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A REPORT TO THE ACADEMY: HOMAGE TO FRANZ KAFKA PHIUP SIEKEVITZ* Dear Fellow Members: The question is: If God made DNA, who made God? Now this question is not so easily answerable as it may at first appear to be. It is a matter of definition; for while we have been defining God for thousands of years, practically every society and every civilization having had a go at it, only now are we beginning to define DNA. Thus, we almost certainly know at the present time all that we can ever know about God, but we know right now only a little of what we can know about DNA. For example, let us put the question in another way: If God had a conception of DNA, who or what had a conception of God? Now of course, we conceived of God, and we did it in a great many ways—intellectual, marvelous, and fantastic. Having conceived of God, we know how he might have conceived, if he ever did, of DNA; but we are not certain, for we are not certain at this time about DNA. Thus, no matter how we put the question, the definitive answer will only arise when we learn all that there is to be learned about DNA. And that, fellow members, leads to the request I put to you, to answer the final question: Did DNA make God? or put in another way, is there a conception of God in DNA? Now in order to answer this question we needs must have a scientific mode of attack, a plan which, upon being carried out, will give us the answer. Being good academicians we mustjot down our basis of knowledge about DNA, and from there go on to devise experiments whose results will give us our answer. And what form will the answer take? Naturally it will give a "yes" or "no" to the following questions: Do we see the structure of God in the structure of DNA; or do we see the potentiality of godhood in the potentiality of DNA; or do we observe an aspect, even one aspect, of God in any of the various aspects of DNA? Well, what do we know about DNA? It is two strings, each of which is composed of four different deoxyribonucleotides arranged in many»Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, New York 10021. O 1979 by The University of Chicago. 0031-5982/79/2203-0069$01.00 Perspectives in Biology and Medicine ¦ Spring 1979 | 361 ways. These two strings form a double helix about each other, bound together by specific hydrogen bonding between the various deoxyribonucleotides , so that the purine and pyrimidine bases are on the inside of the helix and the phosphate groups extend to the exterior. Attached to the DNA double helix, at various points, are the basic !listone proteins and the acidic nonhistone proteins. During function, the DNA strings unwind, and either a copy of the sequence of the deoxyribonucleotides is made if the enzyme making the copy is the DNA replicase, or else a complementary copy of ribonucleotide sequences is made ifthe enzyme making the transcription is the RNA polymerase. No need to delve into the function of the other enzymes involved, such as the DNA "clippase" or the DNA "ligase," or the unwinding enzyme, or the probable other factors involved in DNA replication. But it is important to mention that DNA is not self-replicating; it needs to be in a functioning organism, a body which will contain all the enzymes and factors, in order to be reproduced; an appreciable analogy is that the soul needs a body in order to be perceived as a soul. At present we are beginning to learn the sequences ofdeoxyribonucleotides in DNA— and indeed the sequence for a few short DNAs which function as a code for certain specific proteins is already known. So this is the important point about DNA, that it acts as a code for the cell to synthesize the specific proteins which make up the body and the functioning of the cell, and among these proteins are the very enzymes necessary for the replication of DNA, for the further production of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 361-365
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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