Every human body is irrevocably a blueprint, a copy of which is hidden in every cell. Everything we perceive in and on the body, every extension, every digit and organ, has a blueprint, coded and refined through billions of years of accumulated changes. What we perceive as a finger is just the result of proteins forming and reacting early in our infancy. The shape and feeling of our beating heart is those proteins working in tandem with another organ, generating bursts of electricity, keeping us alive.
So what are we as humans? Every human being has the same potential, some parts of the code that defines us varies from person to person, creating such vagarities of perception as skin or eye colour, some changes are unnoticed, resting, neutral and benign, until more changes accumulate, and other changes are seen by the world as being abnormal. Some of these abnormalities are relatively minute, such as more than five fingers, others manifest as cognitive or other errors that negatively impact the body, and some errors are so large, the fertilized egg cell kills itself, in what is an illusion of self-selection. Still other errors lie in wait until age creeps in, racking the body in examples such as Lou Gehrigs disease or Muscular Dystrophy.
It is this core blueprint that defines us as humans, but yet, we share, at the very least some of, this blueprint, this nearly endless string of G’s and A’s. We as humans can look at other organisms, and based on our similarities to them, we can say, “we shared an ancestor with this organism, many million years ago.” It is this code that, while it defines us, also unites us. The most crucial segment of this code is the one that dictates development in all fetuses, aligning the thorax, the head, and other body parts, a code that is nearly universal across every organism.
How? How could this code remain so similar, despite billions of years working to alter it? How can a series of acids and sugars dictate life, how can this segment be the same?
The answer is simple, what survives is what works. This particular segment of code is nearly universal across organisms, and remains so sensitive to change that a simple error, a single flip of an C with a T, is enough to cause enough damage to the forming blastocyte that it destroys itself rather than carry on with the damage.
Other organisms are not as sensitive as we humans are to alterations in this crucial code. Fruit flies, through carefully induced mutations, have grown legs where their antennae should have been, or have been coerced into sprouting wings and legs out of the abdomen, rather than the naturally selected thorax.
The reasons why this mutation would fail to remain in the gene pool are obvious, a fly with legs instead of antennae would die, a fly with two sets of wings could not maintain level flight, nor could a missing eye recognize the world around it.
This alarming sensitivity to genetic changes is simultaneously the greatest strength and the most horrifying weakness of life. Such a small change, a substitution of one base, has the power to eradicate a life, but it also can dictate a small change, perhaps turn the heart 90 degrees, allowing for a bit more space for the lungs, increasing how long that organism can survive.
This weakness in sameness has been overcome by diversification, organisms finding a niche, and the expected filling in of such. By this procedure, over the almost unfathomable period of time life has existed, the sheer diversification almost ensues that whatever pandemic occurs, whatever bio- or ecological holocaust occurs, some life will survive, because no organism or event is fully capable of wiping out every organism on this planet.
It is captivating to observe a body in its own context, recognizing that the entire body is a delicate lattice of organs, striving to keep one organ alive above all others. The brain, sitting in almost the same place in all but a few organisms dictates life, regulating, without any credit from the body it serves and controls, the beating of the heart and the digestion in the stomach. This intricate and delicate lattice, so easily shattered, is also remarkably adaptive. Patients who have had a portion of their brain removed have adapted to an immense change, the side of the brain adapting to serve a function it was not meant to do.
There are still limits the body has. It is ironic to note that genetically simpler organisms are more capable of regrowing a lost limb than the more complicated organisms. The removal of a tail bud from a tadpole simply sees it grow back, while the amputation of even a fingernail results in a permanent loss for our much more complex structure.
It is still the shattering of the lattice, the ability of the body to defy its own blueprint, is perhaps the greatest feature of the sequence. Time, sheer and beautiful time, combined with a machine to drive selection, even one that is not directly tangible, has produced a wonder of itself, seen in everything that breathes, in whichever way it does so, observed in every heart that beats, every root cell that pulls nutrients from the soil, or every bacteria on the planet. It is nature seeming to defy itself that proves, in the end, that it is the master of its own selection.