понедельник, 10 июля 2017 г.

DNA and specified complexity

A friend of mine recently gave me a copy of a book he recommended: "The Case for a Creator" by Lee Strobel. The book is divided into chapters, each devoted to a piece of evidence in support of a Creator. In each case Lee Strobel interviews an expert in a given field to provide additional insight into the issue being investigated.

I am particularly interested in the issue of DNA and how the DNA code is claimed to be language-like. As a linguist it is interesting for me to think about what the features of human language are.

I would like to share what I have gleaned from reading the relevant chapter in the book.

So, as I understand it, the DNA code is information contained in every cell which provides instructions about how to build proteins. The information is coded in the form of strings made up of four different 'bases' (chemicals): adenine. guanine, cytosine and thymine. These function as four different letters in the genetic alphabet. The instructions for building a single protein represent a string of hundreds of such letters: A-C-C-A-T.... (and so on). These then 'instruct' the cell to build the relevant strings of amino-acids to produce a given protein. Each cell contains hundreds of such proteins.

Now what makes this DNA code language-like is what is called 'specified complexity', which is basically meaningful irregularity. On the one hand one can have order, such in the case of salt crystals. On the other hand one can have randomness. However, meaningful irregularity is where the patterns are not repetitive, but their irregularilty has a function, namely to produce the diverse proteins required by a cell. Order would produce a string of letters such as A-G-A-G-A-G. Randomness would produce a meaningless string such as A-T-G-C-A-T-T etc. However 'specified complexity' produces the strings of genetic 'letters' (chemical bases) which produce the required proteins. 

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