Are you DNA?

DNA and the self
A newer version of biochemical identity put forth by many over the last few decades is the notion that the self is the genetic information — or the genome — of the body.

Does DNA ancestry testing reveal the self?

The assumption that we are our DNA has been put forth to the public by the DNA ancestry testing industry. Their pitch goes something like:
"Get your DNA tested and find out who you really are"
The assumption is that if we determine the geological ancestry of our physical body, we will discover our real identity.

However, DNA ancestry tests simply compare our DNA with a database of DNA from other people around the world. A typical test result will list the customer's ancestry as being, for example, 25% Irish or 10% Italian and so forth. This is simply because they compared a small portion (like about 1%) of our body's genome and compared that to a database obtained from other people from other countries.

These tests have been shown to be largely guesswork and typically inaccurate.

But more importantly, DNA ancestry testing could never reveal any information about the self - the real person.

Let's investigate this further.

Why do geneticists think we are our DNA?

The notion that our DNA reveals something about who we are has its roots in the genetics assumption that our DNA is the most fundamental aspects of our identity.

This is largely presumed because the genetic matter of some parts of the brain - those brain cells that live longer - may be retained throughout our lifetime. But even so, the vast majority of the atoms that make up our DNA throughout our body are replaced within a few years.

Others suggest that because identical twins often will have similar traits, that this must be because the DNA of the twins is identical. Yet this is refuted by clear evidence. See below.

Theorists have also speculated that because DNA is the central database for information in our physical world, that this is the most basic form of identification.

Let's review some of the theories and why they fail to indicate that our basic identity is DNA.

The fallacy of spontaneous generation

The larger assumption that we are DNA is buried within the theory that genes accidentally evolved from chemicals. The gene evolution theory supposes that genes, and life itself, spontaneously arose from a random pool of chemicals. This theory requires a process called spontaneous generation. Unlikely as it seems, the spontaneous generation of life theory was debated by scientists for hundreds of years, as they observed life seemingly growing from barren flasks.

Finally, Dr. Louis Pasteur refuted spontaneous generation by illustrating that this growth was due to the presence of tiny microorganisms invisible to the naked eye.

For many decades this assumption of spontaneous generation has continued nonetheless. And many researchers have attempted to create life from ‘primordial’ chemicals—all without success.

Could life have randomly arisen from chemicals?

To analyze the likelihood of even one typical protein molecule to have been randomly developed, we can reference Nobel prize winner Dr. Francis Crick’s statements in his book Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature. Here Dr. Crick calculates that the chance of even one conservative protein molecule of two hundred amino acids coming into existence is one chance in 10260 — the number one with two hundred and sixty zeros behind it.

Dr. Crick also states this would be analogous to a billion monkeys typing onto a billion typewriters and somehow typing one sonnet of Shakespeare.

The chance of a 1,000-nucleotide chain DNA molecule forming accidentally is more remote. Both Dr. Dawson and Dr. Crick agree with this. Lester Smith (1975) calculated the probability as about one in 10600 (that means a number of 10 with 600 zeros after it.)

The probability of genetic mutations accidentally leading to a new species is even more remote. Dr. Lee Spetner (1998) calculates that a new species (one positive mutation step) would have a probability of 2.7 x 10-2739, (that is a probability of it not happening of 2.7 with 2,739 zeros after it). This is using Stebbins’ 1966 estimation that five hundred intermediate mutations would be required to establish one positive mutation step.

This fantastic assumption that chemicals spontaneously created genes and life also assumes that those chemicals combined then somehow developed the desire to survive. In other words, accidental chemical combinations somehow developed the intention to improve their chances of survival.

Have we ever observed chemicals desiring survival? Chemicals simply do not display this characteristic. No scientist has ever found the intent to survive outside of a living organism. No chemical desires survival unless part of a living organism—hence the name biochemicals (bio = life). Chemicals may react and form various substances, and certainly will change structure when heated or cooled.

Having a desire to survive is another matter altogether

The desire to survive is connected to the desire to improve survival factors and eliminate threats to survival. The need to improve survival requires that someone values survival over death. Otherwise, we would be talking about a group of unconscious chemicals somehow beginning to value their existence.

Chemicals that value their own existence means that the chemicals could somehow recognize a difference between living chemicals and dead chemicals. This, in turn, requires that chemicals have awareness because the desire to survive requires an awareness of self-existence. It also requires a fear of death: Could a chemical become afraid to die?

In order to desire survival, a living organism must be aware that it is alive. A living organism must be able to differentiate itself from a dead batch of chemicals. If there is no distinction between life and death, why avoid death? Why desire life without a distinction between living and nonliving chemicals? Certainly, it would be easier for a batch of chemicals to remain dead than to have to struggle for survival in the midst of all the environmental challenges to staying alive.

A small unicellular organism can be killed by so many environmental challenges: Freezing, direct sun exposure and any number of natural enemies. If there were no distinction between living or dead chemicals, the path of least resistance would be to remain dead chemicals. Why try to survive without a benefit for living? If there were no awareness and desire for survival in the face of all this resistance, there would be no incentive for genes to develop and evolve towards greater complexity—the basic tenet of the evolutionary theory and the ‘survival of the fittest.’

Put more simply, if a living entity could not distinguish itself from a nonliving entity, there would be no urge to survive. Without the urge to survive, there would be no motivating factor to encourage adaptation or mutation. There would be no impetus to evolve because survival is not valuable without an awareness of life.

There must be a self to be selfish

In his 1977 book "The Selfish Gene," Dr. Robert Dawkins proposed that genes themselves somehow became not only selfish in their orientation but also somehow acted upon their selfishness.

Certainly, we can all agree that in order to become “selfish,” there must be a “self.” Without a self, how could something become selfish? How could there be an orientation towards oneself without there being a self?

We must also ask, logically, just who would be available to recognize life in a chemical-based existence? We are being asked to assume a batch of chemicals developed a state of consciousness, yet there is no individual (self) present within those chemicals to be conscious of being alive?

The incidental gene theory of life simply has no logical basis. Genes cannot desire survival. They cannot mutate, or make changes that promote survival without an underlying conscious self present within the organism - a self who values life and wants to survive.

This living being must be aware that it is alive, and must, therefore, value survival. Once the self values survival, it has a logical basis for making genetic and physiological adjustments to better adapt to the environment. Because the self is fundamentally alive when it is inserted into a temporary physical body, it naturally strives to survive within that organism.

Admittedly, the total mapping of the genome and further mapping of the individual allele locations within codons—their haplotypes and collectively, their HapMap—reveals a complexity of design beyond our current understanding. But what could be driving that complexity?

Over the past three decades, tremendous research efforts have gone into creating statistical models to match the physical traits of humans and other organisms with particular gene sequences - called genomes. As a result, thousands of species genomes have been tabulated and connected with physical characteristics.

In addition, different diseases and traits have been connected to certain sequences. Although these efforts are laudable, science has unfortunately succumbed to a blurring of the relationship between these genetic traits and consciousness. The erroneous assumption is that gene sequences—the particular arrangement of alleles or nucleotides at different positions of the DNA molecule—are the cause of those physical or behavioral traits. That somehow, those sequences together make up the identity of the conscious individual.

Is this a chicken-and-egg problem?

While some might call this a chicken-and-egg problem, the solution is certainly clearer than this. This assumption that the conscious self is a genetic HapMap would be equivalent to saying a telephone is the source of the voice we hear through the telephone speaker. It is elementary: The voice on the line is coming from a remotely located person: A conscious entity utilizing that phone.

During the phone call, we may not be able to see the person while we are speaking with them. But we know a conscious person is on the other side of the phone conversation. Why? Because we exchange personal communication as we hear their live voice. In addition, the voice on the other side responds to our statements with a clarity that can only come from a conscious speaker.

To confuse the conscious speaker on the other side of the phone line with the phone itself would be ludicrous.

Thus this is not a chicken-and-egg problem. There is a conscious living being within the body that is communicating its inclinations through the body's anatomy - including its changing DNA. Just as we can't see the person on the other side of the phone call, we can't see the spiritual self within the body with these physical eyes. But we can know it is there because we see the body being animated by a conscious person.

DNA is dead chemistry without consciousness

The sequencing of genetic haplotypes indicates its complex structure. This complex coding indicates programmed design. As with any programming, there must be an underlying consciousness designing this structure. It is not logical to assume that a complex, well-designed code with specific rules comes from a chaotic and accidental design process. Just as we can connect the lucid voice on the phone to a personal consciousness, we can tie the sequencing of genes to a living, conscious component, ultimately driving its design with intention.

If we were to extract a DNA molecule from our skin or body fluids and place it on the table or even in a test tube, we will find there is no display of life. Just as the body after death is lifeless, DNA or RNA molecules extracted from a living body become lifeless. It should also be clarified that RNA transcription and genetic mutation is impossible without consciousness driving the process.

We can certainly force a mutation upon an organism or its seed through the vehicle of a virus. Yet the mutation will only become duplicated through an organism if there is a conscious living force present in that organism. In other words, we cannot insert a mutated gene into a dead body and see that mutation replicated through the dead body.

Personality comes from consciousness

The proposal that personality is determined by genetic code is refuted by children who have inherited genes from parents. Children are each born with distinct personalities, talents and character traits not necessarily portrayed in their parents or grandparents. While we are quick to notice similar physical traits among our children, each has their own character and personality.

We can easily observe children behaving significantly different from their parents in similar situations. We can also witness the many conflicts that arise between children and parents. We have also observed that the extraordinary talents of child music geniuses or savants are not passed down genetically. In most musical savant cases, the parents have relatively little or no musical gift whatsoever.

Twins are never completely identical

If personality and behavior were genetically driven then genetically identical twins would live parallel lives and have identical personalities. They would make the same decisions, leading to identical histories.

This is not supported by the research. Twins live dramatically unique and individual lives from each other. Depending on how much time they spend together, they will make distinctly different choices in life as well. In general, they display significantly unique and often diverse behavior. Hur and Rushton (2007) studied 514 pairs of two to nine-year-old South Korean monozygotic and dizygotic twins.

Their results indicated that 55% of the children’s pro-social behavior related to genetic factors and 45% was attributed to non-shared environmental behavior. It should also be noted that shared environmental factors could not be eliminated from the 55%, so this number could well be higher if shared environments were removed.

In another study from Quebec, Canada (Forget-Dubois et al. 2007), an analysis of 292 mothers demonstrated that maternal behavior only accounted for a 29% genetic influence at 18 months and 25% at 30 months. In a study of 200 African-American twins, including 97 identical pairs, genetics accounted for about 60% of the variance in smoking (Whitfield et al. 2007).

In a study done at the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics (Maes et al. 2007), a large sampling revealed that individual behavior was only about 38-40% attributable to genetics, while the shared environment was 18-23% attributable and unshared environmental influences were attributable in 39-42%. These studies are also confirmed by others, illustrating a large enough variance from 100% to indicate the presence of an individual personality within each twin.

Distinct identity despite genetic sameness is further evidenced by the fact that identical twins will have distinctly different fingerprints, irises, and other physical traits, despite their identical genetics. Many twins also differ in handedness and specific talents. Researchers have found that twins will often make significantly different lifestyle choices later in life relating to sexual preference, drug abuse, alcoholism and other choices.

The reason is that there are two distinct personalities within each of the twins' bodies.

For example, let's say two people purchase the exact same make, model and year automobile at the same time. Comparing the two cars in the future will reveal the cars had vastly different engine lives and mileages. They each had different types of breakdowns and different problems. This is because each car was driven differently. One was likely driven harder than the other was. One was likely better taken care of. They may have been the same make and model, but each had different owners with different driving habits.

Because twins have the same genetics—just as the cars shared the same make and model—the unique factors related to the eventual circumstances of their lives stem from the fact that each body contains a distinct driver.

The clarity of epigenetics

Because geneticists are not aware of the inner self, they are now trying to resolve the inherent inconsistencies of the gene theory with the developing theories of epigenetics.

In general, epigenetics is the acceptance of additional factors (called markers or phenotypes) that affect the switching on or switching off of genes. This is also called gene expression. It was hypothesized—and confirmed by research—that while the DNA may or may not change within a species, there are many physiological and anatomical changes that will take place within a lifetime or within immediate generations that will reflect environmental changes.

These environmental changes are seen as turning on or off these phenotypes, enabling changes in the epigenome of the individual or family.

The concept of epigenetics was proposed by geneticist Conrad Waddington in the early 1940s to explain how environ­mental circumstances could affect genetic expression. In the 1980s, Dr. Lars Olov Bygren studied Northern Sweden populations that descended from families who were isolated and subjected to periodic famines. He found that children of famines had different genetic traits than those who did not live through famine. Those who lived through periodic feast and famine years died sooner and had a greater incidence of cardiovascular disease.

As researchers have discovered more genetic anomalies—such as the twins research mentioned earlier—the concept of epigenetics has received increasing attention.
The biochemical relationships between gene expressions have focused upon the action of DNA methylation or histone regulation.

These biochemical messengers have been implicated in the process of switching alleles on or off. The assumption once again has been that the body’s switching systems are purely mechanical and robotic. There is no intentional driver or observer present: Only a biochemical machine that somehow acts with desire and direction.

However, the very research by geneticists that theoretically supported epigenetics also exposed a major shortfall in the theory. In cruel mice experiments at McGill University’s Douglas Hospital Research Center (Szyf et al. 2008), epigenetic phenotypes could be turned on and off within baby mice by the increased nurturing from the mother. In other words, baby mice receiving mama’s nurturing would switch on genes differently than mice not receiving nurturing from mama mouse.

Quite simply, this indicates the presence of another influence upon the genetic switching of epigenetic phenotypes: That of an exchange between emotional personalities. Nurturing is, in its very essence, the expression of love between one living being and another. When a mother communicates love through nurturing, the baby receives that expression of love through those nurturing activities. As the expression is received, there is a resonation or hand-shaking between the two living beings.

That resonation produces an effect upon gene expression through the pathways of the brain, nervous system and the body’s biochemicals, which bridge the self with the body and its genes.

The inner self is connected to the body’s genes through conscious decision-making. The research has quite resoundingly connected environmental changes with epigenetic changes. Yet many environmental changes are the direct result of the decisions of the inner self.

Let’s say we decided that we wanted to live in a warm climate. Furthermore, we decided that a warm climate was more important to us than having a good job. So we packed up our belongings and moved to Hawaii. We settled down in Hawaii and lived there for the next twenty years. Over that time, our body will undergo many adjustments as it accommodates the warm, humid weather of Hawaii. Eventually, these environmental conditions will affect the switching on and off of certain genes, ultimately changing our genetic outcome. One might be a longer life, for example.

Epidemiological research has confirmed that Hawaii residents have the longest life expectancy among other states in the U.S.—at 80 years—while the average life expectancy of the rest of the country is 78.3 years. Without our conscious decision to give up our job and move to Hawaii, those physical (and epigenetic) results would never have occurred.

The bottom line is that epigenetics research illustrates that we are not the genes: We are the living being within these bodies, who can affect and change our genes with our conscious choices.