What Is Your DNA Doing For You Right Now?

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD

Ever since its structure was unraveled in the early Fifties, DNA has been considered the mastermind of the cell. Sitting in splendid isolation in the cell’s nucleus, DNA encodes all of life. It sends duplicates of itself (RNA) to direct the manufacture of proteins; and proteins, as high-school biology teaches, are the building blocks of the cell. In terms of biological machinery. The genetic picture has gotten more and more sophisticated ever since.image1-5

But something doesn’t look quite right here. If every cell is a biological robot, and the entire body is made up of cells, then we must be biological robots too. This view, which a surprising number of geneticists believe in, cannot be true. It is a conclusion that the old model of DNA supported because that model was reductionist–that is, all complex processes can be explained by breaking them down into more basic processes. The whole approach is totally logical, but nobody can seriously claim that the works of Shakespeare and Mozart are explainable by protein manufacture. And in our daily lives we think thoughts and feel emotions, which proteins don’t, or cells for that matter.

As a result, genetics has been racing to catch up with human reality. On several fronts there has been progress, of a sort. So-called Systems Biology has emerged to examine how the body works as a dynamic, changing organism responding to input from the environment. In this way DNA stopped being so rigid and got into the game. On another front a field known as epigenetics began to study how everyday experience, including our lifestyle and memory, actually gets chemically imprinted on our genes. Again, DNA became more dynamic and responsive.

But while DNA was getting liberated, what was really happening? One could argue that the only thing changing was a scientific model. Reality wasn’t changing at all. Now it is dawning that DNA is fundamentally so mysterious, biology can’t even contain it, much less explain it. The crack in mainstream genetics came from the huge shock administered by the Human Genome Project, which discovered, to widespread dismay, that the complexity of human life came down to only 20,000 genes. This number was ridiculously small, about 20% of the previous guesstimate. To quote geneticist John Mattick, “that number is tiny. It’s effectively the same as a microscopic worm that has just 1,000 cells.”


Why Does Richard Dawkins Keep Doing Me Favors?

Photo Mar 31, 12 49 38 PMBy Deepak Chopra, MD

In a recent article on his website, Richard Dawkins spontaneously erupted, even though he and I haven’t had contact for many months. We debated once in Mexico City, and he erupted there, too. The ideas I put forth, such as the possibility that we live in a conscious universe, bring out the Scrooge in him.

Now he’s posted a real bah humbug: “Why Does Deepak Chopra Hate Me?” written by Steven Newton (Link: https://richarddawkins.net/2015/04/why-does-deepak-chopra-hate-me/)  It’s mostly an ad hominem fulmination without basis in fact. Dawkins pastes the tag “anti-evolutionist” on me even though he was part of an e-mail discussion for a while that included top geneticists and other scientists along with me, in which we discussed where evolutionary theory might be heading in the future.

Dawkins bowed out with a surly growl. He doesn’t keep up with the new genetics, and so one can understand why it infuriates him that someone like me, lacking his academic credentials, knows something about the subject–enough to be writing a new book, Super Genes, with Dr. Rudy E. Tanzi, one of the world’s leading researchers on Alzheimer’s. Dawkins, despite his scientific background and air of complete authority, has written zero books with any prominent researcher, geneticist, or anyone else who might bring him up to date on his own field.

I can only shrug at his latest polemic, which is filled with stray arrows shot in the dark. Actually, he’s done me a favor. By airing the ideas he finds preposterous, such as flaws in Darwinian theory, the conscious universe, and the ontological problem of whether the moon exists without an observer (he seems unaware that this “crackpot” idea was discussed between Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr on a famous occasion), Dawkins is pointing his readers to some of the most exciting theory that is sure to impact the future of science.

Sadly, mocking these ideas is the closest he will ever come to grasping them.


Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. He serves as the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. His latest book is The 13th Disciple: A Spiritual Adventure.


Big Idea 2014: You Will Transform Your Own Biology

This post is part of a series in which LinkedIn Influencers pick one big idea that will shape 2014. See all the ideas here.

By Deepak Chopra, MD and  Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.

To date, one of biology’s greatest achievements, mapping the human genome, is only just beginning to translate into medical advances. But in 2014 there will likely be more headlines about another type of study in genetics that is already impacting everyone. (more…)