Is DNA information?

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I know DNA gives instructions for proteins, but is it information as in the sense that it was created by a conscious mind? What about biologists who say that DNA is information?
 

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  • #2
DaveC426913
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I know DNA gives instructions for proteins, but is it information as in the sense that it was created by a conscious mind? What about biologists who say that DNA is information?
Information does not imply a conscious mind, so no contradiction.
 
  • #3
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Oh here we go. I don’t think that anyone seriously disputes that DNA is information. It does not follow that it must therefore have been created by a conscious mind.
 
  • #4
Ryan_m_b
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Information is an incredibly ambiguous word in the sense that in it's rawest form you could say that it was "any event that effects the state of a dynamic system" (quoting from the wiki page) or you could talk in terms of language etc.

To my mind DNA is information in the same way that any constituent molecule of a chemical reaction is information. DNA is a molecule that facilitates specific chemical reactions that result in the working of a biological system. To bring in notions of code/information/language is only useful for analogy.
 
  • #5
Borek
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My take is that DNA is not information per se, just like hard drive is not information. They are CARRIERS of the information.
 
  • #6
Ryan_m_b
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My take is that DNA is not information per se, just like hard drive is not information. They are CARRIERS of the information.
That brings on the question what is information?
 
  • #7
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Ok I just needed your views on this....

Does DNA follow linguistics law?...And why do biologists keep using the word information when people are going to use the ambiguity of the word for a different meaning?
 
  • #8
Ryan_m_b
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We only use the the term information either as an analogy (i.e. if referring to it in the hard-drive sense) or to describe the coding on DNA.

What do you mean by linguistics law:confused:
 
  • #9
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idk Someone told me that dna is information because it follows linguistics law
 
  • #10
Ryan_m_b
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Well I've never heard that term at all, a quick google didn't enlighten me any further either.
 
  • #11
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Im sorry I meant Zipf's law....the person says zipfs law...
 
  • #12
DaveC426913
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The point here is that the specific case of lingustic structures will exhibit the principle of information-carrying structures which are the general case.

Still, information carrying structures do not mean that any intelligence is involved.
 
  • #13
Ryan_m_b
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Looking up Zipf's law I still don't see the relevance. As DaveC said there is still no intelligence
 
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Genome Glossary from The Human Genome Project:

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)
The molecule that encodes genetic information. DNA is a double-stranded molecule held together by weak bonds between base pairs of nucleotides. The four nucleotides in DNA contain the bases adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). In nature, base pairs form only between A and T and between G and C; thus the base sequence of each single strand can be deduced from that of its partner.
http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/glossary/glossary_d.shtml
 
  • #15
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Hmmm, this has suddenly become an interesting discussion. There is a point here that is very similar to one of the common misconceptions about evolution. Usually, when two species have a similar trait, we explain that as being due to the fact that the trait existed in the common ancestor of the two species. But what about the cases where a similar trait in two species must unarguably have evolved separately because it evolved in each species after the two species diverged? The key point is to understand that the reason why the trait is similar is because the environmental pressures that led to its development were similar, so it is not so surprising that the evolved solutions were similar.

So, it is easy to see ‘information’ as something connected only with language. But in fact, if language was to serve the purpose for which it evolved, it was necessary for it to meet certain fundamental requirements. DNA, if it was to serve the purpose of being the carrier of heritable traits had to meet the same basic requirements. So it is not so surprising that there are aspects of how DNA works that seem to connect with how language works. Still doesn’t follow that it was designed by a conscious mind just because language was.
 
  • #16
DaveC426913
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But what about the cases where a similar trait in two species must unarguably have evolved separately because it evolved in each species after the two species diverged?
Convergent evolution.

Mammals with wings, etc.
 
  • #17
DaveC426913
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There's a very broad definition of infomation that is used in physics that is basically 'any property of a system', for example, a cloud of gas falling into a black hole results in a loss of information - you cannot retrieve the configuration of the cloud to recreate it.

But there's more narrow definition about codifying sequences of events. Wiki has a defintion: "any kind of event that affects the state of a dynamic system." but I'm not sure it needs to affects a dynamic system.

What's been bugging me is that I cannot find an example of information (in the codified instructions sense) that does not involve life.
 
  • #18
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Kevin Kelly discussed the nature of information in his blog recently and reported a conversation with Freeman Dyson on the subject . See http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2011/04/infinite_order.php - Infinite Order in All Directions.

There seems to be a contradiction between the observed increasing complex structures we see in the Universe in galaxies and life forms and the second law of thermodynamics which demands increasing disorder.

Hope this helps G
 
  • #19
Pythagorean
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Ok, there is matter and there is energy. But you can't describe a system by just matter and energy, because several different arrangements of matter ad energy can all have the same total matter/energy but function completely different as a function of the geometry (arrangement) of the matter and energy.

That is what information is.

So no, DNA isn't strictly information. Information is a property of DNA.
 
  • #20
Borek
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Ok, there is matter and there is energy. But you can't describe a system by just matter and energy, because several different arrangements of matter ad energy can all have the same total matter/energy but function completely different as a function of the geometry (arrangement) of the matter and energy.

That is what information is.
Bowing_Smiley.gif
 
  • #21
Ryan_m_b
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Kevin Kelly discussed the nature of information in his blog recently and reported a conversation with Freeman Dyson on the subject . See http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2011/04/infinite_order.php - Infinite Order in All Directions.

There seems to be a contradiction between the observed increasing complex structures we see in the Universe in galaxies and life forms and the second law of thermodynamics which demands increasing disorder.

Hope this helps G
Increasing complexity can arise out of a system as long as global entropy increases as well.
 
  • #22
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We see information (the codified form created by humans) to always come from intelligence. could we, by strong inference, say that DNA is also from an intelligence? (Regardless of whether we know the nature of the intelligence except that it is an intelligence someone similar to our own?)
 
  • #23
bobze
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Increasing complexity can arise out of a system as long as global entropy increases as well.
Thank you for not making me point that out :wink:
 
  • #24
russ_watters
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We see information (the codified form created by humans) to always come from intelligence.
No, we don't.
could we, by strong inference, say that DNA is also from an intelligence?
The premise is flawed, therefore the logical inference is flawed.

I think it is easy to see a strand of DNA as a sort of geometric/chemical hard drive with coded information on it (is it base-3 or base-6?), but I don't see any reason a all to think that that implies intelligence created it.
 
  • #25
apeiron
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But there's more narrow definition about codifying sequences of events. Wiki has a defintion: "any kind of event that affects the state of a dynamic system." but I'm not sure it needs to affects a dynamic system.

What's been bugging me is that I cannot find an example of information (in the codified instructions sense) that does not involve life.
This is definitely a tricky issue because "information" has two orthogonal meanings. One is about the physically countable - the bits, the microstates. The atomistic entities that would compose a more global state of order or disorder. And the other actually is about meaning - information as knowledge or regulation or constraint. And DNA embodies both these senses of the word.

It is a code, a collection of atomistic bits. And note, DNA is as far from dynamic as you can get. In the hot thermal jostle of a cell, DNA stands aloof. It remains always countable as a microstate. Like the flipped magnetic particles of a hard drive, there is no uncertainty about the encoded sequence.

Yet DNA also stands in meaningful relation to rate-dependent dynamics. As Wiki says, information is an event that affects the state of a dynamic system. Or to be more precise, the best biologically-oriented definition of information is it is "any constraint on entropy production". So this stresses the regulation of dynamics. And also makes it plain we are talking second law thermo-dynamics. Gradients of energy to be dissipated. DNA is the information that constrains the dynamics of metabolic processes.

So DNA is information however you define information (or whichever of the two orthogonal meanings you want to stress). But it is very easy to get confused about whether you are talking syntax or semantics. The physical basis of the coding mechanism or the meaning of some particular coded message.
 

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