Sunday, March 13, 2011

Complexity and Wonder

I've been reading about DNA in Jeremy Narby's The Cosmic Serpent. We are all familiar with DNA on some level, in that we know it carries the genetic code that makes all life what it is, that it is shaped like a spiral. I was not aware of the wonder of the DNA molecule, however. There are about 50-100 trillion cells in a human being. In each cell, there are two strands of DNA, one from the mother, one from the father. Each strand has three billion chemical base pairs, like rungs in a ladder, which are arranged in the "language" or "text" required to build the cell. If you remove a strand of DNA from a human cell, it is six feet long, but only ten atoms wide. To put this in perspective, if you were only ten atoms wide shoulder to shoulder, and you were to climb a strand of your DNA like a ladder, one rung, or base pair, per second, it would take you more than 93 years to climb bottom to top - assuming you didn't stop to rest at any point in the journey.

All the DNA in your body is about 125 billion miles long. The distance from the Earth to the Sun is 93 million miles. That's a little more than 134 times, to the sun and back.

DNA is the code at the foundation of all life. The code is found in genes, which are sections of the DNA strand where the base pairs form in specific ways, and in chromosomes, which are portions of the DNA strand tightly woven together. The translation mechanism is found in ribosomes, which pull amino acids together to form proteins, which become the structure of the body. Cells are like little factories, taking in energy, transforming it into something else, manufacturing at times exact copies of itself. As Narby points out, it tips to absurdity to suggest that both the language (DNA), and the translation mechanism (ribosomes) could arise by chance together, by accident, out of any random primordial soup.

It's also worth noting, for fun, that the DNA in your cells is not inert, but endlessly writhing within the nucleus of the cell like a snake, wrapping around itself and the companion strand, in myriad ways. One hundred and twenty five billion miles of DNA in tens of trillions of cells, writhing like snakes.

Of the DNA strand, only about 3% is dedicated to information directly attributable to the creation of cells and proteins. In other words, we do not know what 97% of the DNA in our body does, if it does anything at all. Science calls this bulk of our DNA "junk", or "detritus" left from our evolution from specie to specie. As Narby points out, this pejorative description is more a reflexive action of the Scientific ego, which would rather denigrate a thing than admit ignorance, or allow for mystery. It goes directly to Materialist Rationalism, which is the notion that there is no intent behind existence, that life is an accident arising out of some primordial soup, purely by chance. In other words, nature is inanimate, which idea is at the root of our treatment of the Earth and each other: inanimate matter can be plundered, manipulated and abused, including the matter that is people.

Francis Crick himself, one of the discoverers of DNA, a profound proponent of scientific rationalism, elaborated on the notion that DNA is too complicated to arise by chance, in great detail. Narby, in The Cosmic Serpent, connects the mythology of the cosmic serpent, expounded by shaman worldwide, with the biology of the DNA strand. He is suggesting that through the use of hallucinatory plants such as psilocybin and soma (mushrooms), iboga and specifically ayahuasca, but also through dreaming, and trance states induced by repetitive dancing and fasting, that the shaman comes in contact with information directly relational to molecular biology, that shaman worldwide have been describing the DNA structure and its transformative ability for thousands of years, mythologically, long before modern science proved the existence of DNA. Suggesting as a hypothesis, "that DNA in particular, and nature in general, are minded."

This of course is inherently contradictory to scientific orthodoxy, which is itself largely a reflexive action in opposition to the notion of God. Currently, Darwinism is in the ascendant, and has been since the discovery of DNA in the 1950's. We are just finally getting used to the idea, as a culture. Unfortunately, Darwinian evolution offers no real explanation as to how life came to be, or how it was that 543 million years ago, in a relatively short period of time, species of extraordinary complexity and variety simply came to be, without antecedent. Most scientists ignore this argument in favor of Darwinian orthodoxy, because it seems to play right into the hands of those who preach "irreducible complexity," otherwise known as Intelligent Design, which is very much associated with Christianity.

Quantum Physics, however, saves us from both extremes, insofar as it reveals that there are a great number of dimensions beyond what we perceive, that existence is far more than it appears to be, and there can be no separation. That electrons can be in more than one place at a time, that they can appear on the other side of objects without passing through them, that these seemingly separate manifestations can be divided by great distances, and yet a reaction in one is observed simultaneously in the other. All this lends credence to Narby's hypothesis, and the stories told by indigenous Shaman everywhere. Leaving the door open to an Author of the DNA text, but opening existence to realms far more vast than anything either Science or Religion has conceived.

I know this is all very complicated. Don't worry. It's all part of awakening. Take it slow, do your own research. I certainly have my own work to do, in understanding it. Best of luck, and I'll continue to address these topics, hopefully in a way that is increasingly easy to comprehend.

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