DNA and the Cycle of Life, Part Two

18 May

From www.mcgeepost.com .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

In Part One of this series we followed the life-cycle of a simple insect, the Luna Moth, through one complete cycle, paying attention to the details of the process. We demonstrated the role of DNA and the genome in the replication of each stage in the life of the moth. This Part Two will make a lot more sense if you take the time to read Part One before going further.

Where in the life-cycle of the Luna Moth is death? It’s going to be hard to wrap your head around the answer to this question. The common answer is that the adult moth dies. The scientific explanation defies the normal logic of life and death, beginning and end. Here we’re going to analyze the meaning of the simple story of the moth; then move on to more complex matters you need to know about.

Each cell of the moth contains DNA in its nucleus. For each moth the DNA, the genome, is identical in each cell of that particular moth. This genome contains a full set of chromosomes, which are all the building instructions and inheritable traits of an organism. This genome is alive and a part of the tissue of the moth. Indeed, it carries in its living tissue the very definition of the moth, and the full living memory of how to conduct each of the stages in the life-cycle of the moth. (Reference: My earlier blog “DNA and Memory.”)

If the double helix DNA strand ceases to live for even a moment it will fall silent, and will not retain the memory of how to build any part of the moth’s structure. So when you squeeze a caterpillar until the green goop splatters, or squash moth eggs under your foot, the DNA in the structure is actually dead, and cannot any longer participate in the life-cycle.

Yet the life-cycle of the Luna Moth goes on, creature after creature and year after year. Most of us look at life and death as the beginning and the end. The egg hatches, and after several stages produces an adult moth, which dies. Yet when we scientifically examine in detail the various stages of the moth’s life, we can come to only one conclusion. There is a part of the moth that does not ever die: its living genome.

When philosophers look at life after death they tend to exclusively look at the death of the adult organism, and opine whether there is any physical or spiritual continuity after the death of the adult. They’ve been looking for life in all the wrong places.

A scientist must consider visible and provable facts as the standard for determining the correctness of observations of any physical process. Up to now scientists have been in denial about the continuity of life, ignoring what is right under their noses. The stages in the life of the Luna Moth are factual, clear, and observable, and no scientist can disagree that these stages are exactly as I have described them. Even better, these stages are simple in the moth, and therefore easy to analyze if you are looking at them without any preconceived notions.

The earlier posed question was: where in the life-cycle of the Luna Moth is death? The proper scientific answer is: nowhere. The life-cycle of this moth is continuous, and life never ends as we go from generation to generation. Death is only a by-product; irrelevant, one might say, from the point of view of the genome. The genome never dies.

Of course some moths do not mate before they die, and caterpillars and eggs and pupae are squashed and otherwise die. For all these who do not complete the life-cycle, death is the end and they have no further existence. There are thus many who die without continuity; yet many more do complete the life-cycle and carry on the unending cycle of life for generations to come.

So we see the eggs, the larvae, the pupae, and finally the adult moth. So the adult moth engages in “adult behavior” of a sexual nature. During mating the living DNA in the sperm from the male is ejected from its phallus across an open space into the body of the female, where it enters her genital chamber. For the moth the open space may be only a millimeter or so, yet the sperm, laden with living DNA, is definitely outside the physical structure of either moth.

Thus the only time in the life cycle of the moth when the living DNA crosses an open space outside the body is during mating. The sperm then sits in this open space, inside the female genital chamber, until the eggs, containing the living DNA of the female, are laid by the female.

“The eggs do not become fertile at the time of copulation. The eggs get fertilized as they pass through a mix of male sperm, seminal fluids and ‘glue’, stored in the female’s body. This immersion/fertilization takes place as the female expels/deposits the eggs.” http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/Actiaslunarearing.htm .  (This site contains a wealth of detailed information about the Luna Moth.)

Each sperm is a single cell, yet it is alive in every scientific sense of the word. The DNA genome it carries contains memory or information identical to that of every other genome in the body of the male moth. Each egg is a single cell which is equally alive. It contains within itself memory or information identical to that of every other genome in the body of the female moth.

Thus it is clear that the life of a Luna Moth is unending (unless interrupted by outside factors such as a dear reader squeezing a caterpillar until green goop flies everywhere). The place where the unending continuation of life occurs is in the passage of living sperm across an open space during reproduction, to join together with the living eggs.

It may even be said that the death of the adult moth following mating is irrelevant to the carrying on of the unending (not quite eternal yet close) life of the insect species known as the Luna Moth, actias luna. The cycle of life is complete and ongoing, without the intrusion of death, when one examines the reproductive act rather than focusing on the fate of the adult moth.

This showy yet commonplace six-legged insect has been gifted by nature with unending life. One could almost call it immortality, yet such an appellation would be an exaggeration. It is most likely that the life which is present in each phase of every Luna Moth is hundreds or thousands of years old, and will continue unabated through another hundreds or thousands of years into the future. It’s rather remarkable that Nature would give such an unlikely creature such a long unending life-span. Yet there you have it.

There is no death for these insects, the ones who make it through their entire life-cycle. The living DNA which is passed on during reproduction contains all the memories and instructions to guide the insect through its next rather identical series of changes from egg to adult moth. The cycle of life for these creatures is continuous and unending, according to accurate scientific observation.

There are hundreds of thousands of different insects and other crawling and buzzing creatures whose life-cycle is marked by sexual reproduction and unending life. The defining moment for each is the movement of a living DNA genome across an open space to meet with another living DNA genome. There is always an open space to be traversed. Life persists and continues unabated across the open spaces.

There is no death for any of these lowly creatures, except when they get stepped on or lose their habitat or are unable to breed.

In the next essay we will take you to places you probably didn’t think you could go. Stay tuned!

One Response to “DNA and the Cycle of Life, Part Two”

  1. Tracie October 6, 2014 at 12:28 am #

    This is my first time pay a quick visit at here and i am really happy to read all at
    one place.

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