Sunday, May 07, 2006

An Information Source

A review of "Information Theory and Molecular Biology" by Hubert Yockey located at the referenced website contains the following remarks.

http://home.planet.nl/~gkorthof/kortho33.htm

"The information in DNA is transmitted to the information in proteins. DNA is encoded information. Proteins are decoded information. tRNA is the decoder or translator. Noise in the engineering system equals mutation in the biological system. Indeed both systems look much the same. On an abstract level, they are the same. However what is not clear from this picture and Yockey's text is that the analogy breaks down at two points:

Contrary to engineering systems, there is no encoding process in the biological world. There is neither a Master Mind encoding information in DNA nor a natural process encoding information (from proteins or whatever source) into DNA. DNA is only decoded. In artificial systems, decoding implies encoding. Not so in genetic systems. Therefore, the encoding part of the 'information metaphor' is misleading."

[Bradford]: The author's conclusion reveals a philosophical bias. Since we are focused on a biological system we are to assume that genetic information is encoded in the absence of intelligence. This is both counter-intuitive and contrary to experience. Why refer to this as a "metaphor" while holding onto the remainder of the analogy? Why do so when no laws of chemistry are shown to predict that genetic information is generated from organic molecules under specified conditions?

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