web of life.  Like brilliant ideas and hypotheses made literal flesh in space and time, natural intelligence is what you see when you look down a microscope at a cell. All those busy chemical cycles and all that frenetic protein manipulation — that is natural intelligence. The cyclical networks of molecules and enzymes, communicating with one another, sustaining themselves and repairing themselves — that is natural intelligence. The myriad exquisite nanotechnological machines known as ribosomes that effectively convert DNA code into long strings of amino acids that subsequently fold up into the Lego-like building blocks of life — that is natural intelligence. Indeed, the genetic code is itself an expression of natural intelligence. A code. Think about it. Codes are usually associated with us — machine code, binary code, Morse code, video/audio codecs, sign language and such. Codes — language-like systems in which one sort of information is transcribed into another — are the hallmark of intelligent purposeful activity. Yet Nature got there first. To be sure, the genetic code is so subtle and sophisticated that it took the human race hundreds of years to figure it out. …

evolution likewise involves the specific manipulation and specific reorganization of information. Just as the human brain/mind system takes in information, stores information and manipulates information, so too does the evolving web of life do the same. Information about the environment is stored in DNA — in as much as our genes contain information about the historical environment our ancestors lived (and survived) in. The reason the human organism can live and survive is because we are, through evolution, adapted to do so. Everything about our constituent bio-logic makes sense, or matches up with, the environment. Which means our DNA contains a record of how to build specific body parts and specific organs that fit into the larger environment in which we are embedded. So DNA is a specific kind of information that life stores and passes down the generations. And given that DNA continually varies, this means information is continually being reorganized and re-edited. In turn, this means that evolving life involves information acquisition and information manipulation. Life processes information and learns. Life is, in other words, an active intelligence. It might be an unconscious intelligence, but the point is that, as a process, the evolution of life bears the chief characteristics of intelligence. …

The thing is, until we start to acknowledge natural intelligence, until we stop bigging ourselves up above the rest of life’s great web, we will not find our right place within Nature. For sure, we are an expression of Nature (and an impressive one at that) — yet we are somehow blind to the true significance of life on Earth. To see and feel the biosphere for what it really is — namely a fabulous system of self-organizing intelligence — is to become a newly conscious expression of that intelligence. And that is the stuff the profoundest dreams are made of.

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