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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Friday, February 9, 2024

Fade-Out of the "DNA as Body Blueprint" Myth?

On Monday we had the appearance of an article in the leading science journal Nature, one entitled "It’s time to admit that genes are not the blueprint for life."  The article was by biologist Denis Noble, and it tells us something contrary to what we have been told endless times by biologists who misled us about DNA.

DNA is not a body blueprint

The appearance of this article is possibly a big deal, but not because it is some new assessment by Denis Noble. In my long list of statements by scientists who have denied that DNA or its genes are a blueprint or recipe or program for making a human body, contained in my post here, I have had for quite a while this item: "On the web site of the well-known biologist Denis Noble, we read that 'the whole idea that genes contain the recipe or the program of life is absurd, according to Noble,' and that we should understand DNA 'not so much as a recipe or a program, but rather as a database that is used by the tissues and organs in order to make the proteins which they need.' "

The reason why the appearance of Monday's article in Nature is possibly a big deal is simply the fact that an article with this headline "It’s time to admit that genes are not the blueprint for life" has appeared in the journal Nature.  The journal Nature is one of the key gatekeepers that helps control the opinions of scientists. The editors of the journal Nature have enormous power in shaping what scientists think. In many cases scientists act like a herd that runs in the same direction. The editors of the journal Nature can sometimes be like some sheep herder in front of such a herd, pointing it to go in some particular direction.  This is what seemed to happen during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in the pandemic an article appeared in  Nature suggesting there was a natural origin for the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the article appeared, it seemed like for the next six months scientists were thinking to themselves, "We have received our marching orders -- we all must say that COVID-19 arose naturally, not from any lab leak." 

I am glad to see that the leading scientific journal Nature now has a headline proclaiming an extremely important claim I have been making over and over on this blog since 2018.  In February 2018 I published my long post "The Gigantic Missing Link of Biological Life" in which I discussed at length "6 reasons for thinking that DNA is neither a blueprint nor a recipe nor a program for making human beings." Genes are particular subunits of DNA, and saying that 
 DNA is neither a blueprint nor a recipe nor a program for making human beings is the same thing as saying that genes are neither a blueprint nor a recipe nor a program for making human beings.  I followed up that 2018 post with quite a few other posts arguing the same thing, such as my July 2018 post "Why DNA Cannot Be a Specification of a Human," my February 2021 post "Why We Do Not Understand the Origin of Any Adult Human Being," and my February 2022 post "Why We Were Told So Often the Huge Lie That DNA Is a Specification for Building Humans." 

In those posts I explained the main reasons why we must reject the commonly made claim that DNA is a blueprint or recipe or program for building a human body. Rather than restating the long content of my February 2018 post, I will merely restate the reasons I stated in that post, each of which I backed up with several paragraphs of supporting text:
  • Reason #1: The “language” used by DNA is a minimal feature-poor language lacking any grammar or capability for expressing anything like a blueprint, a recipe, a program or an algorithm for making a human being.
  • Reason #2: Even if the “language” used by DNA had the capability of expressing a blueprint or recipe or program for making a human, there would be nothing that we know of capable of interpreting such instructions.
  • Reason #3: Despite cataloging the entire human genome, and exhaustively analyzing it, scientists have not discovered any part of DNA where a blueprint of the human body or a recipe for making humans is stored.
  • Reason #4: If DNA stored a human blueprint or human recipe or body plan, humans would have a much larger DNA than simpler organisms; instead, the opposite is often true.
  • Reason #5: The DNA size of humans is insufficient to be a blueprint or recipe for the human body with all its complexities.
  • Reason #6: If DNA stored a recipe or blueprint for making humans, we would probably sometimes see extremely jumbled bodies resulting from mutations, but we don't see such “scrambled humans.”
I included in the posts above a collection of dozens of quotes by scientists and doctors denying the commonly stated but untrue claim that DNA or its genes are a recipe, blueprint or program for making a human body. The lie that DNA is a specification for making a human body is told in various forms, all equally false:

  • Many described DNA or the genome as a blueprint for an organism.
  • Many said DNA or the genome is a recipe for making an organism.
  • Many said DNA or the genome is a program for building an organism, making an analogy to a computer program.
  • Many claimed that DNA or genomes specify the anatomy of an organism. 
  • Many claimed that genotypes (the DNA in organisms) specify phenotypes (the observable characteristics of an organism).
  • Many claimed that genotypes (the DNA in organisms) "map"  phenotypes (the observable characteristics of an organism) or "map to" phenotypes.
  • Many claimed that DNA contains "all the instructions needed to make an organism."
  • Many claimed that there is a "genetic architecture" for an organism's body or some fraction of that body. 
  • Using a little equation,  many claimed that a "genotype plus the environment equals the phenotype," a formulation as false  as the preceding statements, since we know of nothing in the environment that would cause phenotypes to arise from genotypes that do not specify such phenotypes. 

Will the article just published by the leading scientific journal Nature convince many biologists to realize the claim of its title that "It’s time to admit that genes are not the blueprint for life"?  Maybe not. The author (biologist Denis Noble) does flatly state that while "many thought that it [DNA] would prove to be an 'instruction manual' for life, " the result was actually that "the genome turned out to be no blueprint." But he fails to explain the reasons why DNA (the human genome) cannot possibly be any blueprint, recipe or specification for making a human, some of which I list above.

Noble gives us a not-too-disturbing little story that may not cause his scientist readers to lose much sleep. It's a bland story that has a sound of  "we have to revise our ideas because things are a lot more complicated than we thought" story.  But it is no new findings about DNA and genes that are the main reason why "DNA as a body blueprint" must be discarded. The main reasons for rejecting that claim have been clear since the 1950's. They are mainly (1) DNA and genes use a coding system (the genetic code) that is capable of expressing only low-level chemical information such as which amino acids belong to a protein, and utterly incapable of higher-level representation such as depicting the very complex three-dimensional structures of cells, organs and bodies;  (2) no one ever found in DNA any sign of anything being represented other than very low-level chemical information. 

The genetic code, which can express only chemicals, not 3D structures 

Contrary to the rather bland impression created by Noble's article, the  fact that DNA is no blueprint for building the human body or any of its cells is a fact with the most gigantic implications. That fact has implications as gigantic as the implications of the fact that huge amounts of energy can be released from splitting atoms. 

Human bodies are fantastically organized in a hierarchical manner. A human body is built from organ systems and a skeletal systems. Organs are built from tissues, which are built from enormously organized cells, which are built from very organized organelles, which are built from very organized protein complexes, which are built from very organized protein molecules, which are built from amino acids that somehow arrange into special three-dimensional shapes needed for the molecules to function properly. DNA merely specifies low-level chemical information such as which amino acids make up proteins. DNA  (the same as the genome, and consisting mainly of genes) does not specify anything more than the lowest level in this chain of hierarchical organization.  DNA does not even specify how to make any human cell, or where any cell in the body should go to. 

So how do all of those other levels of organization arise?  That is something scientists cannot explain. Their failure to explain such levels of organization has gigantic implications. The higher levels of organization in the human body (beyond any possible genetic explanation) point to some intelligent organizing agency beyond the understanding of mechanistic science. The fact that we have bodies so fantastically organized (in a way that DNA cannot explain) utterly discredits all claims that the origin of humans is understood.  Because no DNA changes can explain how we got our bodies, a correct assessment of the limits of DNA  smashes the credibility of the idea that humans arose because of some chance favorable DNA mutations in the past.  The lack of any DNA blueprint or recipe or program for making a human leads to the shocking conclusion that we understand neither the origin of the human species nor the physical origin of any adult body. 

We don't know how the last seven layers of organization arise

Sometimes after pointing out how little of the human body is explained by DNA and its genes, people will say something such as, "There are many external environmental factors that can influence development."  Such factors (such as nutrition) can influence the course of development, but do not explain how a human body ends up so organized.  What we need to explain the origin of a human body is a gigantic organizing effect, and "environmental factors" are not an organizing effect. 

Noble does give us this very good quote: "It’s time to stop pretending that, give or take a few bits and pieces, we know how life works." That does get to the heart of the matter. We do not know how life works. We do not know how any human cell is able to reproduce. We do not know how any human body is able to arise through some progression from a speck-sized zygote to the vast organization of the human body, an organization not specified in DNA or its genes. The physical origin of every human body is a miracle of organization a thousand miles over the heads of today's scientists. 

To help understand the situation, let us imagine some other universe where there live only beings of pure energy, who all have a spherical shape. Imagine if someone were to teleport to such beings a newly fertilized human ovum, a speck-sized zygote, in some way that caused this gift to attract great attention.  Even if the beings had fantastic powers of investigating matter, they would be unable to predict the significance of the newly teleported speck. They might be able to read all of the information in DNA, but this would not give them any basis for being able to predict that the speck would progress to become a human body, something they had never seen. Nothing they could discover in the DNA would give them any basis for concluding or even suspecting that the speck-sized zygote could progress to become a walking, talking, thinking human being. In fact, they would have no basis for even concluding that any type of very complex and large mobile organism would develop from such a speck-sized zygote. Such beings would find no instructions in DNA for making any of the 200 types of cells in the human body, nor any instructions for causing such cells to reach proper destinations in a human body, nor any instructions for making eyes, ears, a circulatory systems, a digestive systems or legs, arms and a head. If such beings had never witnessed anything like the nine months of human development, they would never predict such a development would occur from any analysis of a speck-sized zygote or its DNA or its genes.  

The idea that the origin of our bodies can be explained because DNA has a blueprint for making bodies was always a very childish myth, for the simple reason that blueprints don't build things. Very complex things can get built with the help of blueprints only where there are intelligent construction workers who get ideas about how to build things by reading blueprints. But below the neck of a human we know of nothing corresponding to an intelligent construction worker capable of understanding a blueprint for building a human body (something that would be so complex that the smartest professor would not be able to understand it, given the endless abstruse complexities of human anatomy, human cells and human biochemistry). 

Despite the hopeful sign of the appearance of Noble's article in Nature, I have no great hopes that our biologists will soon stop teaching the myth that DNA is a body blueprint. For reasons I discuss here, that myth is so useful in propagating materialist ideology that biologists will probably be very slow to abandon it.  Because "DNA is a body blueprint" is the lie that materialist biologists very much need to tell to help fool us into believing their boasts about understanding human origins, we will probably keep hearing this lie many additional times. We will probably continue to have for quite a while a situation like the situation that has existed for years, one in which the left hand of biology is telling us that DNA is a blueprint or recipe or program for making a human body, and the right hand of biology is telling us that DNA is no such thing.  The right hand of biology is telling us the truth about this matter.  

But who knows: there just might be a "sea change" that leaves the old "DNA as body blueprint" myth dead and buried. Let's not forget the example of the Soviet Union. For more than 70 years in the Soviet Union, authorities kept telling lies such as the lie that Lenin had established a worker's paradise. Then somehow around 1991 there was a sudden "sea change," and the old ideological regime collapsed. People in Russia rather suddenly stopped telling the old lies that had been told incessantly for 70 years. Herds can suddenly start moving in a new direction, as large numbers have a kind of "the scales fell off my eyes" effect. 

The visual below illustrates the ridiculous situation in today's biology. Shown are search results I got on the first page of results, after asking Google "is DNA a blueprint for making a human body?" Half of the results are false, and half of the results are true. 

scientists teaching false thing

"DNA as body blueprint" is only one of several giant myths of biology. Another giant myth of biology is the idea that brains explain human minds.  Just as we see here and there signs that some scientists are starting to pay attention to the many enormous reasons why brains cannot explain the human mind, we see signs here and there that many scientists are starting to pay attention to the reasons why DNA cannot be a blueprint or recipe or program for making the human body or any of its cells.  The person who has had either of these realizations will be more likely to have the other. The startling reality is that scientists can credibly explain neither the origin of any human mind nor the origin of any adult human body. Their failure to explain these things is something with the most gigantic philosophical implications, for the failure leads inexorably to the idea that we must all be the products of some sublime reality vastly greater than ourselves or our parents. 

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