Saturday, February 18, 2006

A Junkyard Hurricane and Zipf's Law

The discoverer of DNA, Francis Crick, believed life on earth came about from DNA seeded here by an alien civilization from a far-off planet. As Graham Hancock points out in his book “Supernatural” - subtitled “Meetings With the Ancient Teachers of Mankind” - Crick’s hypothesis was “………oddly similar in its essence to the cosmology of the ayahuasca-drinking Yagua Indians of the Peruvian Amazon, who told the French anthropologist Jean-Pierre Chaumeil: At the very beginning, before the birth of the earth, this earth here, our most distant ancestors lived on another earth…………..”.

Crick called his theory “panspermia”, and in case you think he was just another crazy Man-Of-Science you should know that the astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle held a similar panspermia theory. According to Graham Hancock “…………Hoyle envisaged the spores of life being carried randomly through space on great interstellar comets – rather than the intentional, intelligent dissemination favoured by Crick - but what both men had in common was the strong conviction that life was already too complex when it first appeared on earth to have evolved here. Accordingly they both believed that the first and most difficult steps – the steps from non-life to life that no scientist has ever been able to replicate – must have been taken somewhere else………………”

Our Men-Of-Science are now generally agreed that the story of earth began “………… around 4.5 billion years ago when the earth’s mass had formed as a planet orbiting the sun. For the next 600 million years it remained a molten lava fireball, but by 3.9 billion years ago cooling was sufficiently advanced to produce a thin outer crust of solid rock. It is supposed that around the same time pools of water enriched with minerals began to take shape beneath an atmosphere of simple gases. In these pools of primeval, prebiotic ‘soup’, many scientists believe that the first very primitive life-forms appeared suddenly and almost instantaneously as a result of the actual collision of molecules. Others, Crick among them, argue that ‘the odds against such instant life are beyond the astronomical – more likely than the assembly of a Boeing 707 by a hurricane in a junkyard’……………”

So then, the earth’s crust had formed 3.9 billion years ago, but just 100 million years after this – 3.8 billion years ago – there is much evidence, albeit secondary, that the earth had been colonized by bacterial life. But “…………this evidence becomes firm at 3.4 billion years ago, the date of the oldest fossilized bacteria so far discovered – still barely half a billion years after the earth’s first rocks had formed……………”

You should realize that while 100 million years, or even half a billion years, is a heck of a lot of time to little old you and me, it is nugatory in terms of evolutionary time. So for bacterial life to have evolved within so short a time is next to impossible – well, at least in the opinion of the likes of Francis Crick and Sir Fred Hoyle who knew a whole lot more science than little old you and me will ever know in our wildest dreams – know what I’m saying?

But in case you’re thinking: Why hell, what’s so complex ‘bout a li’l bitty bacteria, I’ll bet it can form faster than it takes me ter go take a crap, you should know that a bacteria is infinitely more complex than even the engine of your Humvee, because bacteria contain lots of protein molecules, each of which is made up of thousands of atoms.

As Crick explained: “…….Each protein is precisely made, with every atom in its correct place. Each type of protein forms an intricate three-dimensional structure, peculiar to itself, which allows it to carry out its catalytic or structural function. This three-dimensional structure is…………based on one or more ‘polypeptide chains’, as they are called…….(which the cell constructs) by joining together, end to end, a particular set of small molecules, the amino acids………..Surprisingly just twenty kinds of them (amino acids) are used to make proteins, and this set of twenty is exactly the same throughout nature………A protein is like a paragraph written in a twenty-letter language, the exact nature of the protein being determined by the exact order of the letters………Animals, plants, microorganisms and viruses all use the same set of twenty letters……..The set of twenty is so universal that its choice would appear to date back to very near the beginning of all living things………”

Well, if this doesn’t shake you up and make you want to go crap right now, I don’t know what will.

Hancock’s book gives a lot more of how complicated DNA is, sufficient to create the impression that for basic life to have evolved out of the primeval soup is, to put it mildly, improbable, especially when we consider that no Man-Of-Science has been able to create life in a laboratory.

As Hancock says in “Supernatural", “………….What bothered the statistician in Crick was the absolute improbability of even a single fully assembled protein made up of a long chain of amino acids emerging as a result of chance – no matter how nutritious the prebiotic soup or how many billions of years the ingredients were allowed to stew. Based on an average protein about 200 amino acids in length (others are much bigger), he calculated the odds of this happening as just one chance in a 1 followed by 260 zeros. To provide some sort of benchmark, all the atoms in the entire visible universe (not just our own galaxy) amount to a 1 followed by 80 zeros – quite a paltry number by comparison with the odds against the chance assembly of a single protein. How much less likely would it be, therefore, that life itself – which even at the bacterial level calls for complex cellular mechanisms and makes use of many proteins – could have got started through the chance collision of molecules?..............”

How, then, did evolution get off the ground? A good question indeed, since “………..there……is no evidence that any…….evolution took place anywhere on earth before the spread of the first DNA-based bacteria between about 3.9 billion and 3.4 billion years ago. The implications are obvious, but as an arch-rationalist and committed atheist it clearly pained Crick to admit that ‘the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have needed to be satisfied to get it going’……………”

Is it any wonder that Crick, in desperation, came up with his panspermia theory?

* * *

You didn’t know, did you, that most of our DNA seems superfluous, not appearing to do anything in particular. Well, I didn’t know this either until I read Graham Hancock’s “Supernatural” which tells us that the useful or coding part of DNA is involved with protein synthesis, and this coding part takes up anything between 3 and 10 percent. Therefore
“………….the vast majority of DNA in our bodies does things we do not presently understand. All that we know for sure about these huge libraries of DNA – remember, we are speaking of between 90 and 97 per cent of the total – is that they contain immense amounts of information written in exactly the same language as the genetic code, but in this case not coding for the construction of proteins or any other recognised function. Some areas of such ‘non-coding text’ consist of long sequences of bases repeated over and over again, sometimes thousands of times, apparently uselessly…………”

Which brings me to Zipf’s Law, named, according to Hancock, after “……….the linguist George Zipf, who discovered it in 1939. He studied texts in many different languages and ranked the words in order of frequency……….”. What he found, regardless of the language, was that “……….a direct, exact, unvarying and utterly counter-intuitive mathematical relationship exists between the rank of a word and the actual frequency of occurrence of that word……….”

This means that in any book we read “............if the most common word in the book………appears 10,000 times, then………the tenth most common word…….will appear 1,000 times and the one hundredth most common word will appear just 100 times. The numbers will vary, obviously, from text to text dependent on overall length, but the exact mathematical proportions between rank and frequency will always turn out to be the same in any human language………….”.

What, you may ask, has this to do with DNA? Well, I’ll let Hancock explain “………..In the mid 1990s, researchers from Boston University and Harvard Medical School examined 37 DNA sequences containing at least 50,000 base pairs each, as well as two shorter sequences and one with 2.2 million base pairs. Where possible, they evaluated both coding and non-coding regions. They noticed that distinct patterns of three, four, five, six, seven and eight base pairs – comparable to individual ‘words’ – existed in all the sequences. This led them to apply two standard linguistic tests to the material. One of these was Zipf’s test, and following Zipf’s own method, the DNA ‘words’ were ranked in order of frequency and a histogram plotting the rank of each word against the actual number of times that it appeared in each ‘text’ was drawn up…….”

The results were startling, for “……….In every case where the coding regions were evaluated, they turned out not to obey Zipf’s Law. This is precisely as one would expect, since the coding regions are just codes, not languages – and are better thought of as templates for the construction of particular proteins………”

What about the non-coded or “junk” DNA? It transpired that “……….in every case where non-coding regions of DNA had been evaluated, they turned out to demonstrate a perfect Zipf Law linear plot…………”

Doesn’t this make you so excited, you want to get out your shotgun, go outside and blow holes in your neighbour’s water tank, huh? For the results of these tests clearly imply that non-coded DNA is actually an intelligent and structured language, like any human language, and so is conveying messages, since the raison d’etre of any human language is to convey messages.

* * *

What are the messages contained in the apparent language of our non-coded DNA, and who might be sending them? Who the sender is, is anyone’s guess, but the messages? Perhaps they come to us when we go into states of conciousness outside our normal everyday - the states of consciousness induced when we ingest hallucinogens like LSD or ayahuasca - for who is to say they don’t open our doors of perception at least a smidgin wider than is normal?

So it may not be mere coincidence that when the discoverer of DNA, Francis Crick, first had a vision of the DNA double helix – the one resembling two identical serpents wound around each other and facing head to tail – he was in an LSD-induced trance.

In fact many of those who’ve imbibed hallucinogens like ayahuasca or DMT have, according to Hancock “……….experienced intense visions featuring ‘threads of DNA’ and ‘spirals of DNA’………..”. And Hancock tells of “………..the American biologist who received detailed images of specific DNA sequences under the influence of ayahuasca………..”. And Hancock, himself, had his own “……….ayahuasca visions of ‘snakes that wind around each other like the DNA double helix’…………..”.

Hancock reports the experience of the anthropologist Michael Harner who, after drinking a large dose of ayahuasca during an indigenous ceremony in the Amazon “……….received a spectacular vision in which he saw dragon-like creatures that came to earth fleeing something, perhaps an enemy, ‘out in space’ after a journey that had lasted for ‘aeons’…………”

Harner reported that “………..The creatures showed me how they had created life on the planet in order to hide within the multitudinous forms and thus disguise their presence. Before me, the magnificence of plant and animal creation and speciation – hundreds of millions of years of activity – took place on a scale and with a vividness impossible to imagine. I learned that the dragon-like creatures were thus inside all forms of life, including man. They were the true masters of humanity and the entire planet, they told me. We humans were but the receptacles and servants of these creatures. For this reason they could speak to me from within myself. In retrospect one could say they were almost like DNA, although at that time, in 1961, I knew nothing of DNA………………..”

Compare this to the ayahuasca-induced experience of the Swiss anthropologist Jeremy Narby, who found himself “………surrounded by two gigantic boa constrictors that seemed fifty feet long. I was terrified. These enormous snakes are there, my eyes are closed and I see a spectacular world of brilliant lights, and in the middle of these hazy thoughts, the snakes start talking to me without words. They explain that I am just a human being…………”.

Were the quite similar visions of Francis Crick, Michael Harner, and Jeremy Narby merely the result of disturbed brain chemistry, or were they glimpses of a reality nice normal folks like you and me don’t have the capacity to see, unless we, too, partake of the forbidden brews or substances that take us to higher states of consciousness, opening our eyes to realities of the sort that were we to tell of them to our little friends, they would call the men in white coats to take us away?

For what it is worth, I take the side of Graham Hancock when he says: “……….It may be the case that hallucinations of the sort that convey veridical knowledge about DNA or about plants, or about how to cure a certain sickness, or about the nature of reality, are as effective a technology as bio-engineering and genetic manipulation for exploring the true potential of the legacy stored inside our cells. It may be, in other words, that the ancient teachers of mankind have been inside us all along but that we must enter altered states of consciousness in order to hear what they have to say………..”.

* * *

Giant reptilian lizard-like entities are common images in ancient etchings, carvings and tablets unearthed in Iraq and other areas of the middle east. In the view of another explorer of other-worldly phemomena, David Icke, these reptiles were the "gods" that mythologies and folklore throughout the world tell about.

These "gods" arrived from elsewhere in the solar system, and became the rulers. While they were here, they genetically manipulated and interbred with the earth's ape-like inhabitants, creating an elite hybrid species through which the "gods" would indirectly govern the earth after they left.

Icke says the distant ancestors of most of our kings, emperors, presidents and other similar figures of authority, were these ancient “gods”, so that the DNA of many, if not most of our rulers is partly reptilian. Icke also says these ancient lizard-like “gods” continue to manipulate events in the world to their benefit from a fourth dimension just outside ours.

Then there have been those many accounts where people report seeing some of our current rulers suddenly shape-shifting into lizard-like beings, then back again. The likes of George Bush senior, the Queen of England and her late mother, as well as many others of the powerful, have been observed similarly shape-shifting. And it has been proved that, for instance, the distant ancestors of the Queen of England were also the distant ancestors of the Bushes and the Gores. Investigations of the family lines of other powerful ruling families have shown similar descent from ancient kings and rulers.

David Icke says that while the current descendents of the lizard-like beings look like everyone else, what betrays them are their cold reptilian eyes. So if those in influential positions in government, like in the presidency or senate, have reptilian eyes, it bespeaks they are genetically part reptile.

Incidentally, long before I learned about all this, I had always been struck by how cold predatory and reptilian were the expressionless eyes of Al Gore and Hilary Clinton. Now that Hilary is running for president, pictures of her are here there and everywhere. Next time you see one, look at her eyes closely, and you’ll see what I mean.

Think about what Bill has had to go through all these years, waking up in the morning and seeing Hilary’s cold predatory reptilian eyes looking back at him across the pillow.

Can we wonder that he turned to Monica for comfort?