May 12, 2011 | David F. Coppedge

Who’s Playing Your Gene Piano?

Is your genetic code a library or a musical instrument?  Scientists have long considered it to be like the former, a genetic code.  Now, however, a new metaphor is emerging: a piano.  Discoveries in epigenetics (beyond-the-gene), processes that determine which genes are played or silenced, are tending toward the new interpretation.
    In Medical Xpress, a headline reads, “Study gives clue as to how notes are played on the genetic piano.”  It features the work of Dr. Kohzoh Mitsuya [U of Texas Health Science Center] who studies genes as if watching a performance: epigenetics “corresponds to a pianist playing a piece of music,” he said.  “Like keys on a piano, DNA is the static blueprint for all the proteins that cells produce,” the article described.  “Epigenetic information provides additional dynamic or flexible instructions as to how, where and when the blueprint will be used.
    His work has only identified one note on the piano so far: DNA methylation, a process that silences genes by having an RNA attach a methyl group to them.  After watching the response of mice deficient in the RNA, he said, “It shows how one note is played on the piano.”  Perhaps, though, the piano is just one instrument of a larger work.  “The symphony has only just come into view,” Dr. Mitsuya said.  “We can hear it, but we need to learn how all the parts are being played.”  His team’s work, published in Science today,1 did not mention pianos or music, but did not discuss evolution, either.


1.  Watanabe, Tomizami, Mitsuya et al, “Role for piRNAs and Noncoding RNA in de Novo DNA Methylation of the Imprinted Mouse Rasgrf1 Locus,” Science, 13 May 2011: Vol. 332 no. 6031 pp. 848-852, DOI: 10.1126/science.1203919.

OK, who’s the pianist?  Who’s the conductor?  Metaphors can be misleading, and should not be pushed too far, but this one causes trouble for Darwin while it fits neatly into intelligent design.  The environment cannot be the musician; it is oblivious to the needs of the organism.  Heredity cannot be the musician; it has no foresight to read or comprehend a collection of processes organized into a work.
    Function (the requirement of an organism to survive and reproduce) is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the origin of the information required to produce function.  Darwinists: don’t give us that line, “If it hadn’t evolved, it wouldn’t be there.”  Science is supposed to seek efficient causes, not just-so stories or appeals to chance based on circular reasoning.  The alternative explanation, intelligent design, is the only explanation with a known cause sufficient to produce functional information: intelligence.
    The article referred to a NOVA special that called epigenetics “The ghost in your genes.”  Just when neuroscience thought they had exercised the ghost in the machine of the brain, another shows up in the genetic code.  Ghosts have a way of coming back to haunt the overconfident.

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Categories: Intelligent Design

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