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>the gene has nothing to do with eyes.
It has nothing to do with any particular eye or type of eye, it has something to do with the abstract concept "eye" and that's what gives it so much power.
>It's not a language in any sense [.] It just turns on a whole bunch of other
I don't understand why you say "just", it seems like an astonishing accomplishment to me. It's like saying Shakespeare just arranged letters in a certain sequence.
>These other genes, collectively, make an eye.
One entity tells many other entities to make a very complex object, if that's not a language its close enough for me.
>It's not a code either; if you find a new homeobox gene you
>have no way to know what it does except by looking at the organism.
If you knew only one word of a language the only way to learn more would be to observe how the native speakers react to words. Once you knew a few more words and learned a little grammar you could start to make simple sentences. I think the best way to learn the grammar of life as well as increase our vocabulary would be by observing embryo development.
>We could get a lot of mileage by adapting existing organisms/organs,
>as opposed to designing new ones
True, and that's just what nature usually does, although the modifications can sometime be pretty radical. An elephant's tusk is a modified tooth, its trunk a modified nose, a horse's hoof is a modified toenail, a mammal's teat is a modified sweat gland and a feather is (probably) a modified scale.
John K Clark firstname.lastname@example.org
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