Mar 30, 2010

But suppose I had found a living cell ...

Pictures: Left: Wikipedia
Right: Nature paper "Shifting nano clock gears" 2007

Hey folks, put on your molecular/cell biologist hats for a sec. I got this from my mate Will Paley a.k.a. Wikipedia and adapted it to our new molecular context; I'll 'fine-tune' it if I have time:

In crossing a molecular landscape, suppose I pinched my forceps against a liposome, and were asked how the liposome came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had quietly floated there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer (philosophical arguments against the infinity of the past aside.) But suppose I had found a living cell complete with a circadian oscillator (clock sub-system) floating similarly, and it should be inquired how the system happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the system might have always been there.
Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the circadian clock, packaging and coding of DNA and assorted other molecular machinery exists (by definition) in the works of nature; with the details, on the side of nature, being greater or more than I can list here, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.

Some abstracts for those keen beans who nonetheless don't have access to databases:
NB: it appears DNA is close to optimal over at least two parameters; ability to carry multiple messages and in terms of "protein stability and amino acid frequencies" - I may explore this further @ M-E.
I acknowledge that the systems mentioned may be a product of, as one paper puts it "evolution’s watchmaking toolkit" - but I am not sure at all that that would preclude design or purpose; it is reasonably clear that the living cell and the bag of protoplasm have little in common. It may as well be God who gets the credit for these marvels of nanoengineering.

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