DNA is amazing stuff. A precisely structured sequence of base pairs that is unique to each of us as an individual. A record of our ancestral history. A template for the manufacture of our proteins. The blueprint for each of us.
The human DNA chain of around 3 billion characters has been assembled over perhaps the last billion and a half years (from the first evidence of cells with a nucleus), and has changed with the changing animals that carried it, through perhaps a billion generations.
DNA appears to be the mechanism of inheritance, the instruction set that ensures that beneficial features from parents are transmitted to the offspring. It appears to be the key that defines a naturalistic explanation of how we have come to be here. But is it?
Is there enough information within DNA to define each of us? Or is something more needed?
As we remember that each of us begins as a single fertilised cell containing the combined DNA from our father’s sperm and our mother’s egg, then let’s remind ourselves of what the information in the DNA is being asked to define.
- The precise geometric construction of our bodies:
- The position, shape, type and interconnection of each of our fifty trillion cells
- The complete development cycle, that is robust enough to cope with different environments and with physical damage. A development cycle which maintains the living organism as a functional entity at each stage in the process
- Major systems, fully functioning and cooperating with each other
- Circulatory System
- Respiratory System
- Immune System
- Skeletal System
- Excretory System
- Urinary System
- Muscular System
- Endocrine System
- Digestive System
- Nervous System
- Reproductive System
- A fully programmed brain that can control the operation of the body, but that can also think, conceptualise, communicate, empathise, create works of art, music, appreciate beauty, love, hate, choose. A brain that appears to have, and for all practical purposes has free will.
This is weighty stuff to place onto DNA.
Indeed, the functionality does not seem to match the information capacity of the DNA; the DNA of an amoeba is ten times longer than that of a human, yet the functionality is minimal in comparison.
Has familiarity bred contempt? Do we see ourselves too superficially? Have we lost our awe at our own construction? Have we deluded ourselves into thinking that we understand?
Have we forgotten that all that we are physically began with that one cell? One cell and its DNA, is it really sufficient to make a human?