If We Can Copy and Paste Life—What Does It Mean?

I’ve taught quite a few people how to embed a video into a web page or blog as a means of creating compelling content for their social interactions online; in fact I’ve featured the process in webinars which drew upwards of 1000 attendees.

The process essentially is to copy and paste a block of “code” – a segment of computer instructions written in English – from a video hosting site like YouTube into the HTML panel for the destination page.

HTML is the coding language of the Internet and instructs the web browser what to display on screen when a web page loads. Once the code for the page includes the proper syntax for the “embed” tag that points to the video, that video will display when the page loads.

Here you can see a block of embed code from You Tube pasted into a post for Blogger, Google’s blogging program—in the HTML tab—so that it will display in the blog page as shown on the right.

Coincidentally a few weeks ago, Sixty Minutes did a segment in which they showed exactly the same process—used to revive extinct or endangered animals

Essentially the DNA of the endangered species is “copied and pasted” into the egg of a host animal that is similar in type. The only difference from the YouTube embed code is that DNA is made up only of combinations and syntaxes represented by the letters ACTG, not the entire English language.

As I’ve noted in the past, geneticists like Juan Enriquez, whose video I mentioned from TED, make no distinction between the way computer code operates and instructs, for example, a web browser, and how genetic code works with Life.

* * *

Here is the relevant portion of the article about the Sixty Minutes piece:

On the day we visited, they were laparoscopically removing eggs from an ordinary housecat, then sending the eggs down the hall to have the housecat DNA literally sucked out of them.

“What she’s doing is she’s removing the DNA from this domestic cat egg. And she can see it by what we call fluorescing it,” Dresser explained, while observing the procedure with Stahl. “It becomes just very blue, and so now she knows where it is. And now you’ll see her go in there and be able to remove it.”

Once the housecat DNA is deposited outside of the egg, they will replace it with the DNA of an endangered Arabian sandcat, a completely different species, gathered from a tiny piece of skin.

“And there you see it being inserted into the domestic cat egg,” Dresser explained.

“And you made that from just skin?” Stahl asked.

“Just from skin cells, right,” Dresser said.

An electrical impulse starts the egg dividing, and if all goes as planned, the now sandcat embryo will be put back into the domestic cat to grow to term.

* * *

Now, for most of us, copy and paste is a process we have used and understand.

So for those of us who use computers and the Internet every day, how do we react when see that the language of programming literally runs within Life?

For me, when I first encountered this fact, as a tech writer, it opened me up profoundly to a completely different view of life.

After all, programs on the Internet, Blogger, Google, YouTube, and on your desktop; for example Microsoft Word which I am using to write this, were created not my one person, but by enormous teams of programmers who planned, wrote, and implemented their code to achieve a specific set of purposes.

In reality, this code take electrical impulses, like the ones used to jump start the division of the egg of the Arabian sandcat inside its new host—but in the case of computer code it uses the electricity and silicon chips in the machine to manifest the ideas of the programmers—based on the interaction of the software with the end user.

In the case of Life, the interaction is much more complex because it involves the brain, and the entire cosmos or environment with which the “software” interacts. In his book The Biology of Belief rogue biologist Bruce Lipton identifies the cell membrane as the “computer chip” that literally processes the information from the environment—a process that forms the basis for the new science of epigenetics.

It also means we are not determined by our DNA code—genes express due to environmental, cognitive and other factors, but that the essential code itself—the combination A,C,T,G referenced chemicals that comprise the potential or blueprint for all living things—works like the code in your PC and responds to “user input.”

If I replace the embed code in the web page with a different set of symbols—I get a different video.

If I replace the DNA code of a house cat with that of an Arabian sandcat, that’s what I get.

In both cases the final outcome is an expression of a set of symbols—an idea in the mind of a set of programmers in the case of computers—and inevitably in the case of Life…

What?

Unlike some, I don’t see this as an argument for Intelligent Design or fundamentalism of any sort.

To me, the answer to this question, at this point is, I Don’t Know.

As I said, for me it is a powerful opening to the realization that life is far more than the merely random events that seem to happen through cause and effect, but rather that just as there is in your PC or laptop, there is an intelligent energy or software that is beneath or within the fabric of Life – or indeed is Life itself.

Certainly the recent advances in quantum physics and neuroscience also suggest, indeed they proclaim, that mental and subatomic phenomena are not simple cause and effect processes, but rather that the presence of an Observer or participant is fundamental to their nature.

So far, we have attributed the property of higher intelligence only to ourselves, and perhaps dolphins and whales, connecting it somehow only to our brains, which seem to host such mental activity exclusively.

And, we speculate about finding it on other planets or in other galaxies.

But if we understand that the same principles that we have come to know through our own experience with computers, the actual working of software—the ability to cut and paste symbolic representations to effect both electronic and natural expressions and manifestations—then it becomes clear that somehow a higher intelligence is at work in our cells.

For one thing, decoding the DNA within us has taken supercomputers to do the sequencing.

It is the expression of an immensely vast conglomeration of potentialities and variables—even for a one celled creature (some of whom have more genetic material within them than humans).

Moreover of the DNA already sequenced, a large portion is called “junk DNA”—but that’s because we don’t know what it does or expresses.

Some modern thinkers, like Eckhart Tolle, have said literally that a far higher intelligence than our own runs our digestive system, nervous system, respiration, and so on.

Conventional scientists will argue that DNA “evolved” as life formed billions of years ago from organic molecules.

It is clear that the mutation and changes in DNA, over millions of years, have produced many different species, most of them extinct.

But if DNA is software ask yourself this: could software “evolve” out of an “uninspired” organic molecule—or is the notion of manifesting an idea through a set of coded instructions a function of consciousness of some kind?

In other words, a mind – a term much of science finds extremely inconvenient—because a mind is not mere processing—but the capacity to conceive and manifest an intentional idea through mental activity.

How do we know that mind exists in nature, even if science finds the concept problematic? Because we experience it each moment we’re alive.

And now that we have created software (in our image), and have found it in nature and within ourselves we might say that consciousness is the intelligent energy behind the software of Life.

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19 responses to “If We Can Copy and Paste Life—What Does It Mean?

  1. “Unlike some, I don’t see this as an argument for Intelligent Design or fundamentalism of any sort.

    To me, the answer to this question, at this point is, I Don’t Know.

    As I said, for me it is a powerful opening to the realization that life is far more than the merely random events that seem to happen through cause and effect, but rather that just as there is in your PC or laptop, there is an intelligent energy or software that is beneath or within the fabric of Life – or indeed is Life itself. ”

    Your comments seem contradictory. Nobody is suggesting that this points to “fundamentalism”, but your empirically-based suspicion that that there is an “intelligent energy or software that is beneath or within the fabric of Life” clearly makes an argument for “Intelligent Design” – how could it not??

    I very respectfully suggest that you are either unfamiliar with Intelligent Design, or perhaps you are merely nervous about the social coercion you might be subjected to in some circles by announcing that a secular-based Intelligent Design theory shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

    • Hi John,
      Sorry for the late reply – new to WordPress and just noticed the comment.
      You make a good point and you’re correct – I am concerned about what you call “social coercion” because I don’t want to be painted with the same brush that atheists use to discredit fundamentalism in films like Religulous. My argument is that science needs to and inevitably will expand its scope of inquiry to take consciousness seriously. I expand on this in other posts (tbunzel.blogspot.com was my old blog) and in a book I’m writing. Thanks for your thoughtful and respectful comment.
      I am not familiar with secular-based Intelligent Design theory and I don’t think I’d have a problem with some of it. My current position, as I wrote, is I don’t know – but I strongly believe that science in the tradition of the Enlightenment needs to expand its inquiry and is doing so, and the discovery of DNA as software is a strong case for this. Thanks.

  2. Basic logic warns us that all analogies are false in that no two things are exactly alike. Analogies are best used to explain something that is unfamiliar by comparing it to something that is familiar. But they are not alike.
    when I consider the history and the present condition of mankind, “Intelligent Design” seems like a wry misnomer. And using it in analogy to computer code, explain Windows Vista.

    • If you watch the TED video by geneticist Juan Enriquez on the video presentations page you will see that the comparison between computer code and DNA is not an analogy but that they work as equivalent processes. This is not my opinion–he states it plainly and directly. The key to me is that computer code manifests a clear conceptual intention that I also sense as operating within nature. Your point about “Intelligent Design” being an oxymoron if we’re the ultimate example of its “progress” is well taken, and the comparison with Vista makes some sense in terms of how poorly both operating systems perform–but the fact remains that whatever (or whoever) conceived of organic life and energetically expresses through it is so far beyond comparison to Vista, humanity or anything we know that our puny intellect is far too inadequate to truly comprehend and understand It.

  3. Hello my friend! I want to say that this post is awesome, great written and include almost all
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  4. Congratulations for your original thinking, as you tackle what I think of as this single most important subject.

    Plenty of highly educated people write hundreds of pages on subjects like intelligent design.

    I do read what others have written, but it’s more fun for me to do what you do, think originally. Take the question posed in your post, “If we can copy and paste life, what does it mean?” For me, it means that Life is a good word for God, that Life does whatever is required to progress into the future. I also believe Soul and The Universe are useful words for God. And I am all for using the word “God” for God. Those words can be helpful when they are not capitalized too, when they are simply life, god, soul, and the universe; with different usages.

    When some people (perhaps one or two of your correspondents) speak, it reminds me what a 19th Century politician said about a dead mackerel rotting and stinking in the moonlight: It was brilliant.

    Kudos on this work. You have a fine brain, my old friend.

    Tom, I regret not attending your lecture the other night.

  5. Thanks Jim – Life is as good a word as any for God, and yes if its instructions can be cut and pasted (as code) it is obviously intelligent in the greatest sense of the word. Thanks for your kind words. All the best.

  6. Hi, thanks for your interest. As long as you credit me and provide links back I have no problem. Thanks for asking.

  7. Thank you for your kind comments

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