News & Reviews
Evolution 2.0 Explains Why it's Important to Know that DNA is a Pure Code
December 21, 2020
DNA is a code.
Scientists have been doing heavy lifting over the past couple of decades to delineate and outline and understand and explain and get access to that code. We now know much more about genetics and epigenetics than we did before and our science in those areas is exploding daily, and we need now to be expert users of DNA to enhance our future success at multiple levels.
We also need to spend some time thinking about the significance and the importance to us all of DNA actually being a code.
Charles Darwin wrote a couple of brilliant books explaining and defending evolution as the primary way that life developed in its huge multiplicity of forms on our planet.
Darwin basically identified and described two very explicit processes that anchor the theory of evolution. Those two processes that anchor evolution are 1) survival of the fittest and 2) random and unintentional mutations.
Darwin and his strong contingency of followers believe that we have a wide array of life forms on the planet that all stretch directly back to an initial one celled organism that evolved over time into all of these other organisms that exist today. He believed that that the two-part process led life forms to evolve into various species, and that the species each were true to their own genetic composition and also each had the ability to have random mutations that both enhanced the species and changed them through the process of natural selection.
Natural selection is an almost mathematical process because it says that time, circumstances and numerical realities dictate that the mutations that enhance the reproduction and survival rates of any species became part of the species.
People who believe in Darwinian processes believe that relative survival rates for each mutation evolve and shape each species into its subsequent forms and versions.
Pure Darwinists believe with a high and explicit level of intellectual and almost ideological commitment that the mutations are always random and that the only functional process that changes an organism or a species is relative rates of survival for each change. They point to the finches of the Galapagos Islands whose beaks evolved to meet the available food supply on each island as the perfect example for that selection process.
The finch beak reality was a great example for Darwin and it was so obviously accurate as an observation of finch differences that people who believe in standard and basic Darwinian science still use it as both an example and a proof point.
This piece is being written as both a thought piece and a book review for Perry Marshall’s book Evolution 2.0.
Marshall is an author, thinker, engineer, computer programmer, business developer, and religion advocate. He has written an extremely useful book, because this book basically uses our most current science and most current technologies to look closely at the evolutionary processes and belief systems and to explain and understand them from the perspective of a scientist, engineer, and mathematically grounded observer.
There are a number of people in our society and world who are opponents of Evolution as a theory for religious reasons. Some religious groups believe that Darwinism is an evil belief system intended to steer people away from both religion and God. There are people who believe that people who are proponents of Evolution as a theory or a process are doing the work of Satan and need to be opposed and possibly even banned in some settings.
Some of the strongest anti Evolution people who have that belief system believe that being a Christian should mean that you don’t believe in those theories of evolution at any level.
The people who are the strongest Christian opponents of evolution tend to take the Genesis story of Creation in the Bible very literally and they assume that the world actually was created in seven calendar days and those days are the same length as the days we each experience today.
A fairly large percentage of our population holds some version of that belief today.
Some people hold a modified version of that belief that says that the definition of days in the Genesis version needs to be expanded and the time frames need to be extended to some degree, but those basic sequences should be believed and that evolution as explained by Darwin and his co believers did not happen in the actual world we live in.
There are people who believe evolution did nothing and people who believe that evolution did almost everything.
There is obviously significant room for middle ground between those extremes. It is possible to be Christian and support evolution.
Francis Collins, the scientist who ran the actual process for the U.S. Government that actually did the first scientific spelling out of the human genome and the actual DNA code, is a Christian scientist and Dr. Collins wrote an excellent book called The Language of God that was reviewed earlier on this website that says some aspects of Evolution and DNA are both tools of God.
Dr. Collins believes that God used DNA as a beautiful tool for designing life and he writes and says that DNA should be respected and appreciated as a gift from God.
He does not deal with evolution as a theory in his book.
My own perspective on Evolution went down another path.
I personally had the opportunity in my work life to do some process improvement work that helped reduce the death rates in some of the hospitals that I had the privilege as serving as CEO significantly. As one example, we cut the death rate from Sepsis from more than 20 percent of the patients who had that condition to close to 3 percent of those patients.
We had to do multiple things to save those lives. Fast treatment is hugely important for sepsis, so we changed the priority in the labs on doing the sepsis tests. We also standardized treatment around best practices and then we had the most important drugs already staged on the floor in each unit where we thought a case might happen instead of waiting until the distant hospital pharmacy could get the request from the floor and then go to its shelves to fill the prescription and then have it delivered to the floor with the patient.
Process improvement saved lives.
We also cut the pressure ulcer rates for some older patients from over 20 percent of those patients to under 2 percent. Four hospitals did not have a single ulcer in a year. We did that by engineering and reengineering each piece of that process — including changing some bed linens to versions that triggered fewer skin irritations in patients.
I mention that experience in this book review about evolution because I had always believed in classic Darwinism evolutionary processes as the way a butterfly wing would evolve to look just like the flower of the tree where it nested based on pure statistical patterns that favored relative survival rates and then when I was actually in a real life setting where change was necessary to change survival rates for actual patients, I realized that there was no real possibility of that very crude, uncertain and un channeled relative selection rate tool achieving those kinds of goals or outcomes anywhere for almost anything significant anywhere.
I stopped being a believer in random mutation achieving linked and aligned layers of change.
I realized that our hospitals cut the death rates by 90 percent for that condition only because we were engineering and designing the process and linking all the pieces in intentional ways.
I then looked at some of the wonderful adaptations that happen in nature and I realized that there had to be a designer in that process and that the designer had both a sense of beauty and — for some things — even a sense of humor.
So I became a believer in the existence of a designer and of a design.
People who love mathematics and physics often point out both the beauty of their fields and the extreme consistency and structural reality that has the speed of light being the same everywhere and two plus two equaling four, everywhere.
That absolute consistency that clearly exists might have sprung spontaneously into being for mathematics and physics, and it might also have happened spontaneously for life. Or, I though, that consistency and those basic facts might be a package — and part of our role and our job and even our pleasure as conscious beings might be to discern and understand and use that set of information that we learn both for our own pleasure and for the benefit of people on our planet.
Physicist George Ellis wrote and spoke important wisdom about celebrating and appreciating complexity in physics and biology and micro biology as well as structural formation of the universe and observations of galaxies, stars and planets as fields and subjects for human learning.
In that model of believing that a creation happened, DNA isn’t use to disprove God. DNA can actually be used as extremely good proof for the existence of God.
That’s one of those points where I suspect the existence of a sense of humor.
Perry Marshall, the author of this book, is an engineer and computer programmer who went through a discovery process that resembled what I learned with the sepsis death rates in our hospitals but was even more extensive at very explicit technical and functional levels than my learning experience.
Marshall actually programs computers.
Classic Darwinian theory does not include computers because there were no computers when Darwin did his work.
That isn’t true today. We now have many levels of computers and Perry Marshall is blessed with the experience of knowing computers and their codes. He knows how a computer works and he knows what computer code does in and for a computer.
He has even helped invent and develop part of the inter net as we know it.
His excellent book shows that what we are now learning from computers is directly useful and applicable in looking at the existence and functioning of life.
His key and foundational point is that DNA actually is a code.
Being a code is extremely important.
DNA isn’t a bunch of random pieces that somehow reached a moment of magic and then aligned with itself. It is a complex multi-level piece of very explicit code that does code like things that we increasingly can understand and use because we now know what a code is and how to use it.
Where did that DNA code come from?
The basic Darwinians who understand and who believe strongly in how life evolves tend to be vague about how life began. They sometimes say that the universe already existed when life began — for reasons that are generally also not part of the origin of life discussion — and they tend to say that in our particular piece of the universe a combination of chemicals and energy somehow aggregated itself and that aggregation became the very first bit of life.
The believers in the instantaneous and spontaneous aggregation theory then say that time available for that to happen is vast and is almost infinite and the scope of possibilities for aggregations could also be perceived to be almost infinite, and that our good fortune is based on the fact that one of those aggregations not only became alive, it had built into it strands of purposeful chemistry that functioned successfully as early DNA.
At a purely functional level, we know that there had to be something in that life process containing and performing that particular very first DNA function to cause it to replicate itself or that first spontaneous combination of life would have disappeared.
If that spontaneous creation of what we perceive to be life actually happened an infinite number of times over millions of years, then all of the combinations that did not have that DNA replication function simply disappeared each time they formed.
Logically and functionally, that might have been the actual path the world was on. That could have happened many times over the eons. Maybe all but one of those sparks that were circumstantially triggered over the eons disappeared — died, if you will — but we do know, because we, ourselves, do exist today, that one spark that had the structure to propagate itself and then did actually successfully propagate itself, and then life began down the track it is on now.
If that is the path of life here — and many believe that to be an accurate description of the path — then everything we see as forms of life and as species of beings and as categories of organisms has built and continues to build the world we live in today from that foundation.
That was actually what I believed early in the process of thinking about evolution. Darwin was my guide and my fully accepted and even appreciated belief system. Darwinian forces were described to me by trusted sources as being science and as being highly credible because they had science as a basis for the process, and that was entirely acceptable to me for a very long time.
I knew that we could accelerate that evolution process hugely in selective ways with various animal husbandry techniques and with skilled and intentional gene selection approaches for our plants and our domestic animals. I loved the various breeds of dogs that we invented and then competed with at the Westminster Dog Show. Steerage for evolution was clearly possible in domestic settings, but I believed that mother nature used survival of the fittest to engineer species in the wild and I was a solid traditional believer in that basic selection process paradigm.
Then life intervened.
I had the opportunity to function as the CEO of a small hospital system and then a larger hospital system. We did some things in those settings to make care better and safer for patients.
That was an extremely useful learning experience.
As a believer in classic Darwinism, I saw how hard it was for us to engineer a lower sepsis death rate in our hospitals in an approach that involved changing multiple processes at multiple levels and when I looked at the world all around us, I realized that there were too many inter related and connected things actually happening in the world around us that could not possibly have been created by the slow sieve and the clunky evolution process differentiation tool of relative survival rates for each mutation that anchors Darwinian change.
I learned from doing process improvement to save lives in hospitals that it takes extreme intentionality and deliberate design elements to simultaneously link multiple elements of process and care to achieve better patient outcomes in those settings.
My life experience in getting real things to inter relate in real world functional settings made me a skeptic relative to classic Darwinism.
Perry Marshall took that learning about processes one step further and added information about the tool kit for change. Marshall is also a practitioner in his own world and he knew something that I did not know. He actually knew how to operationally use a computer and he knows as a practitioner what actual computer code does and does not do in the real world.
His book shares that learning with us all. We are in his debt for adding that layer of insight into actual computer process functioning to our understanding level of evolution.
He discerned and believed and showed us that DNA was a code and that it had the same rules that other codes have for functioning.
He also realized and taught us that it was a magnificent, explicit, highly effective, and very functional code — not something that was somehow created spontaneously from a fortuitous mixture of energy and material in some circumstantial settings. He saw elegant design elements in that DNA code that he recognized from having built them himself for modern computers.
Marshall knew tape drives, discs and various computer storage tools, and he looked at DNA from that perspective as well.
As he says in chapter 13 of his book on page 103:
“If you stretched a single strand of human DNA from end to end, it would be 6 feet (1.8 meters) long. But it is folded into a space so small that it is literally a trillion times smaller than any hard drive. Plus the cell easily reads it whenever necessary. How is this possible?”
“The folding of DNA inside the nucleus of the cell is fractal. A unique mathematical pattern folds within folds so that, unlike your headphone cord, DNA strands don’t tangle. Unused DNA is kept in a high-density area, using a folding pattern within the pattern. This storage pattern is called a Fractal Globule. It enables the cell to store DNA in amazingly little space, avoiding tangles and knots that would destroy the cells capacity to read its own instructions. The DNA quickly unpacks and repacks during gene activation and cell replication — a super dense, knot free structure.
The globule is a lattice, known only to mathematicians, in which every point is only visited once and no paths intersect. This prevents knots from forming.”
So, Marshall’s book isn’t idle speculation and generic musings about the idea of using intelligent design as a theory or concept. He looked closely at what has been intelligently designed for us and for evolution, and he explains it to us in useful ways.
That design elegance leads us to doubt, challenge, and probably comfortably reject traditional Darwinism as a possible tool for creating that process and that code.
When we look at what DNA obviously is, it’s hard to argue that it just happened and that it somehow created itself through classic Darwinian processes. There is a huge amount of science about each of those component parts in his book that clearly do not lend themselves to random mutations as their genesis.
The well-researched book has a very rich supply of footnotes documenting all of the key points and processes.
Anyone who continues to believe today with full confidence in the pure Darwinian theory of evolution that each of those nuances and each of those component parts in DNA design was somehow spontaneously developed by mutations and then each included in the genome based on pure survival of the fittest screening and selection processes should not be entirely critical of other people who also have leaps of faith undergirding their own belief systems.
DNA is obviously a code and it has the kind of component parts that we now know how to build into our computer code. We can’t understand how a computer of any kind--without being intentionally programmed by someone to program itself — could somehow actually program itself.
Codes exist because they communicate something. They don’t appear for mathematical reasons or come spontaneously into being based on any known functions of physics. Codes are intentional tools — and DNA is a code — and it is clearly intentional in doing what is does as a code.
The book also deals with epigenetics as part of the DNA process and mix. That is extremely important. Epigenetics is an amazingly interesting relatively new science, because it shows us how many choices and options are already built into DNA and how many situational and functional ways those epigenetic choices can be activated and used.
Hair color selection for dogs can be done in a couple of generations because of epigenetic functions. Humans subjected to those same screening processes actually would probably have the ability to change hair color in not that many more generations, but we would not accept the same pruning processes we use for canine genetics to get human hair color to a different standard hue.
We obviously are not going to do that type of process for human hair color, but we now have much more information about a growing range of epigenetic opportunities and problems for humans, and we can and should now use that information to give us better health and better lives.
As one example, we know from the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) research done at the huge data base of Kaiser Permanente and from the Center for Disease Control that people with four or more ACEs are twice as likely to have strokes and four times as likely to be drug addicted compared to people with one or fewer ACEs.
We need to make ACE prevention part of our public policy agenda and people will lead healthier lives.
We also need to have a much deeper understanding of our epigenetic opportunities and risks — and we should probably be using Artificial Intelligence data bases to tee up some of that work as well.
We definitely should take advantage of the new Artificial Intelligence tools to increase our own understanding of the universe and to enhance our own control over relevant parts of it. Some people feel competitive and sometimes a bit threatened about the obvious brain power that AI can trigger in some settings. We should accept and embrace our human mission of learning and discernment and we should use that tool to enhance our success with continuous levels of improvement as our goal in those areas.
We do need to look at the big issues we fact as people and we should be willing to look at and think about our macro context and core belief systems for both processes and life.
It is tempting to stop the overall thought process about DNA and life at this point and not take it forward to next steps in thinking about the actual origins of either life or the universe itself.
If DNA is a code, and if physics and mathematics all have solid intellectual consistencies that are universal, then the obvious question is, who built and designed that entire reality?
Quantum physics adds layers to the thinking and facts to that context. I have been blessed with an highly useful opportunity to be in laboratories and look at some quantum physics work that involves entanglement issues that are amazing realities. If two particles can be absolutely entangled across an infinite expanse of space and if it can happen faster than the speed of light, then what does that tell us about either time or space?
The issue of time is also relevant to both the process of evolution and creation itself. We believe — for very good scientific reasons — that the universe is very old. The Big Bang that got the current mixture of pieces into gear took place roughly 13.8 billion years ago.
On that scale, the earth has probably existed for about 4.4 billion years, and some expert people estimate that various forms of life have been here for about 4 billion years.
Human life is extremely recent in that context. Current estimates are that our human ancestors have been around fewer than 300,000 years. That’s both a long time and a very short time.
Our most modern versions of civilizations and our direct ancestors probably extend back less than 50,000 years.
So that raises the question, if anyone believes that human life was a goal of the entire process — and if human life was a primary core goal of the DNA programing and code building process, why did it take so long for us as people and conscious beings to get to where we are right now?
There are a couple of possible answers to that question.
One is that time is relevant to us but might not be relevant to God. It’s possible that time is a perception for us but is simply not a relevant factor for God. God is in no hurry in that scenario.
It’s also possible that this is all actually happening simultaneously and it only feels sequential to us because we are programmed to function and perceive sequentially and not simultaneously.
If it is all simultaneous, then learning can be both a process and a consequence.
Quantum physics can lead some people to believe in multiple timelines and even in multiple dimensions and multiple universes.
I don’t find that multiple timeline theory particularly useful for our purposes as people to figure out why we are here and what we should do about it now, because the reality is that we are here and the time we are here is now.
It feels to me as though we should each be living in the flow of time that we perceive now and that we should each figure out our role and our purpose in this time line and this context.
We seem to be the only elements of creation that has intellectual consciousness and awareness. Other forms of life have various levels of self-awareness and situational awareness, but we seem to be the only element and component part that actually thinks in a conscious way about existing and about meaning and purpose for our lives. God, according to some religious beliefs, was lonely as the only self-aware element of the universe and created us to be aware as well.
That particular belief that says we were created to be conscious calls for us to both be aware and to grow in learning and understanding as we go through our lives.
We might also be the only appreciation audience for beauty. Beauty exists and it’s not entirely clear why. Maybe it is meant to be appreciated.
We definitely seem to have a consistent pattern of appreciating beauty of various kinds and we can also sometimes have a sense of humor about things in the world around us.
Our challenge and key problem too often is that we are creatures of instincts — and that can lead us to both good and bad places for our behaviors, values, and our interactions with one another.
The InterGroup books and websites write about those behaviors.
Our very basic instincts can lead us far too quickly and far too often to bad and sometimes evil behavior. Both intellectual and ethical growth and learning feel right to some of us as part of the life experience and role, and making choices about our values, emotions, and behaviors can all be part of that process.
Martin Luther — the founder of the Lutheran branch of Christianity-- said we are all saints and we are all sinners.
Simul Justus et Peccator.
Our instincts to divide the world into Us and Them and to do and to do bad and even evil things to Them too often steer us to bad and damaging places — and some of us believe that Christians today should follow the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount and believe that we should be protective and supportive of one another in that process.
So what does that tell us about Creation, intelligent design, and our role in the world today.
It’s interesting and somewhat affirming for me as a person who wrestles with those issues that Perry Marshall and Dr. Collins and I have all wrestled with those issues and we all ended up believing that there is a designer for both life and the universe.
We believe in God.
We all ended up believing that religion should and can be a good path for us to go down because it does explain very nicely how the pieces all fit together and why they fit together and calls us to behave in ethical, moral, and mutually supportive ways.
We need to work with the reality that we humans are creatures of instincts to a major degree. That awareness of the massive power of our instincts has been part of my own learning process and it’s actually why the Institute for InterGroup Understanding exists.
The Institute teaches that we have very deeply engrained instincts to be maternal, paternal, territorial, tribal, loyal, hierarchical, sexual, competitive, acquisitional, and cultural, and we all have the ability, as Martin Luther said, to be both saints and sinners down each of those instinctive patterns and pathways.
Religion sometimes makes things worse.
Some religious leaders clearly do things that are not enlightened in a moral or ethical sense — tempted by power or tribal alignment or even by sexual drives to do less beneficial things than we want our faith leaders to do.
Too often, our religious organizations turn out to be the functional template and context for territorial instincts, us-them thinking, power abuse and addiction, and negative and even evil inter group and inter gender behaviors, so we do recommend religion but we absolutely do not say that anything religious is good.
We believe that we need to rise above that set of wrong directions and that we should have our religion and our belief in God steer us to more enlightened and positive values and behaviors and share in that belief in mutually supportive ways.
The three of us seem to have settled on the teachings of Jesus Christ as a model and goal for doing the right thing in our lives in the right way for the right reasons.
My own theological path is to be comfortable with the basic liturgy and the functional church practices of Lutheranism with a hint of a Swedenborgian sense of both functional accountability and celebration of our most joyous instincts. I believe that we each have life trajectories that expose us to God and that we should each choose the trajectory that makes the most sense to us.
Christmas, Easter, Communion, and shared fellowship in prayer all feel right to me and I have decided to use that pathway as my way of recognizing and including some important and functional elements of my faith in my life.
Both Perry Marshall and Francis Collins have also embraced branches of Christianity as their religious alignment, and their books tell me they are doing it much the same as I have chosen to do.
My own belief system, with a strong and consistent Concordia faith context anchor, points me toward trying to persuade other Christian believers into doing things together to help create a Christian Peace Movement in America at this point in our troubled history that welcomes everyone from any belief system, but makes a strong appeal to other people with Christian beliefs to be part of that agenda and to build a Peace that has Sermon on the Mount underpinnings and aspirations.
The three of us seem to share the strong belief that major components of evolution were, in fact, designed.
We believe that those components of evolution — including the extremely sophisticated and intentional coding embedded in DNA — were obviously chosen by God as favored tools. I can’t speak for the other two authors in that space, but I personally recommend that all Christians would be well served by using the fact that we believe DNA to be an intentionally coded code and to be a clearly God Given tool and not a lucky accident of nature as part of our belief system.
My own sense is that everyone would be well served by reading Evolution 2.0 as a book and sharing it with friends. The Language of God book also is a very good book to share, and I believe we should all read it.
The Caste book written by Isabel Wilkerson is also a very good book for us all to read at this point in our history. It describes some of the very worst instinctive inter group behaviors that are also outlined in the Cusp of Chaos book, from this website.
And Three Key Years, the book and website, are worth sharing with friends and family who feel badly that we have such major learning gaps and earning gaps and wealth gaps in our country and who believe, as I strongly do, that we should be doing things now to help them go away.
You can read Three Key Years on this website or get it from Amazon.
Darwinism has very strong proponents who sometimes become unhappy and even angry when that well respected and widely believed theory of evolution is challenged in any way. The theory has served us well for many years, and deserves our appreciation and respect. Basic Darwinism also has obvious utility in some aspects of making modifications in an existing species for all of the very important epigenetic reasons that Marshall points out in his book, but, as this website noted on the earlier review of Dr. Collins’s book:
“The likelihood that pure survival of the fittest processes and the likelihood that random and pure periodic and sporadic biological mutations could somehow functionally align and combine to create an entirely new species that by definition and measurement involves multiple DNA strands of usable, well-shaped, and highly intentional protein configurations all at the same time to create a new species is about one in ten to the seventieth power of probability.”
And, as that piece on the website also says:
“The probability and mathematical reality for any species spontaneously building multiple complex protein strands of DNA and then testing and building each strand for survivability only through the use of pure Darwinian survival-based selections mechanisms at a volume needed to actually create a new species is far lower than the probability of winning a lottery.”
When we have more than a million species on the planet now — and when the mathematical odds of creating another species entirely from scratch are far less than the odds of winning the lottery — and when the ability we have now to use DNA epigenetic flexibility rules and tools to create what is functionally a new species in only a few generations with directionally correct use of those DNA embedded epigenetic tools, then we need to end the DNA and evolution versus religion debates and wars and we need to share in the intellectual joy of the gift we have in front of us.
And Be Well.