Love belongs to the human being’s DNA

Each being is governed by two processes: the necessity to interconnect with all the others to more easily guarantee its survival; the second is to interrelate by rare gratuitousness, creating new bonds among themselves and by affinity.

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We are witnessing, appalled, in our country and also in a large part of the world, a wave of hatred, contempt, exclusion, and symbolic and physical violence that raises the question: What register does this sinister fact have within human life? As we will see in a moment, researchers into the secret of human life assure us that love, cooperation, solidarity and compassion are inscribed in our DNA, by nature and not simply by a personal or social project. Those who live and nurture hatred are enemies of themselves and of life itself. For this reason, they produce nothing more effective than misfortune, exclusion, crime, and death. This is what we are unfortunately witnessing.


In this matter, the first name to be mentioned is, without a doubt, James D. Watson with his famous book “DNA: the secret of life” (2005). Together with his colleague Francis Crick they scientifically sustain that love is present in the essence of DNA. Both in 1953 decoded the genetic code, the structure of the DNA molecule, the double helix that contains the program of all life, from the primigenial cell that appeared 3.8 billion years ago until it reaches us, human beings.


We all consist of the same basic genetic code, which makes us all related to each other. Watson states: “against pride, the sublime achievements of the human intellect reveal, we have only twice as many genes as a lowly earthworm, three times as many genes as a rotting fruit fly, and only six times as many genes as simple baker’s yeast”. The stretched DNA cell reaches a meter and 85 centimeters; reduced to its original form is a trillionth of a centimeter and is present in every cell, even the most superficial of the skin of our hand. Watson defines: “Life as we know it is nothing more than a vast array of coordinated chemical reactions. The secret of this coordination is a complex and overwhelming set of instructions inscribed chemically in our DNA.


Much new knowledge enriched the Watson/Crick vision especially by the two Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. The best of this research was wonderfully summarized by the ecologist and quantum physicist Fritjof Capra in his book “The Web of Life” (1997). Living beings, in open systems that make them dialogue with all the surroundings, are not static, they are always in a process of self-creation (Maturana’s autopoiesis). They not only adapt to changes, but create new ones together with other beings in such a way that they continuously co-evolve.


A decisive contribution was brought by Humberto Maturana who studied the biological basis of love. He sees love present from the very beginning of the universe. Each being is governed by two processes: the first is of necessity to interconnect with all the others to more easily guarantee its survival. The second is of pure spontaneity. Beings interrelate by rare gratuitousness, creating new bonds among themselves and by affinity, as if they were reciprocally in love. The love that emerges between two beings, millions of years later, had its origin in this ancestral, spontaneous loving relationship.


All this occurs as a given of objective reality. When it reaches the human being, it can become something subjective, a love consciously assumed and lived as a life project.


All this reflection is aimed at delegitimizing and accusing as inhumane, contrary to the movement of the universe and to the biological basis of life, the prevalence of hate, exclusion, and rage present in our country, encouraged by a head of state who excels in hate, deviant and necrophilic behavior. He has made himself an enemy of the lives of his compatriots by allying himself with Covid-19, presenting himself as a master healer through chloroquine and compounds, as if he were a doctor and a specialist. He passes as a mere charlatan and, with reference to the indigenous people, as genocidal.


I end with Watson’s testimony in the aforementioned book:


Although I am not religious, I see profoundly true elements in St. Paul’s words about love in his epistle to the Corinthians: ‘If I could speak all languages…if I had the knowledge of all mysteries and all knowledge…if I had not love, I would be nothing. Paul, in my understanding, has clearly revealed the essence of our humanity. Love, that impulse that makes us care for others is what has allowed us our survival and success on the planet. So fundamental is love to our human nature that I am certain that the capacity to love is inscribed in our DNA. A secular Paul (he Watson) would say that love is our genes’ greatest gift to humanity” (p.433-434).


Such words lead us to respond to the Bolsonarist hatred with love, to the offense of his fans with love: Such attitudes give us the certainty and guarantee that these harmful times of anger and hatred will pass.


- Leonardo Boff is a theologian, philosopher and writer and has published The house, spirituality, love, Paulinas, SP 2017; The rights of the heart, Paulus, SP 2015.


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