Homepage The Computer Inside You Other Writings
essays and commentary
Prev book’s homepage  --|--  table of contents  --|--  entire book in a single web page Next

2.6 Development

For most multicellular organisms, the body of the organism develops from a single cell. How a single cell can develop into a starfish, tuna, honeybee, frog, dog, or man, is obviously a big question. Much research and experimentation has been done on the problems of development. In particular, there has been much focus on early development, because the transition from a single cell to a baby is a much more radical step than the transition from a baby to an adult, or from an adult to an old adult.

In spite of much research on early development, there is no real explanation of how it happens, except for general statements of what must be happening. For example, it is known that some sort of communication must be taking place between neighboring cells—and molecules are typically guessed as the information carrier—but the mechanism is unknown. In general, it is not hard to state what must be happening. However, the mathematics-only reality model allows only a chemical explanation for multicellular development, and given this restriction, there has been little progress. There is a great mass of data, but no explanation of the development mechanism.

Alternatively, given the computing-element reality model and the bion, multicellular development is explained as a cooperative effort between bions. During development, the cooperating bions read and follow as needed whatever relevant information is recorded in the organism’s DNA.[16]


[16] As an analogy, consider the construction of a house from a set of blueprints. The blueprints by themselves do not build the house. Instead, a construction crew, which can read the blueprints, builds the house. And this construction crew, besides being able to read the blueprints, also has inside itself a great deal of additional knowledge and ability—not in the blueprints—needed to construct the house.

For a developing organism, its DNA are the blueprints and the organic body is the house. The organism’s bions are the construction crew. The learned programs in those bions, and associated data, are the additional knowledge and ability—not in the blueprints—needed to construct the house.

Note that at present it is not known how complete the DNA blueprints are, because the only code in DNA that has been deciphered so far is the code that specifies the structure of individual proteins. However, there is probably additional information in the DNA which is written in a language currently unknown:

So-called “junk” DNA, regions of genetic material (accounting for 97% of the human genome) that do not provide blueprints for proteins and therefore have no apparent purpose, have been puzzling to scientists. Now a new study shows that these non-coding sequences seem to possess structural similarities to natural languages. This suggests that these “silent” DNA regions may carry biological information, according to a statistical analysis of DNA fragments by researchers … [Physics News Update, American Institute of Physics, 1994, at: http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/1994/split/pnu202-1.htm]

Prev Next