Condition is serious and I need your help
If we don’t pay attention,
we are poised to make
with our technology.
I need your help.
I’ve never made a request like this before,
but this is bigger than me.
It’s bigger than any of us.
And the problem is:
Nobody is talking about it.
In this letter I’m going to ask you for a charitable contribution. This is my life work and I need your assistance. If you want to “cut to the chase,” the real ‘ask’ starts here. HOWEVER, be warned that what I’m sharing with you today WILL soon affect every man, woman and child on this planet. Your children and grandchildren. And those unborn. This admittedly very long letter may be the most important thing you read this year. This is more important than even your business or your money. This isn’t just your life. This is life itself. I suggest you read every word.
The other day I was talking to a Planet Perry member who works in bitoootech. He said to me:
“In the software world, developers tell you things will be ready in 6 months when they know things won’t be ready for at least a year.
“But in the biotech world, developers tell you that they “think” something will be possible six to nine months from now, when they actually finished their work in the lab three months ago.”
Stick with me, because in another page or two I’m going to tell you stuff that will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.
Right at this moment, reporters are obsessing about Facebook and privacy… while simultaneously walking around with internet connected, supercomputer-powered microphones in their pockets and installing Alexa listening devices in their kitchens.
Every time some politician expresses “concern” about privacy, you should ask when and where they are gathering data about what you buy, what you say, what you like and what you think.
But… “privacy” (and the fact that it ceased to exist 20 years ago) is nothing compared to the tumultuous developments that are racing ahead in biotech RIGHT NOW. Because today we have:
Teenagers in 1998 built their own websites. Teenagers in 2018 can build their own Frankensteins!
Through a HOT HOT HOT new technology called CRISPR,
we can edit genes as easily as
Find and Replace in Microsoft Word.
We are plunging madly where angels fear to tread.
This technology is called CRISPR. It is a new method that literally does make editing genomes almost as easy as adding pictures to a blog post. If you search Google News for “CRISPR” you will find thousands of articles about a technology co-opted from bacteria’s built-in machinery for killing viruses. We are harnessing that machinery to precision-edit DNA.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are pouring into CRISPR research and CRISPR startup companies. A patent fight rages right now between a team from Harvard, led by George Church (more about George later) and a team from Berkeley, led by Jennifer Doudna.
CRISPR holds the promise of eliminating diseases like cystic fibrosis with a simple gene repair. It also hints at potential to re-engineer plants, animals and humans entirely. It offers us weapons to fight cancer and disease that we could have barely dreamed of just a few years ago.
It also puts the very blueprints for life itself in the hands of anyone who can order a $169 gene editing kit on Amazon.
A research scientist told me this true story:
One of my colleagues created a new type of protein — based upon his research on prions (you know, the little buggers that lead to spongiform encephalitis)… anyway… my colleague was able to get his work published in a high reputation journal — and the work was awesome… but… because the newly designed protein did not interact normally with other proteins found in nature — they didn’t do the research in a high level biosafety lab…
It’s a great set up for a sci-fi story… if only it wasn’t true.
My first thought was… the hubris of mankind is unbelievable.
Just think… this kind of research could be happening in someone’s garage somewhere, as article was published quite a few years ago…
What happens if one of those prions gets “out”? What’s spongiform encephalitis? Here you go…
Mankind can accidentally create new diseases never before imagined. Why? Because you can buy a CRISPR gene editing kit for $169 and start editing genes in your basement!
Here’s a Google search for “cheap CRISPR gene editing kit”:
Here’s a $169.99 CRISPR gene editing kit on Amazon:
Not only are CRISPR kits cheap; but inside the industry, biotech firms are performing CRISPR gene mods FREE for scientists, just for lead generation! Nobody’s making prions with this $169 kit… but the it’s easy enough for scientists… especially the ones who know just enough to be dangerous.
Newer methods are superior to CRISPR. Here’s a photo of an email a scientist friend of mine received – he included it in his power point presentation at a science conference:
Free lead generation offer with genome engineering. (Sure beats a free report or white paper!)
Gene editing is everywhere. If you visit the biology department in any university, 20-year old undergrads and grad students are busily performing gene-editing experiments on bacteria, yeast and everything else you can imagine.
A woman who manages over a billion dollars of biotech investments told me just the other day that people would freak if they knew how advanced some experimentation is around the world – including genetically enhanced superhumans.
(Remember that, at the end of the day, the military has unencumbered access to any technology that exists anywhere… so just let your imagination roam free for a while.) Now you might assume at this point that I’m about to rail against this. And lobby to ban this or whatever. That would only scratches at the surface of the problem because it’s not the root problem. I’m not interested in the surface-level problems. I’m interested in the REAL problems. Nobody’s talking about the real problem. What’s the real problem? I quote Jennifer Doudna, from her bestselling 2017 book “A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution.” She says this in the introduction:
The biological world is also undergoing profound, human-induced changes. For billions of years, life progressed according to Darwin’s theory of evolution: organisms developed through a series of random genetic variations, some of which conferred advantages in survival, competition, and reproduction. Up to now, our species too has been shaped by this process; indeed, until recently we were largely at its mercy. When agriculture emerged ten thousand years ago, humans began biasing evolution through the selective breeding of plants and animals, but the starting material—the random DNA mutations constituting the available genetic variations—was still generated spontaneously and randomly. …scientists can now manipulate and rationally modify the genetic code that defines every species on the planet, including our own… an organism’s entire DNA content, including all of its genes – has become almost as editable as a simple piece of text.
OK… what’s the problem with this?
The problem is that she’s wrong! None of the highlighted parts are correct.
I don’t just suspect the highlighted parts are wrong.
I know that I know the highlighted parts are wrong.
How do I know? I need to take you back to 2004 and tell you my 14-year journey. A journey that is converging with marketing, entrepreneurship, investment capital, philosophy and religion, science, and technology in 2018.
My Journey to the Edge of the Abyss
WHERE WE COME FROM informs your entire worldview, your picture of humanity, your sense of purpose in the world, and your identity. It colors everything you do in your whole entire life.
If a search for truth is part of your life, you can’t not care about this.
It also determines how we will apply dangerous CRISPR technology.
QUESTION: Is life a happy chemical accident? Or is life purposeful?
Are we just a blind result of billiard balls banging around in the universe? Or is there some kind of plan?
Are humans just sophisticated slime? Or are we more than that?
This very question shook me to the core in 2004. I need to tell you the story of my search for an answer.
My younger brother Bryan, who is one of the smartest people I know and now also the president of my company, had gotten a Master’s Degree in seminary. Trained to be a pastor. We’re both pastor’s kids. He had moved to China, where he was teaching English and doing missionary work on the side.
He was there for four years, and during the space of that four years he went from being more conservative than me, kind of a right-wing Christian guy, to almost an atheist.
We’re very close and he would email me stacks of hard questions.
Now, I’d had a lot of conversations about such things, and I thought I knew a lot of stuff. But you have not had a theological argument until you’ve had it with a guy who knows Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and has spent four years of his life rummaging through the back alleys of the Old Testament. Bryan had a truckload of questions and I was drowning.
I went to visit him in China. We’re in this bus on a trip in the foothills of the Himalayas, and we’re arguing again.
This is argument #237 at this point, and I’m just finding myself retreating to what I know best, which is science.
I said, “Bryan, look at the hand at the end of your arm. This is a fine, fine piece of engineering, and I’ve been doing engineering for a long time.” I said, “You don’t think this is a result of a random series of accumulated accidents, do you?” and he’s like, “Hold on, buddy, hold on,” and he pushes back with the classic neo-Darwinian explanation.
He says, “Listen Perry, let’s say there’s a billion falcons flying around for millions and millions of years. Every now and then there’s going to be copying error in the DNA, and every now and then the copying error is going to be better, not worse. It can see better, hunt better, then it outlasts the other falcons, and the falcons get better and better and better. No designer necessary.”
His explanation seemed a little ‘off.’ I wasn’t sure if I believed it or not. But without even going any further in the argument, I knew a few things.
- I knew most biologists would probably more agree with him than me.
- The other thing I’d learned, from getting an electrical engineering degree, is there are a lot of things in science that are very counter-intuitive.
I thought, “Maybe you don’t need to design things. Maybe things really do just get better and better… but I’m going to find out.”
So… do the biologists know something the engineers don’t know? Do the engineers know something the biologists don’t know?
I have an obsessive personality. Most entrepreneurs do. “Man, I’m digging into this.”
I went home. As soon as I landed, I’m buying books on Amazon, I’m visiting websites, Amazon stock is probably going up just from my book buying binge, I am really into this and I am feeling very lost.
“Wow, I thought fields and waves were complicated, but this is hideous. Is there any way I can even touch the bottom of the swimming pool? Where do you start with this stuff?”
I just plunged in. I was looking for something that I could grab onto, so I could start with some kind of basic principle and I can work my way from there.
If Bryan is really right, that falcons can have DNA copying errors and their eyes will get better. Automatically… with no agency or intervention… if that’s really true I want to know how that works. Because if we can get something going like that in engineering, man, that would be really valuable.
I was on a serious hunt. I knew what it would feel like if I found it… I just didn’t know what it was.
What I decided was: “I’m going to start going and collecting pieces of information, and I’m going to sort of put them on the proverbial anvil. And start pounding. I’m going to ignore no verifiable fact. If I can verify it’s true, it’s going on the chopping block, whether I know what to do with it or not. This might turn me into an atheist. I don’t know.”
The idea terrified me. I thought, “Things in my life seem to be working okay. But Bryan and I may go to Thanksgiving dinner next fall and we could be the atheists in the room and everybody could pray to their invisible Sky-Daddy and not realize it’s just paint on the ceiling, and there really is nothing else up there.
And we would be so much smarter than them. Maybe this is going to take me there, or maybe it’s going to take me somewhere else. I don’t know.”
Our bickering on the bus was fierce. At one point in our argument that day in China, Bryan’s anger really began to spew. It was like looking into a fireplace and seeing orange-yellow-hot embers burning at the bottom, knowing those embers could engulf a marshmallow in flames in three seconds.
The flames shot out of his mouth and I watched with horror: Oh no, he’s becoming one of THEM!!!
‘Them’ meant: Angry, bitter, vitriolic, egotistical New Atheist who has flipped from one version of fundamentalism to a different sort, but who is still a raging fundamentalist who’s possessed with new exact answers for everybody.
But now, instead of merely being an annoyingly pompous and self-assured bible-thumper, he’s transformed into a venom-spewing, sheep-devouring, fire-breathing atheist instead.
That conversation terrified me. Because I was exquisitely familiar with those people.
I was horrified that Bryan was becoming one of them.
But I was even more horrified that he might be FACTUALLY RIGHT. And prove that my religious beliefs were as silly as Santa Claus.
You have not had a religious debate until you’ve had one with an ex-Christian with a master’s degree in theology who knows Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic and has spent four years dissecting the Old and New Testaments with the world’s most perfectionist conservative scholars.
I plunged myself into the void… and I was scared. I don’t know where this is going to land.
“I’m going to let science and engineering make this decision for me. Damn the torpedoes, because I will ignore no verifiable fact. I will follow the evidence wherever it leads… even if it throws my life into total chaos.”
I couldn’t have imagined what I was about to uncover.
I’ll get to that in a minute, but I really need to slow down and make clear what was truly at stake.
As an engineer, I looked at my own hand at the end of my arm and I was deeply impressed. In engineering there are always compromises… but it’s not entirely obvious what the compromises in a human hand even are.
Sure, there’s stuff it can’t do (you can’t bend your fingers backwards the wrong way and grab stuff from the opposite direction) but a hand lasts many decades, it heals itself when injured, it grows all by itself from embryo to adulthood, it has temperature and pressure sensors on every surface, it’s waterproof, it can hold your car keys, your coffee, your iPhone and your steering wheel all at the same time… while you swat your kids in the back seat with your other hand.
If you lose your hand in an accident, the $100,000 prosthetic they custom make for you doesn’t even begin to compare to a real one.
I had always sensed a deep, primal sense of divine design and purpose in my own hands. And since I could see my hands all the time, the idea of God ultimately being behind all things was utterly inescapable.
But Bryan was insisting my sense of design was an illusion. And since thousands of scientists would agree with him not me (I knew this was true), I wondered what I might be missing.
Remember: CRISPR gives us the ability to re-engineer hands… and maybe just about anything else you can think of. So, stick with me, because evolution and technology are converging in the 21st century in a very significant way.
I had become lost in the thicket of Bryan’s theological and philosophical and Bible questions. I looked at the hand at the end of my arm and said to myself: “Perry, you have an engineering degree, you know science very well, and you know that you know that you know certain things. Science isn’t nearly as squishy as Bible interpretation. So… let’s use science to make this decision.
My grandpa Marshall was a southern Baptist minister. My uncle Glenn had been a missionary in the Caribbean. My dad was a minister. My other uncle had worked at a Christian radio station. I had relatives who graduated from uber-conservative Bob Jones University. My brother-in-law had been a missionary in Brazil and was running a relief agency. He had a PhD in church history.
And now here was my brother, also a missionary, but because of the Internet and the availability of information, had access to ALL the faith-destroying information in the world.
Bryan was giving it up because the truth was leading him in another direction. He was dragging me with him.
So, I was deciding that if I find out science really does tell an atheist story, I was willing to abandon ship and join Bryan in non-belief.
This was deeply unsettling.
If you’re not from a deeply religious family, you might assume this is merely a matter of personal choice and private conviction. Which flavor of ice cream you prefer. Everyone should just live and let live. Religion is a private matter, right? Religion is just subjective and personal, right?
No. It’s nothing like that AT ALL. It flavors everything you do and everything you think. It’s Christmas Easter and Thanksgiving, it’s baby dedications, it’s weddings and funerals. It’s every single Sunday. It’s what you read to your kids at bedtime. It’s why they should keep their hand out of the cookie jar. It shapes how you think and how you vote and how you think society should be constructed.
Heaven beckons. Hell burns. Every single thing you do, public or private, accountable and answerable to an ultimate and final judgment. You do not live a single day of your life without envisioning a great tribunal in which every move you’ve ever made in your entire life is weighed on the scales. With God as judge, in a jury of your peers.
My wife Laura was wary. She was quite aware of what was going on, both with me and Bryan. She knew she couldn’t interfere with the process. She knew these questions were over her head. So, she clenched her teeth and kept her distance and granted me space to me thrash around with these issues.
If Bryan and I both bail – that’s a massive rupture in our family! A stick of dynamite, a comet to earth, a 900-foot crater. It might mean Laura takes the kids to church while I stay home. It might mean we privately negotiate how much of dad’s doubt gets broadcast to the kids. A spiritual aneurism. It might possibly mean I stick up my own atheist website trying to convince people that “the emperor has no clothes.” It would certainly rupture close relationships with all kinds of friends.
Still… if non-belief was really the Truth with a capital T – I was willing to go there.
As for myself, I could NOT be intellectually dishonest. I couldn’t live a double life.
Oh… and by the way, I was not plunging into these questions unprepared. I had already swum in the deep end of this very same swimming pool for a long time. I had spent hundreds of hours – maybe thousands – exploring such matters with every kind of person you can imagine. I was better informed about such things than 99.7% of all Christians. I could hold my own with almost any pastor or village atheist.
I had already become convinced, after much study and debate, that what I believed was true and defensible. But I had never sparred with someone at Bryan’s level of scholarship. His was a whole different level. And it wasn’t so much his scholarship per se – it was his resolve to get to the bottom of the swamp. To reduce the whole thing to first principles. To ask piercing questions, which is his gift. I was concerned that my knowledge was surface level and that Bryan had gone to the bottom of the swamp and found out the real truth.
The possibility that there is no God also frightened me on another level too. Perhaps the best explanation comes from the atheist German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in the late 1800s:
“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”
What Nietzsche was saying that new ways of thinking, new discoveries, new knowledge had made God irrelevant. So now we were burying him… but he was also saying that was not an entirely good thing. No sir. In fact, humanity might be waking from a dream and entering a nightmare.
Nietzsche was both triumphant and terrified, because he knew 1800 years of western civilization had been fastidiously built on the idea that man is made in God’s image. Our ideas about equality and human rights, the English Common Law, the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence; modern notions of justice and the eradication of slavery; all of this rested on this idea of God which had been worked out and refined by thinkers for 4,000 years. Immense labor had been expended to build western civilization.
So, to tear this down and “start over” was frightening indeed.
“What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism… For some time now, our whole European culture has been moving as toward a catastrophe.”
Nietzsche was hinting at what later happened with the rise of Hitler, and the catastrophic failures of Lenin and Stalin. The Nazis later exalted many of Nietzsche’s own conclusions; and the communists took them even further.
This provoked the most violent and bloody century in history… and Nietzsche saw it coming 50 years before it happened.
Those regimes killed over 100 million people. Stacks of corpses in mass graves. Lenin, Stalin and Mao managed to murder more people in 50 years than religious wars had killed in the previous 5,000 years. Lenin had even said, “Atheism is a necessary component of our propaganda.” Gulags discovered that it was easier to make the victims simply lay down in their own graves, than it was to drag their dead bodies into the hole after they were dead.
Now at this point – as of 2004 – I knew all of this. I had read Nietzsche. I understood the implications of his thinking. It’s just that, before my confrontations with Bryan, I had assumed Nietzsche had been fabulously wrong. I was sure of it. And for that matter, I assumed the Communist Revolution and the Third Reich had proved Nietzsche was a fool.
To me, the horrors of history abundantly proved you could not have a civil society without a backbone of religious belief and divine accountability. Jewish culture had survived 4,000 years, with the same language, beliefs and holidays; Christian culture was still going strong after 2,000 years. No atheist society had managed to survive one century.
Yet: Bryan was saying no, Perry, you’re still wrong. Nietzsche is right, because science proves him right.
I was now seriously entertaining the possibility that I had been wrong about all of this all along.
My carefully manicured worldview was teetering. I was unnerved that Nietzsche was correct and we did literally have to start over. Not just me and my family… but the whole world!
Upending my wife and kids and relationships with extended family and friends was only the appetizer. I was also seriously concerned that western civilization had been built on a flimsy foundation of myths and fairy tales. And we were somehow going to have to hack our way through this jungle without blowing up the planet.
That’s a lot of weight to hang on the thread of science. But I knew I had to do it. And it had to be science because it was my most competent sphere of knowledge. It was the most exact and certain thing at my disposal.
So, I hurled myself off the ledge and into the inky black.
As soon as I got home from visiting Bryan in China, I started buying books and scouring websites with a vengeance.
I was scared. But the ground I knew was crumbling beneath my feet. I had no choice. I tumbled helplessly through the dark, having no idea when or where I might land.
What Does Science Prove?
Diving into the evolution swamp and evaluating articles of scientific truth might sound easier, or more black and white, than “spiritual” concepts. ‘Twas not so. The creation-evolution debate was drenched with fear, prejudice, hatred, zealots, ideologues, and copious amounts of shallow thinking and junk science.
There was good science, too. But it was all mixed together with shouting and yelling and name-calling.
I quickly found I had to shun books written for popular audiences and go deep into scientific literature.
This was immensely confusing because I didn’t even know where to start. I floundered helplessly for what seemed like an eternity.
I had one beacon of sanity, one “lighthouse” in this process. It was an acoustics paper I had written in college. In that paper, I had taken a very complex and messy problem (which had failed to solve for a long time) and broke it down to the most fundamental elements. If you’ve ever seen a Bose® Wave Radio® I was trying to nail down the math for that type of speaker. It’s rather unusual and it’s very, very messy.
I had literally started with Newton’s law and painstakingly worked through every last detail until I solved the problem. This consumed months and help from several professors.
It was tremendously satisfying that I had finally reached the bottom of the swamp and my boots had met hard ground beneath all of the mush.
I had experienced what it felt like, under all that murky water and confusion, to feel my boots anchored on solid ground, suddenly able to slice through the ambiguity and reach a solid answer. I got an “A” on my paper. But more important, I enjoyed the satisfaction of have finally experienced… what it feels like when you finally reach the bottom of the swamp.
You dig and you dig and you dig until you find one hard verifiable fact that you can use as a starting point for everything else. It locks in place kinesthetically. You feel it in your bones.
So, as I watched the creationists and evolutionists fire torpedoes at each other (knowing I knew almost nothing about biology!); as I was swayed by one side, then the other, feeling myself empathizing with the left and then the right, I knew in my gut what it should FEEL like whenever I found what I was looking for. Because of that acoustics paper.
I was looking for the root foundation starting point, on which I could build everything else and reach a definitive answer: Is evolution possible, or not? And if so… does it happen by accident, or on purpose?
Armed with that experience of writing the acoustics paper, I went hunting for the bottom of the swamp.
And one day I found it.
I had been asking myself the question, “Could an accidental DNA copying error cause a falcon to get better eyesight? Could accumulations of accidents, sorted by “survival of the fittest” cause the evolution of all species on earth?
“What is a DNA mutation, anyway?”
I was studying DNA and genetic mutations. I was exploring the structure of the genetic code and suddenly I experienced a brilliant flash of recognition:
“Hey wait a minute… I’ve seen this before. I know exactly what this is! I know how to deal with this!!!!”
I had seen this in Ethernet. In 2002 I wrote a book called Industrial Ethernet. Factories were re-wiring their facilities with Ethernet and it was a hot topic. A publisher had given me a chance to write a book so as a young scrapping author, I took the chance.
The instant I saw this, I had a massive Eureka! moment. This was every bit as big as my epiphany about 80/20 being fractal, or Google AdWords being the coolest innovation in the history of advertising.
In the space of about 10 seconds I connected a thousand dots… suddenly saw where all of this was going. In fact, the insights I had during that ten seconds laid the foundation for five years of exploration. They gave me hunches and suspicions that continued to prove correct over and over again.
I had touched the bottom of the swamp. I thought, Dang, Perry, you know how to do code! You know what this is! I knew what to look for. I had the treasure map.
During the ensuing weeks and months, I figured out several important things:
DNA is code. The same way English, Chinese, HTML, bar codes and zip codes are codes. Since I’d written an Ethernet book for the world’s largest society of process control engineers, I understood codes all too well.
There are a million codes. 999,999 of them are designed by someone we can identify. There is ONE code we don’t know the origin of, and it’s DNA. There are no codes that are not designed. There are no codes that form by accident.
So… now, looking at the hand at the end of my arm, I saw not only an incredibly elegant system of muscles and bones and tendons, but also every single cell in my hand also contained digital code far more sophisticated than any code you might find on the Internet. None of it was pure dumb luck.
And yes, this was surely the biggest epiphany of my life.
It would take me a full two more years to begin to reach promising answers about evolution itself. But what I knew for the moment was that life is not simply a blind result of billiard balls banging around in the universe. If you understood anything about codes, you understood that life contained something incredibly intentional and purposeful.
Had science killed God?
Well… science sure hadn’t answered the most fundamental questions with any degree of precision. In fact, it only provoked more questions.
That meant everyone was arguing about the wrong thing!
The masses were debating whether evolution was possible.
Right question: Is evolution purposeful?
The answer, coming from a guy who’d written an Ethernet book published by the world’s largest society of process engineers, was a resounding YES, absolutely. All code is purposeful, because nothing of this sort happens by sheer accident. We live in a purposeful universe.
I took this back to Bryan. But… by then, Bryan had lost interest in arguing about this stuff. He had become solidly agnostic and didn’t want to continue debating this with me, or anybody. I found this frustrating because he had laid all of these questions at my feet but once I had some answers, he retreated. He was just emotionally done with trying to sort this out. At this time, he left his missionary position in China, moved back to the United States, and took a job working at my company.
I felt I had made a huge discovery. But I distrusted my own conclusions about anything unless I had a sparring partner. “Iron sharpens iron as one man sharpens another,” the proverb says.
Well I did have a different sparring partner, ready and available 24/7. That was the Internet.
About two years before I had started a website with an email series called “7 Great Lies of Organized Religion.” People would sign up and get a series of messages. When people would reply back, their emails would go directly to me.
I had already been engaging lots of people in conversations about religion, and I added another site with a series “Where did the Universe Come From?”
Since I made my living with Google AdWords, I used Google ads to drive people to the site. I took my intellectual pursuit to market, with ads such as this one:
Origin of the Universe
Did the Universe Come from God?
Interpreting the Latest Results
These ads spread across the web, especially on sites related to science and astronomy. I drove traffic to the Cosmic Fingerprints website as well as to my other site, CoffeeHouseTheology.com, where visitors could opt into email series with names like “Seven Great Lies of Organized Religion” and “Where Did the Universe Come From?”
In the first year alone, 30,000 people signed up for those emails. Every reply went straight to a dedicated email box. It seemed like everyone who got my emails felt an irresistible urge to argue with me about something.
I decided that I would not ignore ANY reasonable question from ANYONE. Rather, I invited people of every kind to challenge me on ALL of my assumptions. I put everything on an anvil and invited the whole world to pound on it.
I have never met anyone else who has ever done something like this. Not on this scale.
A flood of website traffic opened thousands of conversations with challenging people—not just laypeople, but biologists, doctors, physicists, people of hugely diverse backgrounds. It was unusual. I was buying traffic to the tune of 1,000-plus visitors a day, instead of waiting for visitors to just show up. I was provoking people with a series of automated messages, then getting their replies.
My email list swelled to more than 170,000 subscribers. This put me in a very unique position of encountering a vast range of views. I was getting hundreds of emails every month from people of every conceivable belief system and opinion: Darwinists, Intelligent Design advocates, Young Earth Creationists, atheists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Christians, New Agers, and mystics.
Everyone had an opinion about evolution. I was answering something like a hundred emails a week, and invariably, one or two of those exchanges would go deep.
I was sometimes outwitted by my opponents. These conversations shifted some of my views. For example, I had begun with a knee-jerk reaction against all living things having a common evolutionary ancestor, simply because of my Young Earth upbringing. (I was raised to believe the earth was 6,000 years old and evolution was evil.)
I spent many hours every week sifting through questions, responding and seeing if the positions I took could bear scrutiny. I figured, if anybody can overturn my discoveries, sooner or later that person is going to show up—it’s just a matter of time!
The Internet was my anvil of truth.
EVERYTHING got pounded on. NOTHING escaped this scrutiny. Nothing. I tested every idea, every assertion, to the point of destruction. I invited hundreds of thousands of people to shoot holes in every aspect of my theory.
All I wanted was the truth.
Not only was it an invitation to find holes in my knowledge. It was also “ten thousand hours” practicing my elevator speeches. Figuring exactly how to explain this to people. Determining how to frame my arguments.
I continued to stick to my rules: Ignore no verifiable fact. Engage with any reasonable person. Examine the evidence fairly. Change your mind if someone proves you wrong. Be polite. And major on the majors. Pick your battles.
My friend Andy knew about this and he organized a talk for me at Willow Creek, the largest church in Chicago. My talk was called “If you can read this, I can prove God exists.” The talk summarized my discoveries and offered the following logic:
- DNA is a code.
- All other codes are designed.
- Therefore, DNA is designed.
I admitted I hadn’t actually proven God exists, because I’m not sure it’s possible to do that. Of course, someone might find an exception: a code that’s not designed. But what I had shown was: to the extent that science can prove anything, there seems to be design in biology. Right in the genetic code.
I recorded the talk, posted it on my website, and added it to my email series.
It went viral.
This was, shall we say, not to everyone’s liking. A few months later, a determined atheist came after me with a pitchfork, greatly offended by my talk. I engaged and within a few days had solidly backed him into a corner. He was flustered.
So, then he popped over to the largest atheist discussion forum on the web, on the world’s largest atheist website at the time (Infidels.org) and posted a link to my talk. He said, “Be nice to this Perry Marshall guy while you rip him apart.”
I thought: Oh, no. Not this. Not these people.
Yuck. Anything but this. Anyone but this crowd. Ugggh.
It roiled my stomach. What a MESS this might turn into. A public shaming and crucifixion.
I had breakfast with my buddy John Fancher. He said, “Well Perry, you’ve been fixin’ for a fight for a long time. I think you just got one. Congratulations. God’s got a sense of humor. And I think you need to take ‘em head on.”
He was right. I had been fixin’ for a fight. But I suppose I hadn’t realized this would get me on a world stage.
The people on Infidels were snarky and mean. Some were very smart. Carnivores panting for tasty red meat. They would delight in dismembering and decimating me. I knew if I slipped up in any way they would attack me like a pack of starving jackals.
So, I went in and defended myself.
This began in 2005. It continued until 2012 when the discussion board was literally shut down. It became the longest-running, most-viewed thread on the world’s largest atheist website. Above, you can see my thread next to the other ones. A screen shot from 2010.
The people at Infidels were MAD. And the biggest reason they were mad was: they couldn’t find any way around my argument.
They tried saying DNA isn’t a code. They tried saying snowflakes and sand dunes and sunlight are codes (they’re not). They tried saying you’re not permitted to reach conclusions like that in science. (Why not?) They tried everything you can think of, but in the end, they failed.
Every few months I would go in and answer new questions. The debate dragged on for seven years.
At first, I was terror stricken. But I proceeded with care, and over time my confidence grew. They were committed to one ideology. They allowed NO facts to change their minds. As my father-in-law Ron says, “You can’t reason with prejudice.”
I felt good about this. But there was still one problem: The conversations would always go around in circles. They wouldn’t accept the definitions, they would drag the conversation in all kinds of irrelevant directions and they refused to come to any conclusion.
These debates continued on my blog and skeptics continued to wander in, get offended, and try the same arguments all over again.
One day, while talking to a particularly stubborn guy on my blog, it occurred to me:
Perry, show him EXACTLY how to prove you wrong. Then put money on the table.
I wrote a specification. A document that said, “Here’s how you prove you got a code without designing one.” I lifted most of it right out of an engineering textbook.
I posted it on my blog and said, “Here’s how you prove you got a code without designing one. Solve this and I’ll write you a check for $10,000.”
I had NO idea what would happen next.
What happened next was: The whole argument just STOPPED. Like an 18-wheeler sailing over a cliff then vanishing without a trace.
All the ducking and weaving and name-calling and bickering came to a halt. The guy vanished. Soon someone else came along, and the effect was exactly the same.
“Wow, I had no idea that would actually work. But it worked!”
Much later, when my book Evolution 2.0 came out, I raised the prize amount to $3 million, then $5 million. I’ll tell you more about that soon.
But What About Evolution?
(And… what about humans taking control of evolution?)
I was absolutely perplexed by evolution. Because on one hand it appeared to have happened (based on anecdotal evidence) … yet the normal explanations for how it happened were flat out impossible.
I was extremely tempted to just declare it impossible and move on. That would fit the Christian bedroom slippers I was so comfortable with. (Lots of engineers are creationists.) But I resolved to keep an open mind. It still seemed like I was missing something very big.
One day a guy sent me a link to a paper by Dr. James Shapiro, a highly accomplished professor at the University of Chicago.
Shapiro described an experiment in 1944 where a woman named Barbara McClintock was “hacking” corn plant DNA to see what would happen. The results completely surprised her. Here’s an analogy that describes what she found:
Imagine that someone gives you a mystery novel with an entire page ripped out.
And let’s suppose someone else comes up with a computer program that reconstructs the missing page, by assembling sentences and paragraphs lifted from other places in the book.
Imagine that this computer program does such a marvelous job that most people can’t tell the page was ever missing.
DNA does that.
McClintock damaged the DNA in corn. To her amazement, the plants could reconstruct the damaged sections. They did so by copying other parts of the DNA strand, then pasting them into the damaged area.
This discovery was so radical at the time, hardly anyone believed her. She presented this at a conference in New York in 1951, and half the audience laughed at her; the other half was mad. “Doesn’t this woman know that genes build plants, plants don’t build genes?”
But that’s exactly what had happened. Her plants had re-built their own genes. Nobody would listen to her, so she went underground with her research.
She won the Nobel Prize in 1983 for discovering transposition, a.k.a. “Jumping Genes.”
Shapiro went on to describe incredibly sophisticated re-structuring of DNA performed by cells under stress. If they were lacking water, nutrients, too much salt, bad chemicals in the environment, nutrients they didn’t know how to digest, they would re-engineer themselves on the fly. In real time.
This led me to an entire a hidden universe of orderly, structured innovations performed by plants, animals and cells. This was a huge topic.
I had found the missing link. He described the cell as behaving like an operating system that re-engineers itself to deal with change. Cells reminded me of entrepreneurs.
I couldn’t believe nobody was talking about this! None of this stuff was coming up in all the books and debates; yet I readily verified this was backed by 70 years of research and tens of thousands of scientific papers.
How could it be that I was digging hard into this subject for two years and only now managed to find this information? This was revolutionary. Suddenly all this made sense. Yet for some reason nobody was talking about it.
Later I was to encounter a scientist, Kwong Jeon at the University of Tennessee. He merged amoeba with x-bacteria, creating an entirely new species – in just 18 months. A true, revolutionary, cellular merger-acquisition. Like putting a Starbucks in a Marriott hotel. Modern wheat is a new species, a hybrid of emmer wheats with a weed called goat grass. It was literally created in one day.
Scientists generate new species on command, simply by knowing what to do. Most people do not know this. Most people are told evolution is some vague mystery where chimpanzees imperceptibly morph into German philosophers over vast eons of time.
Actually, it’s an adaptive process that’s so immediate, so responsive, astronomer Scott Kelly went into space from 2015-2016… and in one year, his cells had re-programmed themselves to process their own DNA instructions differently than before.
If you sense some level of greater design in the universe, you can no doubt appreciate that if we’re gonna start messing around with genomes, we had sure better understand what those organisms are up to first. Because we’re the 14-year-old kid taking a screwdriver to his dad’s Ferrari.
Nobody understands precisely why it’s possible for these evolutionary adaptations to happen. Nor does anybody know how to build machines or software that mimic this. (Which is exactly what the Artificial Intelligence guys are trying to do.) Even in the 21st century, we only have a surface level understanding of what’s going on.
The harder we study, the deeper we go. You don’t have to talk to Siri or Alexa very long to figure out they’re dumb as a box of rocks. But… IF we solve this, machines won’t be dumb anymore. Computers might understand your intentions instead of merely interpreting your commands.
If Siri knew what a cell knows, Siri might “wake up.” The implications for AI are staggering.
Anybody who does Google or Facebook advertising, for example, has experienced what the machine can do for you, vs. what only humans can do. You can appreciate what a difference this would make.
If Microsoft DOS (remember that?) evolved into Windows in 30 years all by itself with zero help from programmers in Redmond Washington, would you be impressed? I sure would.
I thought to myself, “Religious people should regard evolution the same way you would admire Bill Gates, had his original DOS program been capable of re-writing its own code. And then generating web browsers and Microsoft Office on the fly, without programmers.” (I address the religious questions of conservative Christians in Evolution 2.0.)
But the other side was no better. The lack of scientific rigor in mainstream evolution books and the media was a disgrace. If you went to Barnes & Noble bookstore and bought the evolution books you found on the shelf, there were all kinds of crucial, mission-critical, game-changing facts they simply were not telling you.
The details the mainstream evolution books omit make it appear that for the first time in history, humans are now going to make evolution into an intentional process with pre-planned goals. These books went to great lengths to make it appear as though all this happens by accident.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The story they did tell you was at least 30% fiction, maybe 50%; and the real problem was what they omitted.
Standard evolutionary theory as fed to the general public was thin, runny, starvation-diet soup they serve in concentration camps. No meat, no nutrients. Nothing but stale, limp vegetables.
Pause for a minute because I need to tell you another story. At first it will seem like a diversion, but it merges right back into this one.
My Family’s Trip to Hell and Back
When I was 12, my mom went “bipolar.” Manic depressive with mild schizophrenia. But for a year and a half, nobody knew that’s what was wrong with her. We just knew she was impossible to live with.
The fights, the arguments and contention would start as soon as I got home from school every day and stretch past bedtime. I’d walk in the door at 3:30pm and the blame and accusation and picking of fights would begin anew.
Our family was bedlam for 18 months.
Mom would swing from being your best friend to your worst enemy at the slightest provocation. She would smile warmly and say, “Perry you are so smart, your kindergarten teacher Mrs. Washburn said, ‘Perry could be president of the United States if he set his mind to it.’”
Six minutes later she’s furious: “I’ve HAD IT with you. I get NOTHING from you but problems and misery. One day you’re going to be thankful that your mother tolerated you and sacrificed for you. Remember when I cleaned houses to pay for your braces? I am so sick and tired of your garbage and your rot.”
Mom didn’t cuss. But she could get her point across. One minute you’re the best kid in the state of Nebraska and six minutes later you’re the scourge of her miserable, desolate life.
I would come home from school and discover she’d tossed boxes of my stuff in the garbage. She’d say embarrassing, bizarre things to my friends. We would get into vicious shouting matches.
She told my dad: “Bob, you’re really not my husband. You are a man who looks like Bob and I am sentenced to endure his shenanigans until the ‘real’ Bob comes back.” When my dad came home from work she would hurl dark accusations at him. My brother and sister and I would complain bitterly to him about how she was treating us.
It was almost impossible to not get sucked into some kind of conflict every day. Home was the most dangerous place a kid could be.
My dad was taking her to doctors and counselors, but nobody seemed to be able to reach any conclusion. People at church watched us with a judgmental eye. I told my friends to steer clear. One time during a meal I joked about what everyone in the family could get for Christmas and I said mom could get a trip to the psych ward.
It hurt mom’s feelings really bad. And it didn’t fix a thing.
My dad was an associate pastor at a very large church in Nebraska, 2000+ members.
Dad started getting major heat from his boss, the senior pastor, Mr. G, who didn’t like the fact that one of his pastors’ wives was “out of line.”
Mr. G quoted the scripture that says a pastor should be in control of his family and told dad if he didn’t straighten out mom’s problem, he might have to leave.
Dad pursued answers. Eventually he got mom to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist diagnosed her with a chemical imbalance and bipolar disorder.
That trip to the psychiatrist was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Psychiatrists and psychologists, in Mr. G’s opinion, were the new high priests of a secular order that would shrug off all moral failures as medical malfunctions.
According to Mr. G, psychiatrists were making up excuses because they didn’t have the courage to call evil by its real names – SIN and DISOBEDIENCE. They existed to give people like my mom an alibi. Mr. G declared Mom insubordinate and rebellious.
Literally on the same day the psychiatrist’s diagnosis came back, Mr. G and Mr. J, the pastors of our church, visited our house to drop the hammer. We all sat in our living room as they announced, “We’ve asked your father to resign from his responsibilities. He’s no longer qualified to be a pastor. He’s going to be stepping down.”
I listened without much comment. I was 13. But my older sister Robin was livid. At 18 she’d formed definite opinions about what had transpired. She started sobbing and retorted angrily to Mr. J: “If people knew what YOUR daughter does when she’s out at night, they’d be forcing you to resign too.”
Mr. J said, “We’re not here to talk about me or my family today, Robin. We’re here to talk about you.”
Earlier that day, dad had been brought before the Board of Elders to hear their final verdict. One by one, they agreed with Mr. G:
“Bob, you’re not in control of your family. We’re sorry, you have to step down.” Mr. G demoted dad. Before his sermon on Sunday morning, after the choir and orchestra filed out behind the stage, he announced to 2,000 people that “Bob resigned so he could attend to problems with Betty and the family.”
Dad’s demotion: Before, pastor in charge of Adult Education. After: Back-office editor of Mr. G’s church-published books.
That same year, dad was diagnosed with cancer. He fought hard through treatment. I was 17 when he died.
It was only a few months ago that my good friend and business protégé Megan Macedo, who grew up in the “troubles” of Northern Ireland, pointed out:
“Perry, the story of your dad getting punished for taking your mom to a psychiatrist is a war between science and religion.”
Wow. 30 years had gone by and this had never occurred to me. Not even once. Yes, that’s precisely what it was. I had been embroiled in wars between science and religion since I was twelve.
What had occurred to me was maybe if dad hadn’t faced severe public humiliation and a blow to his career on top of his wife’s psychiatric problems, maybe he wouldn’t have gotten cancer. I had realized this years later.
I often talk about my fave-rave professor, Dr. Robert Knoll. He taught English at the University of Nebraska. He was possibly the most-loved professor on the entire campus. His classes were always packed and his lectures riveting. Every single class would deliver some mind-blowing insight.
If you’ve ever watched Dr. Jordan Peterson on YouTube, who is presently taking the world by storm, Jordan reminds me a LOT of Dr. Knoll. If Peterson were an English prof instead of a Psychology prof, they could be 75% the same guy.
Intense, probing, perceptive, ruthlessly engaging, brilliantly energizing, knows something about nearly everything. Dr. Knoll read a ton of history. Encyclopedic knowledge of literature. Could connect dots like nobody’s business. Culture critic. Traces threads in history you would never think to link together. Mind like a steel trap.
And most importantly, takes his job dead seriously. Full-well knows that the world is ever and always only one generation away from mayhem and chaos. Understands that the purpose of a college professor is to equip his or her students with the very best tools and questions (and sometimes answers) that 50 centuries of civilization have provided us.
Approaches all his subjects with passion and urgency.
Before I took his class, which was called “English Authors Before 1800,” I had thought an English department was… well, I wasn’t too sure, but I imagined it was something like “Advanced Sentence Diagramming 201, 301 and 401.”
I thought “English” was about rules and grammar.
No siree Bob. That is not what “English” is at all. You know what “English” is?
English is the accumulated wisdom of all western civilization. From Beowulf (the first story we studied, which lately I’ve made MUCH use of) to Shakespeare, Bacon, Dante, Johnson, Dryden. It’s the bards and poets, the great thinkers, it’s the Big Questions, the stories that bind our society together.
Dr. Knoll said, “What’s a community? It’s a group of people who share the same stories. And we study these stories because they define our civilization.”
And it’s not just about our stories. It’s about the deepest wisdom that millions of people have unearthed through thousands of years of suffering and toil. It’s our yearnings and the question of what kind of person should you aspire to be? What kind of life should you live? What is truly good? What is true? What is real?
(Universities are NOT doing this well. Many are boiling cauldrons of political correctness, and the worst ones are churning out Marxist post-modernist placard-waving protesters at terrifying speed.)
So, I’m in Dr. Knoll’s English class, and from Chaucer to Samuel Johnson and everything in between, I’m having this rich, world-tilting experience.
One day Dr. Knoll was talking in our class about the process of maturity. He explained how teenagers gravitate towards math and science because they’re exact and precise… but as you grow up, you become comfortable with ambiguity and gray areas and human beings.
The older you get, the less enamored you are with precision formulas and the more able you are to deal with uncertainty.
Then he said: “If you want to spend the rest of your life searching for exact answers, you can go to Mr. G’s Church!!!”
(Everybody in the state of Nebraska knew who Mr. G was.)
Hey wait – that’s my pastor! Dad’s boss! Mr. G demoted my dad. Then he recanted. He sent us on that vacation. He conducted my dad’s funeral. We’ve lived our life at that church. Them’s fighting words!
When Dr. Knoll said that, it was like getting slapped in the face with a leather belt, by someone I greatly admired.
The instant those words fell from his mouth, I tumbled into a rabbit hole. OWWWWW. I was smarting from Dr. Knoll’s remark. Lost in thought and humiliation for hours afterward. I ambled on to the rest of my classes in a daze.
Then, later that day, something dawned on me. I had this conversation with myself:
“Hey, wait a minute… Perry… you don’t actually go to that church anymore!!! You stopped going there six months ago. Now you’re going with your sister to a different church – in Omaha.”
“So… Why did I stop going?”
“I stopped going because… because the answers there were so excruciatingly EXACT that nobody seemed to have any room for more than one opinion about anything! I stopped going because Mr. G had painted this Red Circle of Truth around himself, and Mr. G’s Red Circle of Truth was getting smaller and smaller… until eventually it had no room for anybody besides him.“
I suddenly realized Dr. Knoll hadn’t hauled off and slapped me in the face; he’d handed me a glittering diamond of insight on why I had already outgrown the church my father had been a pastor in. In a very fatherly way, he had affirmed to me that I was growing up!!!
I had progressed beyond Mr. G’s quest to build a belief system where everything fits perfectly on an excel spreadsheet. Where every cell of doctrine was filled out and precisely fit every other cell.
I had matured beyond their quest to exclude science and only embrace exact answers that made them feel comfortable and in control. And I was only 20 years old.
Dr. Knoll’s observation about maturing from exact answers to ambiguity served me quite well. It’s helped me understand a lot of things going on around me. Dr. Knoll gave me this insight, so at the age of 20, I was already on my way to embracing the murky and complex world of people, who never quite fit formulas and regulations.
I’m not so sure fundamentalism is even a religion or movement… it’s more like a personality type.
is a person
who has not grown up enough
to discern the difference
between the “is” world
and the “should be” world.
And even though I didn’t know it yet, my experience of dad losing his position because of mom and their visit to a psychiatrist, plus my epiphany in Dr. Knoll’s class, was preparing me for a life of battles with fundamentalists of all stripes.
Alternate definition of fundamentalist: Someone who has decided in advance which questions you are not allowed to ask.
I tell you this story because, just like in religion, I found that it’s also true in science: There are some questions you’re not permitted to ask. Some diagnoses you are not allowed to make.
The REAL Hero of Evolution
is a Woman Most People Have Never Heard of
I mentioned Barbara McClintock a little while ago. She did corn maize experiments in 1944 and she was literally the first person to provoke an evolutionary event and understand the genetics of exactly what had happened.
Barbara’s colleagues greeted her discoveries with jeers and anger. The idea that cells evolve randomly and accidentally had been proclaimed as gospel by the irreligious. To challenge this view was heresy. Sort of like my dad, Barbara experienced her own demotion. For 20 years she didn’t publish her work. She just kept doing it quietly.
She had committed her own version of heresy and sin and disobedience (transgressions are just as costly in science as they are in religion). Fundamentalists in science ensured that she paid a stiff penalty for breaking with the accepted doctrines of biology.
My dad’s demotion lasted less than a year, but Barbara was hiding in a foxhole for two decades. Being 30 years ahead of her time, and being a woman, did not equip her to shift the culture of biology in the 40s, 50s and 60s. The dogmas and fundamentalisms of the time were too powerful for her.
But then she won the Nobel Prize 40 years later. Her picture is now on a U.S. postage stamp. Like my dad, she stuck it out and vindicated herself. Like my dad, she won her honor back and received at a good deal of the recognition she so richly deserved.
Translation: Barbara McClintock contributed far more to the study of evolution’s systems than Charles Darwin ever did!
Darwin’s book was called “Origin of Species” but Darwin never actually showed us where new species come from. His book did not deliver on its promise. But McClintock DID locate the systems that would eventually explain evolution.
Cells re-design themselves. Sort of like those M.C. Escher drawings where the hand draws itself:
This Escher drawing illustrates the self-referential way in which life creates itself. This is a property of a living system that allows it to maintain and renew itself by regulating itself and conserving its boundaries. A chiropractor for example, understands this, because he sees the body as holistic and integrated. Traditional doctors usually don’t. We only have a vague apprehension of how this occurs. We don’t know how to re-create it in our own inventions. But what if we did? An accurate model of how evolution works would revolutionize health care, cancer research, disease treatment and Artificial Intelligence.
What is now clear in the 21st century is that in the 1940s, biology had reached a major crossroads.
Barbara McClintock’s findings represented a fork in the road and the entire profession took the wrong fork. And stayed on that wrong fork for decades. Today this wrong fork is called the “Modern Synthesis,” formally known as “Neo-Darwinism,” or just “Darwinism” for short.
This is what you find in the current textbooks. But we now know that about two thirds of the Darwinian “Modern Synthesis” is wrong. Biology traveled a wrong road for 70 years. And it’s still mostly traveling that road now.
But in 2018… with humans editing genes… those problems are only the icing on the cake!
Remember what CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna said? I quoted her earlier in this letter:
…scientists can now manipulate and rationally modify the genetic code that defines every species on the planet, including our own… an organism’s entire DNA content, including all of its genes – has become almost as editable as a simple piece of text.
They choose their own response to whatever we do to them. They respond to our choices and recreate what they want, for their reasons, according to the principles of self-organization and adaptation embedded in DNA.
That means we have no real control over what is created. At least not until we fully understand HOW these principles work.
It’s one reason why such furor is fomenting over Genetically Modified foods.
This is why it’s vital that the whole world embrace the truth that evolution is not the slow result of small, random mutations, but the process of quantum leaps through cognitive actions of self-organization.
Evolution is like entrepreneurship. Evolution is entrepreneurship!
We have to realize we aren’t ready to start wildly messing around with genes in even simple cells. Those simple cells could well choose to organize themselves into something that will wipe out hundreds of thousands or millions of us.
THIS IS NOT A SCI-FI HORROR FLICK.
THIS IS A VERY REAL PROBLEM IN OUR IMMEDIATE FUTURE.
We are the 14-year-old kid taking wrench and screwdriver to his dad’s Ferrari. The kid’s saying, “I can’t imagine why they built the engine that way. What are those funny wires sticking out over there? I’m gonna snip those wires off, fix this thing and make it run the way it’s supposed to. It’s going to be soooo awesome!”
Nobody knows how to build a machine or write software that can evolve the way cells do. If the Google search engine was as smart as a goldfish, it might sense what you actually want when you type stuff into the search bar. A mere algorithm would become a living machine.
I’m not against repairing well-understood damage. There are broken code sequences in many places. Down’s Syndrome, cystic fibrosis and a million other diseases. We ought to remedy what we can. As a Christian I believe we’re morally obligated to heal the blotches we find in nature.
But we have to understand it first before we fix it. And THIS is the core issue.
We can’t “fix” evolution if we don’t understand how it works in the first place.
You wanna kill 200,000 people?
Dropping Your Daughter Off to Die
Wanna unleash some Ebola-like pathogen that eats your children alive while you helplessly wring your hands, because there’s NO emergency room, no hospital or disease center who has any power to do anything about it?
Do you want to drop off your daughter at the quarantine, say your final goodbyes to her, and then go home? (The authorities won’t let you keep her at home if she’s contagious.) Or perhaps you’d prefer to go with her in the armored quarantine truck to the facility where you will die as well.
Which of the two of you will die first? Will you say goodbye to her? Or will she say goodbye to you?
All we need is thousands of scientists (and college freshmen) (and terrorists) (and jilted boyfriends) thinking they’re smarter than nature… making new proteins from prions, not doing their experiments in a sealed, tightly controlled lab… and something will eventually happen. It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb says… the mother of all Black Swans, nasty surprises.
Is evolution a blind process of chance and chaos, as some famous scientists insist? Or are living things intentional? Do we need to redefine “evolution” to mean purposeful and intentional?
You might think this is a silly question. You may be saying, “Of course life is purposeful!” But you probably don’t know that in evolutionary biology, anyone who suggests that life and cells are intrinsically purposeful is suspected of criminal behavior.
Grad students have failed to get PhDs, professors have failed to get tenure, scientists have been fired from their jobs for believing that life adapts intentionally. People unfamiliar with the landscape would be shocked at the groupthink and political correctness that overshadows this field.
These questions are not merely academic; they matter to our very civilization. If evolution requires ingenuity at the cellular level, and not merely chance and selection, this has sweeping implications for medicine, health care, and technology. We’re not arguing about angels dancing on the heads of pins here.
If design and intentionality are intrinsic to life, that changes everything. It means purpose does not merely exist in our imaginations. It’s not something we just arbitrarily invent. It means it’s something we discover rather than something we make up.
This means there’s something bigger than us. It signals a moral responsibility toward the Earth and toward each other. It means there’s a way nature wants to be. It means there’s a way the earth desires to be. There’s a holistic way our bodies are intended to function.
The only thing we’ll accomplish by denying this is dehumanize ourselves and destroy our planet. If we don’t pay attention to the whispering voice of nature, we’ll create a techno dystopia that enslaves all of us.
If science points to something beyond ourselves, we can know for sure that we’re not just so many billiard balls banging around in the universe. It means man’s search for meaning is not just blind groping, but a quest for something that is deep and real.
I embarked on this endeavor for people like my brother, who are good hearted, love intellectual curiosity, and welcome all information . . . even if it bruises their belief system.
Embrace the truth? Or avoid it?
People like that demand to have their belief system challenged, because it’s embedded in their most treasured values! Socrates said: Unchallenged, unexamined life is not worth living, and indeed results in a life that has not been lived.
But not everyone believes that!
Not everyone wants their beliefs challenged.
One religious publisher I knew personally was threatened by a major, “household name” fundamentalist. The guy vowed to demolish my friend’s reputation in the Christian community if he started publishing “old earth” literature. I know this because of emails that went back and forth between them. The fundamentalist was afraid of certain kinds of scientific information being disclosed to readers.
(Does it remind you of shaming a pastor for taking his mentally ill wife to a psychiatrist?)
Meanwhile, in the wake of the 9/11 earthquake of radical Islam, the bulldog of atheism Richard Dawkins was waging his personal jihad against every religious person in sight, in books and TV and media interviews. Meanwhile, the accuracy of actual scientific facts in his books (Blind Watchmaker, Selfish Gene, God Delusion) ranged from adequate to very poor.
Each side was brushing aside readily verifiable facts.
Each side had no qualms about shooting you in the head if you disagreed with them.
So… one of the most vital conversations of our time was dominated by people who were interested only in ideology.
Their tribes of followers were the same. No tolerance for disagreement. Every time an article of a religious nature appeared in The Guardian or any other major newspaper, a horde of Dawkins trolls would appear and start insulting people.
It’s about to get worse if enough people don’t wake up. Canada already took a giant leap towards eradicating free speech in 2016, with the notorious bill C-16. You can get called before a human rights tribunal, which is immune from the other branches of the government, fined and sent for mandatory re-training if you don’t use the correct transgender pronouns.
What bothered me about this wasn’t the religious aspect. I am long accustomed to people having vicious disagreements about religion. It doesn’t bother me when people insult me for being a Christian. That comes with the territory. Everybody knows that. “Take up your cross and follow me” and all that.
What I couldn’t stand was the bad science! Because as an engineer I knew that I knew that I knew certain things. These people had no regard for facts you can prove to be true on your own kitchen table.
This topic was vastly complex, and it took me about two years to begin to put the pieces together in a way that made sense.
The truth was somewhere in the middle.
I also saw that if we don’t embrace this truth, we are poised to make
with our technology.
This will be a far bigger tragedy than a pastor getting demoted for putting his wife on psychiatric medication. Or a woman scientist being shunned by her peers for 20 years.
The toothpaste is out of the tube.
Nobody can stop it now.
All we can do now is stimulate a new conversation and help people grasp what we’re really tinkering with.
Please understand, altering our course will not un-employ scientists. It will not slow down medical progress. It will not impede science. It will not make America less competitive. Because there is SO much for us to study, know and understand. There are so many benefits to coming to nature with humility and studying her with care. We just have to change our focus.
One benefit is: not triggering a black swan event that makes fear sweep through the public like a raging fire and causes all gene editing to be banned!
Charles Darwin thought natural selection (aka “survival of the fittest”) was the only directional force in evolution. His followers insisted the rest was monkeys banging on typewriters.
Darwin was wrong. Life directs itself.
If we continue to deny this, natural selection is going to teach us a nasty lesson.
Nature will extract its revenge. You don’t cheat nature without paying a price. Nature has her way. You can’t short-circuit nature. You must cooperate with nature.
How many college students playing with $169 gene editing kits in their basements does it take before someone makes a big mistake – a big mistake with no “undo” button? Unleash a pathogen that modifies the DNA of its host and can’t be stopped?
There’s no “undo” button
in CRISPR gene editing.
2018 is the 200th anniversary
Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1818. It’s still famous in 2018 because it speaks a resonant truth: “Fix” nature at your extreme peril.
Now… it doesn’t have to go this way. We can slow down, admit we barely understand evolution itself. We can pay far closer attention to how cells re-engineer themselves and discover things that we can apply to our own AI – self driving cars or self-repairing computer programs.
Suppose we learned how to build computers that mimic cells, so your car engine can diagnose itself. Not merely by switching on indicator lights and error codes but having a deep self-understanding. Suppose your car engine could even repair itself?
That would obviously be very useful, very powerful, and incredibly profitable. It would re-invent the whole auto industry.
But there’s a side benefit:
We might understand medicine better, too.
Building those self-diagnosing car engines might be a lot safer than re-engineering bacteria in your basement. There’s less that can go wrong! (Car engines don’t double their numbers every 20 minutes like bacteria do.)
Computers double in speed every two years. Bacteria double every 20 minutes. Which hazard do you think is more dangerous? Which playground do you think makes for safer experiments?
“Undo” buttons do exist in gene editing, but they’re flawed. If you ever want a chuckle, look up “rabbits in Australia.” Somebody introduced rabbits to Australia in the 1700s and soon they were feasting on everything in the entire continent. This became a MAJOR problem because they ruined an entire ecosystem that had been there for ages, endangering species and altering the landscape. People tried to fight them with ferrets, traps, poison, fences, rabbit-borne diseases, viruses, and every single measure had its own side effects.
We can exercise humility. Or we can plunge face-first on the road to perdition.
My Quest to End the War Between Science and Religion
“Science will explain how but not why. It talks about what is, not what ought to be. Science is descriptive, not prescriptive; it can tell us about causes but it cannot tell us about purposes. Indeed, science disavows purposes.”
-Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the UK
Science by definition cannot tell us what we should do, or how we should act. Science does not even possess tools for asking such questions, let alone answering them.
Questions of purpose are religious and ethical questions.
Now that we wield such tremendous power, can you see why this war between science and religion is so deadly?
The biology profession is now in a slow painful internal revolution, switching from the wrong evolution road to the right road. Eventually this will terminate the careers and legacies of an entire generation (or two) of theorists and pundits.
Because I wrote Evolution 2.0, having come in close contact with many dozens of scientists and researching the Evolution 2.0 Prize, I am privy to what is going on behind the scenes.
The old guard is frightened. Most of the old school avoid direct confrontation and will not debate it in public anymore. A watershed conference at the Royal Society in Great Britain in 2016 (which I attended) signaled a sea-change in evolutionary theory.
Their tone has changed sharply from the heady confidence they were exhibiting as recently as three years ago. Keep in mind that evolutionary biology is one of the slowest-moving professions in science, ironically in contrast to the breathtaking speed of genomics and gene editing. (This is because it’s still hanging on to the 1950s.) New models of evolution gain acceptance at a glacial pace.
So, the public still hears almost nothing about this. The public doesn’t know that a massive uprising is going on in evolutionary biology, and most of the science they’ve been told by the media is outright wrong.
So, the war between fundamentalists rages on.
From around 2007 and on, I knew all of this in excruciating detail, through thousands of conversations about evolution. Something had to be done.
So, let me tell you about a pivotal moment in September 2009.
My evolution website had been up since ’05. I had become very adept at articulating this debate and this problem. I had held skeptics at bay on Infidels (world’s largest atheist website at the time) for four years.
My wife Laura and I were in western Ireland for our 20th anniversary and we stayed in Lisdoonvarna, a quaint town in craggy, austere County Clare. I was walking alone in the Burren one afternoon, a place that seems less like the earth than the moon.
It’s that cragginess, edginess and austerity of Ireland that so captivates me. Otherworldly. It shifts me into a mental space I’ve found nowhere else.
Laura took a rest at the hotel and I took a long walk on a country road on the edge of town. I was thinking about – meditating on – this project. ‘Random’ evolution is the biggest mistake in the history of science. The cost of these blunders is incalculable. Who knows how many people are dying of cancer right this very moment because our ideas about evolution are wrong?
This conviction burns inside me at every level.
I was walking down that road alone, having a conversation with the Head Office. If I were to put this in words (which isn’t precisely how it happened, but I’m doing my best to convey it here) it went something like this:
“Hey up there… this war between science and religion is just AWFUL.”
“Yes, you could say that.”
“Somebody needs to DO something about this!”
“And that would be who???”
OH. I get it.
I know how conversations like this go.
God tells Jonah to go to Ninevah. Jonah boards a ship and runs the exact OPPOSITE direction. As far as the ship’s sails can carry him. Then, after getting caught in a horrifying squall and dumping all cargo overboard, then having to be thrown overboard himself, then thrashing around inside a stinking fish for three days…
(Jonah really must have looked like hell by the time he finally turned up in Nineveh, commanding all those pagans to repent in sackcloth and ashes)
OK, I can fast-forward past all that nonsense. 10-4. I’ve got a job to do.
“OK, I’m IN. I will break the back of old-school Darwinism if it’s the last thing I do. I will do this even if it puts a bullet in my head. But you’ve got to help me.”
And at that moment I just felt a pervasive cosmic “YES.” As if Providence was saying, “I’ve got your back, man. You’re good to go.”
Conversation over. Decision made. That was it.
There I was standing on that country road in the Burren. But I wasn’t quite sure what to do next. I was waiting for… something. Wasn’t sure what.
Weeks went by and I pondered the meaning of this.
Fast forward two months. November 15, 2009. I was listening to a talk by Darren Wilson, a film maker. Darren said:
“Some of you have something you know you’re supposed to do and you’re waiting for everything to line up perfectly. That’s a mistake. You have to start the ONE thing you know to start and let providence take care of the rest.”
Hey Perry, he’s talking to you, pal. I got the memo LOUD and CLEAR.
One thing I knew I must do was write a book. That night I decided: I’m going to get up at 6am every day and write for an hour until this book is done.
The very next morning, November 16, 2009, I got up at 6am and wrote until 7. I did that every day, six days a week.
“Perry, I can’t get any publisher to take this book.”
In 2013, my agent handed my manuscript back to me and said, “I’ve pitched 40 publishers and all of them have turned me down. They complain that you’re not a PhD, not from a big university, etc. I can’t sell this thing.”
I took matters into my own hands, pulled some strings and won a contract with BenBella.
Hardest project I have ever tackled. I wrote, wrote and re-wrote. I went through a half dozen editors and dozens of fact-checkers, including review by some of the most exacting scientists in the world. The book had to satisfy the following six requirements:
- It had to be written at a high school level.
- It had to satisfy a fact check by the most rigorous molecular biologist.
- It had to convince creationists evolution is true.
- It had to convince evolutionists creation is true.
- It had to read like a secular science book to non-religious people.
- It had to address the religious concerns of Christians, Muslims and Jews.
This was like threading a needle while snowboarding down a black slope at Steamboat Colorado… backwards.
If I made even one factual or historical slip-up, I would be dead. My foes would eviscerate me like a pack of starving wolves.
Birth of the Technology Prize
Parallel to this, I also needed to NAIL the foundational assertion of the book. Had to drive a huge stake in the ground: That the genetic code is either the result of design, or else the consequence of some as-of-yet undiscovered law of physics.
I’m fine with either option – take your choice. So long as we ignore no verifiable fact.
I tried very hard and found out you couldn’t “force” people to acknowledge that DNA code was the result of design. You couldn’t back people into a corner and make them believe in God. And in all fairness, you couldn’t be sure science wouldn’t solve this problem either.
Science might solve this problem… and if it did it would be as big as anything Einstein ever achieved.
So… rather than ramming my ideology down anyone’s throat and picking a side, I needed to honor the scientific process and put money on the table. I needed a technology prize.
The goal for attracting solutions was a $10 million prize. $10 million commands attention.
So, in addition to writing this book (the labor involved was equivalent to a Ph.D. thesis) I formed a company called Natural Code LLC. I started working to raise money from investors. Minimum skin in the game for each backer: $1.1 million.
I spent large sums hiring lawyers to create an 80-page legal document (“Private Placement Memorandum”) to conform to US securities law. I wrote big checks to HeroX, the site that hosts our contest.
#1 Prize and
All-Star Judging Panel
I now have a $5 million technology prize. It’s posted at www.herox.com/evolution2.0. HeroX is Peter Diamandis’ “X Prize for anybody” site. Mine is the largest prize there. It sits alongside contests by NASA, Coca-Cola and Facebook. Peter Diamandis is the founder of the Ansari X Prize for space flight, which proved private companies can accomplish space travel.
Just because an engineer / marketing consultant puts up some money doesn’t guarantee that the scientific community is going to take him seriously. I needed credentialed scientists to testify that the contest would be fair and that the challenge is worthwhile. So, I appointed three judges to my judging panel. #1 is George Church from Harvard and MIT; #2 is Denis Noble from Oxford; and #3 is Michael Ruse from Florida State University.
Judge #1, George Church, is a titan in genetics. Do a Google search on him – he might be the world’s most respected geneticist. He’s published 425 scientific papers and has 130 patents (!). He’s in charge of multiple programs at Harvard and MIT. He’s aggressively pursuing genetic engineering. He wants to take mammoth DNA and implant it in elephants. He wants to resurrect extinct species.
George started a new company that’s putting human genomes on the Blockchain. Another company he founded is reversing aging for pets. He is deep in the CRISPR patent fight I mentioned earlier and is at the center of genomics in the United States right now. Harvard vs. Berkeley – who’s going to own the gene editing patents?
Church’s tech agenda is aggressive. He’s not unlike Craig Venter, who Nassim Nicholas Taleb mentions in the quote late in this letter. The scope of his ambitions makes me nervous. But rather than fighting him or standing across a chasm throwing rocks at him, I am engaging with him in conversation as a respected and valuable partner in the Evolution 2.0 project.
My son Cuyler with me and Dr. George Church, the leading geneticist at Harvard Medical School. Time Magazine voted him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2017.
Why? Because this project is a De-Militarized Zone which includes people of many different views. I admire George’s ability. I don’t want to stop him. I just want to channel our efforts in the best possible direction.
Frankly I’m not so worried about George Church creating Jurassic Park at Harvard… I’m a lot more concerned about some freshman college student in Kuala Lumpur inventing a brand-new pathogen in their dorm room, and not even knowing he should destroy a plastic sandwich bag before he tosses it in the garbage bin.
I just came back from visiting George at Harvard. We had a great chat about genetic engineering. (He read this letter you’re reading now and gave me some comments.) Again, I’m not worried about George creating a disaster. George respects nature. He well knows bacteria are 1000 times smarter than Microsoft. He had just come from a panel discussion with Nassim Nicholas Taleb about this very subject the previous day.
I asked George, “What are you concerned about with genetic engineering? What keeps you up at night?”
He said, “It’s the guy whose girlfriend breaks up with him, and decides he’s going to get even with the whole world. He says to himself, “My life is a hell-hole. Life itself is a hell-hole. I’m gonna get even with her and the other 7.6 billion other people on this God-forsaken ball hurdling through space. I’m gonna unleash The Pathogen.
“This won’t be my fault, either… This is gonna be HER fault.”
George says to me, “Genetic engineering is more dangerous than nuclear power. It’s like guns. Hardly anybody has access to nuclear power. Everybody has access to germs.” He wasn’t really sure whether this, or some other problem, is the most important.
Either way, the toothpaste is out of the tube… and if we don’t raise our level of respect for nature we’re going to endure some serious consequences.
The “Life is a random accident” story nourishes the narcissism, depression and meaninglessness of the sociopath who decides to kill 7.6 billion people to get revenge on his girlfriend. It feeds the narrative of the Columbine High School shooter who hates life, scorns meaning, and resents existence itself… the deranged killer for whom taking out innocent people is a way to get even with God and everyone else.
The mission of Evolution 2.0 is to change that story. The last two sentences of my book say:
“Life is purposeful. Tell somebody.”
Life is purposeful down to the tiniest cell.
Judge #2, Denis Noble, is one of the top 100 scientists in the UK. Denis was the first person to build a computer model of an organ. It was the heart. He did this in 1960 using punch cards. His discoveries made pacemakers possible. He is a fellow of the Royal Society. He is editor of the society’s journal Interface Focus and he holds a Commander of the British Empire medal from Queen Elizabeth.
He organized the Royal Society’s 2016 conference “New Trends in Biological Evolution” in conjunction with the British Academy. He is president of the International Union of Physiological Sciences. Denis is a pioneer of the field of Systems Biology. He is author of The Music of Life and Dance to the Tune of Life: Biological Relativity. Plus, he’s an accomplished musician.
Denis wrote back to me after I asked him to endorse my book Evolution 2.0. He said:
When you asked me to provide an endorsement, I realised that I would have to not just to skim your book, but to actually read it slowly and carefully. I have already discovered that you are also a cautious rebel in the sense in which I am using that expression. After just a few chapters, I can see and admire how you test each statement almost to destruction through carefully looking at the evidence. Hence the note of congratulation. I have learnt a lot from the way in which you develop your argument and case.
Judge #3, Michael Ruse, is a famous atheist and historian of science. His beliefs could not be more different than mine, but he is a welcome friend and interlocutor. Iron sharpens iron and we enjoy each other’s company.
I spent $500,000 of my own money doing all this. A great deal of it was Google traffic. I bought clicks from Google AdWords from 2003 to 2011, later shifting my spend to Facebook, which continues to this day.
I flew to conferences around the world, hired fact checkers and editors. I accessed thousands of scientific papers. I hired a dozen scientists to fact check my work, several of them representing radically different views of biology, from the conventional to the extreme, from atheists to creationists and everything in between.
I took on every comer. I participated in debates on videos and podcasts and webinars and radio stations. I answered tens of thousands of emails and moderated over 10,000 blog comments. I twisted the Rubik’s cube every possible way it could be twisted.
What’s left standing after you drop the nuclear bomb and blow everything up?
This is because I had resolved to “get to the truth not the sale” as my dear friend and colleague Ari Galper says.
So, when I wrote that book, I literally slaved over every word, every sentence, every paragraph, every footnote and every one of over 350 citations. Wrote and re-wrote. Like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, I carried the ring to Mordor.
If you read every word of this book, you can know that every one of those words is there for a reason.
One thing I learned from Dr. James Shapiro, who blazed this trail ahead of me:
Never bring a knife to a gun fight.
Bring two M16s, several hand grenades…
And if at all possible, an aircraft carrier.
I’ll continue with this story in a minute but first I have to catch you up to something else.
One of the many reasons I became an entrepreneur was what I learned from watching my dad’s bitter struggles against the tyranny of his church:
If someone writes your paycheck, they own you. They control you.
And they can sever your arm with impunity.
What happens to you at work may have more to do with political mumbo-jumbo than your performance on your job, or the quality of your tools, or your commitment to the firm, or the truth.
So even when I was 21 years old and signing up as an Amway distributor, beginning my entrepreneurial career, I already knew that earning my independence was a key step in shaping my future. I had learned that watching dad struggle to survive after he took his wife to a psychiatrist.
That church that I left when I was 19, my mom kept going there long after.
Something came up, I don’t remember what, some disagreement, and a pastor from that church went to my mom’s house to try to convince her about something.
I thought the whole thing was rotten to the core. I wasn’t sure the guy really believed anything they were forcing him to say in the first place. I thought to myself, “If that guy gets fired, he loses his comprehensive health coverage. He’s got to inflict misery on a helpless widow (my mom) so he can keep his job and his health plan.”
Ah, the things people will do for health insurance. And self-preservation.
So anyway, for all these years I have resolutely self-funded this Evolution 2.0 endeavor. I’ve never asked anyone for money. It chafes against my entrepreneurial pride. If I needed to buy some Google ads, I bought the clicks. If I needed to buy books I bought the books. If I needed to go to conferences I went to the conferences. If I needed to hire an expert, I hired the expert.
A little money goes a long way in an intellectual endeavor. You can buy a lot of shortcuts. I paid an editor $6,000 plus travel and hotel just to comes to my house and slave over it from morning until night. And she wasn’t the first editor I hired. Nor the last.
I noticed something else:
In the origins debate, EVERY single constituency was tethered to a money supply that was more resistant to change than the leadership was.
One scientist I know realized, not long after getting tenure: I can either go on the road and raise money and keep this lab going and feed the machine. Or I can stay home and actually get something done.
So, he shuttered his lab, stopped chasing grant money, and devoted himself to explore the latest science wherever it might lead him.
His department chair was NOT a happy camper, shall we say. But this gave him the intellectual freedom that tenure is allegedly designed to produce.
He put that freedom to very good use.
He was a stellar example of someone who earned his own liberty and used his resources to pursue the truth of evolution, in opposition to the old guard.
I admired Isaac Newton, because rather than plowing fields or working at McDonalds, he had the freedom to explore and discover and watch apples fall out of trees and roll balls down inclines and think very very hard about what it all meant.
Newton came from a rich family. I came from a lower middle-class family. But if I could get rich some other way, I could be like Isaac Newton and spend my life doing fascinating experiments and change the world. I aspired to be that and do that.
My financial independence granted me the autonomy to follow the evidence where it leads. Because all the other organizations were tied to a money supply that dictated what they were supposed to do and what they were supposed to think.
The only reason that I am standing here today, with a highly controversial Evolution 2.0 book, Evolution 2.0 prize, and platform, with judges from Harvard, Oxford and MIT, and stories about the prize by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers; the only reason I have endorsements from scientists such as the editor of the International Review of Cell and Molecular biology; the only reason I’m not dead is…
I work for myself.
Nobody could fire me.
Nobody could shoot my income stream in the head.
I am independent, an outsider, a lone wolf.
Scientists don’t know what to think about me or do with me. I operate outside their paradigm. The ones who oppose me are like taxi companies trying to fight Uber in city hall but it’s not working.
I’ve broken through. I was invited to launch the prize by a very famous physicist in Arizona. World class scientists sit on my judging panel. I’m speaking at schools like Penn State and Notre Dame and ASU.
The mainstream press is starting to pick up on it. There’s a great news story about the prize by a genomics trade magazine at http://budurl.me/frontline. And another by the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers at https://budurl.me/ieee. And I’m transforming the conversation in a way that’s fully respectful of both science and religion.
I have silenced most of my critics. Because they can’t slice my balls off. They also know from the Infidels debate which lasted seven years (see chapter 22 of my book for the whole story) that if they fight me I will never give up, never back down. I’m relentless.
“Perry, it’s Time for You to Bring Evolution 2.0 to the Mainstream!”
A few months ago, an Evolution 2.0 stakeholder reached out to me. He’s a Medical Doctor. He said, “Perry, I’m watching the videos on your evo2.org site and they are just extraordinary. Wow. The content is unbelievably good. Everyone should see this! Your book should be required reading in every school.
“The presentation, however – the video and production quality – is not up to 2018 standards. Some of it is 10 years old.” (See for example www.evo2.org/origin-of-life-video)
“You’re absolutely right,” I said. “And you know what’s frustrating, when I spoke at Arizona State and announced the prize, I wanted to bring a film crew. But they wouldn’t grant us permission. We had to use their staff instead. And their people screwed their video up badly, so all we got was a 640×480 Facebook Live video.”
He asked me, “Do you have the resources to do high quality video and production to the degree that this deserves?”
I said, “No. Actually I do not. Not like it deserves. I have already poured half a million dollars into this. I am continuing to invest in this project, but to re-skin this thing and shoot many hours of high quality video, churn out video content on a consistent basis and get it up to broadcast standards – and then properly advertise and promote it as well – simply costs more money than I can channel into this.”
It can cost $5,000 to $15,000 to do one broadcast-quality 3-camera filming, editing and production of one two-hour lecture, for example. And please keep in mind that this project continues to occupy 20-30% of my time (which is limited) and I have a volunteer crew that helps with Evolution 2.0 and I continue to invest my own money in advertising, conferences and other miscellaneous expenses.
If you know anything about marketing, you know a $10,000 video that’s really good, also deserves $50,000 of advertising on YouTube.
My stakeholder said, “This absolutely deserves to be funded. I’d like to help. Put together a proposal and send it to me.”
I spent months talking to vendors. I gave him a quote for an aggressive plan to produce an ongoing series of professional videos; to issue a podcast, and to put more advertising money behind this. As well as hire a part-time publicist.
If we’re going to make a big impact AND alter the conversation around CRISPR, evolution and purpose in nature, this needs a $20,000 to $100,000 per month budget. Given the scope of our ambitions it should be more, but a quarter million a year is a great start. This also includes someone to manage it. Right now, it’s administrated by my personal assistant Lorena Ybarra and a small team of generous volunteers, recruited from Planet Perry.
Everything we do sucks resources from my company, and the opportunity cost of that is very high – on both sides.
At this stage in the project’s development, I just can’t see any way to make this a for-profit venture. I learned a long time ago, for-profit and non-profit are entirely different animals. It’s a mistake to confuse one with the other. There are certain problems in the world that you cannot solve and make a profit at the same time.
The technology prize may prove immensely, unimaginably profitable if the discovery is made and if we are successful patenting it. It could make me and my investors billionaires. But for the time being, Evolution 2.0 falls firmly in the category of non-profit endeavor.
For me, the opportunity cost of this project has been several million dollars.
It has produced valuable business insights, like the Swiss Army Knife for systematic creativity in advertising. Evolution 2.0 informs everything I do in business. It’s not like the commercial benefit has been zero. It has lent a tremendous range of interdisciplinary insights. Molecular biology and marketing seemingly have nothing to do with each other, but they have a great deal in common and operate on many of the same principles.
(Actually, marketing and evolutionary biology are exactly the same thing, they just play on two different sports channels.)
Nonetheless, in terms of the immediate and tangible, this has been costly, both personally and financially.
So anyway, my wealthy stakeholder said, “Perry, I want to fund this. I think Evolution 2.0 should be in every school. I’m a Medical Doctor. I’m also on the board of a nutrition company. The way you explain biology is just extraordinary. But there’s a problem I want to avoid, which is being the sole source of finances.
“John D. Rockefeller had that problem. There were a bunch of projects, like one at the University of Chicago, where 90% of the money was coming from him. It ended up creating stress for him because it fostered an unhealthy dependency. I don’t want that.
“So, Perry, my stipulation is, I don’t want to be funding more than 50% of this. If Evolution 2.0 is a worthy cause, then you should be able to get other people to support it.”
And that’s why I’m sending you this letter. That, dear reader, is why I’m asking you for dinero.
Entrepreneurs never like asking anybody for anything.
I have avoided this for ten years.
I’ve got my pride to maintain, after all. But have to enlist your help. I have no other choice. And I’m asking you because you’re a Planet Perry member and as such you understand what I’m about far better than most other people.
I am donating to this project a large amount of my valuable time.
I do not make any money from the Evolution 2.0 project. (If this ever changes I will let you know.) I don’t personally gain from this. I don’t draw a salary.
Recently I got a royalty check for the Evolution 2.0 book. 100% of it went right back into the project. I’m still spending money out of my own pocket to make this go. All monies go directly to the project. With this in mind, I’m asking for help to fund the following:
- High quality video production. We live in a golden age of video; especially for millennials, if you don’t have video, you have zero chance of reaching half the population. Remember, they’re the ones who are going to be teaching science 20 years from now. They need to see this. NOW..
- Expert project management.
- Producing a quality podcast.
- An in-house publicist (external PR agencies are dizzyingly expensive, and none guarantee results).
- Facebook, Google, and YouTube traffic.
Most people receiving this letter are professional marketers and entrepreneurs. You may know I wrote the world’s best-selling books on both Google and Facebook advertising. You probably know I know how to buy traffic. You likely know I know 80/20. I know how to write and market well.
This is not like other charities where you may contribute funds, because it’s “the right thing to do,” yet cringe at how poorly they spend it when it comes to marketing and advertising.
We know how to do this very well.
Bottom line is, this project needs a bare minimum of $20,000 a month to reach its potential.
This thing could really make some serious headway with a budget of a quarter million to one million dollars a year. (Which is a very small non-profit organization in the grand scheme of things.)
Also, in most nonprofits, media, marketing and advertising costs are your enemy. The more money you have to spend on advertising and marketing, the less money goes to build houses or dig wells.
Here, media, marketing and advertising are our friends. Because this is all about engaging people with new and urgent information. I have trained tens of thousands of world-class Pay Per Click marketers. We know what to do with these clicks. We will hire some of those students to buy the PPC traffic.
Most of the money you donate will be used to buy media and change minds. Not pay staff members to play patty-cake and babysit. We also have volunteers. So, this is a high efficiency, high-leverage game.
REMEMBER: A generous donor is matching your gift dollar for dollar. Every dollar you give becomes two!
We will continue to use volunteers. But we need high quality video and professional video production. Right now, my video production is being done by the volunteers. They’re good, but their time is in short supply. We need pros.
I have an invitation to speak at Penn State this fall for example; I spoke at Notre Dame in November; your gifts empower video crews, Facebook, YouTube and Google traffic, a part-time publicist and badly needed administration.
“That’s nice Perry, but why don’t your Evolution 2.0 investors pay for the marketing and PR? Why are you asking us?”
Excellent question. I have five investors at the moment. Each has paid a subscription fee. Each has committed to writing checks for up to $1.1 million IF the prize specification is met. This puts them in the game for ten years. They’ve agreed cover the patent fees, and also pay the winner his or her $5 million when the riddle is solved. This secures their ownership of the patents and equity in the company.
In theory, perhaps each of them should also pony up an extra $100K or $200K now, to pay for marketing and advertising. That’s a good idea… in theory. In reality, though, I have not been able to convince my investors to do that. One reason is, it’s possible this problem will never get solved. I tell them there’s a 10% chance this will be solved in my lifetime; the most likely opportunity is in other discoveries people bring to us.
Another reason is, the purpose of their investment isn’t to solve the cultural knowledge gap about evolution, CRISPR and AI. I am quite happy that they have simply agreed to fund the prize. Evolution 2.0 is way bigger than investment money and a prize. It’s culture shift.
REMEMBER: ONE of these investors is willing to contribute a whole lot more, so long as his contribution is 50% or less. He wants other people like yourself to put skin in the game too.
The fact remains that whether the Evolution 2.0 Prize is ever won or not, we have an urgent message that needs to get out NOW. Evolution itself runs 24/7/365. Genome editing tampers with evolution. We need to put parameters on it, so we don’t create a major catastrophe. The war between science and religion is the worst enemy of open conversation about gene editing.
If you’re a member of my business audience, you know in your bones: A one-man-band is no way to scale a business, let alone a mass movement. One guy cannot do it all. One guy cannot be the leader AND the author AND the spokesman AND the financier AND the publicist.
If only one person in the world believed this was worthy of leading, speaking and financing, then it would be a Don Quixote hopeless cause. Your help is critical to make this successful. We need leaders like you to fuel the movement.
This is FAR too important to NOT have you playing a part.
If this is dependent ONLY on Perry Marshall 1) being the leader of the movement, AND 2) trading hours for dollars in his own career to finance the movement too, then it will never be anything more than one guy’s pet project.
This is so much bigger than that. And it needs big players like you to carry it forward.
Nobody should be asking
“Why doesn’t Perry just pay for this himself?”
You should be asking,
“Does Perry have enough skin in the game that I should put some of my skin in too?”
If you’ve read what I’ve written so far, you know that I have poured 14 years of my life, half a million dollars of my personal money and ALL my professional reputation on this. Immense skin in the game. My business time bills at thousands of dollars per hour, but every week I carve out significant time to do this instead. Outside of my family and friends and a small crew of loyal volunteers, I’ve carried this burden myself.
Now I need others to get on board. I need YOU.
And if we don’t bring sanity to this gene-editing discussion NOW, somebody’s going to make some very grave mistakes. And we will ALL pay the price. And that impacts all of us today. For you and me and the generation to come. It affects our children and grandchildren. And great grandchildren.
Remember: GM and Toyota can recall automobiles. Germs don’t have recall buttons. Once you release a genetically engineered organism into the wild, there’s no “undo” button.
Apple and Facebook and Microsoft can test software. But the software testing you can perform with humans is strictly limited.
Jordan Peterson has a YouTube lecture called, “If you were in Nazi Germany, you would be a Nazi.” The video explains that the people who perpetrated the horrors of that time were regular human beings just like the rest of us. Under pressure to conform. ALL of us are subject to tremendous manipulation.
The book Ordinary Men documents how firemen and police officers and everyday workers in Poland got transformed into thugs who shoot pregnant women in the back of the head in World War II.
Few people – very few – have the guts to defy political correctness of any variety. It seems so obvious to us that what the Nazis were doing – what the Marxists were doing – was stark raving insanity. But it didn’t seem quite so insane at the time. It seemed necessary and maybe inevitable. The book Ordinary Men shows most of us would have capitulated.
Most of us are capitulating right now to a confusion and miasma. Cultural fog and lack of clarity that will seem utterly comical 50 years from now. People in 2018 can’t even have sane conversations when the president of the United States comes up. Most couples can’t even negotiate sex. How on earth are we going to deal with genetic engineering?
A “Black Swan” is a never-happened-before catastrophic event nobody thinks is possible… until it eventually does occur. The following quote is from Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book Antifragile:
At the time of this writing, the biologist Craig Venter is engaging in the creation of artificial life. He conducted experiments and stated them in a famous paper titled “Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome.”
I have an immense respect for Craig Venter, whom I consider one of the smartest men who’s ever breathed, and a “doer” in the full sense of the word but giving fallible humans such powers is similar to giving a small child a bunch of explosives.
If I understand this well, to the creationists, this should be an insult to God; but further, to the evolutionist, this is certainly an insult to evolution. And to the probabilist, like myself and my peers, this is an insult to human prudence, the beginning of the mother of all exposures to Black Swans.
Driver in the Driverless Car
In March 2018 I went to Silicon Valley. I met with people at Google Ventures as well as Vivek Wadhwa in Menlo Park. Vivek is a renowned entrepreneur, professor and tech commentator who writes for US News and World Report and the Washington Post. He teaches courses at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon and Emery University and speaks at many conferences. He wrote a great book called “Driver in the Driverless Car.”
I was explaining my $5 million Evolution 2.0 Prize to him. He said, “Where did you get all this money to fund this thing?”
I realized he was assuming I was one of those eccentric rich guys on a Don Quixote mission, pouring lots of money down a big ideological hole. “Oh, sir, I did not fund this myself. I raised money from investors.” We went on to discuss my prize.
He said, “Origin of the genetic code is not a normal “linear” scientific question. If anyone is smart enough to solve this, they will probably have to model it on a quantum computer to explore the possibilities and develop a model so that a physical experiment can solve it.”
He’s right. This is big-time stuff and it calls for big-time players like yourself. The Evolution 2.0 prize is set to solve the most fundamental problem in science that can be precisely defined.
If we find an answer, it’s as big as quantum physics, or relativity, or E = MC2. The quest for a solution is a search for the next Albert Einstein or Nikola Tesla.
From time to time, my personal friends start nonprofits, get involved in causes, go on mission trips and the like, and they come to me and Laura and ask us to support them. Most of the time they look down at their shoes and sort of apologize, feeling that it’s distasteful and perhaps slightly shameful to be asking for money.
I correct them. I say: “Laura and I like to support people we believe in. We like the fact that you are digging wells in Mozambique and frankly the nice part is, I don’t have to. I honor what you are doing, and I’m pleased to be a part of it. After all, Jesus did famously say, ‘He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward.’ So, don’t apologize for anything.”
Same thing with you. If you can physically join me in this fight, I respect that. But you can also simply write a check and know it’s doing something really important.
If you’re like me, you like to give to good causes. You just need to know you can legitimately feel good about them, and that you’re not just funding expensive breakfasts, dog-and-pony shows and glitzy power point presentations.
Evolution 2.0 is not a book, it’s a 100-year mission. This is something that will LONG outlast me. Evolution 2.0 is a drive to spark a New Renaissance.
My lifetime ambition is to end the war between science and religion and start a second renaissance. A renewal of art, science, faith, vision and culture. Like what happened 500 years ago – but it happens again. An awakening. A synthesis of the ancient and modern.
In the entrepreneurial space, I’m already creating a second Renaissance with “Renaissance Time” (starting your day with what’s important, not what’s urgent) classic literature (“read something written before Gutenberg every day, connect yourself to the wisdom of the ancient masters”) and a wide-awake community of skin-in-the-game entrepreneurs.
With Evolution 2.0 you and I are correcting the biggest mistake in the history of science: The doctrine that life is meaningless and purposeless. We’re confronting the very idea that science can’t acknowledge purposes. It can, and it must.
People are missing out, because life is meaningful and purposeful. Technically AND functionally AND philosophically.
It’s going to take a lot of hands to fix the damage. Your help is badly needed.
What do YOU get for joining this movement?
I thought long and hard about whether I should juice this up with interesting offers and perks. Access to Perry… people get certain products that I sell on the business side, or discounts to seminars and stuff.
I decided against it. Here’s why:
- It just puts me back on the hamster wheel. It’s only yet another way of me earning the money that this project needs in order to grow and flourish.
- It cannibalizes my existing business.
- It fails to recognize the fact that if we’re going to address these problems in our society, people have to make sacrifices and DO SOMETHING for the world.
I am not making up this stuff about gene editing and CRISPR and AI. There is a terrible crisis of ignorance around this subject. We are in a very serious predicament right now. I shouldn’t have to bribe you to pay attention to this. I shouldn’t have to offer you “bonuses” to convince you to guard the safety of your children and grandchildren.
Supporting Evolution 2.0 is not you doing Perry a “favor”. This is you meeting your responsibility to yourself and your children and grandchildren. These problems will NOT go away just by wishing. They are only going to grow more acute. I am merely a steward of the truth that I know, and I need your help broadcasting it.
I won’t bribe you, but you will get some perks. 3-6 times per year I will send a special bulletin to Evolution 2.0 supporters, giving you a behind the scenes look. I will tell you what is really going on at the cutting edge of life sciences and how it intersects with culture and philosophy and religion and humanity.
Science and culture offer all kinds of rabbit trails for people who like to think about where the world is really going. Interesting pieces about my life and endeavors. And there will also be business and marketing insights. Only Evolution 2.0 supporters and prospective investors get this.
I will host supporters-only events, sometimes resembling the City Tours for business members. I’m increasingly traveling and presenting in the US and Europe, and I always make it a point to express special gratitude to those who stick by me.
The people who support me early on are the ones who, in the future, will be regarded as the founding fathers of this movement.
More important than those perks: an opportunity to personally be part of healing the rift between science and religion and pointing science and technology in a new direction.
When I present Evolution 2.0 – the stories of how cells re-write their own code and adapt, almost like little entrepreneurs, people very often they say, “Why hasn’t anybody told me this before?”
I gave evolution talks to two different conservative Christian home school groups. Both times, the organizers were besieged beforehand with hand-wringing emails from concerned parents, wondering what I was about to teach their kids. Most embraced creationism and were wary.
But afterwards, nothing but gratitude. An eager group of parents and kids stayed for two hours after, hammering me with curious questions.
The goal of Evolution 2.0 is not to ram religion down anybody’s throat; the goal is to open up freedom of speech again so that people are actually allowed to discuss science and religion peacefully.
At the end of the prize announcement at Arizona State University, I laid out the new rules for discussing evolution (or abortion or gun control or gay rights or trans people or immigration or Donald Trump or anything else controversial).
You need a “De-Militarized Zone” and these are the rules of the DMZ:
1) Put down your weapons.
If we’re going to talk about this, you don’t come with the intention of shooting somebody dead, even if you don’t like them, even if they’re from a different tribe than you. We have to talk.
2) No hiding behind screen names.
I find that anonymity brings out the absolute worst in people. (I believe it also brings out the absolute real in people.) If you have to sign your name to what you’re saying online or offline, then you’re a lot more likely to say something that’s helpful.
3) Assume positive intention.
You need to assume that whomever you’re talking to is there for a good reason, even if you don’t like their values or even if you don’t like their position or their platform or the tribe that they belong to, or their metaphysics or their anti-metaphysics or whatever. You assume that they are here because they want to solve this, and there’s a good reason why they believe what they believe, even if you think it’s nutty.
4. Get to the truth, not the sale.
This is a phrase I got from my colleague Ari Galper, who’s a sales trainer. I just want to know the truth. Everybody knows that if you go to a car lot and the person just wants to sell you a car, regardless of whether it’s the right car for you, that you have this icky used car salesman experience. Why? Because the guy is trying to get to the sale, not the truth. You respect a guy who doesn’t sell you a car because he knows it’s not right for you.
That’s what we have to do in this debate. We have to pursue the truth, pursue the truth, and ignore no verifiable fact. Your will to discover the truth has to be greater than your fear of whatever that truth might be.
There will be no New Renaissance without a firm commitment to open, honest dialogue and free exploration. This means we have to combat political correctness, fear and intimidation. Fear is its own prejudice and is inexcusable. We can’t arbitrarily ban people from the conversation.
Bitter Struggle for Honest Conversation
My dad took my mom to a psychiatrist because living with a mentally ill person was insufferable. He got demoted by his pastor boss Mr. G, and publicly humiliated. Mr. G announced dad’s resignation to the whole church on Sunday morning. Most people were so ‘thrown off’ by the whole experience, they didn’t really know what to say… some people wouldn’t even talk to us anymore.
Many people were forced to “resign” under Mr. G’s leadership. My friend Shantel was drinking? Smoking? Drugs? I don’t recall. Her dad Mick was the church custodian. He was shamed into leaving over Shantel’s behavior to go find another job.
Remember Mr. J, who came to our house with Mr. G to deliver the news that dad was resigning? Remember how my sister told him about the sins of his daughter and he retorted, ‘we’re here to talk about you, not me’? Mr. J was later fired from his job because his son Jeff, also a friend of mine, was caught smoking pot.
Mr. J tried to sell insurance instead, but Mr. G trashed his reputation in our community and literally ran him out of town. Mr. J. took a pastor job in a small town in central Nebraska, four hours west.
The next months after my dad’s demotion were painful indeed. Few knew the real story. Some gathered around us. Most only knew something disgraceful had happened and kept their distance. We felt like pariahs.
Dad couldn’t hang with his same friends anymore. He wasn’t invited to lunch with his co-workers anymore, even though they all still worked in the same building. They shut him out of staff meetings.
A couple months later I got into a fist fight at school. Came home with two black eyes.
My face was a swollen mess. I was laying on my bed in the dark and dad came in. After confirming that I was more or less OK, he lit into me. “Perry, do you realize that if the Board of Elders hears about this fight, I could lose my job? Perry, why don’t you THINK?????”
Bad report cards. Complaints from teachers. All this added to the mounting case against dad. Somehow the Board of Elders managed to not get wind of my fist fight. Had they known, my dad would have likely been dismissed from his book-editor job on the spot.
“Perry,” he said, “I wasn’t going to tell you this, but one of the reasons I lost my job was you. People have been noticing how out-of-control you are. Your bad behavior was a deciding factor in me getting demoted. Perry if you don’t start THINKING before you do stuff, you’re going to get all of us in serious trouble.”
I swallowed a huge hairball of false guilt. He was right, if they found out about my fist fight, it might all be over. He could lose his job entirely. I remember resolving to get control of myself. I will straighten up and fly right.
Dad would come home from work every night and collapse on the couch and sob. Mom insisted, “Bob, all this mess is YOUR fault for being such a cruel tyrant!”
Dad followed through with the psychiatrist’s advice to get her on a prescription drug. Literally in days, mom transformed from defiant and combative to quiet and cooperative. Her bizarre behavior stopped completely. Not only that, she went from being angry and defensive to feeling deep remorse about her erratic behavior.
Soon it became clear that Mr. G torpedoed dad simply because mom had a medical problem – a chemical imbalance – and that mom’s behavior wasn’t “sin” or “rebellion.” It was a well-understood mental illness. She couldn’t help herself.
Dad felt humiliated and betrayed and abandoned. He desperately wanted to bail. A lot of people told him: “Bob, you should quit your job. They are mistreating you. This is unjust. They’re a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites. You don’t deserve this!” This advice came strongest from relatives who understood the scope of the situation.
Dad thought about pulling up stakes, moving elsewhere.
He decided to stick it out. To argue his case and vindicate himself.
Mr. G. was forceful, articulate and intimidating. Nobody had the balls to stand up to Mr. G. But dad did. As mom’s condition improved, he got in Mr. G’s face. “Mr. G, you made a bad judgment. What you did was wrong and hurtful. And you need to apologize to my wife.”
Furthermore, dad forced Mr. G to write her a signed letter of reconciliation, because by this time mom had become terrified of Mr. G. He had, after all, the ability to singlehandedly destroy dad’s career.
Nine months after dad had been demoted, he was reinstated.
Two weeks later dad was diagnosed with cancer.
Mom and dad had been vindicated. Mom was much better. But now our family was plunged into a brand-new uncertainty. Mom’s medication made her almost sedate – she was a shadow of her former self – and dad had major surgery to have his kidney removed. The incision wrapped from the middle of his stomach almost to his spine. Doctors discussed with him the possibility of an “open and close” surgery where they see that the cancer has spread too far to stop, so they just sew him up and send him home to die.
Thankfully, they got the cancer. He was cancer free for a year and a half.
Then the cancer came back again. I was in the basement when I heard my dad walk in the door upstairs in the middle of a summer afternoon.
“Betty, I went to the doctor today and my cancer is back. It’s in my lymph nodes and there’s a spot in my lung.”
I remember sitting at the foot of the basement stairs and hearing her protests – no Bob, no! no! no! – and her despairing, uncontrolled weeping.
They never knew I heard that conversation.
Dad even got accepted into a rare, promising, experimental cancer treatment in Houston, and another in Bethesda Maryland, but it didn’t work. Treatments were unsuccessful. All it got us was more cycles of hope and despair, hope and despair.
People from our church were profoundly supportive. Generous to a fault. Cards, phone calls and gifts; one guy covered all dad’s plane tickets and hotel bills for cancer treatments. Shoveling snow. Casseroles. Listening ears, financial advice, groceries. (People who are not part of this kind of community have no idea what they’re missing. Frankly I wonder how people who are not part of a faith community get through stuff like this.)
As it became clear dad wasn’t going to make it, Mr. G secretly mailed a letter to everyone else at church. He explained how this summer was likely Bob’s last and it would be really nice to raise some money, so Bob can take a trip to the West Coast.
One night after the church service Mr. G invited my parents on the platform. They had no idea what was going on, but clearly everyone else knew something was up. “Well Bob and Betty, we sent out a letter… some money came in… someone donated a van… this will get you to at least North Platte in Western Nebraska…” he teased for a while, then finally said, “The amount that came in was over ten thousand dollars.”
Total shock. My mom and dad stood there, trying to absorb the generosity. Dad was wearing a suit, so you couldn’t really tell that he had lost maybe 30 pounds by this time. My parents wept as people gave a standing ovation. Mom and dad had come a long, long way since those humiliating days of dad’s demotion and mom’s mental illness three years earlier.
In 1986, $10,000 was enough to not only take dad to California, a land he’d always longed to see, but it was enough to fly all of us to Alaska and Hawaii too. Dad experienced a “last hurrah” with his wife and me and Bryan that July. We had a very memorable vacation together. The first vacation where we weren’t pinching pennies.
Having any money at all was a shock to my system. I also felt as though we were spending money we might need later. Fortunately, dad chose to enjoy the moment and we had as much fun as we could. Our vacation lasted five weeks and we hit every state in the western US. Hawaii was tranquil and relaxing. The mountains of Alaska were awe inspiring.
I even sent two postcards to a girl I had met two months before – her name was Laura.
That October, he died. I was 17.
Two thousand people came to my father’s funeral on an Indian summer October afternoon. Why? Because he’d stuck to his guns, fought for what was true, and won respect. He had done so on a big stage with high stakes. And he had lived out the ordinary day-in, day-out duties of a pastor with consistency and integrity.
Crossing the Enemy Lines of Evolution
Midway through my investigation of evolution, I heard a fantastic lecture by a scientist. This guy was clearly head and shoulders above most others in the field. I was going to be in his town, so I reached out to see if we could get together and discuss his work.
He thanked me for my enthusiasm. “You and I have different agendas,” he said. He explained that associating with someone on the religious side of the fence like myself would be more detrimental than helpful in winning the larger science community. “Please allow me to decline the invitation to lunch,” he said.
“I don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize your work,” I replied. “I completely understand.”
Sometime later, he published a book. I wrote a letter to a popular publication, discussing the ideas in his book. At the end of the letter I pointed out how hard this guy was trying to create a civilized dialogue in this most-contentious war zone.
I got an email from him out of the blue: “I saw your letter and read it out loud to my wife. She started to cry.
“Yes, we can get together for lunch. When will you be in town next?”
A warm friendship ensued, which opened up many vital connections for me, for my book, and the prize.
He and I still can’t be friends in public; the atmosphere is still too polarized. “Free speech” in evolution science still does not exist. “Coming out” for him could torpedo his career. But privately we both endeavor to heal the rift, to break the deadlock. We both sense the urgency of these issues.
What would it be like if the “where we come from” question was NOT gridlocked with fear, intimidation and censorship?
Can we afford to maintain this intimidation and censorship given the gravity of genetic engineering and the problems it can create?
I am working hard to open up this conversation.
And we need to bring truth, inquiry and humility to the gene editing sphere ASAP.
I got this blog comment from Mr. Hashem Barzan:
Hello Mr. Marshall, I have admired your work for about a couple years now… It actually made me a little hopeful & happy as for certain reasons I was spiraling into a form of dark, negative nihilism. Your lectures on evolution made me re-evaluate those toxic notions that were building inside of my head. I can say I’m coming out of a dark despair thanks to you & those on the same page as you.
This same cloud of despair hangs over the entire field of biology. There’s a negativity, a nihilism, an anger, a despair. It’s almost as though nobody notices that everything they’re studying is alive. I say this meaningless feeling is the same impulse that drives jilted lovers to get even with the whole human race.
Some people think technology is the way out.
Nope. If we think technology is our savior, all it will do is make us its slave.
As you can see from Mr. Barzan’s comment, Evolution 2.0 is making a difference. It’s hopeful. It’s aspirational.
My main rivals in Evolution 2.0 are the dogmatic fundamentalist atheists, who have generated MASSIVE amounts of press and publicity in the last ten years. Their captain is Richard Dawkins, who has sold more evolution books than anyone else in the world. Dawkins famously said:
“The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
On a radio show, I heard Dawkins say, “The origin of life was a happy chemical accident.” If you want to nudge people along in their fantasies of killing everyone and everything because their girlfriend broke up with them, all you need to do is tell them stuff like that.
What’s the truth? The truth is: the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is design, good, evil, purpose and meaning.
We don’t need another round of “God is dead.” We tried that. We got World War I, World War II and the Cold War.
I don’t want World War III with microbes instead of nuclear bombs. Do you?
It has taken a very long letter to just begin to explain all of this to you. Yet, I hope you can begin to sense what a crucial time we live in. We need funding to produce high quality video, to hire a publicist, generate buzz on social media, and use Google, YouTube and Facebook advertising to get this in front of millions of people. So that everyone discovers how intensely purposeful nature is and that we MUST respect her as we begin to use the tools of 21st century technology.
I am the only 501(c)(3) charity that is sending you letters, that is founded by a world-famous marketing expert who teaches people how to make advertising measurable and accountable.
You can trust me to appoint people who know how to do this properly.
With your support we can:
- Speak to groups including colleges and universities. In 2017 I spoke at Arizona State and Notre Dame; in 2018 I’m speaking at Penn State and others.
- Gain exposure on major radio and TV stations and podcasts.
- Push videos of those talks and other videos into social media, so they can be shared and discussed, with paid advertising.
- Bring these issues to the forefront, especially for millennials, who have an unprecedented hunger for the truth.
- Create a De-Militarized Zone where people can calmly and sanely discuss these urgent issues.
- Break the deadlock between Darwin and Design (we MUST do this, or else genetic engineering will end in catastrophe).
- End the war between science and religion (if this war continues in our technological age, we will become extinct after enduring a miserable dystopia run by technocrats).
We need science and religion, and neither field has yet reached the maturity necessary to have a sane conversation with the other.
It’s time for us to grow up and have that conversation. Or the world will not be here when it’s time for your children to inherit it.
I’m asking for your time. I’m asking for your prayers. I’m also asking for introductions to key people, including potential opportunities to appear on radio, TV, podcasts, interviews and debates. You probably know influential people. You may have an “in” with a major media platform. I’m asking you to introduce me to investors and other people who can make donations. (You can contact my office through firstname.lastname@example.org if you have introductions to make.)
And I’m asking you to please make yours a consistent monthly donation. It’s one of the best ways to work within the tax laws to maximize the efficiency of your gifts.
The war between science and religion got Galileo arrested. Got my dad demoted from his job and publicly shamed when he took my mom to a psychiatrist – the exact time when he most needed support from his friends and colleagues. Barbara McClintock should have gotten her Nobel Prize 25 years sooner than she did.
This war has cost us 25 years of cancer research, 25 years of progress in fighting disease. Maybe far more. And now, a “black swan” event engineered by people who think they’re smarter than nature could kill innocent people.
We have to do something about this now.
Your contribution is tax deductible, Because Evolution 2.0 is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Your gift today hires video crews. It puts this message in highly digestible form to tens and hundreds of thousands of millennials. It buys Facebook traffic, Google traffic, social media and viral exposure. It shifts the conversation. It creates a De-Militarized Zone where people can discuss the most explosive topics with safety and candor. It helps people understand what we are really doing with bio engineering and what they can do to bring responsibility and conscientiousness to this endeavor.
Use the enclosed postage-paid envelope to return your important donation today so we can move forward with boldness to make our world safer and more meaningful.
If we don’t fix the biggest mistake in the history of science – the doctrine that life and evolution are random and purposeless – we will make the biggest mistake in the history of technology.
Nobody wants that.
Sleep with one eye open. Make a bold gift and help drive this movement. And seize the day.
It may be more tax advantageous to you to be a business or advertising sponsor instead of a charitable donor. Call Tiffany at (312)437-8433 to discuss your options.
You will get regular Evolution 2.0 updates via private bulletin exclusively for those who financially support or invest in Evolution 2.0.
P.S.: As a member of the Evolution 2.0 movement, you will be carried along by the stream of momentum as the locomotive gathers steam. You will be privy to trends long before the public is aware of them and this will undoubtedly change the way you perceive and perform your own work. Because this touches everything.
Our supporters are not merely donors. You are journeymen and journeywomen. You are integrating some of the most foundational truths into your life and helping other people discover those truths. These will spill over into nutrition, longevity, cancer and disease research, entrepreneurship, technology. It will change how you nourish and raise your children. It fosters peace between science and religion.