Science cannot give us omniscience, but it can clarify how we see things through the power of observation (whether by the naked eye or as extended through scientific apparatus). It does become a problem when coupled with the arrogant attitude which dulls the imagination and disenchants the universe.
DNA: Your real autobiography
A single strand of your DNA is only ten atoms wide but stretches for over two feet. It is 120 times narrower than the smallest wavelength of visible light. This single strand is contained inside the nucleus of one of your cells. A cell nucleus is roughly two millionth of a pinhead. String the DNA from all your cells together and it will go around the earth five million times.
Here’s a quote from the classic pseudohistorical DNA text, The Cosmic Serpent:
All living beings contain DNA, be they bacteria, carrots, or humans. DNA, as a substance, does not vary from one species to another; only the order of its letters changes. This is why biotechnology is possible. For instance, one can extract the DNA sequence in the human genome containing the instructions to build the insulin protein and splice it into the DNA of a bacterium, which will then produce insulin similar to that normally excreted by the human pancreas. The cellular machines called ribosomes, which assemble the proteins inside the bacterium, understand the same four-letter language as the ribosomes inside human pancreatic cells and use the same 20 amino acids as building blocks. Biotechnology by its very existence proves the fundamental unity of life.
Each living being is constructed on the basis of the instructions written in the informational substance that is DNA. A single bacterium contains approximately ten million units of genetic information, whereas a microscopic fungus contains a billion units. In a mere handful of soil there are approximately ten billion bacteria and one million fungi. This means that there is more order, and information, in a handful of earth than there is on all the surfaces of all other known planets combined. The information contained in DNA makes the difference between life and inert matter.
So there is a ten-atom-wide, universal coding language inside every living thing that suddenly appeared one day a few billion years ago, whose double-helix shape was probably discovered while high on LSD, that absolutely refuses to be replicated in lab settings.
Don’t listen if they say it has been. Balls of fatty acid built on PNA rather than DNA, splicing short genomes into empty bacterial cells… this is just moving the building blocks around a bit and saying you’ve discovered where building blocks come from. I call shenanigans on that! Clearly it isn’t just pseudoscience that speculates beyond the data.
To quote New York University chemistry professor, Robert Shapiro, on the most famous ‘recreating DNA’ experiment from the University of Chicago… it’s like accidentally producing the phrase to be by banging randomly on a keyboard. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of Hamlet is going to follow. “Any sober calculation of the odds reveals that the chances of producing a play or even a sonnet in this way are hopeless, even if every atom of material on earth were a typewriter that had been turning out text without interruption for the last four and a half billion years.”
This is an example of what Rupert Sheldrake, one of Britain’s best wizards-at-large refers to in a recent interview as science’s “recurrent fantasy of omniscience.”
Sheldrake talks a good deal of the fact that, as all good Brian Cox viewers know, 83% of the universe is now thought to be “dark matter” and subject to “dark energy” forces that “nothing in our science can begin to explain”.
Despite this, he suggests, scientists are prone to “the recurrent fantasy of omniscience”. The science delusion, in these terms, consists in the faith that we already understand the nature of reality, in principle, and that all that is left to do is to fill in the details. “In this book, I am just trying to blow the whistle on that attitude which I think is bad for science,” he says…