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New Royal Society paper demotes genes: “merely a means of specifying polypeptides”

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File:Gene.pngFrom a new Royal Society paper , by Arto Annila and Keith Baverstock, “Genes without prominence: a reappraisal of the foundations of biology” (J. R. Soc. Interface May 6, 2014 11 94 20131017; 1742-5662):

Abstract: The sequencing of the human genome raises two intriguing questions: why has the prediction of the inheritance of common diseases from the presence of abnormal alleles proved so unrewarding in most cases and how can some 25 000 genes generate such a rich complexity evident in the human phenotype? It is proposed that light can be shed on these questions by viewing evolution and organisms as natural processes contingent on the second law of thermodynamics, equivalent to the principle of least action in its original form. Consequently, natural selection acts on variation in any mechanism that consumes energy from the environment rather than on genetic variation. According to this tenet cellular phenotype, represented by a minimum free energy attractor state comprising active gene products, has a causal role in giving rise, by a self-similar process of cell-to-cell interaction, to morphology and functionality in organisms,which, in turn, by a self-similar process entailing Darwin’s proportional numbers are influencing their ecosystems. Thus, genes are merely a means of specifying polypeptides: those that serve free energy consumption in a given surroundings contribute to cellular phenotype as determined by the phenotype. In such natural processes, everything depends on everything else, and phenotypes are emergent properties of their systems.

From the conclusion:

5. Conclusion

The thermodynamic tenet presented here represents a major departure from conventional thought on the basis for evolution and its products. It refocuses, for purely physical reasons concerning the role of energy in the natural process called life, attention on the role of metabolic processes and, therefore, proteins, rather than DNA, and the cytoplasm, rather than the cell nucleus. First and foremost, themodel is based on the physics of dissipative systems, fully embracing the implications at the molecular level of thermodynamic openness and the quest of attaining stationary status of the cell/organism/ecosystem with its surroundings in least time. A supreme law of physics governs the life process, namely the law of least action equivalent to the second law and has, through the former harnessing natural selection and the latter being responsible for producing entropy in the form of bound energy (matter), resulted in the diversity of organisms extinct and extant. …

But isn’t the penalty for blasphemy against the selfish gene career death? reports,

What is the essence of the reformulation?

At the most fundamental level organisms are energy-consuming systems and the appropriate foundation in physics is that of complex dissipative systems. As energy flows in and out and within, the complex molecular system called the cell, fundamental physical considerations, dictated by the 2nd law of thermodynamics, demand that these flows, called actions, are maximally efficient (follow the path of least resistance) in space and time. Energy exchanges can give rise to new emergent properties that modify the actions and give rise to more new emergent properties and so on. The result is evolution from simpler to more complex and diverse organisms in both form and function, without the need to invoke genes. This model is supported by earlier computer simulations to create a virtual ecosystem by Mauno Rönkkö of the University of Eastern Finland. More.

It’s getting a lot of play in the medical science press because it basically says, among other things, you are not your genes. Thoughts?

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4 Replies to “New Royal Society paper demotes genes: “merely a means of specifying polypeptides”

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Well science is finally catching up with common sense and finds that ‘you’ are not your genes:

    John Cleese – The Scientists – humorous video

    Next common sense step for science? Perhaps in a few decades it will find out that ‘you’ are not your body/brain!

    Alvin Plantinga and the Modal Argument (for the existence of the soul) – video

    Six reasons why you should believe in non-physical minds – podcast and summary (Law of Identity: 6 properties of mind that are not identical to properties of the brain, thus the mind is not the brain)

    Here are six properties of the mind that are not properties of the brain. Thus, in keeping with the law of identity, the mind is not same thing as the brain:

    The Mind and Materialist Superstition – Six “conditions of mind” that are irreconcilable with materialism: Michael Egnor, professor of neurosurgery at SUNY, Stony Brook
    Excerpt: Intentionality,,, Qualia,,, Persistence of Self-Identity,,, Restricted Access,,, Incorrigibility,,, Free Will,,,

    Do We Have Souls? Lee Strobel interviews Dr. J.P. Moreland – article

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    As to this claim from the article:

    A challenge to the genetic interpretation of biology – Feb 19, 2014
    Excerpt: When a gene, a string of bases on the DNA molecule, is deployed, it is first transcribed and then translated into a peptide – a string of amino acids. To give rise to biological properties it needs to “fold” into a protein.
    This process consumes energy and is therefore governed by the 2nd law, but also by the environment in which the folding takes place. These two factors mean that there is no causal relationship between the original gene coding sequence and the biological activity of the protein.

    Actually, though not effecting the principle they are highlighting, protein folding is not completely explained by the second law either, but protein folding is also, in large measure, found to be dependent on the ‘spooky’ world of quantum physics:

    Physicists Discover Quantum Law of Protein Folding – February 22, 2011
    Quantum mechanics finally explains why protein folding depends on temperature in such a strange way.
    Excerpt: First, a little background on protein folding. Proteins are long chains of amino acids that become biologically active only when they fold into specific, highly complex shapes. The puzzle is how proteins do this so quickly when they have so many possible configurations to choose from.
    To put this in perspective, a relatively small protein of only 100 amino acids can take some 10^100 different configurations. If it tried these shapes at the rate of 100 billion a second, it would take longer than the age of the universe to find the correct one. Just how these molecules do the job in nanoseconds, nobody knows.,,,
    Their astonishing result is that this quantum transition model fits the folding curves of 15 different proteins and even explains the difference in folding and unfolding rates of the same proteins.
    That’s a significant breakthrough. Luo and Lo’s equations amount to the first universal laws of protein folding. That’s the equivalent in biology to something like the thermodynamic laws in physics.

  3. 3
    Dionisio says:

    bornagain77 @ 1

    Well science is finally catching up with common sense and finds that ‘you’ are not your genes

    Well, it was about time, wasn’t it? 😉
    It has taken them too long to realize what’s so obvious even to mediocre slow-thinking minds like mine.
    But it’s written that God makes the wisdom of this world look ridiculously stupid and senseless, while at the same time He chooses to give wisdom to whomever He wishes, regardless of their academic ranking (defined according to worldly standards).
    I think it was John Lennox who said that nonsense remains nonsense even when said by illustrious scientists. Well, we have heard much of that nonsense through the years.
    When we look briefly at the marvelous choreography that takes place just in the first few days of embryonic development, with all the cell fate determination, migration, specialization, subspecialization, elaborate epigenetic regulatory orchestration, signaling pathways and the whole nine yards with their cousins, one has to be really oblivious in order to ignore all that jaw-dropping informational wonder. Complex specified purpose-oriented functional information that is nonmaterial.

  4. 4
    Robert Byers says:

    What is A MAJOR DEPARTURE mean in science? does it mean the previous science was wrong? How could science be wrong about a conclusion? If creationists say science conclusions are wrong we are accused of being anti-science. REJECTING the science they cry!
    I guess you can majoraly depart from a scientific conclusion is the bosses say you can!
    They are all just guessing about very complicated things. Biology is practice and origin is complicated . Darwin and company were too dumb to realize its complicatedness means you have to have better evidence before wild unlikely conclusions.

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