Parasites are not only incredibly diverse; they are also incredibly successful. There are parasitic stretches of DNA in your own genes, some of which are called retrotransposons. Many of the parasitic stretches were originally viruses that entered our DNA. Most of them don't do us any harm. They just copy and insert themselves in other parts of our DNA, basically replicating themselves. Sometimes they hop into other species and replicate themselves in a new host. According to one estimate, roughly one-third to one-half of all human DNA is basically parasitic.
Textbooks describe DNA as a blueprint for a body. It's better seen as a recipe for making a body, because it is irreversible. But today I want to present it as something different again, and even more intriguing. The DNA in you is a coded description of ancient worlds in which your ancestors lived. DNA is the wisdom out of the old days, and I mean very old days indeed.
I placed some of the DNA on the ends of my fingers and rubbed them together. The stuff was sticky. It began to dissolve on my skin. 'It's melting - like cotton candy.' 'Sure. That's the sugar in the DNA,' Smith said. 'Would it taste sweet?' 'No. DNA is an acid, and it's got salts in it. Actually, I've never tasted it.' Later, I got some dried calf DNA. I placed a bit of the fluff on my tongue. It melted into a gluey ooze that stuck to the roof of my mouth in a blob. The blob felt slippery on my tongue, and the taste of pure DNA appeared. It had a soft taste, unsweet, rather bland, with a touch of acid and a hint of salt. Perhaps like the earth's primordial sea. It faded away. Page 67, in Richard Preston's biographical essay on Craig Venter, "The Genome Warrior" (originally published in The New Yorker in 2000).
When I was working on my Ph.D., I developed a computer algorithm to look for rapid changes in populations' DNA. Our DNA changes constantly over generations, but if certain changes spread through a population more quickly than others, they are probably the beneficial results of natural selection. This is the protection we give ourselves to survive.
I now believe there is a God...I now think it [the evidence] does point to a creative Intelligence almost entirely because of the DNA investigations. What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together.
The messages that DNA molecules contain are all but eternal when seen against the time scale of individual lifetimes. The lifetimes of DNA messages give or take a few mutations are measured in units ranging from millions of years to hundreds of millions of years; or, in other words, ranging from 10,000 individual lifetimes to a trillion individual lifetimes. Each individual organism should be seen as a temporary vehicle, in which DNA messages spend a tiny fraction of their geological lifetimes.
The secret of DNA's success is that it carries information like that of a computer program, but far more advanced. Since experience shows that intelligence is the only presently acting cause of information, we can infer that intelligence is the best explanation for the information in DNA.
It is ironic that in the same year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA, some would have us ban certain forms of DNA medical research. Restricting medical research has very real human consequences, measured in loss of life and tremendous suffering for patients and their families.
Michael J. Fox
...We then examine a particular coding system in DNA and discover that UI [universal information] is conveyed within the genes. Using this DNA evidence and scientific laws governing UI as premises, we are able to develop sound, logical deductions. This leads us to the following conclusion: the God of the Bible exists and He is responsible for originating and embedding Universal Information into biological life.
Science has discovered that, like any work of literature, the human genome is a text in need of commentary, for what Eliot said of poetry is also true of DNA: 'all meanings depend on the key of interpretation.' What makes us human, and what makes each of us his or her own human, is not simply the genes that we have buried into our base pairs, but how our cells, in dialogue with our environment, feed back to our DNA, changing the way we read ourselves. Life is a dialectic.
Think of our DNA. In the last million years, our DNA hasn't changed at all. It's really much the same as it was in the jungle, a million, two millions years ago. But in the last 200 years, our destructive capacities have increased many, many millions of times over. Why don't we see intelligent signals from outer space? Because in all likelihood, once the civilization reaches the point our civilization has reached, it destroys itself.
Then she tells me that Jesus is still here because Jesus was once here. And parts of Jesus are still floating in the air. She tells me Jesus' DNA is part of the collective DNA. She tells we are all part of Jesus, we are all Jesus in part. She tells me to breathe deep during all our storms because you can sometimes taste Jesus in a good, hard rain.
Why do you like show jumping?" "... Beauty and excitement. The elements of trust, talent, training, love, and danger make show jumping a thrilling and aesthetic experience. It's really the ultimate test of two nervous systems-the kinetic transfer of the rider's muscle to the horse's muscle enables them to clear those jumps. And there's nothing like it-horse and rider forming an arc of beauty, efficiency, and power, like a double helix." "DNA," "Yes, DNA, the code to life.
It is raining DNA outside. On the bank of the Oxford canal at the bottom of my garden is a large willow tree, and it is pumping downy seeds into the air. ... spreading DNA whose coded characters spell out specific instructions for building willow trees that will shed a new generation of downy seeds. ... It is raining instructions out there; it's raining programs; it's raining tree-growing, fluff-spreading, algorithms. That is not a metaphor, it is the plain truth. It couldn't be any plainer if it were raining floppy discs.
Different sorts of survival machine appear very varied on the outside and in their internal organs. An octopus is nothing like a mouse, and both are quite different from an oak tree. Yet in their fundamental chemistry they are rather uniform, and, in particular, the replicators that they bear, the genes, are basically the same kind of molecule in all of us-from bacteria to elephants. We are all survival machines for the same kind of replicator-molecules called DNA- but there are many different ways of making a living in the world, and the replicators have built a vast range of machines to exploit them. A monkey is a machine that preserves genes up trees, a fish is a machine that preserves genes in the water; there is even a small worm that preserves genes in German beer mats. DNA works in mysterious ways.
Even if we have a reliable criterion for detecting design, and even if that criterion tells us that biological systems are designed, it seems that determining a biological system to be designed is akin to shrugging our shoulders and saying God did it. The fear is that admitting design as an explanation will stifle scientific inquiry, that scientists will stop investigating difficult problems because they have a sufficient explanation already. But design is not a science stopper. Indeed, design can foster inquiry where traditional evolutionary approaches obstruct it. Consider the term "junk DNA." Implicit in this term is the view that because the genome of an organism has been cobbled together through a long, undirected evolutionary process, the genome is a patchwork of which only limited portions are essential to the organism. Thus on an evolutionary view we expect a lot of useless DNA. If, on the other hand, organisms are designed, we expect DNA, as much as possible, to exhibit function. And indeed, the most recent findings suggest that designating DNA as "junk" merely cloaks our current lack of knowledge about function. For instance, in a recent issue of the Journal of Theoretical Biology, John Bodnar describes how "non-coding DNA in eukaryotic genomes encodes a language which programs organismal growth and development." Design encourages scientists to look for function where evolution discourages it. Or consider vestigial organs that later are found to have a function after all. Evolutionary biology texts often cite the human coccyx as a "vestigial structure" that hearkens back to vertebrate ancestors with tails. Yet if one looks at a recent edition of Gray's Anatomy, one finds that the coccyx is a crucial point of contact with muscles that attach to the pelvic floor. The phrase "vestigial structure" often merely cloaks our current lack of knowledge about function. The human appendix, formerly thought to be vestigial, is now known to be a functioning component of the immune system.
William A. Dembski