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“Here we report a new cell”

. Cells are the fundamental units of life. The genome sequence of a cell may be thought of as its operating system. It carries the code that specifies all of the genetic functions of the cell, which in turn determine the cellular chemistry, structure, replication, and other characteristics. Each genome contains instructions for universal functions that are common to all forms of life, as well as instructions that are specific to the particular species. The genome is dependent on the functions of the cell cytoplasm for its expression. In turn, the properties of the cytoplasm are determined by the instructions encoded in the genome.  – Venter Institute, 2016   Sixty-three years ago Francis Crick wrote a letter to his 12 Read More ›

An encounter with a critic of biological semiosis

For those who are unfamiliar with The Royal Society, it’s an academic organization whose membership includes many of the world’s most eminent scientists, and is “the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence”. In loose terms, they are a British forbearer to many of the various Academies of Science sprinkled throughout the nations of the world. From their mission statement: The Society’s fundamental purpose, reflected in its founding Charters of the 1660s, is to recognize, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity. This article isn’t necessarily about the Royal Society, except for the fact that it serves as the genesis of the story, and also a proper backdrop Read More ›

While you’re making other plans…

If it has never happened to you, then surely its happened to someone you know. It’s one of those things that just happens. You’re going along, perhaps following a plan or attempting to reach some particular goal, and then something offstage occurs, and changes everything. The reasons are innumerable; someone becomes ill, an earthquake rumbles, a war breaks out. As John Lennon once wrote, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans”. My household has entered one of those unfortunate occurrences, and so I must adjust. At the start of November I published Biosemiosis.org with certain goals in mind. I opened the site accepting contributions, and had planned to assemble a board by the end of the first quarter. Read More ›

Irreducible Complexity: the primordial condition of biology

In 1996, Lehigh University professor of biochemistry, Michael Behe, published his first book Darwin’s Black Box, which famously advanced the concept of irreducible complexity (IC) to prominent status in the conversation of design in biology. In his book, Professor Behe described irreducible complexity as: A single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. In illustrating his point, Behe used the idea of a simple mousetrap — with its base and spring and holding bar — as an example of an IC system, where the removal of any of these parts would render the mousetrap incapable of its Read More ›

Writing Biosemiosis.org

  In September of 2009 I started a new document on my computer entitled “A System of Symbols”, where I was going to write about the part of design theory that interested me the most – that is, the representations that are required for self-replication (von Neumann, Pattee). My goal was to inventory all the physical conditions necessary for one thing to represent another thing in a material universe. I wrote and rewrote that essay for more than four years — reading, learning, and sharing along the way. As it turns out, writing that essay was my way of coming to understand the issues, and I spent a great deal of that time trying to articulate things I had come to Read More ›