The concept of a soul, is really very fascinating. Children ‘acquired’ traits observed in their ancestors; so the ancients postulated an imperishable, intangible component of ourselves, a ‘soul’. This fragment would forever reincarnate, inhabit mortal forms, and carry over experiences over multiple lifetimes. Hinduism in its very essence, is an endeavour, to break free of this cycle.
A more plausible explanation would of course describe the science of heredity, and the story of modern genetics really begins, with a monk born Johann, later Gregor Mendel.
Geneticists before him believed in blending inheritance-where the traits of two parents would average out in their offspring. A child conceived by an African and a Caucasian would thus be brown-skinned. This couldn’t however explain a lot¹, and was later discarded for Mendel’s theories, which gave it a more mathematical, sound footing in terms of laws and statistics. Mendel believed traits, or ‘alleles’ were inherited in pairs of dominant and recessive, the dominant allele suppressing its recessive opposite. Thus, a tall father and short mother might produce either a short, or tall child (depending on which being the dominant of the pair), but both copies would be inherited, and later passed on.
Mendel’s work, bringing reason and the scientific method to, hitherto mere conjecture, founded the modern study of genetics.
It’s really very simple.
Consider the four units we see on the left, Adenine(A), Guanine(G), Thymine(T), Cytosine(C). These four molecules arrange in combinations within each strand, simultaneously paired with another such molecule, on the second strand. Each such combination, say GATTACA, codes information(just as a random sequence of objects may be rearranged to a rule, to code information) as to which proteins, or chemicals are produced in response to an external stimulus, and this biological information inherited, is what makes you and me so like our parents.
Dr Susumu Ohno, a pioneer in genetic studies, even mapped such sequences to musical notes!
Dr Susumu believed(although not accepted by mainstream scientists), in a pervasive natural law governing everything, from the genetic code of a protozoan to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He had the nucleotide sequence of a malignant oncogene mapped to an octave based on molecular weights, and the music sounded a lot like Chopin’s Funeral March. Another enzyme, phosphoglyceratekinase, which breaks down sugar sounded like a lullaby, and even put a class full of Japanese toddlers to sleep!
Here’s his music.
Everyday, as we push beyond what nature ever intended for us, from huddling in damp caves, to reaching for the stars, we change what it means to be man; we stray into the godlike. In a decade’s time, we’ll have the technology to edit our genes, a hundred years into the future, a new race will emerge: stronger, fitter, faster than we’ve ever been. When our mothers deliver these super-humans, what happens to those left behind, the ‘primitive’ ones?
Do the rich then evolve, to leave the poor not just economically, but
This film(the title being a sequence of the nitrogenous bases, G A T and C) explores precisely this question, what it means, to be a genetic inferior. Ethan Hawke’s character, a love-child, grows in his brother’s shadow, his brother being a genetically edited planned conception. We’ve millions of such super-men in this world, as they dominate music(Imagine a six-fingered pianist) to sport, art, politics, every sphere there is. Do the genetic inferiors, the sub-humans ever dream, knowing they couldn’t, ever surpass their more evolved peers? Where does this leave them?
It’s questions like these we mustn’t ever ignore, in our march into the sun.
¹For one, if a tall and short couple produce a child of intermediate height, a billlion or so years after, wouldn’t heights keep on averaging(there’s a lower and upper bound which keeps growing narrower every generation), until we all converge at the same height? This being just one, of the many fallacies with this argument.