now incorporating the Sudbury Hill and Wood End Times

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Science for the Confused - an occasional series

No. 5: DNA as a key not an engine

Intuitively it seems that there is not enough coded information in the human genome to account for the complexity of our bodies. [Insert plausible sounding reference here. Ed] But might there not be enough to account for our variations? We know that there are genes for hair colour, eye colour etc. It is often remarked that we have much more in common than we have different. But this begs the question, variation from what? In this scenario there must be an original pattern, much more complex than the "list of variations", and DNA is like the measurements we give a tailor who then makes a suit to measure. The suit is similar to all other suits, it only varies in respect of the details we gave to the tailor. Creationists would love to argue this if they haven't already, but the real implication is that there is another discovery to be made for which DNA is only the key*.

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Prof. H. Kronk (Science Correspondent)

* See "Comments" below for more. Kronk hypothesizes that the mother serves as the "complex original" template, whose variations are backed out before applying replaced by the variations specified in the new individual's DNA. Ed

15 comments:

Science Officer Ron Dither said...

I agree entirely.

Several years ago, whilst working on a particularly convoluted theory about string I was treated by a doctor for confusion (mine not his) and he remarked that I shouldn't think that my work on string would ever be completed. He said - let me get this right - that the menu is not the territory and the map is not the meal...or the menu is not the map, and the territory is not the meal...or no, my wife seems to recall that it was the map is not the territory and the menu is not the meal. Anyway something like that, and it was a jolly good lesson.

In my report to the deputy Prime Minister I liken the result of the work on the genome to the swipe card in a man's hand after a night's drinking. The swipecard gets him into the foyer of the bank by the Tesco Express near Covent Garden. He has entered the foyer with the aforesaid swipecard in an attempt to fund further drinking at an afterhours establishment somewhere off the Charing Cross Road. Unfortunately he doesn't have a cashcard for the atm machine and, what is more, he didn't even suppose that he would need one. He supposed the swipecard would be enough to meet his needs for further alcohol. He was, you see, absolutely vain and...
{cont'd page 9, col 4}

Feargal Mooney (on the night shift) said...

As Rainer Maria Bilko said, "All of our knowledge only brings us closer to our nudity."

I was just getting into that story about the quest for drink.

I had a disturbing vision involving the deputy PM, a swipe card and one of those exotic dancers who gather banknotes.

Science Officer Ron Dither said...

Dear Letters Page,

I am afraid I couldn't comment further on that. I am, as you might suspect, being monitored.

But suffice it to say that your Mr Rainer Maria Bilko is absolutely correct in his assessment. Was he a government science officer? Whatever, your Mr Bilko would understand the deep import of his assertion, he would understand that a man in my position can acquire so much knowledge that if anyone suspected the breadth of it I should indeed be found naked in a field somewhere.

Fortunately when as a young lad with my required 4 O levels I joined the department my first mentor was Georgie Wood and his very first piece of advice to me was 'never tell them what you know'. Georgie lived to be 87 and died in his bed with his wrists intact and no copper coin taped to the back of his neck and no rambling note explaining why he had left the house whole and been returned in a box in pieces.

The map, as my dearly departed doctor friend asserted, is assuredly not the territory.

Now I must finish here I think, I believe I can hear footste

Helmut J. Kronk (not Helmut M. Kronk) said...

An example of the process of "variation from standard" could be that all embryos appear to start as female and then depending on DNA, half of them vary to become male. What would an individual without any variation look like? A shop window mannequin, maybe. "The image of God."

Elaborating this hypothesis further, somewhere there could be a template for each species, not held in DNA. The DNA might only control the positioning of an eye for example, not the structure of an eye. Thus one gene out of place would cause a creature to have an extra eye in the wrong place. In this scenario, the original two cells and all cells are merely building blocks, whose main role is to grow and subdivide, to provide building material.

Prof. Helmut (M.) Kronk, Science Correspondent said...

Of course the template can be taken from the host, i.e. the mother - hence all embryos female to start with. I nearly forgot the most important part. There is obviously an electrical transmission through the placenta of the template for a human. The template is decoded from the mother by backing out the variations represented by the mother's DNA.

Helmut J. Kronk (not Helmut M. Kronk) said...

Now all you need is Adam and Eve and God's your uncle.

Prof. Helmut Kronk (Science Correspondent) said...

Yes, and the backing out of the mother's variations means that surrogate mothers will still be able to gestate others' babies and have them resemble the real parents, even though the standard template is derived from the surrogate mother by backing out her variations to arrive at the standard template and then applying the variations for the new individual.

mrs haverty said...

Of course! I was just going to say that. (humour him.)

Helmut M. Kronk said...

You idiot, Helmut J. Kronk. There is no need to "back out" the birth mother's variations. Simply apply the new variations.

Feargal Mooney said...

Obviously I know nothing at all (I from Ballyfermot) but according to this theory a woman who lost a finger in an accident would produce a baby with a finger missing, no?

And what about a species that can give birth to a different species in the crazy world of farm science, for example a pig gestating a sheep, hasn't that sort of thing been done?

And plants have DNA too, they must have because somebody on telly is always saying how we share 90% of our DNA with a banana.

Mrs Haverty said...

If we're not careful with all this science mickey-taking, we're going to end up with humans growing wild on top of weeds and crying and howling at us for stepping on them everywhere we walk. That's all I know, now, and you can call me a stupid cow.

Helmut J. Kronk (not Helmut M. Kronk) said...

If I may cross-examine Mr Mooney...

This woman who lost a finger, she had a finger there at one time, yes?

Would you therefore say that she had a memory of her finger? Yes.

Thank you.

Helmut J. Kronk (not Helmut M. Kronk) said...

No further questions.

Simon Moribund (com-guru) said...

Probably in her brain somewhere there is a System Restore Point from the day before she un-installed her finger.

Ogden Gnash (gardener and poet-in-residence) said...

DeSelby did not live in vain.

http://igoresha.virtualave.net/OmniResearch/omnium.html