Friday, October 02, 2009

Polymerases Bow to Their Creator

Rocks, yeah, we know about rocks.  They'll cry out if we stop worshiping God.

But polymerases?  Yep.  They are crying out right now.

When describing T7 RNA polymerase and Taq DNA polymerase, Keefe and Cload have this to say: "these polymerases are generally specific for their substrates; therefore, it is often a challenge to get them to incorporate nucleotides containing modifications.  As a consequence, considerable efforts have been made to discover variants of wild-type polymerases that are more able to accept modified nucleotides."  Keefe, A.; Cload, S. "SELEX with Modified Nucleotides." Curr. Opin. Chem. Biol. 2008, 12, 448-456."

I believe that if the veil covering evolutionary biologists' eyes could be removed, they would see the incredible Divine design of biological systems. 

I use the SELEX technique (Systematic Evolution by EXponential Enrichment), and from the beginning I've been amazed at how artificial it is.  This is not mimicking evolution in nature by any stretch: we have the ability to create a pool on the order of 10^14 different DNA sequences, then send them through a series of flaming hula-hoops to screen them for preferred activity.  This simply isn't how things are out in nature, for at least two reasons:

1) We can rapidly produce a pool of sequences to choose from.  SELEX literature repeatedly emphasizes the fact that pool preparation step is seminal.  If you don't start out with a good chunk of sequence space, you are substantially weakening your odds of finding a desired result.  You want to have as many sequences to choose from as possible.  So, we pay a company to sequence a random template, and then have ourselves some fun with PCR.  Here's the problem: the last time I checked, the cells in my body didn't have an account with this company.  They're pretty much "stuck" with the template of my genome, neatly folded away in the nucleus of my cells.  (And you thought I wasn't good at folding!)  We don't have to work against the Divinely-instilled conservatism of the cell.  The cell does.  Oh, not to worry, you might tell me.  The cell can get creative with mutations.  Excuse me?  Are you forgetting the number of checks, doublechecks, triplechecks, and quadrillionchecks that the cell has to protect itself against mutations?  Can mutations happen?  Yes.  Can mutations in the cell come anywhere near close to the pool of DNA sequences I can produce to start the SELEX process?  No.  Mutations are typically small changes: point mutations (single changes in a nucleotide), insertions (adding a new base), and deletions (removing a base).  My SELEX template has a 50-base random region.  That means I'm varying 50 bases at a pop.  The cell can't come anywhere near that kind of variation, but it would need that kind of change to see the kind of variety evolutionists would want.

In short, the cell is conservative.  And that's a good thing.  That's why we don't all have xeroderma pigmentosum.  Even small variations in our genome can cause devastating diseases if they're not abruptly rectified, but those small variations can't bring about the sea of change that separate mollusks from frogs, chimps from humans.

All variances in a "kind" of animal just produces a bell-shaped curve. (Statistics is coming in all shapes and forms this week, eh?)  Too many mutations in a cat doesn't produce a dog.  It just produces a dead cat.

You can look at this as God putting His thumb on genetic variation in a living organism, or you can look at it as God mercifully giving every living creature a definite identity, and providing boundaries to ensure that even over 6,000 years of reproduction those creatures would still have identities.

2) We can nurse our sequences up to a robust end result.  In short, we're nannies for these nanosequences.  We place them in a nuclease-free environment, provide them with only the purest of water, and carefully monitor all fluctuations in temperature and buffer.  If we though nanoIVs might help our little newborns, we'd start them on those.  Everything is done to protect them from the hostile world we'll *sigh* have to release them into someday.  This simply isn't how it is in nature.  In nature, from the beginning, and at each intermediate step, the design of the organism/cell/molecule must be functional, because it is inside a hostile environment without any intervention from an obsessive grad student. 

To sum up, I think I'm not blown away enough.  I don't let myself be amazed when I think about the four building blocks that God's used to make each person distinctive, unique.  I don't let myself be amazed by the fact that every kind of living organism we've ever studies uses the same four building blocks, but is genetically distinct from every other kind of living organism.  I don't let myself be amazed when I think about the reproduction path God designed so that from two people would come a new person, genetically distinct, of the same kind, with each parent equally responsible for its genetic information, and equally on the Lord's mercy to have the development progress on schedule.  I don't let myself be amazed by the dynamic turnover God designed so that RNA and DNA do not last forever in a cell, but are systematically degraded so that they cannot give rise to defective copies once they've begun to age.  I don't let myself be amazed at the Divine recycling program, where God put a finite number of atoms into our sandbox, and He's ensured enough overlap between all the living organisms of the earth that we can share the same atoms, and yet have enough to go around.  I don't allow myself to be amazed by the alternately delicate and forceful processes that enable the complete digestion of almost anything we put into our mouths, allowing for the extraction of amino acids, nucleotides, water, and lipids without even the aid of a solvent still, a mortar and pestle, or a sep. funnel.  I don't let myself be amazed by the mystery of life, the fact that "animation" is so key to life, but so completely inexplicable to the intelligent, but self-limiting materialist.  I don't let myself be amazed by the number of things God balanced out to make a world predictable enough that we can actually find scientific laws, but variable enough that for 6,000 years of sin even those who devote their lives to hate haven't found a way to annihilate it.  I don't let myself be amazed that the machinations of my larynx produces vibrations that reproducibly communicate something to the person across from me.  I don't let myself be amazed that there are constants in this world.  I don't let myself be amazed that God wrote a book.  I don't let myself be amazed that a God like God would take any interest in a person like me.  I don't let myself be amazed that in spite of who I am, Jesus Christ loves me, longs to spend time with me, and gave me His life so I could be with Him forever.

If I don't let myself be amazed, if I just walk out the door each morning (like I have), grumbling about the rush, and not even noticing that the world's still there, that cats are still cats, that dogs are still dogs, that the letter "a" hasn't morphed overnight into a pink feather boa, I think I'll die.

I think I'm going to let myself be amazed.

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