surrounding the GMO technology and what they (Science defenders of this technology) don't know or will refuse to admit they don't know. Ultimately, the very real informational content that does exist within DNA.
I started this blog, "Earth's Internet" because I view the natural world as a fully functional brilliantly sophisticated piece of machinery with countless important components which deserve our admiration and respect. For the most part human beings as a general rule worldwide never really get this. My main focus here on this blog of course is plants, but I also recognize the important interconnected roles that all other forms of life play in this complexity of biological existence. Focusing mainly now on plants, I view each individual species of plant as being run by it's own computer operating system which comes with pre-installed programming with a sort of fully functional version of 7.0 Horticultural Software on steroids with the ability to manage most life functions with an extremely large selection of specialized Apps with countless programs and files which may be accessed upon at a moment's notice to problem solve and doing so at faster than super-computer speeds. So let's start off by looking at a very familiar illustration below.
Okay, so this is basically a 3-D animation or illustration of a single cell, probably similar to those you've all seen in various scientific textbooks from your School days. Many have made the comparison of a single living cell to that of a well fortified protected city with it's central command & communications Centre, transportation systems, waste disposal departments, messenger components, Manufacturing Plants, etc etc etc. But I want you to now go beyond this and consider it as an entire molecular version of an ecosystem. So what is an ecosystem ? All ecosystems have foundational species which serve to promote any specific type of system that may exist anywhere on the globe. Within all ecosystems there are checks and balances and as we all now know, instead of that mistaken dogma of survival of the fittest, we now know that there is generally a harmonious mutualistic cooperation going on in every ecosystem. But here is where the Biotechs go wrong. They only have tunnel vision. They have no peripheral vision to look at the consequences of disrupting a cooperative sophisticated complex harmonious system by introducing a sort of species component [foreign gene] which comes along and disrupts the harmony which once existed in the system they are attempting to modify under the guise of a better designed product. In this case we are talking about the informational content of DNA which is specified to one organism and placing this within another radically different organism which could be compared to a micro-ecosystem. The question is, how will the introduction of a foreign gene component react with it's newer neighbours and vice versa ???
Let's start off our stroll down the "Earth's Internet" Information Highway by reviewing something we call all relate to. In this blog I write a great deal about various ecosystems that I am familiar and have worked with, how things function and harmonize within all these varying ecosystems and how we can replicate practices which work with as opposed to against such ecosystems. This is what mankind and Science from our historical past has failed to recognize. Nothing is simple in Nature, in fact it is extremely complex and sophisticated. One of the promotional points that I always find irritating with those defending the biotech industry and GMO technology is when say "we're just talking about Genes or DNA. DNA is DNA or Genes are just Genes." Well, no they are not. Take the illustration of that cell above. That could be any cell which is specified blueprints within any certain specific organism. It's informational content is specified to the building and maintaining of that specific organism irrespective of how any religiously motivated ideologue from either side of debate thinks it got that way. I think everyone gets that. Instructions for building a Giraffe are far different in the extreme than those found in the cell of a Elephant for actually building an Elephant. So why do GMO Scientists and Researchers justify their technology in such simplistic terms ? Because it's mostly a business model which is being defended, with the argument of a better science being used as a cloak for it's flaws. In almost all cases, it's never been necessary to build a better plant when nature has a plethora of tools in it's Tool-Kit arsenal for handling any self-defense situations. Also, plants need insects as well as insects need plants, but it's finding that balance which should make more Eco-sense. The real reason behind what Biotechs strive for are Patents and monopolizing our globe's food production industry. It has zero to do with them only wanting to help feed mankind out of the goodness of their dear sweet hearts which is often used as a smoke screen.
But their technology also exposes the flawed background of their understanding as to just what the informational content of DNA really and truly is. Because of their willful ignorance comfort zone on just how the genome really works, we & Nature in general are all paying the price for such complacent ignorance. Their simplistic view and Public Relations "Just Add Water" explanation is that there is this thing called a genome, where this thing called DNA exists, some Genes are there within DNA and they can do certain things, we then simply take that gene from organism "A" and put it into some other DNA or Genome of organism "B" and it does what we want it to. It's just as simple as that. Except it's not as simple as that. Instructions which worked specifically along side the first BT Cry gene [ecosystem species which we'll call "A"] are no longer around to keep the original checks and balances within the new genome ecosystem [organism "B"] which has a completely different set of genes [or like foreign species of a completely different ecosystem]. One thing we do know now with the BT Cry gene is that it produces a far more potency of toxin within it's new ecosystem [Corn or Soybean] than it did in it's original ecosystem because there was something called non-coding DNA which provided the checks and balances. Those checks and balances were what many religiously & ideologically driven scientists often called Junk DNA sometime back. Many still do, but with the ENCODE project, Scientists are finding out these have more function and purpose than originally thought. So these non-coding genes have been providing much more function all this time in the form of guidance, instructions, blueprints, regulation etc in what that protein coding gene did and didn't do. It was simply a coding for protein gene for which it contained instructions for manufacturing. This is just like any other organism which is taken from it's native ecosystem and presented either purposely or accidentally within a completely foreign context. The entire system can be thrown out of balance. But they didn't anticipate this when they first started ? So what has happened thus far ?
Let's see if you can help me understand just what is going wrong with the Biotech Business model. Take a Dollar [or a Euro, Pound, Dinar, Yen, etc] bill out of your wallet now. With arms stretched straight out and holding the currency bill far away from you, what else can you see. Your peripheral vision allows you to see many things. I can see the scenery outside of my window. I can see all the other furnishings within the house. I can see actually hundreds of other things and perhaps so can you. But now bring that bill up to your face. What do you see now ? Nothing but that one dollar bank note. You are blinded and oblivious to anything else all around you. This is where the biotech researchers have been all this time. They have no peripheral view of the molecular-ecosystem and the potential for consequences of introducing an invasive species [Gene of another Micro-Molecular-Ecosystem] that doesn't belong in the radically unrelated new genome ecosystem. So the Biotech industry's original technology was based on a horribly flawed dramatically incomplete understanding of the genome when they started over 20+ years ago. Our present understanding now has dramatically changed. Now one thing you need to understand is that none of these Biotechs will ever be willing to admit this publicly. Frankly, the all have a vested business-stock options interest in seeing their business model succeed. No surprise there.
|Invasive Tamarisk (credit: Earlham College)|
Let's take one more failed scientific idea that has had massive dire consequences in Australia back in the 1930s. Australia has one of the largest global sugar cane industries in the world. But the cane beetle caused huge problem for the sugar cane Industry in Australia. Then the Cane Toad was introduced from Central America to eat those evil Cane Beetles down under in Australia. This was believed to be such a simple logical scientific solution. All you have to do is introduce a predator "A" [Cane Toad] to eat the prey "B" [Cane Beetle] and problem solved "C". Why it was as easy as "ABC", except it wasn't. As everyone at this time surely knows, this toad has taken over Australia, and has become a continent-wide problem. The native Australian Predators like Crocodiles, Snakes and large Monitor Lizards cannot even consume these Toads because these creatures exude a toxic poison from their skin and the predator dies. Those researchers back then were totally ignorant about the way that Australian ecosystem worked. They had tunnel vision influenced by the potential for profit. They rejected allowing enough time to consider possible consequences which means they actually chose to ignore their peripheral vision for the sake of instant gratification we call short term profits. The same is true of our world's modern day Biotech's genetic engineering and its unintended consequences on the genome. What may seem to be benign may in fact have dramatic unintended consequences, but nobody wants to discuss this. Watch this trailer below and look at the unintended consequences of the Cane Toad introduction into Australia. Here is how things have turned out for the Aussies who did not question the Science of the day.
|image: Jacob Sandry|
The problem or dilemma here for many of the Origins fables is that the "Just Add Water" story of chemicals and physics without direction or intended goals is in direct conflict of this central dogma of molecular biology. And it truly doesn't give us any more satisfying account of what really happened way back when, then any of the conventional religious myths from this world's historical past. From all that we know and from what has been observed, proteins are only created for specific purpose from the DNA Instructions given to molecular nano-machines for the building of such specifically folded protein for an intended purpose within biological system. Also, proteins do not create new information, nor can they control what DNA's information content does or doesn't do. The rule here is the other way around. This is where the debate becomes the origin of the "Genetic Information Codes" and no experiment has yet to prove otherwise.
Dumb arguments deliberately attempting to discredit genetic information as real & meaningful have been presented for as "Rocks in a landslide are information" or "cobblestones strewn on a beach are information" and my all time favourite, "Patterns in snowflakes are information", Except all of this is asinine and absurd.
I actually like the comparisons made of DNA to computer operating systems. As a human I get that. It's something simply illustrative of complex system that I would never otherwise understand. It's also something that about half of Earth's population is familiar with and relates to. Any good teacher will employ the use of illustrations drawn from familiar life situations to get a learning point across. In this case, even an animated illustration works well in teaching others. The whole argument with regard the definition of information is that all information we know the origin of comes from an intelligent mind. Mere chemicals and physics cannot account for the information we all use day after day. We all have an understanding of information (ideas, plans, writings etc) having first been originated from the mind. Through the skull and brain contained within, the mind and consciousness itself is nothing physical (and I'm not speaking of a mythology of an immortal soul which I don't believe in anyway). The only time information becomes material is if written down on paper, typed onto a computer monitor, etched in stone, or any other material no matter what the make up of that material. Going back to computer systems and the "Central Dogma" for biology comparison, the principles are almost identical. Like the "Central Dogma" your computer is controlled by Microsoft's Windows software which controls all functions and systems within. No amount of Computer hardware like the plastic shell casing, copper wiring, circuitry, electrical voltage or magnetic field will ever control or dictate anything to the software what it should and shouldn't do. Nor is any of your computer's hardware capable of inventing or creating any new information for the software. As we all know, the software programming was created by intelligent minds. Of course so was the hardware. The information was etched onto a plastic disc, but it can only truly be controlled and manipulated by human intelligence who created it. Even Microsoft has to continually send and upgrade newer and newer security patches, something the far more sophisticated DNA does continually and automatically. If anything, there is at least some scientific inference that perhaps the genetic information does come from an intelligent source, but any discussion of this leads to anger and hatred by those who control and run science the political entities they bed with. I personally see no reason for the anger, though I get the dislike of religion. I don't like their conduct and most of their beliefs either, but I'm also not going to replace it with equally kooky ideas and mythologies under the guise of intellectualism. Neither side can truly employ the scientific rules of Naturalistic and Physical explanations ONLY and explain to us how a creator did such and such, or how blind unguided mysterious forces without purpose, goals or intent built sophisticated complex nano-machines run by the most complex information compression storage system known to mankind. Therein lies the problem. How does anyone on either side explain origins of information or anything else for that matter under the strict scientific rules of Naturalistic Explanations ONLY in any scientific paper without manufacturing a fable or myth to satisfy the personal bias of the group you represent ? Well guess what, you can't!
This is where it now gets really weird. The other side (Science) which presents itself as far more intellectually superior to it's opponents, actually destroys any such claim with the countless oddball explanations they give in the way of their own version of storytelling by actually incorporating their own version of Fables/Myths and there is this constant need of muddling just what the word "information" itself actually means. Discussion then generally sink to a low grade misinformation debate which employs the use of definition shell games and when asking for further clarification by use of questions to better understand their position, all one ever receives are insults, derogatory language and personal attacks. Okay, first off I get it, the very idea that genetic information as having a comparison to real intelligent communications system as we know it, is clearly repugnant to the Science side because of the religious issues. I get it. However, these newer proposed metaphysical religious explanations by individuals claiming not to be religious simply don't cut it either. Faith statements dogmatically defended don't justify bad Science. There is clear evidence that the encoded information within DNA operates almost identically to the way the famous American Mathematician, Electronic Engineer and Cryptographer who worked for Bell Labs, Claude E Shannon proposed in his "Information Theory" (1948). Despite where one positions themselves on this debate as to origins, the fact remains that the genetic information within DNA behaves identically to any other communication system employed by humans. In actual fact however, it is truly superior to anything humans have devised.
The arguments given in the form of definition shell gaming have followed like this. The absurd explanations of what the word information means by virtual Science Geeks (actually a collection of philosophers and other countless anonymous Ideologues out there on the internet) have gone like this. "Patterns of Snowflakes are information" , "Pebbles randomly strewn along a beach after a storm are information" , "Rocks randomly crashing down from a landslide are Information". And this asinine absurdity never quits. I can tell you that such idiotic explanations in no way help a geneticist in their personal research. If these absurdities were true, then why in the world would Scientists who actually study and decipher the meaning and understanding of DNA, why do they employ something called Linguistic Analysis ? Why is DNA looked upon as an encoder, RNA as the digital messenger and the Ribosome as the decoder of that information ?
Funny, your computer runs on a similar messaging mechanism called the ASCII system, which is a character encoding scheme which was originally based on the English Alphabet. Press your keyboard's English Roman letter "A" and it is digitally transferred by a number code scheme of "1s" & "0s". In this case, the capital letter "A" is coded as "1000001" - "B" is encoded as "1000010" and so forth. This digital code of "1s" & "0s" are then instantaneously translated by your computer monitor the moment you touch any particular key to create the appearance on the screen for what ever letter you chose. Interestingly DNA originates the info, RNA digitally messages and the Ribosome translates and obeys instructions. For the Ribosome to do that requires it also has a in depth understanding of this genetic language. But DNA is far more complex than any of our human communications systems and does what it does at far faster than supercomputer speeds. And all of this before humans thought they knew better.
|ENCODE Statistics .org|
"Most research into life's murky origin has been carried out by chemists. They've tried a variety of approaches in their attempts to recreate the first steps on the road to life, but little progress has been made. Perhaps that is no surprise, given life's stupendous complexity. Even the simplest bacterium is incomparably more complicated than any chemical brew ever studied."
"But a more fundamental obstacle stands in the way of attempts to cook up life in the chemistry lab. The language of chemistry simply does not mesh with that of biology. Chemistry is about substances and how they react, whereas biology appeals to concepts such as information and organisation. Informational narratives permeate biology. DNA is described as a genetic "database", containing "instructions" on how to build an organism. The genetic "code" has to be "transcribed" and "translated" before it can act. And so on. If we cast the problem of life's origin in computer jargon, attempts at chemical synthesis focus exclusively on the hardware – the chemical substrate of life – but ignore the software – the informational aspect. To explain how life began we need to understand how its unique management of information came about."
"What is the definition of information?"Now because I know what the pattern of the English language characters are, then I also understand instantaneously the meaning of the sentence. This is true of all information. All information known to us have different patterns, but not all patterns in nature contain information, But now what if I translate this same sentence into say, the Arabic or Chinese pattern of characters ?
ما هو تعريف المعلومات كلمة؟
信息的定義是什麼Would it be logical or even reasonable for me to say that those are only meaningless patterns which contain no information whatsoever, for no other reason than I am incapable of understanding those specific patterns and spoken languages of both Arabic and Chinese ? It would clearly be absurd and asinine for me to insist upon such a reasoning or explanation. And yet this is exactly what the scientific world has in effect done when it comes to releasing GMOs into the wild. They won't recognize it as a true language with rules or laws and believe they are only connecting simple Lego or Tinker toy patterns from other organisms together. There is far more information in that BT Cry Gene than mere simple instructions for manufacturing a toxin. Not all scientists are on board with this. Many like Geneticist David Suzuki, recognize that we don't understand enough about genetics to be toying with it's makeup. But big business commercial interests in bed with politics has given this world a newer tool for the natural world's degradation. This is only the first part in a series of posts I'll do on this. While I don't agree with GMOs, I am also not on board with many of the Anti-GMO sites which rather than having their facts straight, tend to run on emotion and that ultimately hurts their cause. The main scientific GMO defenders swallow much of the above philosophy and label anyone who doesn't approve of GMOs as being Anti-Science. This couldn't be further from the truth. People from all backgrounds and beliefs simply want responsible science and the destruction of our natural world is proof that the last 150 years of intellectual enlightenment has been an environmental disaster, despite the many conveniences we all enjoy and use. I'll post a link later below.
Further Reading References and News Updates:
The secret of life won't be cooked up in a chemistry lab Life's origins may only be explained through a study of its unique management of information