Something momentous has happened. It should have been shouted in large black type across the front page of the New York Times and other news media around the world. It wasn't. It was simply posted in the aggregation of a news cycle and dust-binned into the morass of search engine indexes.
It's about us. It's about our essence.
DNA is the four "letter" structure that is the current Constant of life as we know it, as the soon-to-be-surpassed speed of light is the current Constant in the physical universe as we know it. Now we, they, scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have discovered a means, a mechanism to expand that structure and to alter it at will.
Hear me: This is the most important, most momentous discovery of our new century, or the 20th century, or all of our history for that matter — to be superseded only when we make "first contact" with other beings in our galaxy or beyond. Everything will change!
You smile at that grandiose statement and shake your head. I know you have a tendency to let your eyes glaze over whenever you confront another answer to the question "Why?". Don't. Just read on. Here is an edited digest of the announcement that appeared in the June 3, 2012 issue of Nature Chemical Biology:
"La Jolla, CA — A new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute suggests that the replication process for DNA—the genetic instructions for living organisms—is more open to unnatural letters than had previously been thought.
The new study solves the mystery of how a previously identified pair of artificial DNA bases can go through the DNA replication process almost as efficiently as the four natural bases.
The scientists studied two artificial DNA letters, and found they use a previously unknown property of the DNA replication machinery to be copied. This explains findings of earlier research and provides a firm basis for expanding the vast information-carrying capacities of DNA.
DNA provides the most versatile information storage mechanism yet known. It carries the code of heredity found in all life. Scientists have even used DNA to create computers capable of handling astronomical numbers, and to store vast amounts of information.
Any advance in adapting DNA's mechanism to human uses could vastly expand these possibilities, including the efficient creation of molecules that life doesn't naturally produce. The study indicates that Evolution's choice of the existing four-letter DNA alphabet—on this planet—may have been somewhat arbitrary. It seems that life could have been based on many other genetic systems.
An expanded "DNA alphabet" could carry more information than natural DNA, potentially coding for a much wider range of molecules and enabling a variety of powerful applications and useful new life forms."
What does this mean? It's very straight forward. Take a deep breath and read it again. It means that the irrevocable chain of identity of who and what we are and why... is about to be revoked.
As you reach for your robe of "faith", as you wrap yourself in your scarves of "moral values", as you implore your "gods", your "God", consider: All of this was manufactured in desperation by you and your ancestors to combat the great lonely fear of beginning alone and ending alone... of death. Now, everything will change.
Huxley saw it, and so did Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke and Gerard K. O'Neill. Eugenically speaking, you will become obsolete and forgotten. And your descendants will become obsolete and forgotten. And then there will be no descendants. It makes you afraid, doesn't it, to give up the drug, your fear of futility... that drug with its overpowering addiction that allowed your ancestors and you to survive. Now, everything will change.
Will your uniqueness be lost? No. But the moon that circles this planet is also unique and so are all the structures in the universe. All that will be lost is the fear. What is coming to take you home is not the darkness of "heaven", it is the expanding light of your own evolution.
Something has happened. Think about it.