The theory of evolution and the discovery of how traits are inherited have transformed our understanding of life, step by step and then by leaps over the past century and a bit more. All life on earth has a common origin and underlying its shared chemistry is the thread of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) which connects all life. Mutations in DNA lead to both the diversification of life forms and the variations we see within a species from generation to generation. Today, the extraordinary tools we have created allow us a deep understanding of the details of how, for example, a fertilized egg divides to create a human body and how the brain works. While we have learnt much, there is much, much more that we realise we do not know. The quest to understand Nature’s engineering continues and will be never-ending.
Very interestingly, as our understanding of Nature has increased, humans have also embarked on using this understanding to engineer Nature. This began in a small way, about 10,000 years ago. Today, in what is called the Anthropocene, humans hold the planet’s future in their hands. By a variety of methods, we have changed the face of the planet and now have the ability to alter life forms and create new ones.
In my talk I will take us through the journey of how we reached here and what role we now have as Nature’s Engineers and the planet’s guardians.