Monthly Archives: January 2013

A Sacred Science: The Meaning of Code

I’ve written many times about the Juan Enriquez video on TED which was my epiphany. In it the noted geneticist speaks about an apple as an “application”; he sees that when sufficient energy strikes the apple from the sun, its (DNA) code “executes” and the apple drops from the tree.

The striking aspect of this understanding of life is that the notion of DNA as code (or software) is not propounded as a metaphor, but in reality life operates intelligently according to a set of instructions that can be “de-coded.”

In some ways this parallels the Course in Miracles’ notion that “the Universe is a Dream”; again it is not “like” a dream—dream is not a metaphor—but instead what we experience is a property of what we deem to be “our” mind—it is always just a projection of our own mental activity.

What both of these concepts point to is that everything we think we know is an assumption based on our conditioning. In his Deconstructing the Dream World workshop this past weekend Michael Jeffreys held up a pen and asked us what we saw.

Beginning with the notion of naming it a “pen” we “deconstructed” our apparent knowledge of what was out there, realizing that of course the word pen is a label we have learned through our education—but so was the notion of “round”, the colors we ascribed to the pen, its shape (cylinder) and so on. A baby would “know” none of that—pre-language, in fact, there is only a shape that is distinguished perhaps from what is holding it or surrounds it. It may even come down to a judgment between what is “me” and “not me.”

But if you really go deeper, you begin to realize that even that judgment—what constitutes my notion of my “self”, has been learned.

All of our knowledge is “encoded” through labels in a language of meaning that is intrinsic to our nature—we can only barely if at all go beyond the projection of the world that our language, belief and conditioning allows us. Even the baby doesn’t know it’s a “baby”. And we take for granted that everything we know is just as it is – from the pen to the baby to who and what “we” are.

So what does precede “what we’ve learned” or “what we know”? Generally we assume that this would be Science. After all, Science has taken us to the moon, built us bridges and roads, and in some cases cured our diseases. Science, after all, must “know” reality as it truly is.

But if you’ve followed quantum physics you know that science has recently come up against some barriers which point once again to what we know being a function of what we are – namely without an observing consciousness to know something its properties don’t really exist.

This is sort of a biological theory of relativity—we only know what we sense and comprehend and that becomes our ultimate frame of reference. But as Einstein has shown us in reality there is no absolute frame of reference. From the perspective of an infinite universe there is no “here”. There is only a “here” when there is a “you.” And who and what you are seems to be a chemical and organic “life” form.

So what exactly does that mean? Going back to the Enriquez video, as organic life, we now know that we function according to an instruction set in our cells, carried in our chromosomes, that we’ve identified as a chemical substance – DNA.

And we now also know that this DNA operates as software; it can be decoded according to the syntax or symbolic combination of a grouping of four letters, A, C, T and G (representing four other chemical substances) that according to their combinations instruct our bodily and mental functions – if the program is changed (the code is altered) then something else happens—for example, we may not longer be susceptible to certain diseases, or our brains my operate differently, and so on.

This parallelism between DNA and software has been further demonstrated in at least two other areas of note.

The BBC recently reported that the ability to reprogram (or “hack”) DNA has now gone from the realm of corporations and supercomputers to amateurs—to individuals or teams of “biohackers.” This is analogous to when personal computers entered our garages and young people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates got access to “the code.”

The big difference, of course, is that the code in this case was not created by IBM but by (fill in the blank) – or it “evolved” – but what is undeniable is that it can be “hacked” – it works according to known principles and the sequence of its symbolic representation – in DNA’s case, A, C, T and G.

Perhaps equally astonishing is the scientists have recently discovered that they can use the molecular properties of DNA as a storage device (similar to a flash drive or hard drive in a computer) to hold the zeroes and ones that comprise any kind of data, including the works of Shakespeare.

CNNHealth reports that
Ewan Birney, senior author of the study and geneticist at the United Kingdom’s European Bioinformatics Institute says that “We’re using DNA here as a chemical molecule of storage. It just happens to be the same molecule that is used in our bodies as well.”

All of these developments, including animal cloning, have led to the notion that DNA can also be treated as “property” – whoever “discovers” a useful block of code can patent it, in the same way that software developers can “own” the code for Microsoft Word or Google.

But isn’t it obvious that the code in our bodies is somehow different? Doesn’t it suggest a complete re-thinking of the “meaning of science itself”?

Our basic assumption about science and our discovery of the laws of nature is that whatever we find is somehow “ours”. That’s because we have assumed that we are the most advanced species on the planet, and the only one capable of comprehending these laws due to our “intelligence.”

But when come up against the fact (not the metaphor) that what we are is manifesting an intelligence that pre-dates both our “science” and our apparent existence as “humans”, don’t we have to “deconstruct” our science itself—and face an uncomfortable fact:

The very idea of what we are has been an illusion.

We are not a separate species independent of nature that lives apart and can control life.

Instead, we are a natural expression of a much vaster intelligence which is Life, the full extent of which we are only beginning to discover.

This would put us into a relationship with life and nature that is completely different. In recognizing that the “software of life” is a function of an intelligence that is older and much deeper than what know ourselves to be, we must instead hold Life in awe and reverence, and create a new Science with a sense of something far more profound – something indeed “sacred and holy.”