Pharyngula

Genomics is ALL WRONG!

One can acquire all kinds of interesting “scientific” perspectives on the interwebs. For instance, Professor Pallacken Abdul Wahid of Kerala Agricultural University has written a fascinating demolition of genetics and genomics for SciTopics (“Research summaries by experts!” Sponsored by Elsevier!) titled Phenomena of life and death explained based on a computer model of organism in the light of the Quran and the Bible.

Take a moment to bask in the wondrous promise of that title before diving into the link. And have no fear, your every hope of delightful wackaloonery will be fulfilled!

What you will discover is that Professor Pallacken Abdul Wahid hasn’t the vaguest, foggiest notion of what genetics and genomics are, but that doesn’t stop him from making up entirely imaginary problems and even more fanciful solutions. His actual academic specialty is Agricultural Chemistry and Agricultural Botany, which don’t seem to involve much actual, you know, biology…either that, or Kerala Agricultural University has remarkably low standards and allows clowns to teach science. Or both!

He raises two objections to our understanding of genetics. The first is that he notes that all cells have the same genetic constitution, but express different patterns of activity, producing multiple cell and tissue types. Well, OK, this is a real issue, but one that has been long explained by biology: genes are regulated by proteins in the cell, and different cells contain different assortments of proteins because they have different developmental histories. The good professor claims that “the molecular gene concept fails to explain” this concept. He’s wrong. It does so very well. He really needs to read up on some molecular and developmental genetics.

His second objection is novel. Live cells and dead cells have exactly the same genome, therefore genetics cannot explain death. Novel, all right, but one has to say, DUH. Death is not a genetic process. It’s a biochemical and physiological one. Death for a multicellular organism is the result of an irreversible breakdown of integrated metabolic events such that the integration of the whole is disrupted; we really have to look at cellular and organismal activity to observe death, it isn’t simply an intrinsic property of a certain sequence of nucleotides. This is simply a silly argument he’s making.

In order to explain his invented problem, he invents a bizarre and fact-free fairy tale. Since genes obviously can’t be responsible for life, differential gene activity, and death, he claims that there is some non-material property associated with chromosomes that he calls “biomemes” and analogizes to software running on the hardware of the genetic material. Here’s his explanation, with his data. (Note: this is exactly as written, except that I had to put it in Comic Sans, simply because Comic Sans is like awesome sauce for crazy.)

The non-particulate biological information stored on the chromosome can be perceived in terms of a biomemetic concept. The term “meme” was originally proposed by Richard Dawkins to mean “replicator”. The term “biomeme” used here is a modified version of “meme”. Biomeme is the smallest unit of biological information that can be transmitted from parent to offspring and that can take part in natural biosoftware engineering processes like cutting and splicing of chromosomal sectors, deletion, replication, translocation, crossing over (recombination), etc. These phenomena lead to alteration of the biosoftware via rearrangement of the biomemetic sectors on the chromosome (Figure 1). All these processes, which biologists treat as ‘errors’, are in fact program-controlled functions to bring about the required alterations in chromosome organization, and hence in the biosoftware. In this way, Johannsen’s non-particulate gene can be conceived and applied to biological systems. A detailed discussion of the computer model of the universe including biocomputer concept may be found elsewhere [15, 16]. In the computer model of the universe, chemical information (abioprogram) exists as coded in the form of chemical structures while the biological information (bioprogram) exists as stored information on chromosomes (biomemory).

i-04ffa62f5ce84c725547c2a5fe5fd15d-biomeme.jpeg

Note the lovely detailed diagram of a chromosome, which seems to rename chunks of chromatin as “sectors” which somehow correspond not to genes, but to “bioprograms” running on the genome. This is real cargo cult science; the author has no notion of modern biology, but is plopping his own weird interpretations sans any appreciation of the actual data underlying genomics on top of a few cartoon portraits. It’s freakishly irrelevant.

But wait! There’s more! We haven’t even struck the Fool’s Gold of kook ravings yet!

And here it is. You know what would complete the lunacy of his ignorant mangling of biology? You guessed it, religion.

The Scriptural revelations agree well with Johannsen’s non-particulate gene in conjunction with the computer model of organism. “Breathing of
rooh” into a clay model to create man (Adam) mentioned in the Quran (Q. 15:26-29) and “breathing of life” mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 2:7) refer to one and the same event – installation of divine biosoftware in a clay model of man. Upon installation of the
rooh (the term
nafs is also used in the Quran), the non-living clay model sprang to life much like a lifeless computer springs to “life” when software is installed. Thus the
rooh or “breath of life”, which is a non-physical entity, is the divine biosoftware (bioprogram) of human species. It needs a physical medium for storage, which is the chromosome. The Quran further states that it is from the
nafs (biosoftware) of Adam, woman (Eve) was created (Q. 7:189). The Bible says that it is from Adam’s rib, Eve was created. The rib mentioned in the Bible corresponds to the X chromosome of Adam [19]. The word ‘rib’ is used in the Bible metaphorically to mean chromosome (for the obvious reason that chromosome was unknown to the people of Prophet Moses’s time). Ribs are the only part of human body that morphologically resembles the chromosome. As two arms of a chromosome are joined on either side of the centromere, two ribs are joined on either side of a vertebra (Figure 2). Of the two sex chromosomes (X and Y), Adam’s rib must be referring to the X chromosome because XX combination determines femaleness. Further, the arms of the X chromosome are more nearly equal in length than those of the Y chromosome. This characteristic of X chromosome makes it more comparable with the ribs on either side of a vertebra. Since the Bible mentions only one rib, the biomeme for femaleness might be located on one of the arms of X chromosome. The Scriptural account of creation of Eve from Adam also reveals the karyotypes of Adam and Eve. If the karyotype of Adam is designated as 22 (autosomes)
A + (XY)
A, where subscript A denotes Adam, the karyotype of Eve will be 22 (autosomes)
A + (XX)
A. The analogy of rib used in the Bible for chromosome also confirms that the biosoftware is stored on the chromosome.

i-bda7a65847c086fabc070864ae22db7f-ribs_chroms.jpeg

Once again, it’s Pallaneck Abdul Wahid’s illustration that puts the perfect wacky icing on top of the silly cake of his theory. That’s quite a stretch, to claim that chromosomes resemble ribs, therefore that’s what the Bible was talking about.

Here’s a test. Below are pictures of ribs and of chromosomes. Can you tell them apart? Pallaneck Abdul Wahid can’t.

i-122a7afb957460be4db0e4168af200ab-ribs.jpegi-31ff7fedd4b42390ffab57f4c84a66a5-chroms.jpeg

His conclusion also demonstrates that he’s a bit lacking in basic logic skills as well.

Although a good number of Quranic revelations can be identified as falsifiable through scientific means, the revelation about the non-physical nature of biological information appears quite suitable for the purpose. Studies to synthesize “life” from non-life
without in any way involving a living cell during experiments are in full swing in several institutes. These studies are also a test of validity of the Scriptural revelations about life. If we succeed in creating life from chemical molecules, it will mark the end of religion and God. On the other hand if the research fails, it will not only prove the molecular gene wrong but will also confirm that God exists and the Quran is true. Let us wait for the verdict – the scientific answer to the biggest question ever!

So if a living cell is created in the lab, God is disproven? Go, Craig Venter, go! Unfortunately, it would shoot down vitalism, but not necessary religion. Well, vitalism is already shot down — it’s more like walking out to the crater, finding a few scraps of wreckage, and kicking them around for a while.

On the other hand, if the current efforts to synthesize life fail, it does not confirm the existence of God, and it especially does not support the Islamic faith. Creating a complete and functional chromosome is technically difficult, and that a non-trivial task is taking a while is no surprise. But if, somehow, there is some key aspect of the cell that we’ve been completely missing, even if vitalism reassembles itself and shows that it has some life (hah!) left in it yet, that does not say anything uniquely valid about the Quran. Especially not when its proponents are goofballs scribbling squiggles and claiming ribs look like chromosomes.

Comments

  1. #1 speedweasel
    March 29, 2010

    Cue balloon animals in 3…2…1

  2. #2 Crewvy
    March 29, 2010

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm,ribs,,,,,,,,,,,

  3. #3 John Morales
    March 29, 2010

    Heh.

    Dawkins coined ‘meme’ as a cultural analogue to a gene, and now the Professor coins ‘biomeme’ as a biological analogue to a meme.

    I’ll here take dibs on the coinage ‘metabiomeme©’.

  4. #4 netcob
    March 29, 2010

    I just realized… chromosomes look like packing peanuts! Surely that must mean something… I’ll write a book!

  5. #5 lijdare
    March 29, 2010

    You missed his other two missives….

    Theory of creation of biological species. Part-1: Origin of life based on the Quran
    http://www.scitopics.com/Theory_of_creation_of_biological_species_Part_1_Origin_of_life_based_on_the_Quran.html

    Theory of creation of biological species. Part-2: Programmed organic evolution
    http://www.scitopics.com/Theory_of_creation_of_biological_species_Part_2_Programmed_organic_evolution.html

    His website is equally strange:
    http://www.islamicscienceforum.org/

    He almost sounds like a Mormonized Muslim.

  6. #6 rni.boh
    March 29, 2010

    This guy emailed me a couple of months ago to tell me about this. I thought about fisking it, but I decided that presenting Fig. 2 would be enough.

  7. #7 Woof
    March 29, 2010

    The Time Cube is strong in this one, Luke.

  8. #8 Stephen, Lord of the flies
    March 29, 2010

    Biomeme is the smallest unit of biological information that can be transmitted from parent to offspring

    Be nice to the guy. This is almost a reasonable definition of a gene he’s stumbled upon here.

  9. #9 nonsensemachine
    March 29, 2010

    This is one of the new big fads on YouTube; muslims making videos and commenting incessantly on actual science videos about how everything in science was revealed in the Koran centuries ago. It’s weird how everything in science is an affront to god until someone finds something in their magic book that can be contorted to look like a scientific revelation. Weirder still is how their magic books are suppoed to be all we need to live and progress, yet it takes objective, secular science to do all the heavylifting and then its findings can be somehow backformed from the scriptures. I guess we could have had electricity and modern medicine sooner if we stopped observing nature and instead parsed the Bible or Koran for answers.

  10. #10 Bill
    March 29, 2010

    Except, Stephen, Lord of the Flies, it already has a name – a gene!

  11. #11 speedweasel
    March 29, 2010

    It’s weird how everything in science is an affront to god until someone finds something in their magic book that can be contorted to look like a scientific revelation.

    We need a suitably tempting, Sokal style scientific hoax that they can appropriate and attribute to the Koran before we come clean, pull the rug out from under them and watch them furiously back-pedal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair

  12. #12 raven
    March 29, 2010

    This is an example of theistic science that Phillip Johnson, the DI, creationists, and fundies of the xian and Moslem types all want to mandate.

    The problem with using or invoking supernatural explanations as science are well known.

    There is no way to test them against the real world. It all comes down to what someone thinks Goddidit. There are usually multiple interpretations of what Goddid. The common religious solution is to gather the armies and heavy weapons, and the last ones left living are right.

    The last era where theistic science was the dominant philosophy was known as….the Dark Age.

  13. #13 mattheath
    March 29, 2010

    Wait! Elsevier lending credibility to bullshit! Surely not!

    If an academic publisher isn’t upholding standards for publication they aren’t doing anything that justifies what they charge; in mathematics at least they even have authors do their own typesetting. Combined with their pricing and bundling policies the failure to provide quality control means Elseiver is simply a parasite on academia.

    Any academics amongst you, especially if you have a steady, fulltime position and can afford to publish with a bit less Impact Factor, should really think twice before offering your unpaid labour to Elsevier as authors or referees.

  14. #14 mattheath
    March 29, 2010

    I have a comment in moderation (because of many links, I think)about how it’s no surprise that Elsevier are lending credibility to this bollocks. After Homeopathy, the El Naschie affair, and the Merck funded medical journal, together with their bundling policies, it’s time for academics to wake up to how this company is leeching off us in exchange for nothing of value.

  15. #15 Neel
    March 29, 2010

    Kerala has by far the highest literacy rate in the country (91% compared to the nation wide 61), but if this clown was among the ones who were counted.. Saddening.

  16. #16 peter.jeaiem
    March 29, 2010

    #5 beat me to it. They are worth reading for chuckles.

    Biologists are unable to define “life”, “gene” and “species” therefore Allah did it.

    Notice the references to quantum physics, similar in that to Collins and Miller and other Christian bullshitmongers.

    Not to mention that his bullshit about how the first cell emerged is in contradiction to his bullshit, in another paper, about how the first human was created. Unless of course humans and the rest of life on Earth are unrelated,… which is also an epic fail.

  17. #17 MadScientist
    March 29, 2010

    Mr Wahid needs to eat bacon to improve his understanding of biology. My guess is that he has a jazzed up title – of the handful of people I know who work with plants, they all know their genetics (including various techniques such as gene splicing). I suspect “Agricultural Chemist” means “guy who sprinkles on the fertilizer” and “Agricultural Botanist” is “guy who knows how to put a seed into the seeding pots”. I’m quite tired of these “clueless moron proves experts all wrong” stories.

  18. #18 MadScientist
    March 29, 2010

    @lijdare: A mormonized muslim? Why do you say that? Does he have magical allah underwear?

  19. #19 Stephen, Lord of the flies
    March 29, 2010

    @Bill #10:
    True, but that term’s been around for so long now that it could surely do with an update ;) . And if you come up with a replacement, you get all the credit.

    @John Morales #3:
    Does metabiomeme refer to the cultural memes that develop around the biomeme concept? Sort of how Time Cube is used?

  20. #20 grosbeak57
    March 29, 2010

    Live cells and dead cells have exactly the same genome, therefore genetics cannot explain death.

    Live cells and dead cells have exactly the same weight, therefore gravity cannot explain death.

    Therefore Jebus, or Allah, or somebody.

  21. #21 a.f.diplotti
    March 29, 2010

    But… if professor Wahid is wrong, how do you explain PYGMIES + DWARFS?

  22. #22 Carlie
    March 29, 2010

    Ok, so the reason that women have two X chromosomes and men only have one is that God took one of them away from Adam and gave it to Eve? So the basic human, Adam, had two X chromosomes and a Y? But then Eve doesn’t have a Y, and the Bible doesn’t say anything about taking it away from her, so maybe the Y was a later insertion after Eve was created? But then Adam would have started out as a woman, and then when God took one X away to make Eve then Adam would have been a woman with Turner Syndrome, and the original couple would have been a lesbian pair? Wow, this God chromosome stuff is complicated.

  23. #23 onethird-man
    March 29, 2010

    Shorter Wahid:
    I don’t understand the nuance of biology, therefore, Quran!
    In light of this, Quran, therefore biology!
    QED

  24. #24 John Morales
    March 29, 2010

    Stephen, Lord of the flies,

    Does metabiomeme refer to the cultural memes that develop around the biomeme concept?

    Um, stuffed if I know, but probably, yeah. :)

    It sure sounds sciency though, dunnit?

  25. #25 octopode.myopenid.com
    March 29, 2010

    Wow, thoroughly dismembered :)

    Even my physicist’s brain could detect the goat-burning idiocy of this piece from the first few sentences.

    Mmmm ribs…

  26. #26 Antiochus Epiphanes
    March 29, 2010

    I got as far as the passage that grosbeak57 quotes. Then I beat my skull with the jawbone of an ass until my brains spilled out. I put them back into my brain pan in likely a different configuration that they were in originally, and patched the whole box back up with duct tape and chewing gum. I am feeling much better. What were we talking about?

  27. #27 Stephen, Lord of the flies
    March 29, 2010

    John Morales,

    It sure sounds sciency though, dunnit?

    I’m convinced. It’s only science if you have to make up new words to describe it. That’s how you know it’s cutting edge.

  28. #28 madbull
    March 29, 2010

    I am from Kerala, India :'(

  29. #29 Porco Dio
    March 29, 2010

    of course he cant tell ribs apart from chromosomes….

    those are PORK ribs…

    he’s never seen pork ribs

  30. #30 Celtic_Evolution
    March 29, 2010

    “If she weighs… the same as… a duck… then she’s… made of wood…

    … and therefor…”

  31. #31 lifeishard
    March 29, 2010

    A disgrace that brings ignominy to all Keralites.

  32. #32 Sigmund
    March 29, 2010

    If Adam originally donated an X to Eve I guess this means that Adam was originally created with Klinefelters syndrome XXY.
    And if Eve got an X from him then she must have originally been XO which is Turners syndrome.

  33. #33 Sastra
    March 29, 2010

    Taner Edis wrote an entire book on Muslim attempts to demonstrate that modern science is not just compatible with the Quran, but predicted in it: An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam. It’s on my (too long) wish list.

    It’s hard to say whether Professor Wackadoon here is wrong, or not even wrong. I think we can at least imagine a science-fiction world where all his background facts are true, and his conclusion correct — so that may boost him up to the level of just being wrong.

  34. #34 Biddy
    March 29, 2010

    Every day I wake up to study and endeavour to better understand the intricate mechanisms of biology. Why though? Apparently you don?t always need to know what I?m talking about to get published. It is hard for a student to stay motivated knowing there are people who will pay you to make it up as you go along. Why do it then? Oh yeah!! Because the, dare I say, revelations culminating from the real scientific process are always more enlightening than any religion epiphany.

  35. #35 toth
    March 29, 2010

    I just have to wonder if we’re running on FAT32 or NTFS by now. I didn’t notice an upgrade, but maybe it happened before I was born. Hey, it’s God, right?!

  36. #36 nigelTheBold
    March 29, 2010

    I just have to wonder if we’re running on FAT32 or NTFS by now.

    Neither, I hope. ext4, btrfs, or ZFS would be far preferred.

  37. #37 nigelTheBold
    March 29, 2010

    If Adam originally donated an X to Eve I guess this means that Adam was originally created with Klinefelters syndrome XXY.
    And if Eve got an X from him then she must have originally been XO which is Turners syndrome.

    She pirated it, and made two copies. Adam didn’t notice he had a virus until it was too late.

  38. #38 bjstucker
    March 29, 2010

    And how does Wahid explain the boneless ribs I get from Peking Gardens…..

  39. #39 Ol'Greg
    March 29, 2010

    You know, some times I’m at a loss. I have encountered people who subscribe to “theories” I know are complete crap (as out there as this) and yet I am at a loss as to what to say when I seem non-plussed and blow the “theory” off and then am confronted by the “but you’re not smart enough to make that decision” argument. I mean, let’s say some one was putting this crap forward and I said “That, sir, is some crap dressed up as science.”

    Now I get, “You’re not a scientist, come up with some thing better or admit this could be true.”

    To which I usually do come up with something better, or at least more entertaining,but really that does nothing to convince people. I’d rather be able to say something meaningful.

    I suppose the problem is that it actually *does* take expertise which takes years of work and study to acquire to be able to explain how certain ideas don’t make sense.

    I dunno…

  40. #40 jaranath
    March 29, 2010

    I wouldn’t worry about Venter making our friend an atheist. I’m sure he’d move the goalposts at the appropriate time, probably toward where the ID crowd would be: “Youjust copied what God did; you’d never have succeded without someone to cheat off!”

    Though I must say, I do know few creationists, and most of them do still have some lingering vitalism or similar objection. One very intelligent one (no joke, quite smart, just apallingly ignorant) honestly still believed the old “you can’t synthesize biomolecules in the lab” notion that went out…well, can’t recall, but wasn’t that over a century ago, involving urea? They think Goddidit not just because we aren’t smart enough to but because some aspects of “it” are fundamentally impossible per the laws of the universe, which only god can break. Thus their persistence at the Second Law argument and their efforts to mutate it into the “Second Law of Information.”

    Celtic@29: exACTly!

  41. #41 phoenixwoman
    March 29, 2010

    Don’t tell Graeme Bird!

  42. #42 Sili
    March 29, 2010

    Anyone started charting the Memome and Biomemome, yet?

    -omics’s where the money’s at after all.

  43. #43 dutchdoc
    March 29, 2010

    much like a lifeless computer springs to ?life? when software is installed

    His computer science knowledge isn’t quite up to par either.

  44. #44 daveau
    March 29, 2010

    netcob@4

    chromosomes look like packing peanuts!

    Packing peanuts have a creator. Therefore, chromosomes have a creator. QED.

    Why do I have a craving for ribs all of a sudden?

  45. #45 James Sweet
    March 29, 2010

    Live cells and dead cells have exactly the same genome, therefore genetics cannot explain death.

    Interesting observation, Mr. Wahid. I also noticed that spaghetti and linguine are both types of pasta, therefore, pasta cannot explain the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  46. #46 James Sweet
    March 29, 2010

    Creating a complete and functional chromosome is technically difficult, and that a non-trivial task is taking a while is no surprise.

    I also noticed that we still don’t have flying cars. I was promised flying cars.

    Until you know-it-all scientists come through on the flying cars, I’m going to have to dedicate my life to Jesus. It’s the only alternative.

  47. #47 aghunt
    March 29, 2010

    LOL.

    The first excerpt could well have be authored by Sternberg, and the whole piece is strikingly similar (save the obvious religion-specific substitutions) to ideas that have been peddled by Wells for many years.

  48. #48 PeterK
    March 29, 2010

    I got asked to write a SciTopics page (on Metal Hydrides) myself a couple of weeks ago and one day after I published my page and was polishing it up a bit, I saw this one had newly come online. I had a good laugh at the ´morphological semblance between a spine with ribs and a chromosome´ and then reported it to the editors as ´unsuitable content´, but as far as I can tell it is still there. I must say I wondered initially whoever read those pages, since I had never heard of SciTopics myself before, but now I know I am in good company at least!

  49. #49 black-wolf72
    March 29, 2010

    From a Christian, I got a comment like this in a discussion once:
    “Genetic science has been done for decades. This means we know just about everything about genes there is to know. Since this knowledge has yielded us still unable to create an organism from scratch, it proves that only God can”.

    How can you even argue with someone who insists that life is a magical property and that it’s logically sound to accept non-empirical cognitive methods (such as religious faith) as complementary to scientific methods (á la Feyerabend)? That anything else is “scientism” and “dogmatic”?

  50. #50 broboxley OT
    March 29, 2010

    Live cells and dead cells have exactly the same genome, therefore genetics cannot explain death.

    honest yer honor I thought she was just sleeping

  51. #51 black-wolf72
    March 29, 2010

    Every time I try to think of a society run by Islamic Science (or the Christian fundie equivalent), somehow I see a devastated landscape, dust blowing across little mounds that turn up to be human skeletons upon closer inspection.

  52. #52 Chris Hegarty
    March 29, 2010

    Ech. This quack is simply spilling pure drivel. I wonder how many people buy in to his particular brand of creationism. I’m sure I’ll be sad if I actually get this number. The ribs/chromosome figure he provided nearly made me spit out my coffee, though; I was laughing so hard.

    Does anyone else think it looks like it was made in MSPaint?

    Chris Hegarty
    http://hegartyblog.wordpress.com

  53. #53 Glen Davidson
    March 29, 2010

    That’s how I realized that “software” is just a vast conspiracy to sell useless “information.”

    A working computer has “software” on its disc, and a worthless non-working computer does too. So I know that “software” has nothing to do with whether or not computers operate.

    Computers must run on magic words from the Q’uran.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  54. #54 NewEnglandBob
    March 29, 2010

    Whahid is certainly an expert of blowing hot air.

  55. #55 Blake Stacey
    March 29, 2010

    or Kerala Agricultural University has remarkably low standards and allows clowns to teach science.

    Paging Stuart Pivar . . .

  56. #56 https://me.yahoo.com/a/K2PNji0at.txAjzTShOlxwLuFcVVFwbnng--#bd813
    March 29, 2010

    Perhaps chromosomes would look more like ribs if they were grilled with hot sauce

  57. #57 caleb.beckett
    March 29, 2010

    I like how he uses religious texts to support his conclusions, i.e. “The analogy of rib used in the Bible for chromosome also confirms that the biosoftware is stored on the chromosome,” and then claims that his conclusions confirm religious texts. Well, I wonder why…
    Maybe he considers the Bible and Qur’an to be independent lines of reasoning, and therefore scientific? Either way, I managed not to laugh until the second to last line… just the way it’s written is hilarious. GODEXISTSANDTHEQURANISTRUE!!!! Just HAD to fit that in there somewhere.

  58. #58 Doug
    March 29, 2010

    After a weekend of insufficient sleep, fighting with some confuser code & general crankiness, that illustration of the rib and the chromosome nearly made me hurt myself laughing. Wahid deserves a gloriously wrapped box of a dozen of the finest clown noses available.

  59. #59 Dae
    March 29, 2010

    The diagrams were absolutely priceless. They caused an unexpected loop in my “biosoftware” that rendered me unable to move for several seconds. My body spewed coffee out its nose in an effort to clear the hangup and reboot the program.

    This hypothesis is supported by the fact that I was able to stop laughing once the coffee left my nose, and go blow my nose instead.

    All hail the power of sky wizard science!

  60. #60 broboxley OT
    March 29, 2010
  61. #61 nejishiki
    March 29, 2010

    Live cells and dead cells have exactly the same genome, therefore genetics cannot explain death.

    My favorite quote from an actual, if slightly loony, scientist on this matter:

    ?It is indeed clear that biological structures can only originate in a dissipative medium and be maintained by a continuous supply of energy? if we would introduce a ?poison? to alter one of these factors, the whole organization would collapse. This again appears to be very similar the the well known biological fact that a cell with practically the same composition may be alive or dead.?
    Ilya Prigogine
    Thermodynamics of Irreversible Processes (1967)

  62. #62 peter.jeaiem
    March 29, 2010

    I never pictured the rib yahwe used to be two whole ribs and a vertebra to boot. Poor Adam.

  63. #63 kantalope
    March 29, 2010

    PZ – the comic Sans didn’t take for one of the paragraphs – I think.

    More proof: if you were to look at adam from the sky he also looks like a rib or a chromosome -o- if his little arms stick out. What do you think of that?Cause only god would have had a top down view of adam…so ha.

    If you have a donut hole and stick bacon into it it also looks like one of them biomemosomes too. So now what do you think? Those Quarany guys were purdicktin my new breakfast creation the “breakfast bat”. It won’t suck your blood but it will thicken it right up.

  64. #64 Glen Davidson
    March 29, 2010

    At least it’s pretty clear that we’ll need to take time out of teaching ID to teach this controversy.

    I figure that if all the controversies are taught, ID will be no threat at all, having about 2 minutes teaching time out of the year. No science would be taught, of course, which would make the IDiots quite happy, however.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  65. #65 Tiki_Idyll
    March 29, 2010

    But what if the “rib” Eve was made from a penile bone? Does that mean that Adam had a strangely shaped phallus?

  66. #66 Sven DiMilo
    March 29, 2010

    Since the Bible mentions only one rib, the biomeme for femaleness might be located on one of the arms of X chromosome.

    In the cold light of day, scrubbed of the connotations of Comic Sans, I can find little here with which to argue. It is a testable hypothesis. Once we know what the “biomeme for femaleness” could possibly be or look like, we will know right where to look for it. Science marching on, I say.

  67. #67 Bodach
    March 29, 2010

    Needs more balloon animals.

  68. #68 LucasLikesParsnips
    March 29, 2010

    So, I saw the post – Genomics is ALL WRONG – and I thought to myself “this will be interesting”…

    Instead of the potentially interesting debate which could have arisen from Professor Pallacken Abdul Wahids (religion addled) article – I find a turdheap of unjustified smugness.

    OK, so thinking that religious texts hold the answer to scientific questions is probably a bit off – but he raises some of the most interesting (and open ended) questions there are:

    What is the nature of biological information?

    What is a gene (in the original sense)? and is it even possible to have independent heritable units?

    How can we define life?

    etc.

    -100 points for each time you answered DNA

    At least the guy is having a go, not just pretending that the answer to these questions is obvious by making trite remarks about how god isn’t real.

  69. #69 Glen Davidson
    March 29, 2010

    At least the guy is having a go, not just pretending that the answer to these questions is obvious by making trite remarks about how god isn’t real.

    Yeah, unlike the people who deal competently with these questions every day, he asks them like they’re somehow new and profound.

    And you suck it up just as ignorantly and dully.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  70. #70 anamik
    March 29, 2010

    Sigh. Just when Deepak Chopra was fading away, along comes Professor Pallacken Abdul Wahid.

    I’m going to go read up on Satyendra Nath Bose to make myself feel better.

  71. #71 NixNoctua
    March 29, 2010

    What is the nature of biological information?

    I have no idea what this question even means.

    What is a gene (in the original sense)?

    “A gene is the basic unit of heredity in a living organism.” -wikipedia

    and is it even possible to have independent heritable units?

    yes

    How can we define life?

    It’s a little fuzzy, since all of nature is on a spectrum, but wikipedia has the definition.

    Well, there you go.

  72. #72 magista
    March 29, 2010

    Wrong, all wrong!

    Chromosomes look like Alpha-Bits. The all ‘X’ version…

  73. #73 LucasLikesParsnips
    March 29, 2010

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the guy is pretty off the mark with his ideas. But I do think he is concerned by some very important questions, more so than most competent biologists – possibly as they are questions more suited to informatitions or philosophers, nor do they get in the way of everyday biology.

    I should probably apologise for implying that everyone here had a mindset where taking every opportunity to pounce on the religious is good sport. That was an unfair generalisation.

    Thanks for your input Nix. I’ll file it under “that word that Glen assailed me for using after he looked up its synonyms.”

  74. #74 Knockgoats
    March 29, 2010

    OK, so thinking that religious texts hold the answer to scientific questions is probably a bit off completely fucking batshit insane – LucasLikesParsnips

    Fixed for you. No charge.

  75. #75 LucasLikesParsnips
    March 29, 2010

    OK, so thinking that religious texts hold the answer to scientific questions is completely fucking batshit insane

    It was things like that that got me started in the first place…

    did make me laugh though

  76. #76 tutone21
    March 29, 2010

    HAHAHAHAHA!!!!! This reminds me of the dad in that movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding! I can just see him talking to his children saying, “Give me an idea. ANY idea, and I will show you how it is explained in the Quran.”

    Chromosomes and ribs…fuck that’s funny!

  77. #77 1...1...2...3...9ish...lots...more
    March 29, 2010

    “Death for a multicellular organism is the result of an irreversible breakdown of integrated metabolic events such that the integration of the whole is disrupted.” i think its a bit more complicated than that!
    when science is this truthful i like to believe in goblins….just for a minute or two…..

    “Death is the end of the conscious human experience…. in humans at least”
    is also very true
    and a necessary adjunct to such a bleak and mechanical view of biology.

  78. #78 Glen Davidson
    March 29, 2010

    Wow, LLP, you’re as fucking stupid in your later comments as in your earlier ones. And dishonest, not that I’d expect anything.

    Anyway, enough dealing with lying fuckwits of your sort.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  79. #79 ctenotrish
    March 29, 2010

    Morphological semblance my patooty! Chromosomes sometimes look like they need to get to a restroom, pronto (q arm chromatids cross over each other). Sometimes they look like they are in a hurry (part of one q-arm chromatid is raised and kinked a bit – looks like it’s gonna take off, really!). I’ve even see chromosomes that were bow-tie wanna be’s (iso 18ps and inverted Ys look like bow ties, in fact). It isn’t what they look like, trust me, because I’ve even got a card where the letters of my name were spelled with chromosomes, shape by shape. And chromosomes are not ‘channeling’ the alphabet, let me assure you. Where do these people come from!?!?!?!

  80. #80 Glen Davidson
    March 29, 2010

    “anything else,” that is.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  81. #81 Stephen, Lord of the flies
    March 29, 2010

    But I do think he is concerned by some very important questions, more so than most competent biologists

    I’d hate to come across as smug, but do you actually know any biologists? In particular, have you heard of the subset of biologists called geneticists? Because those first two questions you had are exactly what they have been discussing and debating for years. IIRC, The Selfish Gene (published 1976) had an entire chapter devoted to discussing exactly what a gene is.

    What is not helpful, is idiots like Professor Wahid making laughable statements that don’t concur with any previous form of scientific knowledge. This initial problem is then amplified when you try to salvage something from the irredeemable mass of burning stupidity above by claiming that “at least the guy is having a go”. If he were serious about having a go, he might have learnt enough science to know just how stupid his answers are.

  82. #82 1...1...2...3...9ish...lots...more
    March 29, 2010

    chromosomes look like polystyrene packing chips, and ribs only look like that if you go peeking with a chainsaw.

  83. #83 1...1...2...3...9ish...lots...more
    March 29, 2010

    “OK, so thinking that religious texts hold the answer to scientific questions is completely fucking batshit insane”
    not according to these guys- well theyre not religious texts per se but…..
    this guy falls somewhere in between batshit insane and very interesting not quite sure what to make of him… take a look…. link

  84. #84 1...1...2...3...9ish...lots...more
    March 29, 2010

    Where do these people come from!?!?!?!
    They are desperately trying to grab at straws concerning morphological resonance and the golden section and tack on some shit about jeebus- these are profound concepts that any idiot can use to sell a bit of snake oil to other idiots,
    sometimes wonder if giving these guys the benefit of your opinion on their theories might be a bit of a wasted effort-
    if people could see existence itself as just pretty fucking amazing then you might get rid of the wow factor jeebus/satan/the purple graaarg monsters gives them.

  85. #85 1...1...2...3...9ish...lots...more
    March 29, 2010

    haha youll all be gone for hours watching mr magical egypt now lol. its sbout four hours long that thing- be good to hear what you make of him though

  86. #86 1...1...2...3...9ish...lots...more
    March 29, 2010

    newcastle 2 forest 0. oh dear. the playoffs are home and away legs btw.

  87. #87 tutone21
    March 29, 2010

    We need to come up with a drinking game for magical egypt if we are going to actually make it through all these episodes.

    Hmmm….I have a scientific question that I would like to answer. Where to begin looking? I know! I bought my kid some coloring books!! The answers must be in there.

  88. #88 1...1...2...3...9ish...lots...more
    March 29, 2010

    its worth it for some of the egytpology, those pots he starts on- i didnt know they existed and for that factoid alone i gave him my time….not quite so sure about his conclusions though…….

  89. #89 paulmurray
    March 29, 2010

    his is real cargo cult science; the author has no notion of modern biology

    Ditto information science.

  90. #90 kiyaroru
    March 29, 2010

    re: Figure 2 and #61
    Is this proof that chiropractic subluxations are heaven-sent?

  91. #91 Phasic
    March 29, 2010

    I showed this to my partner, who works in gene expression. He loked perplexed, kept muttering “wait, what?” and then his head exploded when he saw the rib = chromosome figure. And his head exploded again when I pointed out the Elsevier link.

    Very entertaining. Thanks again, PZ.

  92. #92 LucasLikesParsnips
    March 29, 2010

    I know plenty of biologists thanks.

    The sequence of nucleotides of DNA is the de facto carrier of information as discussed by geneticists. It’s not that people don’t realise that questions about the nature of genes don’t have a definite answer, they just don’t care. The only researchers that really take such questions seriously are the epigeneticists and those who study abiogenisis, memetics and I guess also evolutionary psychologists (almost cirtainly some others). All these fields, you may notice, are not exactly mainstream.

    A major problem, which the Quaran guy talks about before his religious ravings, when talking of information coded within DNA (or anything for that matter) is that one requires something to decode it. What would happen if you tried to express a human gene in an organism where some of the codons coded for a different amino acids?

    On the other end of the scale, if we did not inherit our location from our mothers, we may not end up in a very hostile environment (not physically likely/at all possible, I know), but spatial inheritance is of massive (and mainstream) importance – speciation being an one of the most important.

    There are many other forms of inheritance, some that may even be considered Lamarkian. DNA-methylation, inheritance of virii, social inheritance, chemical inheritance

    This is without considering what constitutes something that may inherit – What is a replicator?

    All of these interact within themselves and with each other, making very hard (perhaps impossible) to concretely define the unit inheritance. So most people, including many biologists, just say “its DNA”.

    Which is fine for them, just not me.

    The thing that I’ve been trying to say, before people started asking stupid and irrelevant questions like “How many biologists do you actually know” was:

    STOP RIDICULING EASY TARGETS

    These people who are pretty far the mark, are there because there is a real and important conceptual gap. No one has managed to explain the concepts to them well. More often than not, they come close to showing us where we need to look to better understand the world. If only we are willing to listen.

    So when someone has said something a bit nuts, I’d rather try and understand what they are getting at than take a cheap shot at their expense.

    Hope this has clarified my position, sorry for the length.

    PS. Glen: It wasn’t a lie it was an insult

  93. #93 John Morales
    March 29, 2010

    broboxley,

    ooh, looks like fun prank 3:16

    I hate hate HATE practical jokes, this just made me squirm with discomfort.

  94. #94 Phasic
    March 29, 2010

    LucasLikesParsnips:

    If ridiculing easy targets makes you this upset, I urge you to avoid the internet in general.

    Sure, there are very interesting questions and issues in bioinformatics and related areas, and I’m sure some of them will be discussed here too. But I fully reserve the right to make fun of stupid shit.

    And I also like parsnips. And SNPs, too.

  95. #95 PZ Myers
    March 29, 2010

    LucasLikesParsnips: You’re being an idiot. Your preconceptions about what scientists think are completely wrong.

    Here, go read this. You’re almost as naive as Wahid.

    What would happen if you tried to express a human gene in an organism where some of the codons coded for a different amino acids? These don’t exist (except for a few variants in mitochondrial DNA). The genetic code is universal.

    But I should stop. You just ordered us to stop ridiculing easy targets, which I guess puts you outside the playing field.

  96. #96 Armand K.
    March 29, 2010

    Wow. Just wow!

    As a side issue, I wonder if “agricultural chemistry” isn’t by chance codeword for “fertilizer distribution” wherever this Emeritus Professor is teaching. I feel it as an insult (personal, and to the memory of my favourite writer) that he allegedly knows something about biochemistry.

  97. #97 LucasLikesParsnips
    March 29, 2010

    Yes! Regulatory networks are just the start of the complexity! I’m not trying to say anything crazy. Just the extent of the problem reaches a very long way, further than regulatory networks.

    here is some organisms with different genetic codes link most (but not all) of which are mitochondrial.

    Not that the actual existence of a different coding mechansim makes any actual difference to the issue (back to my point about biologists not really caring enough about the problem to try and understand it) What’s a turing machine without the finite state machine?

  98. #98 Peter Relph
    March 29, 2010

    I thought that this might be a hoax, but it looks like he might be real, apparently he is or was the first Member Secretary of the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment

    http://www.kau.edu/kaunews/V4No1j.htm

    It’s sad really.

  99. #99 Kemist
    March 30, 2010

    All of these interact within themselves and with each other, making very hard (perhaps impossible) to concretely define the unit inheritance. So most people, including many biologists, just say “its DNA”.

    I have yet to meet a biologist, microbiologist or biochemist who thinks like that. And I know a few, since I’ve taken classes with many and worked with others.

    In my first college year I had a biochemistry class called “Molecular Genetics 101″ which dealt with DNA transcription in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes as well as chromosome packaging/differential gene expression with histone positioning/acetylation/methylation/phosphorylation.

    “Epigenetics” is not controversial (and neither is abiogenesis – there are whole journals dedicated to them, for FSM’s sake) or even new – it’s been known for quite a while that there exist extra-genetic control mechanisms for gene expression, and that genes are not exactly a “blueprint”.

    A major problem, which the Quaran guy talks about before his religious ravings, when talking of information coded within DNA (or anything for that matter) is that one requires something to decode it.

    It’s translated by RNA polII in eukaryotes. There are quite a lot of things known on RNA polII – enough to make an undergrad student despair about having to memorize it for an exam. I refer you to an introductory textbook on molecular genetics.

    What would happen if you tried to express a human gene in an organism where some of the codons coded for a different amino acids?

    You’d get a different protein, duh. One that has very little chance of being useful to the organism. Especially in an organism that is so different from humans. Apart from differences in sequence, many proteins need chaperones for proper folding, and post-translation modifications to be active – very little chance everything is there if the organism is so far apart from humans as to read DNA differently. And I’m not even talking about splicing and promoters.

  100. #100 1...1...2...3...9ish...lots...more
    March 30, 2010

    So when someone has said something a bit nuts, I’d rather try and understand what they are getting at than take a cheap shot at their expense.
    tesla was fucking bonkers and you better not have mentioned god if you met darwin.

  101. #101 monado
    March 30, 2010

    What are you doing up at 3:42? That’s my territory.

    The first passage from Prof. Wahid sounds just like something from Michael Behe: well-organized, grammatical, technical-sounding words expounding a completely mistaken assumption.

  102. #102 Kemist
    March 30, 2010

    So when someone has said something a bit nuts, I’d rather try and understand what they are getting at than take a cheap shot at their expense.

    There is a name for people who think they are experts in a field they don’t understand : crank.

    There are lots and lots of cranks, and most are rather prolific. You could spend several lifetimes listening to them. Which giberish should we listen to ?

    These people who are pretty far the mark, are there because there is a real and important conceptual gap.

    I have an alternative hypothesis : science is hard work. It’s much easier to make shit up than to actually study the damn subject, especially if it happens to be convenient to your chosen belief system.

  103. #103 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    March 30, 2010

    What are you doing up at 3:42?

    Hooray for scheduled, automated posting. (Probably.)

  104. #104 LucasLikesParsnips
    March 31, 2010

    @Kemist

    “Epigenetics” is not controversial (and neither is abiogenesis – there are whole journals dedicated to them, for FSM’s sake) or even new

    I don’t think they’re controversial (apologies if I appeared/did to say that). They are however, poorly funded and on average less well respected (maybe with the exception of epigenetics).

    it’s been known for quite a while that there exist extra-genetic control mechanisms for gene expression, and that genes are not exactly a “blueprint”.

    This seems to imply that you do think that genes are just DNA. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Which giberish should we listen to ?

    How about this, If you do take the time to read a article which is obviously bollocks, just from the title, try and understand why the author has made the claims that they have.

    It’s translated by RNA polII in eukaryotes. There are quite a lot of things known on RNA polII – enough to make an undergrad student despair about having to memorize it for an exam. I refer you to an introductory textbook on molecular genetics.

    You’d get a different protein, duh. One that has very little chance of being useful to the organism. Especially in an organism that is so different from humans. Apart from differences in sequence, many proteins need chaperones for proper folding, and post-translation modifications to be active – very little chance everything is there if the organism is so far apart from humans as to read DNA differently. And I’m not even talking about splicing and promoters.

    It was a rhetorical question.

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