Saturday, September 15, 2007


Just finished an excellent book called The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan.

The book discusses the history of man’s relationship with four plant species: the potato, the tulip, the apple, and marijuana. But it uses this history to make some important points about evolution and co-evolution, natural and artificial selection, and even to bring in a few interesting points about a philosophical buzzword, intentionality.

Intentionality is the quality of thought sometimes referred to as its “aboutness”. Thought is always “about” something. What it is about is referred to as the intentional object.

Perhaps the most famous thought experiment in psychology and philosophy is John Searle’s Chinese Room experiment, intended to show that computers cannot show true artificial intelligence, because whatever they do, they don’t truly understand what it is they’re doing. Even if we were capable of creating a computer that could read Chinese and translate it perfectly to English, we could never argue that the computer had any real intelligence, because it never actually understands Chinese.

The thrust of the argument is that the mind is not a computer, and that intelligence is more than just the ability to follow coded instructions.

I think Searle is both right and wrong, and this is why the argument over the Chinese Room experiment has such life. I think the human brain and indeed the entire natural world operates much as a computer does, although a computer is at this stage of its development reflecting that reality only in a very primitive way.

But where Searle gets it right is in reminding us that no matter how sophisticated the computer, it never really *gets* it, because it’s missing one ingredient; intentionality.

So what is intentionality? I think Searle would agree that when human beings cultivated the apple and other agricultural products to their current form, they demonstrated intentionality. Certainly they proceeded with intention, and armed themselves with belief and desire.

But Pollan’s book makes the interesting point, not new, that the apple, the potato, the tulip, and narcotics and medicinal plants such as marijuana, have themselves contributed to the making of the human species as it walks the earth today. Can we say that they proceeded with intentionality? Obviously the individual apple or grape on the vine does not contain enough brain power to make decisions or hold beliefs, but as a species-being, does the capital-A Apple species proceed with anything we might describe as intentionality?

Now let’s throw another perspective into the mix – Wayne Dyer, and his book and audio series, "The Power of Intention".

Dyer is a well-known speaker on public broadcasting networks in the U.S. He seems to be a self-help speaker of a liberal bent (liberal in the American sense of politically centrist but socially aware) and is tolerable to listen to, even though he will drift into semi-religious mysticism from time to time – “The Power of Intention” being a prime example.

Dyer argues that everything in the world is filled with “intention” – a word he leaves sufficiently ambiguous to be interpreted as either God’s will, or perhaps just the feeling many folks have that “everything happens for a reason.”

But one does get the feeling listening to Dyer that he is onto something, if he only had the words to express it properly. And what I think he is on to is this poorly understood force that causes the apple to do what it does, and the human being to do what *it* does with the apple.

Whether one calls it “intention” or “intentionality”, there is a motive force behind life that just is missing from an inorganic piece of machinery like a computer. A human being is alive with intention, and intention, whether conscious or unconscious, is what defines it as being alive. This is perhaps why Sartre considered intentionality to be just another word for consciousness.

Which brings me back to the wellspring of life, as touched upon in an earlier post – all life is motivated by the intention to persist through time, and all activity is ultimately traceable to this eternal spring.

By this definition, we can agree with Dyer that all organisms, all matter, all things known and knowable, are imbued with intention and intentionality.

One of the things that distinguishes humanity as a species is that it is not only intentional, it is aware of and in a process of ongoing discovery of its own intentionality – and indeed that of the universe we live in.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Do animals have souls?

I’m reading a book by Douglas Hofstadter called “I am a Strange Loop.” The book shows a lot of promise and I can use some of the concepts in the book as a jumping-off point for discussion.

Hofstadter has a chatty, informal style which I can forgive him for because his points are clearer for the use of it. But sometimes the reader feels as if personal information is getting in the way of the ideas…

In Chapter 1, Hofstadter explains some of his rationale for vegetarianism, and it’s worth exploring some of the points he makes. An important concept for Hofstadter is the “soul”, although he is unable (or at least unwilling) in the first chapter to provide a definition of what the soul is.

Citing the likeness between mammals and human beings, he considers it immoral to kill and eat higher forms of life. He contends that all mammals have souls, and then touches on the question of where to draw the line between higher forms of life and lower forms. Why is it OK to slap a mosquito, but not OK to kill a fellow human being?

The answer for Hofstadter is that there are higher and lower levels of “soul”, just as there are higher and lower levels of consciousness.

Let me return to a point I believe I made earlier in this blog series – in my view, humans beings can be seen as a sort of recording device. What we are recording is experience. What experience is is a record of the interaction between the being and reality, between the internal and the external world.

One way we can view “soul” therefore is as a record of experience. Some beings keep only a very short record of their experience – these would fall into Hofstadter’s category of creatures with small souls. Others keep a vast and extensive record, such as human beings.

Hofstadter specifically brings up the issue of the fetus as a creature with only a small soul, suggesting to me that whether he has consciously made the connection or not, Hofstadter is implying that the degree of soul a being possesses is a factor of the degree of experience it has recorded or is capable of recording.

I’ve made the point in earlier entries that our experience is recorded in our memories, but DNA and other genetic material is a form of very long-term memory, storing the experience of our millions of generations of ancestors. The only sense in which the soul is immortal is that the experience it records is capable of being transmitted to subsequent generations.

The animals, plants, and primitive life-forms that Hofstadter characterizes as being “small of soul” are those animals whose experience is recorded primarily in their DNA and genetic material. Animals such as human beings, dogs, and so on that he characterizes as being larger of soul are creatures whose individual life experiences form as large a part of their souls as the species-experience recorded in their DNA.

When we speak of the soul of a mosquito, we are referring to the semi-automatic behaviour patterns the species has learned over countless millions of generations. Animals such as mosquitoes show little individual deviation in behaviour and there is little evidence that they are capable of individual learning, or even that such learning would help them reproduce more efficiently.

When we speak of the soul of a human being, we are surely referring to the special life experiences that have shaped the consciousness of that person. When we speak of the soul of a city or the soul of a nation, we are speaking of the collective experience as recorded in the brains of the citizens of that city or nation. When we speak of the Soul of Humanity, we are referring more to the inherited learning and behaviour patterns of our species.

One of the goals of this blog is to discover plausible, rational definitions of religious metaphors, not in order to dismiss them but to decode them.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


As I discussed in my previous post, prayer is not for the benefit of the person being prayed for. Science has proven that prayer has no effect on the person being prayed for. Prayer is really for the benefit of the person doing the praying, and that’s why it persists. Prayer is a comfort, based on the illusion that in the face of this cold and pitiless universe, this vale of tears, one has some sort of recourse. One can plead for forgiveness, for redemption, for justice, would somebody give me a break here!

Interesting that the religious, who tend to argue that God is all-powerful and His motives are unknowable, should cultivate the belief that God can be swayed by fervent prayer, ideally by many people praying for the same outcome at the same time. Even more absurd, that God can be swayed by his Son tugging at his cape…

But to reiterate, one of my goals in this blog is to examine the human motivations for religious behaviours. I think we will find, as with prayer, that there’s a fairly sensible basis for every religious belief – although it’s rarely the one given by the religious themselves… And while religious beliefs appear to many to be quite irrational because they are driven by the emotions rather than the intellect, I think we’ll also find that emotion and instinct has its own rationale and its own intelligence.

I think we’ll also find that the power of religious myth is that it points to realities that science appears as yet to be only dimly aware of…

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Stanley Fish, a columnist I recommend, wrote in the New York Times last week about “Atheism and Evidence”. His argument was an old one that one hears from the very religious – that truth is constructed, and both science and religion are based on faith, so one is just as valid as the other.

I will concede that science is also based on faith. We don’t have direct experience of all that science tells us, yet we choose to accept it, really on faith.

The question of which is the more valid hinges on how great a leap of faith is required.

In my entry from last week, I noted how while most Americans say they have faith in science, in practice they hold to very unscientific beliefs. People hold those beliefs simply because they seem to work OK for them. As a guide to a good life, religion works pretty well for many people.

One chooses the truth that one finds most fruitful as a guide to living one’s life. Religion for many is a kind of rule of thumb for righteous living.

This is only understandable if one recognizes that what we call “truth” is really just a proposition about reality. The religious tend to believe that Truth has a capital “T”, that there are fixed, eternal, immutable truths, just as the fundamentalists believe that species are fixed and immutable. Science tells us that everything is in motion, everything experiences constant change, nothing stands still but everything evolves.

Science starts from the hypothesis, which is a kind of proposition. Let’s assume that something will work, and then test it out in practice. If it works, it’s a valid guide to action. Science assumes that truth is not fixed, that what works under most circumstances will not work under all circumstances. But if “by and large, for the most part” (to borrow a phrase from Aristotle) it holds true, if experiments produce verifiable and repeatable results, we can trust the hypothesis.

Religion is pre-scientific – it offers truths that it does not feel obliged to prove through evidence. For example, many religions recommend faith in the power of prayer. Science says, rather than just accept that prayer is powerful, let’s test it in practice. Thus a large study funded by the John Templeton Foundation tested the power of prayer in practice – and found no evidence that it had any positive effect on the health of heart patients.

Many atheists will conclude that religious folks are acting irrationally when they pray. But I think we have to understand that the object of the healing power of prayer is not the person prayed for, but the person doing the praying.

Human beings desperately want to believe that they can have some power over the tempestuous world we live in. Believing in prayer gives them hope that they can somehow bring about a positive outcome, even in circumstances where they are quite powerless. Believing that one has power to bring about positive outcomes, that there is always something one can do, is a very healthy mindset. Prayer therefore has a very concrete benefit – otherwise people would not be praying.

One has faith in the truths that seem to yield the best results.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I listened to a podcast lecture yesterday by Harvard history of science professor Steven Shapin. Shapin argues that science is becoming so loose a term used by so many – think creation science, scientology, etc. – and so few people live by science, that perhaps the term has lost all meaning, and certainly that the modern consciousness is not scientific.

He cites a number of sad statistics about Americans – that more than 90% believe in God, 82% believe in a physical Heaven, 84% believe in the survival of the soul after death, more than 50% reject evolution, that more than 25% believe the sun revolves around the Earth, and so on – as evidence that while people talk as if they respect science, they don’t actually know what it is.

Furthermore he states he has never heard a convincing definition of the scientific method. Which prompts this entry.

Let me start with an interesting point Shapin makes. He points out that at some point in our culture, scientists conceded some important ground to religion. They began to argue that science had nothing to say about morality, in fact that science and morality were mutually exclusive. Science was not about morality, and morality was not about science. They were all too willing to surrender the hard questions to the mystics and the divines, the priests and the pastors, because they had no scientific answers to offer.

One of my goals for this blog is to find a way to bridge science and morality, to show that morality can be explained through a range of scientific discoveries, not least of which was the work of Darwin and his intellectual descendents.

In part this is an epistemological question. Scientists, if they were worth their salt, learned early in their careers that absolute certainty had no place in science. Science is not the search for absolute truths – in fact physics has proven that all is in a state of flux and impermanence, and there are no absolutes.

Aware of this, and no doubt influenced by the religious cultures in which they were born and bred, scientists in the Enlightenment began to argue that their endeavors were much humbler and more practical than those of the spiritual leaders. They operated on a different plane.

Today in America one frequently comes across a curious belief that religious convictions are sacrosanct, above question, and that anyone has the perfect right to believe any sort of nonsense if it seems to have a “spiritual” basis. The rules don’t apply. It’s the split between faith and reason.

This split often shows up in the individual themselves. Something over 50% of American scientists, people who make their daily living from rationality, believe in a God, and seem quite comfortable with this split brain. Orwell called it double-think – the ability to firmly believe in two contradictory ideas at the same time.

Prof. James T. Hall cites a lecture he attended given by an evangelical. The speaker distinctly contradicted himself in his talk. When Prof. Hall questioned him on this, his reply was too the effect that, yes it was true that he had contradicted himself, but that didn’t matter, because “this is not science, this is religion.” Oh. OK then.

Monday, March 05, 2007


The concept of survival of the fittest conjures images of individual struggle red tooth and claw. But the popular conception, focused as it is on survival of the individual, misses the point, because the real stuff of life, DNA and other genetic material, does not reside in the individual. And for good reason – the individual is mortal. The real blueprint for life resides in the species.

I’ve turned to this topic after watching the television show “Nature”, which this evening featured a life-and-death struggle between a pack of African wild dogs and a Wildebeest mother and calf.

The pack cut the pair off from the herd and attacked them repeatedly over 30 minutes, several times downing the young calf and mauling it savagely. But each time the frenzied mother drove the dogs off, until, exhausted, the pack lay down in the grass and watched the pair trot to safety back in the herd.

Those who are stuck on the idea that survival of the fittest is about the fittest, strongest individual have no explanation for the behaviour of the Wildebeest mother. Why should an individual put itself in mortal danger to protect its kin? By risking death, doesn’t the Wildebeest’s behaviour prove that it’s not all about survival?

This supposed “tough nut” is sometimes called the altruism problem. Why do soldiers march off to die on the battlefield? Why does a perfect stranger leap into the rapids to save a drowning child? If it’s all about our own survival, why put ourselves at risk for anyone at all?

The answer of course is that the survival that counts is never the survival of the individual, which in any eventuality is doomed in the long term anyway. The real goal is the survival of the species, because the species is what carries and transmits the blueprint for replication and regeneration.

DNA and other genetic materials are the vessel for the learning of the mass of individuals, now dead and gone, whose experience made the species what it is.

When the Wildebeest mother fights off the wild dogs, she gives life to her calf, and whatever courage and fearlessness she possessed that gave her the will to fight the pack now will live on in her offspring. Thus the species learns, because those who don’t fight back don’t pass on their fighting genes.

It is whatever contributes to the survival of the gene pool that defines “fitness”, not necessarily strength or savagery or cunning or camouflage. The soldier who goes off to fight to defend his country is in part defending his gene pool.

But recall that the learning of the species does not only reside in the genetic material. It also resides in the culture. So the soldier is also defending or advancing his culture, if necessary, with his own individual life. This is how the culture survives.

The survival of the fittest is really the survival of the learning of the species. That learning which is most conducive to survival will carry on. Insofar as altruism promotes the survival of the species, it will persist.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


A human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe, a part limited in time and space. And yet we experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical illusion of our consciousness. This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and all of nature.
-- Albert Einstein

The fact of humanity as a collective being is not a remarkable concept. What is remarkable is how one can carry on life’s daily activities, one of billions of others shuffling across the face of the planet doing much the same sort of thing, and still maintain a firm belief in one’s own individuality.

We distinguish ourselves with our styles and our fashions and our “unique” thoughts, apparently unaware that the very things that mark us off as individuals “different from the rest” are themselves the products of a collective culture to which we as individuals make only a vanishingly small contribution.

This blog, so unique to my own thoughts, is one of perhaps hundreds of millions of others, each as certain of its own individuality as my own.

Every human being has two souls, one a product of individual experience, and the other the product of the collective experience of the human species.

The collective soul is carried in two vessels: the DNA in which is encoded the blueprint for the species, and the culture, in which is encoded the collective actual experience of humanity.

As I’ve tried to say in an earlier post, what we call the “soul” is nothing other than the learning of the species. The soul lives in the genetic material.

But the learning of the species resides not only in the human body. Perhaps the greatest distinguishing feature of the human species is that we are the only animal that stores its learning outside of its own mortal body.

The soul of humanity in 2007 resides as much on the Internet as it does in the human genome.

What is DNA but the distilled experience of the human species? And what is the Internet but the memory of the human race?

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I’m just listening to a lecture series on Emerson, Thoreau, and the Transcendentalists that ties into the last post about Plato and the concept of forms.

I admire Emerson and Thoreau and the Unitarians in general, because for me they mark a stepping stone away from traditional Christianity in the direction of a more naturalistic interpretation of the world. A step in the direction of materialism, though they would vehemently deny it.

The Transcendentalists argue, as I gather from these lectures, that there is something that transcends nature and matter, but that spiritual force is to be found within nature itself. Influenced by eastern spiritualism, they denied a distance between humanity and God, and insisted that God is within us and around us in nature and can be experienced directly by man without need of an intermediary such as a priest or church.

From there it’s just a skip and hop and you’re saying that we and nature are God, pure and simple. This dangerous idea was rejected by mainstream religion of the day as Deism, the doctrine that we cannot know God, or even atheism, the notion that there is no supernatural God.

I’ll be arguing in this blog that what we call God is just code for natural phenomena, for a nexus of concepts and symbols referring to humanity and its relationship to the natural world.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Forms

Plato made some interesting arguments that still have life these many centuries later.

One of these was the notion that there are “forms” which exist on a more perfect plane. In his parable of the cave, Plato argued that we can see these forms only dimly, like shadows on the wall of a cave.

The world of matter was for Plato essentially corrupt and temporal, and therefore while it seems real to the unenlightened, it is less real than the forms, because while matter decays and dies, the forms live on.

To pick up on my point from the last post, again I think Plato here is recognizing something eternal in the soul of man – and that little something is not ethereal or immaterial, it is simply DNA. He writes of this or that horse which lives and dies, but never can be described as the perfect horse. Meanwhile, we have a concept of the form of a horse that allows us to recognize one when we see it.

What Plato, limited by the science of his day, could not see, is that the form of the horse, the blueprint for all horsiness if you like, is recorded in DNA and other genetic material. That record is not a mere concept, it is laid out in complex proteins and other real matter. What Plato meant by forms is DNA.

Another thought came to me the other day about Plato – he argued that not all knowledge can come from experience, because some knowledge is innate. To illustrate he tells a story of teaching an uneducated slave boy some geometry, which the boy immediately grasps. The conclusion is that if the knowledge of math were not innate, the boy could never learn it so quickly.

Plato is right – our brains are capable of learning and understanding math. But what he could not know is that this is so because of knowledge gained through experience. Not the experience of the individual, but the experience of all their ancestors, as recorded and encoded in DNA and other genetic material.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Soul

What is the soul?

In various religious traditions, the soul is referred to as the immortal essence, the spirit, the “higher self”. The soul is generally considered to be “immaterial”, meaning not made of matter but in some way supernatural, existing on a higher plane.

These religious interpretations of the concept of the soul can now be answered by science. The immortal essence of humanity is DNA, RNA, and other genetic material that achieves immortality by copying itself through successive generations.

The soul is therefore NOT immaterial. The ancients recognized that our bodies were just “envelopes for the soul”, but lacked the science to identify the substance of the soul itself. Their stories were naïve interpretations of a genuine natural phenomenon.

Part of what this blog wants to argue is that it is all too easy to dismiss the naïve interpretations of the ancients as ignorance, and to miss the deeper truths they tried to express.

Medieval paintings of winged souls departing the body for the great beyond may seem like pure fantasy, but they symbolized something of enormous importance for humanity. Even after our mortal remains have scattered to dust, there is a part of us that lives on - a part of us that is a record of our own experience, and a record of the uncounted generations before us who left us the legacy of their genetic material.

Mention made in the classics of the “World Soul”, or the “Soul of Humanity”, are inklings of an understanding that in vital ways we share our soul with our fellow human beings.

In fact, since all life is on a journey towards immortality, we share a soul not just with those creatures whose DNA is very close to our own. We share a soul with all species who use DNA to overcome time.

When the ancients write of “Spirit”, I think of that common spirit shared by all living things – the desire to persist through time and to overcome mortality and decay.

When current religious traditions speak of how the body is a mere envelope for the soul, and the soul is a mere envelope for the spirit, I understand what they are saying better than they do themselves. The body is just an envelope for DNA, and DNA is just an envelope for the mainspring of life – the desire to defeat and overcome time itself.

Monday, February 12, 2007


I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that matter “learns” how to survive by the simple means that behaviours that don’t serve survival through time do not persist.

But there can be no “learning” without memory, because there can be no knowledge without memory. There has to be a persistent record of experience to learn from.

In a sense, life itself is all about maintaining a record of experiences that result in persistence, that result in survival.

But where does that record reside? We know that human beings (indeed all forms of life, but let’s discuss human beings) keep a record of experience in various short-and long-term memory systems. But there are some human behaviours that are clearly not learned. A child will focus on its mother’s face from the moment its little eyes are capable of focusing. No one taught the child to stare at its mother, or to say “bababa”, or to suckle at the breast. These things are instinctual.

The idea that some forms of knowledge seem to be innate has confused philosophers from at least the time of Plato. Fortunately, science has solved it. Every living creature carries a record of the sorts of behaviours that work for its species in a longer-term “memory” system – DNA.

Experience is the fount of all knowledge. One of the arguments against this position has been that some knowledge appears to be innate. How can it therefore be founded on experience? An infant has no experience to draw upon!

The answer is that in DNA and other genetic material is recorded the experience of generations of living creatures, who passed on their knowledge to the new generations.

This innate, instinctual knowledge is a record of the sorts of behaviours that result in survival. Behaviours not only of the baby as a whole, but of its eyes, ears, and other organs, of its brain, of its digestive system, of the hair on its head, all of which through the millennia have served the survival of its kind.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Mortality and Immortality

Thus far I’ve made a few points that I think are commonly accepted in the scientific community:

Nature, the observable world, is composed of matter and energy.

Because matter is set in constant motion by energy, change is inevitable, and being itself a form of change, what we call “death” is inevitable.

Some forms of matter behave in ways that allow them to persist through time, by transmitting copies of themselves to new generations, so that when their carrier inevitably dies, they live on. Principle among these persistent forms of matter is the complex protein known as DNA.
What we call “life” is the mortal, temporal matter that carries the DNA; what has been called “the divine spark” or “life’s essence” is really DNA.

Based on just these few assumptions, which are more thoroughly and systematically argued in a thousand books than I can do here, we can draw some sweeping conclusions that have a profound impact on philosophy, religion, and the whole of human understanding.

It’s because these points have not been argued through to their logical conclusions, neither by myself nor others, that I started this blog.

Let’s look at one of the immediate implications – the above sheds some insight into the human conception of mortality and immortality.

From almost the dawn of human consciousness, we have struggled with our own mortality, and with concepts of immortality. All mythologies and religions have an immortality myth, a heaven, hell, limbo, paradise, Valhalla, or other physical location to which we will travel after leaving this mortal world. Many also have a notion of reincarnation, in which our spirit in one form or another goes on after death. Others believe in ghosts or other forms of the afterlife.

All of these beliefs are based in ignorance of modern scientific understanding, and of the existence of DNA and the role that it plays in carrying forward our life’s essence. But I believe that all of these are based on an intuitive understanding that some force like DNA exists. Our ancestor’s *knew*, they were dimly aware, that death does not end our existence, and that in some unknown form our existence continues and persists through time.

Scientists tend to ignore ancient beliefs, dismissing them as superstitions based on ignorance, which of course they are. What so many fail to recognize is that while these ancient beliefs were denied the benefits of science, they were in so many ways incredibly insightful about the operation of the physical world. The old myths managed to capture some deep truths through some very compelling metaphors and narratives, stories that even today much of the world finds more compelling than “science-talk”.

Joseph Campbell defines mythology as “other people’s religions”. In doing so he doesn’t distinguish between religion and mythology. Unfortunately, unlike Joseph Campbell, most of those who base their thinking on a scientific understanding of the world dump religion and mythology together into the dustbin of irrational belief. I think this is a mistake.

My goal in this blog is to develop arguments that reconcile the old world with the new, that map the mythology to the science, and that simultaneously celebrate the insights of the religions of the world while undermining the religions themselves.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


“Matter” is the substance of anything that has mass and is observable by our senses. Matter is composed of protons, neutrons, electrons, molecules, and so on - it is the material of which the physical world is formed.

Materialism is the position that the universe is composed of matter in various forms, and everything that happens is the result of the interaction of various forms of matter.

In my last post I made a fairly simple and uncontroversial point – that evolution is really a process of some forms of matter persisting through time and others perishing.

In its simplest forms, matter persists just because it is durable, by which I mean to say that it’s hard enough and tough enough to not be ground away by interaction with the rest of the material world.

Some forms of matter combine and interact in ways that help them to persist, and these forms are “rewarded” with a longer existence. All matter is in motion, however, and everything is inevitably broken down by time and rebuilt in new formations.

What we call “life” is when some forms of matter learn to overcome this inevitable decay, and indeed to overcome time itself, by reproducing before breaking down.

In order to reproduce itself, the pattern or form of a material entity must be recorded, and its blueprint must be passed on so that its offspring can reproduce itself in turn. Science has learned that the record of life is written on a complex protein called DNA.

Let’s look at this another way. Death is inevitable, and the path to immortality is through DNA.