Several times now Orthomyxo has sneered at the idea that the genetic code is anything more than “chemical reactions.” In an exchange with Upright Biped, UB defended the position that the code, while certainly operating through chemical reactions, is just as certainly governed by a staggeringly complex semiotic information system.
We pick up the debate with UB responding to Ortho by outlining how the system works:
I told you the critical physical condition of the system (described as such in the literature) that allows the system to function as it does, in a material universe determined by inexorable physical law. The gene system must have the physical freedom to specify itseIf, as well as any variation of itself. In case it has not occurred to you, there is no ”capacity to specify” recorded among the physical properties of matter listed on the periodic table, and binding those atoms together does not suddenly create that capacity. It is only established by a particular type of arrangement of matter; one that, as Michael Polanyi noted, “harnesses the laws of inanimate nature” but in an arrangement that is ”irreducible to those laws”. That is exactly what a physical analysis of the system has demonstrated, and is exactly what has been recorded in the literature.
Take out a piece of paper and write the words “DNA codon” at the top of the page. Drop down a few inches below and write the words “mRNA codon”. Drop down further still and write the words “charged tRNA anti-codon”, and below that write the phrase “amino acid presented for binding”. You can now draw a straight line from the top of the page to the bottom, indicating the chain of chemical interactions that begins with a codon of DNA and results in an amino acid being presented for binding during protein synthesis. This would include the processes of transcription, translation and polymerization. But as you will quickly notice, there is no chemical reaction in that chain of events that actually specifies which particular amino acid is being presented for binding.
You can now draw another line (joining your original line, but perpendicular to it) directly underneath the words “charged tRNA anti-codon”. At the end of this new perpendicular line, you can now write the word “aaRS”. The set of aaRS are the molecules in biology that specify which particular amino acids will be associated with each tRNA anticodon. And as I told you before, the work of the aaRS is both temporally and spatially independent of the chain of events represented by the first line you drew down the page. This independence, introduced only by the organization of the system, is what allows the system to function as it does – to specify itself among alternatives. Hence, the word “discontinuous” … as in the discontinuous association between a codon of DNA and the resulting amino acid being presented for biding. It is discontinuous because it has to be in order to function as it does. Check your Periodic Table for that.
What is also worth noting that not a single one of these interactions is even the least bit controversial, which should put your attempted dismissal into proper perspective. But in case it doesn’t, your tacit concession does:
Ortho: “I say if a pool of loaded tRNAs are available then next a/a is determined by the codon, you say the relationship between tRNA and a/a is determined by different chemical reaction. True enough.”
Ortho’s counterargument to all of this was:
I’m sorry ub, but I find this entirely underwhelming
Ouch! How is UB ever going to overcome such a devastating rejoinder? Ortho is personally incredulous. Well, I guess that settles it. Better luck next time UB.
In all seriousness, Ortho’s antics are embarrassing. As KF notes, his materialist ideology operates as blinkers preventing him from seeing the obvious information processing aspects of the code. Just so. Ortho’s blinkers have, once again, caused him to step into the hole of inanity.