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Information, DNA, and Wisdom

Information, DNA, and Wisdom 150 150 Nicole

Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.

T.S. Eliot

In the beginning was the Word. Logos. Logos means word, but it also means reason. There is reason in the word spoken. It is whispered, enunciated in fragrant caresses. It is meant to communicate supreme Love, to build up, to create—not to destroy.

Yet what have we done with words and information? What do we accomplish with the corpus of data—so vast that new words are regularly introduced into the vernacular to describe its voracity (e.g., google)? Does more information make better people? Does amassed data breed greater intelligence? James Gleick in, The Information, muses: “A barrage of data so often fails to tell us what we need to know. Knowledge, in turn, does not guarantee enlightenment or wisdom. (Eliot said that, too: ‘Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?/Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’)”

Consider the smallest known conduit of data, the genome. Again, Gleick observes: “Information had never been writ so small. Here is scripture at angstrom scale, published where no one can see, the Book of Life in the eye of a needle.” Though the biological cluster of DNA dies with the individual, “copies of the gene live on. The process is blind. It has no foresight, no intention, no knowledge. The genes, too, are blind: ‘They do not plan ahead,’ says Dawkins. ‘Genes just are, some genes more so than other, and that is all there is to it.’” Is it some accidental fluke of evolution as Dawkins also suggests? Hardly. “The replicator is an information carrier. It survives and spreads by copying itself….replicators could exist long before DNA, even before proteins…a ‘primordial soup.’”

Copying itself. Recent discussions have emerged concerning the veracity of the Adam and Eve narrative. Some speculate that if one challenges the literal account, one must discard Jesus’ lineage, even the claim that humankind was created in God’s image. This conclusion is not inevitable. The condition under which DNA is formed and thrives is too fantastical to be arbitrary. Too, a fundamental feature is not considered in such a discussion: Spirit. God breathes. While scientists discover and describe remarkable, fascinating phenomenon, mystery remains. One cannot deny (though, I concede that a few insist otherwise) that there is more-than. An aspect persists that is something more than the collection of atoms and strands of DNA. And, when God chooses to breathe life into a person, it matters not whether that being is something more evolved, or ready-made. Human life is life indeed. All the information in the entire universe and beyond cannot contain the mystery a kiss, of relationship, of love, of hearts broken and healed. Replicating DNA does not produce enlightenment, the wisdom to discern between right-ness, just-ness, and oppression. And, the genome cannot determine whether one will be moved to act, to make things right in a world in which others are oppressed, and in which I have the ability to do something about it. Not only that—if my genome is created through the essence of Jesus’ DNA, along with God’s breath—the Spirit—I have all power to do so. An accident? Hardly. Information? More-than.

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  • Right on! Mystery of mystery, life, love, each other…

  • I love your thoughts and the great way you articulate them! You should publish!

  • Aunt Nancy, thank you. I cannot express enough how much your comments encourage me. I've not had the most resounding success with publishing–and, give up too quickly….

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About the author


Nicole Oliver Snyder’s expertise lies in the areas of leadership, gender issues, and mindfulness practice as it affects both. Leadership, particularly in an urban setting, requires community-relations skills, and an ability to clearly convey justice issues as they relate to felt, spiritual ones. Dr. Snyder is author of Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone, and specializes in teaching mindfulness leadership development, formative spirituality, counseling, and Old Testament theology (emphasis on justice issues). She has a diverse background in international community-relations work combined with volunteer work in multi-ethnic communities, and with local institutions. She is an ordained Clergy; holds a BS in Human Development and Family Studies, w/Education Certificate, an MA-Counseling, MDiv Equiv., holds a Doctor of Ministry and Advanced Certification in Formative Spiritual Direction, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (CO, MI).

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