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).
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 . 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.
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.
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.