Genome complexity: what genes do and don't do (Introduction)

by dhw, Thursday, February 28, 2019, 10:20 (204 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: You have persistently maintained that only a minority of scientists believe in cellular intelligence. According to the article you have presented to us, there are lots of scientists who now believe that cells are intelligent. So you switch from whether cells are intelligent to the either/or of chance and design. The context of cellular intelligence is our discussion of how evolution works: you say divine preprogramming and/or dabbling; I propose cellular intelligence, the very idea of which you have pooh-poohed. I am NOT proposing that this appeared by chance.

DAVID: So how did it appear?

Nobody knows, but I for one am not prepared to dismiss the theory that there is a God who made it appear.

dhw: For the purposes of our discussion I have offered nothing but theistic hypotheses, and I have even asked you if you think your God is incapable of designing such a mechanism. But (let us now exchange personal attempts at mind-reading) you wish to change the subject because (a) you can’t explain your own combination of hypotheses […]

DAVID: I've explained my hypotheses so well to myself I changed from agnostic to theistic!

I have no problem at all with your belief in God. This discussion focuses on your interpretation of your God’s purposes and methods, and in particular on your insistence that the unknown mechanism that leads to speciation cannot possibly be cellular intelligence – although many modern scientists are coming round to the belief that cells really are intelligent. Instead you have a fixed belief that your God either intervened personally (dabbled) or the cell communities automatically chose the correct instructions from a 3.8-billion-year-old library of information and instructions that was stored in their genome, detailing every single innovation, lifestyle and natural wonder in the history of life. And all for the sake of delaying his design of the only thing he wanted to design: you and me.

DAVID: So Shapiro et al are not wrong. Their conclusions are open to debate as I've described. They offer you a safe shore to row to so as to get away from the very specific either/or approach that I follow in these discussions.

dhw: Having stated categorically that “cells cannot design their own future”, you agree that Shapiro et al are not wrong! Of course their conclusions are open to debate. So are yours. That is why we have all these discussions. But if we are discussing my hypotheses and yours concerning how evolution works, please don’t pretend that we are discussing chance v. design. My hypotheses (and Shapiro’s) simply allow for a different design from the one you have fixed in your mind, and those I have offered you are all theistic.

DAVID: Without a belief in God. Shapiro is describing single cells in charge of their own fate. In our stage of evolution our cells are tightly controlled by feedback looks to achieve exact results.

Yes, as I have agreed repeatedly, once an innovation is successful, it has to be tightly controlled in order to ensure that it survives intact. There is absolutely no reason why belief in autonomous cellular intelligence should entail not believing in God – hence my answer to your question “how did it appear?”

DAVID: Shapiro studies bacteria which are responsible for their own survival. Our cells function at a different level. There are controls we do not know see clearly at this point. Some of that is seen in B cells making DNA instructions for new antibodies on the fly and the wild machinations of embryological development resulting in almost exact reproductions.

I’m delighted at your agreement that bacteria are responsible for their own survival, as opposed to following instructions issued 3.8 billion years ago. They are individual living organisms. Our cell communities are parts of immensely complex living organisms, and must cooperate if the overall community is to survive. Since single cells, you now agree, have the intelligence to work out their own ways of survival, why is it so difficult for you to imagine that communities of single cells might also have the intelligence to work out their own ways of survival? Once a method has been established, the cell communities must repeat their actions in order to survive – until new conditions arise, and then the communities will respond, just as bacteria do, by making changes to themselves. But as I keep agreeing, we do not know whether they are capable of the innovations which result in speciation. That is why, just like your library and your divine dabbling, it is a hypothesis and not a fact.

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