A sneak peek into the history of life and humanity. In other words, how did we get there?
Earth Kick off.
Four and a half billion years ago, our beloved planet was formed within the solar system.
Three and a half billion years ago, the DNA molecule appeared. Until then, the new molecular assemblies have not stood the test of time. For the first time, a molecule manages, thanks to its double helix ladder structure, to duplicate itself, and to reproduce identically, that is to “clone” itself. In doing so, the reactions between DNA and the structures that surround it allow the sets newly created to reproduce in turn.
This phenomenon certainly results in a multiplication of species, which is cool, but without great diversity! Indeed, only copying errors, called “mutations”, offer novelty. Yet they are rare. Our dear Albert Jacquard, to whom I owe and dedicate these lines, offers us a magic formula of accuracy and poetry “a world where reproduction leads, is a boring world“.
Fortunately, Mother Nature has more than one trick up her sleeve and, about a billion years ago, a completely different method of transmitting information appeared, procreation, which allows two beings to join forces to produce a third one. The “one produces two” of reproduction is succeeded by the “two produce one” of procreation.
Uniformity of reproduction is followed by a world in which chance is king and imagination is queen, a world, to use Jacquard’s formula “where one goes from surprise to surprise”.
What is extraordinary is just as ordinary, so to speak, because this proliferation, this richness of diversity did not come at the expense of our deep unity, these two facets of our being have been added to one another. Another “AND”! We are therefore all different and rich in this difference through procreation, and we are all the same and rich in our unity through our genetic code, identical for all living beings: bacteria, swallows, primates, and ourselves: no??? yes!!!
The naked monkey.
A book my father offered me, and I have never read, but whose title amused my childhood. Maybe the essential lies in the title. We are, essentially, monkeys! Let those most fragile or hostile among us rest assured, our genealogical branches separated a few million years ago (ten for the gorilla and five for the chimpanzee).
Genes, reasons for humility.
In the list of richness in genes, our position is very modest and invites us to humility. The other living species are laughing! Gene is the defined unit located on a chromosome, through which a hereditary character, called genetic or genic character, is transmitted. DNA is the building block of genes.
Neurons, reasons for pride.
In the list of central nervous system content, our position is much more enviable! Our brain has around a hundred billion cells, called neurons, fifteen to twenty times more than in chimpanzees. Not too bad is not it?
However, to house all these neurons, you need a big brain, and therefore a big skull. But the mother’s pelvis being what it is, relatively small in comparison, nature has had to adapt. How? By making us premature, born “unfinished”, with brains four times smaller the size of our teens’ brain.
Hence the need for humans to take care of their young for infinitely longer than most other species, which fostered the forging of a first-rate family set of bonds.
As the brain continues to grow in the open air, it is fascinating to realize that this completion consists above all in a dizzying multiplication of the connections between neurons, the synapses, at the rate of two million synapses every second from the embryo, which has only a few tens of thousands and during childhood, to reach a million billion connections in adulthood!
Between nature and discovery.
There are two potential sources for this titanic work: our genetic endowment, gathered at the time of our conception, and the information provided by our environment. We have seen that the first was relatively poor, so we deduce that genetic information can only intervene for a tiny proportion of the millions of billions of decisions to be made to set up our brain system.
By extrapolation, one understands how the importance of environment, experience and learning will prevail in life over that of the innate, in other words, how life matters! This is how Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, his mentor, became basketball aliens. Not by a supernatural endowment at birth, but by dint of work, perseverance, and self-sacrifice, call it a “mission”. Ditto Djoko and Nadal. Same as Gandhi and Mandela. Not all of these were born heroes, they became heroes, they committed to live an extraordinary life.
To be, is to become.