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“What is life?” --We are Entering a New Phase of Evolution

 

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What is life?” asks Craig Venter, author of Life at the Speed of Light and one of the first to sequence the human genome and create the first cell with a synthetic genome: "Only three simple words, and yet out of them spins a universe of questions that are no less challenging. What precisely is it that separates the animate from the inanimate? What are the basic ingredients of life? Where did life first stir? How did the first organisms evolve? Is there life everywhere? To what extent is life scattered across the cosmos? If other kinds of creatures do exist on exoplanets, are they as intelligent as we are, or even more so? Today these questions about the nature and origins of life remain the biggest and most hotly debated in all of biology."

The code-script known as DNA has been sending out its signals since the dawn of all life, some four billion years ago. Half a century ago, writes Venter, "the great evolutionary geneticist Motoo Kimura estimated that the amount of genetic information has increased by one hundred million bits over the past five hundred million years. 6 The DNA code-script has come to dominate biological science, so much so that biology in the twenty-first century has become an information science. Taxonomists now use DNA bar codes to help distinguish one species from another. Others have started to use DNA in computation, or as a means to store information. I have led efforts not only to read the digital code of life but also to write it, to simulate it within a computer, and even to rewrite it to form new living cells.

"Life ultimately consists of DNA-driven biological machines. All living cells run on DNA software, which directs hundreds to thousands of protein robots. We have been digitizing life for decades, observes Venter, "since we first figured out how to read the software of life by sequencing DNA. Now we can go in the other direction by starting with computerized digital code, designing a new form of life, chemically synthesizing its DNA, and then booting it up to produce the actual organism. And because the information is now digital we can send it anywhere via biological teleporter, to re-create proteins, viruses, and living cells at a remote location at the speed of light and re-create the DNA and life at the other end, perhaps changing forever how we view life."

We are witnessing the dawn of an era of biological design, concludes Venter. Humankind is about to enter a new phase of evolution.

Comments

maybe the mayans figured this out and transported themselves to another dimension :)

We can not only read the code of life but also write it. Then why can't we find a cure for AIDS?

Or maybe they killed themselves with something they didn't
understand. Or they just died out due to famine and drought.
There is evidence that the El Nino changed abruptly and
took its toll.

Mr. Venter is a personal hero of mine. His trip around the world
collecting masses of new genes was sheer genius.

@ Peter Smith they have just recently found a possible cure for HIV/AIDS i think. We are starting to see the benefits of sequencing the our genome. http://www.gizmag.com/hiv-aids-vaccine-ohsu/29042/ Or you could just google. Cure for AIDS.

“"Life ultimately consists of DNA-driven biological machines. All living cells run on DNA software, which directs hundreds to thousands of protein robots.”

The foregoing statement uses the telic language of exogenous design and operational complexity to describe evolutionary processes which are random and indigenous. Evolution doesn’t design “biological machines,“ manufacture “software” or direct “robots.”

The so-called “...dawn of an era of biological design” assumes the pre-existence of a much earlier era when lifeless, pre-biotic elements were inducted with a cunning ‘encodedness’. Craig Venter’s creativity flows from undesigned intelligence, that is, from the real-time, microphysical instant when mindless Evolution kick-started itself into reducibly complex biodiversity.

This is crap science reporting, full of woo woo with fear slinking up behind it. It's the kind of reporting that may dump dollars into Venter's company but also make scientists shake their heads.

Venter seems to be saying that we are fast approaching the point where we can engineer 'de novo' lifeforms. In gaining this ability we also get thrown in, so to speak, the ability to read/write, that is, edit, our DNA. Venter then ties this into Moore's Law via information technology, and, by inference, the exponential growth rate which in this case translates into kicking evolution/self-evolution into warp speed. If you think this is science fiction, google 'Flynn Effect', apparently a 1% per annum increase in IQ. So in 72 years, or so, the average IQ hits 200? Fiction ain't what it used to be.

"they as intelligent as we are, or even more so" - is that so difficult to achieve, to need an "even" in it?

If we are "machines", what can we do that is intelligent at all? We react. Or don't we?

So, the whole of the sentences have been written/said defying logic.

A machine can say nothing intelligent, inclusive of statements about its own intelligence. It can only yield computation and fixed reactions to given inputs. That's a machine.

If, instead, mankind is intelligent, it is so precisely inasmuch as it manages to emancipate itself from the action/reaction or input/output reflexes of the machine. So it's no longer a machine.

Given these premises, perhaps we are not very intelligent. So I don't see any "new phase of evolution" in the offing. I only see a new phase of commercialization in the offing.

Yet another attempt to bring religion into science.

Creationists gang recently decided to change the strategy from invoking the gaps and unexplainable complexity of life towards DNA is information/code with a subliminal rationale that code/information would require a programmer/mind to create it.

Craig Venter it's kind of controversial characters, the DNA sequencing started as open and free contribution of thousands of scientists, but being one of the contributors, he decided that could make a profit of the human DNA if he is the first one to pattern it, then he breached out, convinced investors, do it on his own, then tried to pattern it. Lucky the government stepped in and didn't allowed him to become the owner of human DNA.

Craig Venter decided that god exist one day by looking at a frozen waterfall, very scientific i might add, and since then it's trying to explain how god guided evolution, but the only progress he make is to label DNA as information, which apparently become very popular with the religious lobby.

To Singaporistu: Asking how (and when) inert, primordial elements created code/information, is the “subliminal rationale” of a “religious lobby” ? :-)

@bagridd :
The concepts of "Information" and especially "Computer Code" are tricky ones, as etymologically they have ramifications such as source, creator, intelligence, and purpose of creation, therefore it should be used wisely, in particular to those things that cannot be proven are created by a sentential being with a purpose in mind.

In a computer you can represent anything as information:
- the DNA structure
- a rock's atoms and structure,
- a map of stars
- a book
- a software

The DNA is not information in the same way the rock is not information, but they can be represented as information by humans. The creator of information about a object/organism is different than the entity/phenomenons that created/put together that object/organism. The creator of the information is the human(starting with language development) and not the primordial elements nor a supernatural sentient power.

Perceiving or translating a object as information do not mean that object is information, otherwise everything and nothing is information.

RNA first. DNA came later.

RNA world hypothesis
www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/.../RNA_world_hypothesis.html‎
The RNA world hypothesis proposes that a world filled with life based on ribonucleic acid (RNA) predates the current world of life based on deoxyribonucleic ...

The RNA World and the Origins of Life - Molecular Biology of the ...
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov › NCBI › Literature › Bookshelf‎
by B Alberts - ‎2002
One view is that an RNA world existed on Earth before modern cells arose ( Figure 6-91). According to this hypothesis, RNA stored both genetic information and ...

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