October 5, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

More Reasons Why DNA Is Perfect for Coding

Scientists at Vanderbilt University may have been trying to explain chemical evolution, but hit on another reason DNA is the ideal molecule for carrying genetic information (see also Science Daily).  They tweaked the sugar molecule on the DNA backbone and got an unwieldy, haphazard, writhing ribbon of a molecule, unsuitable for bonding genetic code or compacting into chromosomes.  It wasn’t even close to DNA.  “Just how nature arrived at this molecule and its sister molecule, RNA, remains one of the greatest – and potentially unsolvablescientific mysteries,” the article says. 
    Martin Egli and team coaxed DNA to incorporate six-carbon sugars instead of the less-common five-carbon sugars (deoxyribose in DNA, and ribose in RNA).  What they got is called homo-DNA.  Though first synthesized in 1992, homo-DNA had not been studied in structural detail till now.  Despite being thermodynamically more favorable for spontaneous formation, homo-DNA is too bulky, and too careless in its base pairing, to be useful as a genetic molecule.  Furthermore, it cannot pair with other molecules like RNA – essential for transcription and translation.

These researchers did worthwhile work helping us understand why DNA is so good, seemingly “the work of an accomplished sculptor” as well as programmer.  “The new insights provided by this structure lie at the heart of the most fundamental of scientific inquiries – the origin of life on Earth,” they said.  That’s a worthy question to think about, even if an “unsolveable” mystery from a materialist standpoint.  But the press release easily wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week for these groaners:

  • DNA’s simple and elegant structure – the “twisted ladder,” with sugar-phosphate chains making up the “rails” and oxygen- and nitrogen-containing chemical “rungs” tenuously uniting the two halves – seems to be the work of an accomplished sculptor.
        Yet the graceful, sinuous profile of the DNA double helix is the result of random chemical reactions in a simmering, primordial stew.
  • “These molecules are the result of evolution,” said Egli, professor of Biochemistry.  “Somehow they have been shaped and optimized for a particular purpose.”
  • “Homo-DNA is just one alternative system.  There are hundreds of sugars, as many as you can think of.  It will be almost impossible to look at all of them,” Egli said.
        “But the big red herring of this work could be that nature never went through these other sugars.  Maybe it just hit on gold (these five-carbon sugars) very early and took off from there.

This shows that even misguided evolutionary scientists, though hopeless gamblers, are not completely out of touch with reality.  Like the blindfolded, they occasionally bump into it and bang their heads.  Nobody is forcing them to wear the blindfolds.

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Categories: Dumb Ideas, Genetics

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