Going on the offensive

From: Chris Taylor (chris.taylor@ebi.ac.uk)
Date: Wed 23 Nov 2005 - 10:17:56 GMT

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    Okay Ted we're going round in circles now:

    Protein folding (again): Fine, there are many stable configurations for some proteins to fold to (cf. prion disease for a nasty one) but that is managed by (1) a whole suite of stuff during manufacture (chaperones, pauses in translation etc.) and (2) a really thorough misfold-spotting machinery that recycles anything remotely dodgy.

    Cell 'manufacture': Who exactly is looking at making cells from scratch? I'll wager statistically nobody. Everyone is looking at actual biological processes, which have no start.

    Clouds(?): This is just nonsensical. Structure in cells is elaborate. Three(+) kinds of cytoskeletal element etc. seeded from zygotes to gametes to zygote and on. 'Wiring up' is a standard process also, that relies not on a (non-redundant) wiring diagram as for a house, but on general properties of networks, which means a lot of redundancy but that is what evolution produces (and it is complexity that is important here, not 'chaos'). cf. neural wiring which is slightly more coordinated but not much.

    As for 'free will': This is just bizarre. Does a motion sensor have the 'will' to sound an alarm when it is triggered? Does chemotaxis qualify as something different (no)? Does a bee have a 'desire' to remember a route using that special neural structure it has (no)? There is a sliding scale for awareness to be sure, but it drops off pretty rapidly and is reliant on having something that can process _large amounts of information at once_. Action-reaction pairs are _not_ thought. Without thought there can be no 'desire' for anything.

    And the reasons we can't let it lie (i.e. stop arguing) are that
    (1) as scientists we are irked by unsupportable claims being compared to thoroughly investigated principles; (2) to an extent there is a climate of 'get the biologists' at the moment (more the truly religious ID nutters than you I'll admit but we're mostly at battle stations on lists like this); (3) it is kind of fun to debate and by implication explore the fundamental assumptions we all have to deal with (in extremis -- that this is not a dream or a sim, for example); this is the fun of fencing.

    And I have to stress that I don't think anyone who can properly claim to be a scientist could (even if they wanted to) maintain a closed mind to truly compelling evidence of any kind (although some maintain a position for career, it is usually pretty obvious what is going on to the majority). If someone could show me unequivocally that the whole DNA-based realm of life was engineered by cunning aliens (='god[s]' -- as 'magic' has always been and will continue to be just the science we don't understand, so god is just the entities we don't understand) then there'd have to be a reckoning... I'm going to start a proper religion soon btw as a memetic experiment -- anyone want to play?

    So anyway, on the offensive (i.e. let's critique some of what supports your views rather than vice versa):

    (1) What controlled experiments have _directly tested_ what you et al. suggest as possible, rather than everything relying on rationalised passive observations?

    (2) What is the origin of life in the morpho world?

    (3) What is the mechanism of evolution, in full? All Lamarckian?

    (4) What is a 'lethal' gene for you (i.e. knockout/mutant = never develops or dies very early)?

    Cheers, Chris.


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