While this was posted on April 1st it does not seem to be a prank. The journal publication cited by the article does exist, “The “Wow! signal” of the terrestrial genetic code.” Vladimir I. shCherbak, Maxim A. Makukov, The “Wow! signal” of the terrestrial genetic code, Icarus, Available online 6 March 2013, ISSN 0019-1035.
Vladimir I. shCherbak of al-Farabi Kazakh National University of Kazakhstan, and Maxim A. Makukov of the Fesenkov Astrophysical Institute, hypothesize that an intelligent signal embedded in our genetic code would be a mathematical and semantic message that cannot be accounted for by Darwinian evolution. They call it “biological SETI.” What’s more, they argue that the scheme has much greater longevity and chance of detecting E.T. than a transient extraterrestrial radio transmission.
Writing in the journal Icarus, they assert: “Once fixed, the code might stay unchanged over cosmological timescales; in fact, it is the most durable construct known. Therefore it represents an exceptionally reliable storage for an intelligent signature. Once the genome is appropriately rewritten the new code with a signature will stay frozen in the cell and its progeny, which might then be delivered through space and time.”
To pass the designer label test, any patterns in the genetic code must be highly statistically significant and possess intelligent-like features that are inconsistent with any natural know process, say the authors.
They go on to argue that their detailed analysis that the human genome (map here) displays a thorough precision-type orderliness in the mapping between DNA’s nucleotides and amino acids. “Simple arrangements of the code reveal an ensemble of arithmetical and ideographical patterns of symbolic language.” They say this includes the use of decimal notation, logical transformations, and the use of the abstract symbol of zero. “Accurate and systematic, these underlying patterns appear as a product of precision logic and nontrivial computing,” they assert.
Late in the article the author very rightly criticizes the findings of the researchers likening these intelligent panspermia theories to a sort of UFO version of intelligent design. Any form of ID triggers leads to an infinite regression of designers (“who designed the designers?”). Effectively this just moves the goal post for understanding the origins of biological life.
That sort of critique fails to go after the core flaw of the methodology. Examples such as The Bible Code have shown that seeking patterns even in a random data set can produce results that appear to be deliberate messages. However, it has been shown that such messages are a product of the design of the methodology more than anything else.
To play the devil’s advocate for a moment, let’s suppose there is some irrefutable patterning to how the genetic code is organized. That does not preclude the possibility that there are natural forces leading to some necessary structure of these codes. One is taught very early in biology classes that function follows form. Most likely there are natural forces at work that would shape the form of the genetic code to perform it’s intended function and be just good enough for continued propagation.
Anyone versed in the mathematical techniques employed or in the field of genomics would be highly valued in terms of further insight to this story.
Final published version of “The “Wow! signal” of the terrestrial genetic code” is behind a pay wall but the author’s accepted version is here (free full text).