One of the miracles of nature is embryogenesis: the transformation of a single fertilized egg cell into an embryo that will eventually become a fully formed baby animal. Various analogies have been applied to this process, from the primitive concept of a blueprint to Richard Dawkins’ cake recipe that calls for genetic ingredients. To my mind, the best analogy comes from Gary Marcus’ 2004 book The Birth of the Mind: How a Tiny Number of Genes Creates the Complexities of Human Thought. According to Marcus, embryogenesis most resembles a genetic computer program that produces a three-dimensional living organism. Marcus states that every gene is like a single line of code. All the genes together form the master DNA program, which is copied and run simultaneously in trillions of cells to achieve this miracle of physicochemical engineering.

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