23 Oct

It’s Soup for Dinner!

The blog Daily Galaxy says, by way of interviewing (or reporting on words by) our best known human genomologist Craig Venter, that Humankind is about to enter a new phase of evolution. Nah–it’s more about Humankind changing its own soup recipe.

The context here is human manipulation of the genome. Terminology: that’s not evolution unless what they’re saying is that we’re entering a new phase where we are redefining evolution, not to mention giving it a fresh coat of woo-woo. Just what Science needs! Spurious redefinition of terms, Woo-Woo, and maybe for dessert a big wet sticky dollop of FEAR!!!! (In my life I have seen not one but two human adult males turned into man-flies via direct manipulation of their genes–and the horrible consequences that followed. I mean the leaders of the Tea Party. Who’d you think? Vincent Price and Jeff Goldblum?)

Breathe out.

Thinking about getting into the pants of our genetic code took me down two paths (if you don’t see the link between cooking–soup or otherwise–and sex, get out of the kitchen). First, I’d be happy to let someone competent diddle my personal JavaScript to cure a condition, extend my life, and remove my body’s inflammatory response to baked goods; but, damn, I’d rather see press about successful descents into a person’s genome and playing back the “evolutionary clock” that led to that person.  You could see that as a movie playback (less likely but very sexy to anyone who liked Altered States or a giggle if you grew up on The Magic School Bus) or delicious strands of data to eventually unwind into the story of Us. This is not a new idea, and it’s not my idea–it represents past and present work in progress by far more serious (but clearly fun loving) people. And it’s the vision that attracts me–thrills me–as a story teller. (If you can’t see the link between storytelling and…never mind.)

I grew up as a student of Evolution Science. True tales of Paleoanthropology entertained me as much as the adventures of Indiana Jones–and (no shit) engaged me at a much deeper level. Maybe because there’s our Big Story of how We Became–not just as humans–but as species in a system (a metaphor that becomes more powerful and less manageable as it approaches infinity). I also don’t mean to imply a dichotomy with a synthetic future–the iconic Venter does not see our genome as bits to flip in isolation. And…


Huh.  Once again I’ve strolled an Internet byway, saw a trail marked “Chestnut Grove 2.5 Miles,” and raced down it like Marcus Brody shouting, “Follow me! I know the way!” Twisting and turning with the path, leaping over logs, cheating with connector trails to shave off .25 miles, and pretty sure I’m lost, ready to retrace steps.

Suddenly, I’m here. It’s a small grove with only one mature tree, leaves turning yellow without fuss–and one fruit left:

I’m attracted to big families, and to know how we live and have lived, and what it means to be living forward. Family is a big word, almost infinite, but still quantifiable. Near-infinity I can just about get my arms around.

I’ll be damned. I wasn’t expecting that.