Friday, September 19, 2008

Genetic Software Identified

In a recent blog posts(please see "Humanity 2.0 – It’s the Software, Stupid "), I speculated about how "decoding the genome" may inevitably lead to the widespread realization of how we literally function with an "operating system" and "software" - and if this is indeed the case, I wonder whether that does not inevitably lead to a sense of an intelligent intention to our very being. We need not argue about a "Creative Designer" but perhaps begin to suspect that beyond ourselves as the so-called "dominant species" at the apex of creation, that there certainly exists a higher mind behind our existence and purpose.

If we contemplate that we are essentially software manifest organically, we might wonder whether a program like Microsoft Word would exist without humans (who created it in our image) - and who had fulfilled an intention to do word processing?

In a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer (May 2008) titled "A Paradigm Shift in Genetics", the focus was on the so-called epigenome - a system of inner functions referred to as a "chemical switchboard", responsive to the environment (input), which turns our genes on and off.

Here are two relevant paragraphs:

"Ehrlich is referring to the emerging field known as epigenetics. The epigenome is the elaborate chemical switchboard that can turn genes on and off like flipping a light switch. Our genes encode instructions for the building of proteins. On its own, DNA is nothing but an inert biological handbook, but chemicals in each cell actively read and transcribe the instructions, then use them to build our bodies cell by cell. Every cell in your body contains an identical genome, and yet a brain cell is quite different from a skin cell.

"How do the differences arise? Because different genes are expressed from one cell to the next. How does a cell know which genes to implement and which to ignore? That set of instructions is contained in the cell's epigenome. Whereas the genome is static - its sequence of base pairs unchanging except in the rare and often detrimental case of a mutation - the epigenome is dynamic, busily deciding which genetic instructions should be put into action and which should be chemically strangled into silence."

In other words this is a dynamic set of instructions carried out in response to stimuli from the physical environment and other (possibly as yet unknown) influences. According to these inputs a series of responses or instructions are carried out.

Are these random events? That can certainly be argued in terms of who or what determines the influences - but they occur according to a set of cause and effect materially determined laws - not by chance.

To me, this is another powerful indicator that life itself (for which this is indeed the "software") did not evolve from a random event, but is also a result or effect of some cause - and beyond the apparent complexity of the epigenome and the genome - its obvious purpose and intentionality - points a supremely higher mental process behind Life (as there is behind all human-created software).