Biology only worth knowing if life is

Last of the summer basil (November, 2019)

I suppose it’s a bit much to ask students to ponder their closeness to plants in a culture where humans barely recognize other humans. Things have broken down.

Yet this much is true:

  • Humans and plants share the same genetic code–we can make their stuff, they can make ours.
  • We both reproduce sexually in a spectacular dance of the chromosomes, mixing us up every generation, so that even the perfect among us are perfect for only a generation.
  • We both rely on ribosomes to build our proteins, microtubules and mitochondria to get us through the day, and an innate will to do whatever we need to see the next sunrise.

Humans and basil share a common ancestor. We share a quarter of the same genes. Many of our proteins do exactly the same thing, others not so much.

But we’re pretty damn close at the most basic levels of life. Which is pretty cool.

Swallowtail on the backyard dill

We’re even closer to insects–we share about 60% of our core genes with fruit flies. 

If something effectively kills plants or insects, and you see no connections between plants and insects and humans, then you likely do not contemplate the tons and tons and tons of herbicides and pesticides poured on our food in our “war” against weeds and weevils.

Basil after a week or two of wild sex

If you don’t contemplate about food or water or folks in your neighborhood, it’s unlikely you contemplate much about anything that matters.

Hey, who won the game last night?

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