Biology 2.0

I think the comments I wrote concerning an article published in the June 17, 2010 edition of The Economist news magazine titled “Biology 2.0” is a good place to begin a discussion of the creation of life. If we are to think accurately about the topic, we must have some common understanding of what we are thinking about. If, as I think, evolution is obsolete then we need to have a new biological paradigm to replace it. The following comments propose a start towards a new way of thinking about life.

The Economist writer first writes of a division of biology into pre- and post-genomic eras and then defines biology 2.0 as a post-genomic biology www.economist.com/node/16349358. Does he or she mean the 10-year period since the decoding of the human genome was the genomic era. Unlikely. It would be clearer to designate the previous biological era as that of evolution and the present one as genomic. With this clarification we can proceed to examine the question as to whether a paradigm shift has occurred or should occur.

Vitalism

According to the Economist writer “no biologist has really believed in vitalism for more than a century.” Too bad. Various philosophers and theologians from Aristotle on have believed that life is more than machinery. Had Henri Bergson used a term for his creative force in life something like “de nueve animel” rather than elan vital we could have acclaimed him for his remarkable insight. This is because it is DNA and quite possibly other coding systems that constitute the driving force of living systems. The Economist moves in this direction by allowing biology 2.0 to be neo-vitalistic. This is a small shift in the right direction.

More than Proteins

Living things are more than proteins. So much more. So much more that it is impossible to find a simple enough example to use as an illustration. Every thing that has life has a mind boggling complexity. This is why the old evolutionary biology seems hopelessly outmoded. To have rejected the creativity of an infinite God and replaced it with a very finite natural selection can now be seen as a choice that should be revisited. This is not to bring God into biological understanding but to set the bar of knowledge high enough to give due respect to its subjects.

Ghosts in the Machine

Physicists have been actively looking for the ghosts in their machine. Presently, in Switzerland, with the Large Hadron Collider they are eagerly searching for a particle that may or may not exist and that may or not give them a final understanding of particle physics. [Note: the Higgs boson was apparently found in July 2012.] At the same time physicists are searching the universe for the twin ghosts of dark matter and dark energy so they can “nail their hides to the wall.” Since the beginning of the twentieth century physics has worked its way through relativity, quantum mechanics and particle physics. Paradigm shifts all. It seems that biology is long overdue for a paradigm shift that will free it from the dead hand of Darwin and allow it to pursue the new understanding that life is formed and operated by software. This will involve the search for all the many unknowns still left to be found.

Biological Ghosts

One ghost that has turned up in the biological machine is the genomic code. A code is a language that can be read and has meaning. But the meaning is not physically in the code. It is an abstraction, just like it is not ink and paper that make a book but the content of the words. The genomic code is the language of life. After all the work evolutionists have done to keep any metaphysic out of biology an abstraction sneaks in by the back door. And it is a ghost that cannot be exorcized because it is a fundamental of biology. Let us hope that Biology 2.0 allows biologists to read the book of life and thus provide themselves with understanding and so produce benefits for the rest of us.

 

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