Refereed scientific article on DNA argues for irreducible complexity

Scott Minnich at U. Idaho sends this along:

This paper published online his summer is a true mind-blower showing the irreducible organizational complexity (author’s description) of DNA analog and digital information, that genes are not arbitrarily positioned on the chromosome etc.

The paper by Muskhelishvili and Travers, titled “Integration of syntactic and semantic properties of the DNA code reveals chromosomes as thermodynamic machines converting energy into information”, makes several very interesting points. First, the digital information of individual genes (semantics) is dependent on the the intergenic regions (as we know) which is like analog information (syntax). Both types of information are co-dependent and self-referential but you can’t get syntax from semantics. As the authors state, “thus the holistic approach assumes self-referentiality (completeness of the contained information and full consistency of the the different codes) as an irreducible organizational complexity of the genetic regulation system of any cell”. In short, the linear DNA sequence contains both types of information. Second, the paper links local DNA structure, to domains, to the overall chromosome configuration as a dynamic system keying off the metabolic signals of the cell. This implies that the position and organization of genes on the chromosome is not arbitrary—much like Karl Drlica proposed years ago as we were obtaining the first bacterial genome sequences. In other words, DNA topology (due to supercoiling and histone-like protein binding), Transcription, and Metabolic energy (ATP levels influence DNA gyrase activity, which affects supercoiling, which affects transcription) are all keying off each other and thus there is an overall order to the positioning of anabolic and catabolic genes relative to the origin of replication. In short, I think this is a fascinating review looking at DNA organization and function which, in the authors words, are irreducibly complex.


David Snoke

About David Snoke

Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh


  1. David Snoke David Snoke says:

    Three comments: 1) the authors are “serious” scientists, not fringe people. 2) They are using “irreducible complexity” in the same sense as Behe. This is not a case of accidental use of the same phrase to mean something different. Their term “holistic” is another way of saying the same thing, that the system requires all of its parts to work. 3) This “holistic” approach is one that is becoming common in systems biology. I have a paper coming out on that, in the works.

  2. says:

    Interesting. The problem with classical Darwinism is its insistence that all order originates from real chaos (unplanned, random events), and is shaped by chaos, in an ascending degree of complexity and resilience. If one believes in causality (contrary to Hume) then this is quite extraordinary. According to Rom. 1, we all know better, but suppress this awareness subconsciously, and seek plausible reasons for attributing the order and beauty of creation to something other than God (idolatry).

    • Gabo says:

      Actually, this is false. Classical “Darwinism” “insists” that the combination of variation and selection are behind the origin of species. No mention of chaos anywhere in “On the Origin.”

      Less classical “Darwinism,” let’s say, more current, would tell you that “order” originates from a combination of natural phenomena (like gravitation, or other physical/chemical “laws”), entropy, and etc. Random events have a role, but random events is not the same as “chaos,” and random events having a role doesn’t mean “real chaos.”

  3. Kevin Franck says:

    Are any lights coming on here with regards the subject of genetically modified organisms ? Most of this junk science is being by individuals which have zero respect for the genetic constraints of differing organisms and/or the other bits of information which are used in conjunction with guidance and usage of specific genes. It’s not a matter of taking a gene for toxin manufacturing and spitting it haphazardly to insert just anywhere within the newer organism and yet that is exactly what they are doing. It’s incredible how as time goes on, more and more disrespect for all life is being cloaked under the guise of Science. Disagree and you’re insulted and name called as an anti-science Luddite which is nothing of the sort. Very interesting article BTW, thanks for this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *