Bored. Will marry that girl. Cool. Must get the job. Should cause envy. Next, I want a mansion. Should be at the heart of the city, Kowdiar. A car. Audi. Benz. Why not Rolls Royce? Will make my neighbors drool. Then prayer, penance and salvation. I laugh. Hey! I don’t say I laugh aloud. But then who makes that noise?
Take chances in our life. I brag. Be assertive in life. Be Positive. Aren’t we at the pinnacle of all life forms? Man. No, that is not enough. MAN. See, it sounds great. We walk on two, yes, we are bipeds. No, no, no. Apes are different. They are nowhere near the pinnacle. Apes can’t get as cynical about other animals like us. You should see our smirk. What is that noise?
Luckily we don’t hear their pesky giggles. We are too absorbed in our own puffed up image, our inflated world and the noises we make.
They lived low until Crick and Watson built them into a double helix. Soon we learned that genes are potential scapegoats. We anointed the poor little threads as fathers to hundreds of inexplicable diseases, mental states, behaviors and problems that haunted the frustrated scientists. “It is in the gene,” the shrinks explained away the traits which the textbook missed. Genes were the rugs under which the experts swept aside all the dirt and difficult questions laymen asked.
Everything that the scientist couldn’t put his finger on was squarely put on the shoulders of genes.
Next we learned that genes are to be tinkered with.
The process is simple and it begins with gene mapping. Stage 2. With the right codes you turn the lock gently. Open Sesame. A miraculous world within the gene opens before you. You see tiny knobs inside, ready for your fingers to tweak. Stage 3. Turn the right ones to snip away bad bugs and to extend your lifetime.
How simple, how heavenly, how blessed life would be if genes work in those lines!
But then God said, ironically (Dawkins lashed out against God), let Dawkins come.
Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist with his monumental 1976 book, ‘The Selfish Gene’ came into the scene. Quoting a few scientists and shocking the rest, he topples the beautiful world, where man plays master over genes, upside down.
Dawkins declared we are only humble servants to the genes in our body, the meek indeed inherit the earth. Organisms do not use genes to reproduce. Rather, it is the genes who demand organisms to replicate so that they can bungee-jump from one generation to the next.
All the evolutionary changes, including mutations are not for the fittest in us to survive. On the other hand it is the genes who secure their future through those funny little games they play us into.
We die. But genes are functionally immortal, at least as long as they can live in another body. “They do this by building survival machines,” says Dawkins.
Dawkins has amoeba, roses, tigers, you and I in his mind when he says ‘survival machines’. Take our case. We fuss a lot in life, talk aloud, think creative, plan big, protest, disagree, fly off the handle, get irritated, hate even while we mutely ferry genes from one generation to the next.
It is the genes who instruct cells to produce adrenaline to run away from predators, insulin to aid metabolism, dopamine to run the brain. All for their survival. (Hence the name of his book – The selfish gene). Once we, their careers, pass them on to the children, our role in their scheme of things is functionally over.
“From a gene’s perspective, there is no point in building survival machines that last a lot longer than their purpose, which is to live long enough to breed and raise the young,” Dawkins says.
Pretty soon the genes give instructions to shut down the engines one by one in the cellular level. They have long pulled the vehicle to the highwayside, now they are switching it off. You grow old and die one night.
Now listen if you can. Between the sobs of your daughter you can hear the genes giggle. The genes which once gave you the feeling they were just a small part of you. The genes which were once part of your father, forefathers and even the first man on earth. They have travelled a bit, but not worn out. Now eager to get your daughter married so that they can hire the next vessel and continue with their odyssey.
They leave us behind, trample over our dreams.
Listen. They march above us on the sunny side of our tombs. All we can hear is the giggle of the selfish gene. We rot.
Earlier articles in Sane Ravings