What is life?
The universal system of all life on this planet is based on a fundamental code and that code was broken by Francis Crick and James Watson in 1953. Since these men unravelled the molecular structure of the gene our world has undergone a continuing and exploding series of revolutionary insights. These scientific developments show no sign of slowing down and nothing can ever be the same.
Prior to 1953 one could still, credibly, hold on to the belief that life itself was ultimately a mysterious thing. Once could still, as a thinker, speculate about the origins and 'mysteries' of life. To do so today, it may be argued, is an admission of ignorance, laziness or both.
We now know that genes are digital. They are long strings of pure digital information. Like CDs and computers, the code of life - all life - is mighty digital in its internal structure. Whereas the binary code of computers has two symbols, in life the code is quaternary with four symbols. Otherwise they're digitally the same.
What, then, is the essential difference between the machine code of a computer and that of your genes? The answer is: none!
Building on Crick and Watson, the famous Oxford darwinist, Richard Dawkins, best-selling author of "The Selfish Gene", has explained that "life results from the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators".
And these replicators, these genes, are digital. Our genetic code is so digital to the core that you could encode, with word-for-word accuracy, the whole of the Bible in those parts of the human genome that are at present filled with junk DNA.
In his recent book, "River Out of Eden", Dawkins illustrates the strong digital nature of genes with characteristic clarity and wit:
"The following science-fiction plot is feasible, given a technology that differs from today's only in being a little speeded up. Professor Jim Crickson has been kidnapped by an evil foreign power and forced to work in its biological-warfare labs. To save civilisation it is vitally important that he should communicate some top-secret information to the outside world, but all normal channels of communication are denied him. Except one.
"The DNA code consists of sixty-four triplet "codons," enough for a complete upper- and lower-case English alphabet plus ten numerals, a space character and a full stop or period. Professor Crickson takes a virulent influenza virus off the laboratory shelf and engineers into its genome the complete text of his message to the outside world, in perfectly formed English sentences. He repeats his message over and over again in the engineered genome, adding an easily recognisable "flag" sequence -- say, the first ten prime numbers. He then infects himself with the virus and sneezes in a room full of people.
"A wave of flu sweeps the world, and medical labs in distant lands set to work to sequence its genome in an attempt to design a vaccine. It soon becomes apparent that there is a strange repeated pattern in the genome. Alerted by the prime numbers - which cannot have arisen spontaneously - somebody tumbles to the idea of employing code-breaking techniques. From there it would be short work to read the full English text of Professor Crickson's message, sneezed around the world."
The Human Genome Project
In June 2000 at a White House ceremony President Clinton proclaimed,
"Today we have learned the language in which God created life" as he declared the multi-billion international race to map our genetic make-up to have been won. The entire map of the human genome shows a string of 3 billion letters -- 750 megabytes of digitized information -- that would fit on a single DVD.
Decoding the human genome -- the text of life -- is another great consequence of Crick and Watson's work. It has been compared with the invention of the wheel and landing on the moon.
So, if life is digital and knowable the 'mystery of mysteries' has evaporated...
Like Martin Luther's use of the newly invented printing press, which birthed the "media", the genetic revelation of Crick and Watson is another huge victory for knowledge over authority. A thinker no longer needs a 'priest of the knowledge' with special mystical powers to explain 'the meaning of life'. It is now readily explicable and easily understandable by the individual without any need for an intermediary who retains special 'supernatural powers' for himself. To the sovereign thinker, this is a huge dividend of personal freedom.
No powerbase likes to surrender its power. It would be naive to think so. However the old supernatural powerbases, still operating in today's world, have lost most of their temporal power and what little remains is rapidly disintegrating at an astonishing rate of acceleration.
In some ways it's ironic how the uncertain truths of science have so overtaken the certainty of The Truth. Even the highest claims of occult certainty seem thin and puerile compared to the demonstrable achievements of science.
As we leave the Mystical Millennium, the superficial, childish mythologies of the truth-merchants and medieval magicians are being left behind. The information-rich revelations of science are empowering more thinkers than ever before to choose sovereignty over authority.
1953 is important because it was the definitive end of the Mystical Millennium. It was the last of the big 'mysteries' to be explained. Though there may always be many interesting questions to be asked and answered, after Crick and Watson, no thinker need ever delegate her or his authority to a supernatural magician, ever again. If she or he CHOOSES to do so for some other reason, that is their right and privilege.
The Greatest Thinkers
Francis Crick and James Watson are two of history's greatest intellectual superstars. Never have two thinkers explained so much. Their discovery of the digital gene has cleared away many veils of mystery.
Many other scientists have since built on Crick and Watson's original ideas and more work will be done in the future. But, as a contribution to the freedom of individual thinkers, Crick and Watson's achievement dwarfs those of the 'truth hackers', Aristotle and Aquinas, and provides a major blow to PTV.
As you ponder these things, what is the most liberating idea, discovery or truth that you can think of which has made it possible for you to be more of a sovereign thinker?
The foregoing information is supplied by:
Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson,
Office of Principal,
School of Thinking,
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