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New Scientist special issue: Chance shapes us from the bottom up

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We live in a world of chance and opportunity. But how much is truly random – and how much are we in control of our destinies?

This special looks at how, through basic quantum and evolutionary processes, chance shapes us from the bottom up – and how we attempt to influence and understand it in our everyday lives.

At least the ultimate pop sci tabloid writers are clear about what they think.

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6 Replies to “New Scientist special issue: Chance shapes us from the bottom up

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    as to this claim: “chance shapes us from the bottom up”

    The following brief description of embryonic development certainly doesn’t sound like chance to me:

    — AND ARE NOW STARING IT IN THE FACE – Stephen L. Talbott – May 2012
    Excerpt: “If you think air traffic controllers have a tough job guiding planes into major airports or across a crowded continental airspace, consider the challenge facing a human cell trying to position its proteins”. A given cell, he notes, may make more than 10,000 different proteins, and typically contains more than a billion protein molecules at any one time. “Somehow a cell must get all its proteins to their correct destinations — and equally important, keep these molecules out of the wrong places”. And further: “It’s almost as if every mRNA [an intermediate between a gene and a corresponding protein] coming out of the nucleus knows where it’s going” (Travis 2011),,,
    Further, the billion protein molecules in a cell are virtually all capable of interacting with each other to one degree or another; they are subject to getting misfolded or “all balled up with one another”; they are critically modified through the attachment or detachment of molecular subunits, often in rapid order and with immediate implications for changing function; they can wind up inside large-capacity “transport vehicles” headed in any number of directions; they can be sidetracked by diverse processes of degradation and recycling . . . and so on without end. Yet the coherence of the whole is maintained.
    The question is indeed, then, “How does the organism meaningfully dispose of all its molecules, getting them to the right places and into the right interactions?”
    The same sort of question can be asked of cells, for example in the growing embryo, where literal streams of cells are flowing to their appointed places, differentiating themselves into different types as they go, and adjusting themselves to all sorts of unpredictable perturbations — even to the degree of responding appropriately when a lab technician excises a clump of them from one location in a young embryo and puts them in another, where they may proceed to adapt themselves in an entirely different and proper way to the new environment. It is hard to quibble with the immediate impression that form (which is more idea-like than thing-like) is primary, and the material particulars subsidiary.
    Two systems biologists, one from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Germany and one from Harvard Medical School, frame one part of the problem this way:
    “The human body is formed by trillions of individual cells. These cells work together with remarkable precision, first forming an adult organism out of a single fertilized egg, and then keeping the organism alive and functional for decades. To achieve this precision, one would assume that each individual cell reacts in a reliable, reproducible way to a given input, faithfully executing the required task. However, a growing number of studies investigating cellular processes on the level of single cells revealed large heterogeneity even among genetically identical cells of the same cell type. (Loewer and Lahav 2011)” ,,,
    And then we hear that all this meaningful activity is, somehow, meaningless or a product of meaninglessness. This, I believe, is the real issue troubling the majority of the American populace when they are asked about their belief in evolution. They see one thing and then are told, more or less directly, that they are really seeing its denial. Yet no one has ever explained to them how you get meaning from meaninglessness — a difficult enough task once you realize that we cannot articulate any knowledge of the world at all except in the language of meaning.,,,

    Alexander Tsiaras: Conception to birth — visualized – video

    Mathematician Alexander Tsiaras on Human Development: “It’s a Mystery, It’s Magic, It’s Divinity” – March 2012
    Excerpt: ‘The magic of the mechanisms inside each genetic structure saying exactly where that nerve cell should go, the complexity of these, the mathematical models on how these things are indeed done, are beyond human comprehension. Even though I am a mathematician, I look at this with the marvel of how do these instruction sets not make these mistakes as they build what is us. It’s a mystery, it’s magic, it’s divinity.’

    Verse and Music:

    Psalms 139:14
    I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

    Steven Curtis Chapman – Lord of the Dance (Live)

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    News, they need to be telling us about how in actual observation, functionally specific, interactive “Wicken wiring diagram” nodes-arcs pattern complex organisation and associated information [= FSCO/I] — which is instantiated in the world of technology around us AND in the nanotech of the living cell — has come about per credible observation by blind chance and mechanical necessity. That is empirically shown adequate cause. I bet, this is conspicuously absent with a priori materialism standing in as a poor substitute. KF

  3. 3
    News says:

    Guys at 1 and 2: It all really doesn’t matter, if Darwin’s heirs can get this stuff fronted as “science.” That closes off any discussion of flaws.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Of semi related note:

    Researchers find hidden meaning and ‘speed limits’ within genetic code – March 12, 2015
    Excerpt: “Our discovery is that the genetic code is more complex than we knew,” said senior researcher Jeff Coller, PhD,,,
    The most significant breakthrough in the Case Western Reserve work is that all of the words, or codons, in the genetic code are deciphered at different rates; some are deciphered rapidly while others are deciphered slowly. The speed of how mRNA decodes its information is the sum of all the codons it contains. This imposed speed limit then ultimately affects the amount of protein produced. Sometimes faster is better to express a high level of protein. Sometimes slower is better to limit the amount protein. Importantly, codons are redundant—many of these words mean the same thing.
    Coller and colleagues found that each of the codons is recognized differently by a ribosome. Some codons are recognized faster than others, but these differences in speed are tiny. Over the entire span of an mRNA, however, each tiny difference in speed is powerfully additive.
    “Many codons mean the same thing, but they influence decoding rate differently.”,,,

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    News, of course that boils down to “might and manipulation make ‘right’ and ‘truth,’ . . . ” — 1984 world, lab coat dressed version. Mr Smith, what does 2 + 2 equal . . . ? Its own self-refuting condemnation. KF

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    While we are free will choosers i see indeed that we are almost entirely the results of non free will influences. We are all endless curves bumping into other curves in human identity.
    Our language is case in point.
    We all can learn at birth any language intellectually yet for all intents we don’t have a choice about the language we choose and the ones we don’t.
    the line is so close its almost not free will. Ywt it really is.
    in like manner nothing we are is what we choose as a choice between options.
    Except , seemingly, faith in christ.
    Name any thing about yourself that you would be if you had been born on a island with no humans around!
    Except in male/female identity which is also biological and not who we really are as souls.

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