The genes of all living things are made of DNA. And DNA is made of four chemicals, called A, T, C, and G. These days, scientists can read those 'letters' of DNA for any creature (including you and me). And they can make strands of DNA from jars of A, T, C, and G. In fact, scientists now have databases of thousands of different genes, written in letters, for functions like 'glow in the dark,' or 'metabolize glucose,' or any number of traits or talents.
All of this raises an interesting question: If the genetic 'recipe' for making any gene or creature is just a string of letters, then are genes just information, like software code? Are the talents or traits that come from genes like software programs that can be loaded into a living thing? Well, Richard Dawkins thinks so:
What has happened is that genetics has become a branch of information technology. It is pure information. It's digital information. It's precisely the kind of information that can be translated digit for digit, byte for byte, into any other kind of information and then translated back again. This is a major revolution. I suppose it's probably 'the' major revolution in the whole history of our understanding of ourselves.
This quote comes from a conversation between Richard Dawkins and Craig Venter, which you can check out on the website Edge.
In our upcoming show, (So-Called) Life, we play around with this idea, and Robert talks to Craig Venter about making new life from scratch. The show is already airing in some places and will be available for download in the next couple weeks.