Re: A Biological Singularity
Tue, 22 Sep 1998 10:53:03 EDT

In a message dated 9/21/98 11:01:44 PM, wrote:

>Peter Passaro Wrote:
>>The gene you have been discussing is a so called master regulator gene.
>>Genes in this category function during the development of organism to call
>>for cascades of cell differentiation and structural reorganization. In
>>this way they are interesting for the points you have mentioned, but, to
>>date, there is nothing that would indicate that there is a higher level
>I disagree, I think there is some evidence of a higher level code. The gene
>Gehring found does not deal with fine structure or gross structure or
>structure of any kind, it deals with abstract function. It can't have
>anything to do with construction details otherwise the same thing couldn't
>cause mouse cells to make mouse eyes and cause fly to cells make fly eyes.
>Somehow the abstract concept "an eye" actually has meaning to life and that
>smells like a language.

It's not a language in any sense; the gene has nothing to do with eyes. It just turns on a whole bunch of other genes. These other genes, collectively, make an eye. 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 we were to design large scale biological structures we would have to deal
>>with a number a variables that is staggering, not impossible, but much
>>guidance will have to come from the fields of complexity and chaos before
>>something like this is even thinkable.

>Perhaps, but perhaps not. The language of life must have a command similar to
>"repeat this construction N times" so changing the size of an organ might not
>be too difficult. Changing its shape might be only a little more complex.
>If random mutation and natural selection figured out a way to increase our
>brain size by a factor of 5 in only few hundred thousand years it can't be
>that hard.

Changing size and shape isn't that hard; but designing an organ is. There's quite a bit more to a brain than the fact that it's three pounds of fat in a lumpy shape :-) We could get a lot of mileage by adapting existing organisms/organs, as opposed to designing new ones, and we are already doing that with bacteria. You could, potentially, adapt a rabbit to eat some poisonous plant weed by splicing in an appropriate detoxification enzyme. But giving the rabbit a new organ - well, that's quite a ways off.