Saturday, December 14, 2013

Overlapping Languages

Scientists have known for fifty years that DNA was the language of life, but recent discoveries are revealing that the complexity of this language is far greater than ever imagined back in the days when Watson and Crick were elucidating the structure of the DNA molecule. Not only is there an epigenetic code superimposed on DNA that controls and regulates the function of DNA, but it's turning out that DNA itself contains several different languages that serve different functions in the cell.

Here's part of the story:
Since the genetic code was deciphered in the 1960s, scientists have assumed it was used exclusively to write information about proteins, but University of Washington scientists say they've discovered genomes use the genetic code to write two separate "languages."

One, long understood, describes how proteins are made, while the other instructs the cell on how genes are controlled. One language is written on top of the other, which is why the second language remained hidden for so long, a university release said Thursday.
Presumably, instructions are embedded in the DNA matrix in much the same way as a secret code is embedded in an otherwise ordinary body of text by reading, say, every third word in the text.
"For over 40 years we have assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made," UW genome sciences Professor John Stamatoyannopoulos said. "Now we know that this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture. These new findings highlight that DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device, which nature has fully exploited in unexpected ways."

The gene control instructions appear to help stabilize certain beneficial features of proteins and how they are made, he said.

"The fact that the genetic code can simultaneously write two kinds of information means that many DNA changes that appear to alter protein sequences may actually cause disease by disrupting gene control programs or even both mechanisms simultaneously," he said.
This is fascinating, but I suspect even this isn't all there is to it. All of this, as complex as it is, has only to do with the production of proteins, but what is it that tells these proteins where to go in the cell? What is it that programs an organism to behave in the ways that are specific to its species? What tells the spider to spin a web of a particular architecture or tells the caterpillar what type of chrysalis to make? What tells a cat to pounce on a laser dot or a bird to build a specific kind of nest? How are these behaviors regulated and determined? There must be a lot more to it than just what proteins are available in the cell.

And one more question: How does naturalistic Darwinism explain any of this?