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Thursday, November 18, 2004

You know what really bugs me about biology. Why do genes care if they live or die?

I am fascinated by genes. If you are not, it is probably because you don't know enough about the subject. I highly recommend The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. The fascinating bit about gene's is this - "they" control "you" more then you know.

...actually, I take that back...there are so many fascinating things about genes that I don't know where to begin. I don't have time to post all of my thoughts, so I am going to post them in parts...I don't know how many there will be.

Part 1 - The 10 Second Biology Lesson

Genes are the blueprints that define what you become.

Nature vs. Nurture? Well, we don't generally talk about Nurture when we are talking about ants or monkeys or whatever - we talk about "instincts". Why should we stop talking about instincts when talking about people? I agree that Nurture plays a role in our development, but I would argue that 90+ percent of human activity is the same - we all breath, smile, walk, communicate, see, hear, taste, touch, explore, love, hate, fight, argue - I believe nurture only effects our high level processes - accents, religious beliefs, life-long socio-economic status, etc...

But your gene's define the majority of who you are. In terms of complex systems, your eye is far more complex then any (non-biological) system on the planet. Your eye is a system so complex that everything that you have learned in your lifetime - and will learn in your lifetime - amounts to a small amount of information compared to the amount of information you would need to link cells together to form one of the worlds highest resolution "cameras" complete with terabytes of memory storage and lookup / processing power far greater then google. ...all in a conveniently portable device. (...and the brain is a system far more complex then the eye!)

Now. 95% (or something like that) of your genetic material is not used in "your blueprints". It is just junk (though this is debated).

50% of your blueprints come from your mom, 50% come from your dad. 25% comes from each of your 4 grandparents. 12.5% comes from each of your 8 great grandparents. 6.25% comes from each of your 16 great-great-grandparents. 3.125% comes from each of your 32 great-great-great-grandparents. In short, an infinite amount of "people" have contributed to your blueprints. Who needs reincarnation. Yet you are still 100% you and nobody will ever be quite like you again.

...though not quite infinite because eventually you are talking about single cell organisms...which just kinda magically appeared. ...in the only known place in the infinitely vast ("boundless") universe where they could appear such that you became you.

Who needs religion when you have science?

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