Re: A biological singularity?
Mon, 21 Sep 1998 00:57:21 EDT

In a message dated 9/20/98 8:35:51 PM, wrote:

>The genetic code was discovered 40 years ago but recently evidence has
>been found that a much higher genetic language must also exist.
>Walter Gehring of the University of Basel in Switzerland found a gene
>that's crucial for the development of eyes in mice, he put that mouse
>gene into the leg of a fly embryo. When it became an adult the fly had
>a normal sized perfectly formed eye on its leg. The really amazing
>thing is that it was a perfectly normal compound fruit fry eye, not a
>vastly different mouse type eye, even though it was a mouse gene. This
>gene must be a sentence in a language much more abstract than the
>genetic code and it must say "build an eye here", but it doesn't bother
>to say exactly how to build it. It can't deal with the billions of
>different reactions in protein synthesis that must occur, it can't even
>worry about gross anatomy, it just says "build an eye here" and leaves
>the details to other parts of the cell mechanism. It's amazing that
>organisms as different as a fly and a mouse, who's last common ancestor
>lived 500 million years ago, nevertheless use the same high level
>language. The much lower level genetic code is also universal, I guess
>when nature establishes a standard it finds it almost impossible to

It's not a "higher level code" or anything like that. The similarity between different high-level developmental control genes just reflects the extreme difficulty of changing anything essential to the organism's survival.

>These genes are few in number but they're what makes us human, and they
>must be written in the same abstract high level language that Gehring

I hope Gehring didn't claim to have found an abstract high level language in the genome, because he didn't. Anyway, it's not the highly conserved genes that differentiate us from the chimp - they don't distinguish us from anything. It's almost a parlor game with molecular biologists to stick human genes in things like yeast and nematodes to show they still work.