Denis Noble Debates Richard Dawkins (full video)

LIVE DEBATE Oxford professor Denis Noble locked horns with Richard Dawkins in June at the How the Light Gets In UK conference. Is The Selfish Gene holding back medicine and cancer cures? The world’s most incendiary evolutionary biologist asks if we need to rethink DNA.

The debate was both cordial and revealing. One thing that is quite clear from this debate is that Dawkins’ knowledge of biology and genetics lags 20-30 years behind current research.

The best part of this debate was how civil it was. In a world of hyper-polarization – and evolutionary biology historically being one of the worst fields in this regard – the friendly dialogue between the two was refreshing. Dawkins demonstrates great respect for Denis Noble. Appropriately so, since Noble was on Dawkins’ PhD thesis review committee and the two have been friends and colleagues for 50 years.
A full transcript including the references Denis mentioned is here:
This transcript includes the Q&A afterward which is not included in the video – very interesting questions here.
Download The First 3 Chapters of Evolution 2.0 For Free, Here –

Where Did Life And The Genetic Code Come From? Can The Answer Build Superior AI? The #1 Mystery In Science Now Has A $10 Million Prize. Learn More About It, Here –

29 Responses

  1. Eric Kuelker says:

    If you block the gene that generates 80% of the cardiac rhythm generation, there is hardly any change in the cardiac rhythm. This shows that your formula Cognition -> Code -> Chemical can be expanded. It can be Cognition -> Component (organ) -> Code -> Chemical. This means that the cognitive processes at the organ level select a different component to regulate the rhythm of the heart, since the code (HCN gene) was knocked out. The cognitive capability of the heart can select among various components to replace one that has become inoperable, because the code that the component runs on has become inoperable due to being knocked out. You mention that bacteria in a toxic environment can borrow the DNA to build a pump from another bacteria due to transposition. The component that regulates the internal environment of the cell borrows the code to build a pump, and get rid of the toxin.

    • Eric,

      There has to be some level at which consciousness directly manipulates matter in order to change the pattern of the code, as you indicate.

      The manipulation of the matter may be information (code), and it’s not incorrect to say Chemicals -> Code -> Cognition but what is missing is the link between consciousness and any physical change in matter or energy.

      This is why I think psi research is a key to understanding biology. We know from Jahn and Dunne (Margins of Reality) that humans by concentrating can deflect falling objects so we should be looking closer at how that happens.

  2. Tom Heideman says:

    Dawkins really did get blindsided towards the end. When he asked “how many generations?” It was a dead giveaway. The only test of Darwinian evolution is that a genetic change lasts and alters the population frequency. But the population frequency is affected by the lasting genetic change. Noble has to be right… the cell utilizes the gene…not the gene the cell. There is no preferred biological frame of reference. It’s systems within systems within systems. All interdependent and all intimately involved in the cell’s informatics.

    • Yes sir. And, not on this video, there was some audience Q&A at the end where Dawkins was even more puzzled. Dawkins fans in the audience were incredulous that he fared so poorly.

      • martin rag says:

        “… there was some audience Q&A at the end where Dawkins was even more puzzled. Dawkins fans in the audience were incredulous that he fared so poorly.”

        Is it possible to see that part somewhere else? Or would it be possible to see a transcript of this part ? Thank you.

    • martin rag says:

      ” It’s systems within systems within systems. All interdependent …”

      Biology is all about engineering. Period. Doesn’t matter what biologists say or think, it is fact. It is about chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrotechnical engineering, material engineering etc …. What the Darwinian theory of evolution claims is beyond absurd. I am an mechanical engineer with decent background in IT. DNA transcription works exactly like a punched tape. And this is not a metaphor. Biologists are romantics. They don’t know what they talk about … The problem is, that they infested the whole world with a crazy absurd theory and lay people obviously buying it. I was wondering, what is wrong with our civilization. Any other more or less advanced civilization would instantly recognize CREATION/DESIGN after DNA molecule and the 4 letters digital code was discovered. But not our civilization … so I am asking again, what is wrong with all these well educated scientists who want us to believe in the most absurd theory ever developed ?

      PS: As to the $10M prize. I am not surprised that there is literally no progress in OoL-research since 1952 (Miller-Urey experiment). Basically, what all these OoL-researchers do is a gold alchemy. They utilize very primitive chemistry to re-create the most advanced technology on this planet (perhaps in the whole universe). What they do is beyond absurd. Of course the OoL-research is a failure. A fiasco. It can’t be otherwise. If they will keep using gold-alchemy methods, they will fail over and over again. I, as an engineer, I doubt that whoever created the cell, was using common chemistry as we know it. There must be some other (yet undiscovered) way how to work with molecules. (I apologize for my bad grammar, English is not my first language).

      • All theories of evolution are theories about engineering. Some are very good, the pop culture / selfish gene ones are threadbare.

        I do not agree with you that OOL is a waste of time, or that it is unproductive. I do agree that about 80% of it is. But there are some very good people in the field. I encourage you to read Joana Xavier’s papers.

        There are undoubtedly “new laws of physics” or undiscovered principles that are involved in the origin of life and that is what the EV2 prize seeks to uncover.

      • Jan Rose says:

        An excellent response. My daughter and her husband are both Chemical Engineers and they are far more ahead of Biologists. I learned about the Law of Thermodynamics from them. I deduced from this we are energy and when our body dies our energy transforms and so we do not therefore ever cease to exist in one form or another.

      • Jan Rose says:

        To Martin Rag an excellent response. Engineers are the best, very informative and clever. I agree totally with you, my daughter and her husbands are both Chemical Engineers.

  3. martin rag says:

    “All theories of evolution are theories about engineering.”

    I am afraid I don’t follow. Could you clarify ? … this is new to me … I always thought that the Darwinian theory of evolution claims, that in biology there is no foresight – this is the main idea … In engineering, there is always a foresight …

    • Neo-Darwinism is a theory about how engineering works. It is 75-90% wrong.

      But there are other theories of evolution. There is James Shapiro’s Natural Genetic Engineering; there is Cognitive Based Evolution as described by William Miller and John Torday; there is the work of McClintock and Margulis. None of those models are neo-darwinism. Those are engineering based models.

      Read my book Evolution 2.0 and we will pick this up from here.

  4. martin rag says:

    Perry, I would like to have a closer look at Joana Xavier’s papers. Could you send me some references ? Thank you.

  5. martin rag says:

    Perry, thanks for the google scholar links, could you be more specific what papers of Xavier should I focus on (in respect to OoL).

    By the way, you haven’t commented on my question about start/stop codon. I have a related question: Have you — as an IT engineer — ever wondered, how a cell knows the location of a particular gene ? It is lot of space to search through … I can’t find any answer to this question. Does the cell use some genome map like geneticists do ? I am talking about the following:

    “Geneticists use maps to describe the location of a particular gene on a chromosome. One type of map uses the cytogenetic location to describe a gene’s position …

    … Geneticists use a standardized way of describing a gene’s cytogenetic location. In most cases, the location describes the position of a particular band on a stained chromosome: 17q12

    • Xavier papers: Look at
      Small-molecule autocatalytic networks are universal metabolic fossils
      Systems Biology Perspectives on Minimal and Simpler Cells

      I believe that since we know that cells redesign themselves (per lots of references which you can find on this site and in my book) that they have agency, which should in principle be able to explain start and stop codons; and for that matter the genetic code, if their agency is intelligent enough. I regard agency as something akin to unknown laws of physics. I elaborate on this in my published paper in Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology:

      There is no question that cells know the location of particular genes and the karyotype shaping and re-shaping of chromosomes optimizes the cell’s ability to prioritize access to some parts over others. I have never seen any literature elaborating on how the cell knows this.

      Barbara McClintock did ask in her 1984 Nobel Prize paper, what does a cell know about itself?

      It surely must have a map of itself. We have barely scratched the surface on these questions.

  6. John Horowitz says:

    Denis mentioned emailing him to get the references that he refers to. Do have copies of the articles that he refers to?

  7. martin rag says:

    “There is no question that cells know the location of particular genes … I have never seen any literature elaborating on how the cell knows this.”

    That is what I wanted to know, because I though I am getting crazy.

  8. martin rag says:


    remember as we talked about start/stop codons?

    Look here, this was published a few days ago in Nature.

    • Yes.

      One of the most fundamental requirements of life is error detection and correction. It necessarily had to be in place at the very beginning of the genetic code (REF Walker and Davies 2017 “Matter to Life”) otherwise successful replication would not be possible. Natural Selection can never fix this; in fact Natural Selection is the problem not the solution.

      This switching of the function of stop codons is a perfect example of just that. A stop codon is just as much part of the code as the rest of the code, but it operates at a higher level of the code. The Nature page with typos perfectly illustrates this. It also illustrates the intrinsic cognitive nature of these and all organisms and their ability to adapt to a new context at will.

      • Dear Perry, Sorry to say, but if you are among the evolution scholars who believe that the mystery of the origin of life can be solved at the level of cells and molecules, then you are wasting your time.
        To solve the mystery of the origin of life, we must first understand the origin of the atom. Please Wait! Experiments of particle physics revealed that there is nothing like matter inside the atom but there are the particles of pure energy only. To solve the mystery of the origin of the atom, we must first understand the origin of the universe from black hole singularity. Wait again! Even after tireless efforts of more than a century, cosmologists have no clue about the singularity.
        Nature of the singularity is like software. The way software makes the hardware alive, in the same way singularity manifests life in hardware like matter. Singularity itself creates, nourishes and destroys all the matter and life in the universe.
        Good news! What you are looking for is right under your nose. All the knowledge to solve the mystery of origin of life is right in front of us. We have to compile that knowledge and understand it in a wider perspective. I did the same and reached an acceptable solution. You can watch this video to understand all these three origins in one go –

  9. Jan Rose says:

    An excellent response. Engineers are the best, very informative and clever.

    • martin rag says:

      actually, engineers are the only ones qualified to comment on life /biology, as weird it may sound… because biology is all about engineering. period.
      (mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, chemical engineers, material engineers, IT engineers and so on … )

      Biologists, and all the other “-logists”, in other words, natural science graduates, should be very careful what they are commenting on, because they don’t understand what they are looking at … we see it every day … every other biology press release starts with statements how these people were wrong again … you know “”…current concepts are reviewed…”
      “…uprooting current thinking….”
      “…latest findings contradict the current dogma….”
      “… it challenges a long-held theory…”
      “… it upends a common view…”
      “… in contrast to the decades-long dogma …”
      “… it needs a rethink … ”
      “… the findings are surprising and unexpected …. ”
      “… it shakes up the dogma … ”
      “… earlier than thought…”
      “… younger than thought….”
      “… smarter than thought ….”
      “… more complex than thought ….”
      “… a fossil defies textbook explanation …”
      “… a fossil overturns more than a century of knowledge”
      “… fossils upends conventional wisdom….”
      “… it challenges central principle in biology…”
      “…it casts doubt in Established Evolution Beliefs….”
      “… new discovery puts into question existing models…”

      Actually, I don’t understand why are these people so trustworthy … they seem to be permanently wrong …

  10. John Best says:

    These guys are arguing for/against God in disguise.

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