Bryson, Bill - On chromosomes and DNA
Type of Spiritual Experience
The number of base pairs and the number of genes vary widely from one species to another and there is little connection between the apparent complexity of the form of the object and the number of genes it has. The highest known number of genes is around 60,000 for the protozoan causing trichomoniasis almost three times as many as in the human genome.
In biology the genome of an organism carries hereditary information encoded in DNA [or to be absolutely accurate RNA if the organism is a virus]. It is a complete genetic sequence on one set of chromasomes. In general use, the phrase 'genetic make-up' is sometimes used conversationally to mean the genome of a particular individual or organism.
From the observaion it appears that 3% of our DNA possibly has pointers to the assembly instructions but 97% of the DNA has other purposes.
We believe that DNA is a code pointer to function. It is used to store and invoke other processes/functions. These may be autonomic functions or functions that relate to our existence as a person. In effect, the DNA which is common to all humans may well be the autonomic software – how to laugh, how to smile, how to blink, how to cough, and since there is software related to the organs, how the heart beats, how the liver processes waste and so on.
In effect for every sub assembly structure there are pointers to the functions that apply to that sub- assembly. For the sub-assembly heart – how to pump; for the sub-assembly ear, how to work to discern sound; for the sub assembly stomach, how to process food and so on.
There will also be sub assemblies that have processes we may find somewhat odd. Clearly there are functions which are as it were common to the whole body, the person. It appears, however, that functions are not allocated to the brain as we might assume, but are allocated to various organs.
Perhaps most intriguingly , the allocation is exactly as one would expect from the way we talk about our body and emotions. For example:
- Anger – is found in the spleen, hence the expression to 'vent your spleen' at someone
- Love – is indeed found in the heart hence our heart may well be broken in the software sense if love is rejected or we lose someone we love
- Enthusiasm – is also found in the heart – hence the expression 'put your heart into something.
- Instinct – is found in the gut – hence the expression 'gut reaction'
- Logic – rational thought and reasoning is found in the head – the brain, which is why we say someone needs to 'use his head'
- Sickness – some aspects of sickness – the software which controls whether we feel sick, is found in the liver, hence the expression to 'feel liverish'
- Courage – is found in the stomach – hence the expression 'he hasn't got the stomach for it'
- Cowardice – is found in the liver hence the expression 'lily livered'
A description of the experience
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Every cell in an organism's body carries the same complement of chromosomes – the exceptions are red blood cells, some immune system cells and egg and sperm cells. Chromosomes are made up of DeoxyriboNucleic Acid – DNA. ….........Nearly 2 metres of DNA is squeezed into almost every cell and each length of DNA comprises some 3.2 billion letters of coding.….........
DNA is formed from Codons and codons from bases. The bases – the letters of the genetic alphabet – consist of four nucleotides – adenine, thiamine, guanine and cytosine...............
When it is time to reproduce a new DNA molecule, the 2 strands part down the middle like a zip on a jacket and each half goes off to form a new partnership. If you possessed just one strand of DNA you could reconstruct the matching side because each nucleotide in a strand pairs up with a specific other nucleotide e.g. guanine is always paired with cytosine and thiamine with adenine.............
The genome, as Eric Lander of MIT has put it, is like a parts list for the human body, it tells us what we are made of, but says nothing of how we work or are put together............
We still have to explain why so little of the DNA has any discernible purpose. It starts to get a little unnerving, but .. 97% of our DNA is largely made up of letters that in Matt Ridley's words 'exist for the pure and simple reason that they are good at getting themselves duplicated'........