I was thinking about data encapsulation today. In a computer program, if I want to pass the words "hello world" to a website, I can't just stick it in the URL - spaces aren't allowed in URLs - they serve a different function there. Instead, in URLs, spaces get translated to %20s, so I would pass it as "hello%20world". Different formats have different rules for encapsulation, so if I want to take a single set of characters, and move them from one system to another, it is possible I may have to encapsulate/de-encapsulate multiple times.
So, I was thinking about this with regards to RNA editing. Before I start to make this analogy, let me start by saying the instances of RNA editing I know about don't seem to be working in this way. Nonetheless, I think it is an interesting angle to research to be sure.
What I am wondering is if there are times when the DNA code might be "encapsulated" in a slightly different format, which then gets de-encapsulated by RNA editing to be passed on to the next phase. In computers, this happens when additional control information must be passed on using the same alphabet. In our previous example, in the control system alphabet for web requests, the space has a special use. Therefore, if we need to use a space within the URL itself, we have to encapsulate it so that it doesn't get confused with its special use.
Anyway, just wondering out loud (a) if this happens at all, and (b) whether it occurs through RNA editing or some other mechanism, and (c) what are the different levels of control information and how are they designated.
For those interested, the first newsletter of the BSG: A Creation Biology Study Group has now been posted. It is a members-only publication, so if you want to read it, you'll need to get a membership (it's not expensive). Note that the BSG does not require a statement of faith for membership. I am the newsletter editor, so if you want to contribute (which, by the way, is an excellent way to get started in Creation research) let me know and we can decide what to do. This newsletter consists of member news, book reviews, a literature review, and suggestions for student projects.
While I didn't agree with everything he said, I think everyone will find this talk by Kirk Durston fascinating. The one thing that I don't think he properly took into account was that the "fitness function" on computers is necessarily finite, while the "fitness function" in real life does not necessarily have to be either specified nor finite.
Kirk paints the problem as having a smart enough fitness function - therefore Darwinism is only plausible if the fitness function of life has sufficient information to form life as we know it. However, I think the key he misses is that natural selection is not a fitness function in the same veing as a genetic algorithm fitness function. Natural selection requires that something be usable now, while an appropriate fitness function could select for future optimality (Dawkin's WEASEL is an excellent example, but there are also much more subtle ways of doing this). While Durston makes some great points, the problem, as I see it, will always be the generation of diversity, not its selection.
I recently discovered a blog on Biblical Chronology called ShallowTime. This is great for me because my sources for Biblical Chronology material are very slim. What also caught my attention was the link to a photograph of the historical site of Ai (from Joshua 8). This is very interesting for me, because this is the area of scripture that my son and I are reading (we read Joshua 12 tonight), and we just read about the battle of Ai a few days ago. I'll have to show him the picture of Ai tomorrow.
Here are some recent discussions that I found interesting:
It turns out that Discover Magazine is standing by their claim that Forrest Mims is one of 50 best brains in science despite the harsh criticism they are receiving for it.
In our feature, we recognized Mims specifically for his contributions as an amateur scientist, and we stand by that assessment. His work on the Altair 8800 computer, on RadioShack’s home electronics kit, and on The Citizen Scientist newsletter has been undeniably influential. DISCOVER does not in any way endorse the Discovery Institute’s views on “intelligent design.” At the same time, Mims’s association with that group does not invalidate his role as a leading figure in the American amateur science community, any more than James Watson’s dubious speculations about race take away from his groundbreaking research on DNA. (emphasis mine)
This is a breath of fresh air in the controversy over intelligent design. May more magazines and journals take the same approach!
I was searching for some of Todd Wood's old papers, and I ran into CORE's 20th anniversary website. Bryan CORE is Bryan College's "Center for Origins Research" - one of the few centers for Creation research in existence. Normally, I wouldn't really care about their anniversary, except that they have a page on this site where they released several foundational papers on Creationism which had previously been unavailable online! If you go there, the graphical circles on the bottom are links to the different papers defining foundational aspects of Creationism. Anyway, they have papers on:
Anyway, I'll probably be commenting on some of these papers soon. Many of these have been buried in expensive International Conference on Creationism volumes which I have not been willing to purchase, or in old issues of other magazines. It's fantastic that they made them available here! Thanks guys!
Caporale's latest work, The Implicit Genome, covers a lot of cool mechanisms for the generation of variability within genomes. One interesting mechanism is through contingency loci.
A contingency locus is an area of the genome which has a high mutation rate, which is associated with a frequently-changing environment. A typical reason for contingency loci is to get around the immune system. The contingency loci in many bacteria are for their outer coat proteins, which is what the immune system recognizes. Bacteria and single-celled eukaryotes can evade the immune system by rapidly mutating their outer coat.
Now, usually the relationship between microbes, hosts, and immune system is discussed in terms of warfare - this fights this, this evades that. But what if this was instead a mechanism that wasn't nearly as much about warfare as it was about adaptation?
For example, Opa proteins on N. meningitidis are surface proteins that are encoded by contingency loci. Different versions of these proteins adhere to different types of cells. So, what I'm wondering is - are mutations in these contingency loci associated with mutations elsewhere, or expression changes elsewhere? For instance, might certain microbes alter their biochemistry in coordination with their surface proteins so that they assist the right cell type in the correct way? In other words, instead of "evading the immune system", might it instead be trying to find a biochemistry which is helpful to the organism, and using surface proteins to advertise to the immune system what sort of tissue the organism is best configured for. The immune system, rather than "combating" the antigen, might be just cleaning up good microbes which are just in the wrong place, or perhaps in the wrong configuration in the wrong place.
Anyway, it's an interesting possibility, but I'm not sure how it might be investigated. But it might make a good research project for a budding Creation PhD student somewhere.
I'm not quite sure how this question would be investigated, but it's sure worth asking.
I myself have not experienced any discrimination based on my belief in Creationism. However, that is not the case for many in academia. Jerry Bergman's new book, Slaughter of the Dissidents, reveals in excruciating detail the perils that befall most academics who are Darwin-dissenters of any stripe (Creationists, IDers, or even evolutionists skeptical of the Darwinian mechanism, or honest enough to allow open conversation about the subject or the possibility that they could be wrong).
If you want to learn more, I posted a review of the book on UncommonDescent.
For those of you wanting to do Creation research in an academic setting, I'll just say this: use caution, but stand up for what you believe in.
By the way, here is an inspiring story about someone successfully standing up for Creation in academia.
After a year and a half of waiting, my paper on randomness and Creation Biology has finally been published in the current CRSQ! The paper is titled "Statistical and Philosophical Notions of Chance in Creation Biology". The main points of the paper follow:
There are different notions of chance and randomness which have very different implications, but we tend to lump them all together. This causes sloppy thinking and can blind the way we look at things. This is true in both Creationary and Evolutionary literature.
One type of randomness is statistical randomness. A process is statistically random if events in that process occur with fixed percentage frequencies over every "normal" infinite subset of those events. Another type is philosophical randomness. A process is philosophically random if it occurs outside the constraints of a system. The state of a slot machine after pulling its lever is the result of statistical randomness. The state of a slot machine after being hit by a meteor is the result of philosophical randomness.
Statistical randomness is often used in engineering to great benefit. It offers a way of counteracting unknowns. I'll probably devote a post to statistical randomness at a later date.
The Luria/Delbrück and Lederberg experiments (which are normally used to prove the randomness of mutations) are not by themselves evidence of an unplanned process. Another possibility explored in the paper are that many of these are pre-adaptive mechanisms.
Basically, I think that many "spontaneous" mutations are actually the result of a process to increase a population's future fitness. Basically, it forces alternate biochemical configurations into the population at a controlled rate, so that a catastrophic environmental change does not wipe out the entire population. If a cell uses a statistically random process to create these alternate configurations, the population can keep fixed percentages of alternate configurations without any individual cell needing to know how many of each configuration are already in the population.
Therefore, I think that many (but not all) of the "spontaneous" mutations we see are not haphazard just because they occur in the absence of selection, but instead are planned mechanisms to introduce alternate biochemical configurations into the population (which are likely less fit in the current environment) to prepare for extreme changes to the environment in the future.
Mutational "hot spots" within the genome may be either the result of a planned mutational mechanism or just the happenstance physical interactions of biochemistry. I proposed that the proper test for this would be whether or not mutations within the hot spot are more or less likely to be biologically meaningful than a statistically random mutation with uniform probability over the entire genome. Based on Dembski's work, if a hot spot repeatedly gives us biologically meaningful mutations more frequently than statistically random mutations over the whole genome, then this is evidence that the hot spot is part of a designed mechanism.