Life Is A Process

by | Apr 8, 2018

Life is a Process

The video showing the building of a protein molecule resembles a robotic assembly line in a factory.  These are examples of process control system designed to build a product.  The company I founded, Vehicle Monitor Corporation (VMC), designs and builds systems that orchestrate the work that takes place at vehicle assembly line stations.  This work is a process whereby at each workstation, value is added by completing one of the assembly line processes. A typical example is adding a part, testing to verify proper function with no damage, and  measuring and documenting the work done.

The factories that VMC serves are very similar to the protein synthesis illustrated in Steve Meyer’s video from a functionality point of view.  Transcribing the DNA to mRNA and the transport of this mRNA to the ribosome is analogous to the delivery of the custom-specific details to the factory workstation with the arrival of the vehicle.  The translation process that occurs in the ribosome is analogous to the value add that occurs at a factory workstation.  Both need the delivery of right piece parts Just-In-Time,1  Transporting the protein molecule from the ribosome to the chaperone is analogous to a vehicle being moved from one work station to the next.  The folding of the protein in the chaperone is analogous to the vehicle getting its adjustments and tune-up at the last workstation, both leaving out the back door.  

A process is defined as “a systematic series of actions directed to some end”.  Watching this video shows the ribosome in action leaving no doubt that the protein synthesis meets this definition.  As with the factory, the protein synthesis involves work performed at specified places.  The activity at each workstation involves many individual actions. such as, picking a specified piece, placing the piece at a specified location, and bonding it into place.  Each of these actions is purpose driven work, which if not executed properly, will result in failure.  Both examples need the parts to be delivered to each work station, and the product must be transported from one work station to the next.  Both involve specific instructions for each product that comes down the production line. 

Much detail was missing in the video that is obvious to an engineer who has had to make complex systems work.  The nucleotide and amino acid molecules just “fly into place”.  In reality, these molecules must be pre-assembled, staged, delivered at the correct time and position without the expenditure of excess energy that will damage the machines, polymer or surrounding molecules.

The fact that life is a process is not disputed.  My wife’s college circa 1960 biology textbook2 defines life as a”..a process, or rather a series of interacting processes which are always associated with, and take place in, a complex organization of materials.”   What is missing in this definition is the distinction between a natural process and an intelligent process.  This same book has no direct mention of molecular machines, making it obvious that much has been learned in the last 50 years.3

The world of biology at that time recognized that there are molecular machines4 working in the cell performing tasks such as building proteins by the ribosome machine.

“The ribosome is an “RNA machine” that “involves more than 300 proteins and RNAs” to form a complex where messenger RNA is translated into protein, thereby playing a crucial role in protein synthesis in the cell. Craig Venter, a leader in genomics and the Human Genome Project, has called the ribosome “an incredibly beautiful complex entity” which requires a “minimum for the ribosome about 53 proteins and 3 polynucleotides,” leading some evolutionist biologists to fear that it may be irreducibly complex.”5

In addition to processes that occur on an “as needed” basis, like replacing a protein that has fallen to equilibrium and is no longer functional, there are “life cycle” processes  that take place as shown in figure 2.  Processes are typically bottom-up, top-down with layered individual smaller processes that are steps or supporting actions required to accomplish the overall process.

It seems obvious that biology is not just about chemistry, it is also about machines working in life processes.  Life in every cell that has ever existed, in every life form that has ever lived on earth, and all of the interactions among life forms, is what this engineer thinks of as The Life Process. It is a hierarchy of processes over time, within cells and within life forms.


© 2016 Mike Van Schoiack

  1. Just-in-time is a method used in factories for reducing flow times.  See
  2. Simpson, George G. et al, Life, An Introduction to Biology, Harcourt, Bruce and Company, 1957, p.16
  3. This post elaborates on the failure of the field of biology to recognize the significance of a functional enzyme being a machine.
  4. See “Molecular Machines in the Cell“, Post by Casey Luskin, 2010, Discovery Institute
  5. ibid
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