Life, an Elegantly Simple Mistake
The ribosome is a complex molecular machine made up of multiple protein and RNA parts. Last year, winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (see 10/10/2009) were praised for elucidating the structure and activity of ribosomes. News stories described “the whole complicated process of transcription initiation, an operation that is of crucial importance in all organisms, because it determines which genes are expressed, and when.” The process from gene to protein “must be carried out with great precision” and involves “the use of complicated assemblies made up of many different proteins, often referred to as molecular machines.” (See also 09/03/2009 and the 08/24/2009 entry, “DNA Translator More Complicated Than Thought.”)
Researchers at the Salk Institute, however, essentially said this week in a press release, Elementary, my dear Watson-Crick: as for the origin of life, “elegantly simple organizing principles seen in ribosomes.” The press release explained, “Taking their hints from relics of this evolution left behind in modern cells, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies concluded that after only two waves of ‘matching’ and some last minute fiddling, all 20 commonly used amino acids were firmly linked with their respective codons, setting the stage for the emergence of proteins with unique, defined sequences and properties.” Their conclusions are being published by PNAS next week.
personified in this short press release was astounding. Like some goddess, “Evolution” seemed to be working toward personal goals all over the place:
- …two waves of ‘matching’ and some last minute fiddling…
- “Although different algorithms, or codes, were likely tested during a long period of chemical evolution, the modern code proved so robust that, once it was established, it gave birth to the entire tree of life,” says the study’s lead author Lei Wang, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Chemical Biology and Proteomics Laboratory.
- If chemical or physical interactions between amino acids and nucleotide indeed drove the formation of the genetic code, [David B. F.] Johnson reasoned, then he should be able to find relics of this mutual affinity in modern cells.
- “Also, the ribosome emerged from an early evolutionary stage of life to help with the translation of the genetic code before the last universal common ancestor,” explains [Lei] Wang …
- “We now believe that the genetic code was established in two different stages,” says Johnson.
- But once some primitive translational mechanism had been established, new amino acids were added to the mix and started infiltrating the genetic code based on specific amino acid/anticodon interactions.
- “We found evidence that a few amino acids were reassigned to a different codon but once the code was in place it took over,” says Johnson. “It might not have been the best possible solution but the only one that was viable at the time.”
The authors admitted to only one area where their work did not “shed light” –
Their data does not shed much light on the early code, consisting of prebiotically available amino acids—the kind generated in Stanley Miller’s famous “zap”-experiment.
“Zap experiment.” Has kind of a Frankenstein ring to it, does it not? PhysOrg echoed the whole press release without a double-take.
Here’s an entry parents can use to hone their precocious students’ baloney detecting skills. It’s too easy for high schoolers, though. Better put this in the file for junior high. The whole article is like a primer on how not to reason scientifically. Many of the classic fallacies are present: personification, of course, but also glittering generalities, loaded words (euphemism), card stacking, sidestepping, circular reasoning, non-sequitur, and much more. Particularly noteworthy are the miracle phrases (emergence; gave birth to the entire tree of life) and personifications hidden in passive-voice verbs and subjunctive mood constructions (amino acids were firmly linked with their respective codons; the modern code proved so robust that, once it was established). A simple exercise when seeing these phrases is to stop and ask, WHO linked it? WHO proved it robust? WHO established it? It will be a profound educational revelation for a young student to realize there are actually irrational people in our scientific institutions saying dumb things.
Don’t let evolutionists, who are supposed to believe evolution is mindless and directionless, get away with personification. It is the besetting sin of the Darwin Party. We need to turn out an army of baloney-detecting young people to arrest the logical drunks, even when they hark from prestigious organizations like the Salk Institute. If they want to engage in Frankenscience, fine: just make them be consistent. No guidance, no interference, no assuming what needs to be proved, no baloney. Do the zap experiment the right way: turn the zapper on the sea water, walk away, and watch it, with hands off, like a good empiricist, for millions of years. Anybody want to predict how many codes and ribosomes and translation mechanisms will “emerge” from the zap experiment? Zip.