Today I’d like to explore the notion that at cell division a process known as epigenesis occurs wherein, while normally passing on its DNA as its programming would have it, each cell also bequeaths its progeny a uniqueness due to its environment, a genetic memory as it were. Genetics proposes that … well …
Let’s talk about something near and dear to our hearts. Let’s talk about the automobile, the epitome of human progress in the digital science of identical reproduction such that any part may be swapped with any other car of that particular species. The blueprints are the genetic map for those autos rolling off that assembly line in spit polished profusion. Each one of those cars, over a period of ten years, if it survives its driver and a life of road rage, will be as unique among its own race for its experience as among other species. When the crusher makes a four foot cube out of it as its final resting place, all those dents, clogged valves and semen soaked seats will go up in the smoke of the smelter, never to be known to the fender on the newest model of the new line that inherited some of the metal. If cars were alive, they could drive themselves by now with their inherited memory of landscapes and fender scrapes over the short history of the Otto cycle engine, while we keep up with the latest change of everything on our distraction device. But they’re not. We are.
From a single act of the earliest cell division to the ongoing births, lives, reproductions and deaths of cells forming more complex entities born today, the story of being in the world is passed on at the same time the DNA dictates future functions. So far, the Human Genome Project has found that, barring identical twins and clones, each of us is unique and traceable right down to our genes. Any particular incidents in the various inherited lives in our unique memories have sifted away to trivia in the developing story of the parts of living that never change for any life form, the parts about symbiosis with nature no matter whether you are a mosquito or a bristle cone pine.
We are the gestalt of the inherited memories of all our cells intuitively guiding us away from mountains’ high ledges and axes’ sharp edges. The collector and story teller of our genetic memory, the primitive brain, is like the complex wave form on an analogue computer screen combining, not only the inherited knowledge about the way of the natural world from every cell, but also a cull of events in the present scanned for immediate relevance to symbiosis that may require instinctual correction of already distracted, mindless behavior. Sort of like the car that drives its self and plays oldies from before modern civilization on a radio that only goes up to a 1/2.
All this goes on before the primitive brain sends the news from the front on to our distraction device, the modern digital computer of a brain to be sliced, diced and collated into pigeon holes for further debate on meaning or forgotten by all but spiders.
One of the most powerful examples of and arguments for the process of evolution is the apparent experience of every stage of life leading up to human emergence undergone by the gestating human embryo, including the hairiness of the ape just before birth as a smooth pink skinned babe. I am proposing that this newborn comes fully informed about how to deal with the natural world once it learns how to use its new corporeal instrument. Most of Earth’s human population is born into a world as isolated from nature as possible. It’s the hallmark of civilization. If one examines the progress of the newborn learning to use its body, a parallel to mankind becoming civilized seems to continue as the individual matures. From earliest parental discipline through the molding of public education to the demand that food be kept on the table by other than growing, hunting or gathering it, civilization creates priorities that either shout down our genetic memory or demonize our instincts as signs of heretical evil.
The most powerful inheritance from our ancestors is the ability to learn from mistakes in our individual lives. Each of us is capable of becoming responsible for our own actions by learning to be symbiotic with our environment. Within the institutions of established society the wisdom of individuals is diluted to the lowest common denominator and the anonymity of the masses can make the same mistake forever, or until natural karma swallows them whole, which ever comes first.
The emergence of individuals from the stupor of civilization is a quite different sort of rebirth than is claimed by religions’ triumph over heretics.