Monday, April 14, 2008

Hardware and software

I often hear people, the popular press, and even "scientists" say things like "DNA contains all the information necessary to create life." Seems to me pretty clear that the claim isn't true, for one simple reason: In order to function, DNA must be in a cell which already has all the structures in place to keep the cell alive, as well as to use the DNA to code proteins.

Seems analogous to a computer: DNA is comparable to the software, and the cell is comparable to the hardware. But in a computer, both the software AND the hardware contain information necessary to the function of the computer.

Same with a cell: DNA by itself doesn't contain all the information necessary for life. The rest of the cell probably contains just as much information (if not more) in the configuration and function of all its organelles.

How much of the total information necessary for life is in the DNA? And how did the rest of the information come to be encoded in the cell? Someday maybe we'll know.

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