There are a number of unusual behavioral tendencies amongst humans which appear to challenge the plausibility of a DNA basis. Some of these behaviors show up in the intellectual realm; others show up in the realm of gender orientations; and still others show up in the form of apparent paranormal abilities. Together these challenges - two from the accepted literature and the other from the paranormal literature - will be touched on here. The associated challenges form a concise statement of the excessive expectations placed on DNA. These challenges resonate with the missing heritability crisis and also an associated opportunity to appreciate life’s mysteries.
In order for biology to make materialist sense DNA has to be able to perform its wide-ranging heritability duties. Some people have questioned the evolutionary inheritance role, in particular whether it is plausible in a physics only sense. In this way some have posited the need for additional input to steer the evolutionary dynamics of DNA . Others have suggested a need for informational fields to steer the output of DNA in order to form living systems, positing that DNA can deliver the requisite ingredients, but that it cannot carry out the requisite organizational tasks . In both of these cases DNA is suggested to need some nonmaterial assistance.
The point of this Mini Review is to focus on the challenges associated with some particular innate human behaviors. There really are a number of extraordinary behavioral tendencies which seriously challenge the feasibility of a DNA basis. The suggested implausibility of such DNA behavioral specifications would be consistent with the larger frustrations encountered in behavioral genetics and more generally in the missing heritability problem. Some extraordinary innate behaviors could then provide their own arguments for DNA’s incomplete inheritance functioning.
Previous work by the author has considered the missing heritability problem, and more particularly behavioral genetics, and suggested that the premodern reincarnation paradigm could help explain some of the DNA deficit [3,4]. A follow up effort then specifically looked at the associated challenge of explaining mental illnesses/difficulties .
It will be assumed herein that the reader is familiar with the big expectations associated with DNA (i.e., in particular that we are simply “DNA driven biological machines” ) and also the missing heritability problem. This is simply a brief look at some
remarkable behaviors and the challenges they pose for biology’s vision, along with a little follow up reflection. For brevity’s sake the referencing here is minimal.
There are a number of accepted behavioral conundrums that are hard to explain within the modern vision of life [3,4]. Whether in the form of prodigies who appear to show up in adult focused and sometimes even learned ways, or in the form of transgender kids who appear to show up with the opposite sex’s agenda and as observed through extensive testing, “trans girls see themselves as girls and trans boys see themselves as boys, suggesting transgender identities are held at lower levels of conscious awareness” . Such behave iors appear to form neglected challenges to biology’s understanding.
One example I have been struck by is the memory capacities associated with hyperthymesia syndrome. A nice presentation of that syndrome is given in a Scientific American article, “Remembrance of All Things Past” . Therein discussions considered about 50 people who were observed in their capacities to effortlessly recall the events of their life in a dated and day-of-the-week fashion. They could also recall significant worldly events that fell on the specified date. One woman, Jill Price, during questioning for example:
correctly recalled that Bing Crosby died at a golf course in Spain on October 14, 1977. When asked how she knew, she replied that when she was 11 years old, she heard the announcement of Crosby’s death over the car radio when her mother was driving her to a soccer game.
Simply the ability to recall the day of the week for a specified
date is amazing.
Another DNA challenge shows up in the prodigy realm. In
previous writing I have described a modern prodigy’s apparently
untrained inclination to play the cello and also to compose music.
Here I consider a somewhat more one-of-the-mill prodigy,
a Russian pianist named Evgeny “Zhenya” Kissin . Kissin’s
mother and father were respectively a piano teacher and an
engineer, and they were living what might be characterized
as Soviet Jewish Intelligentsia in Moscow. They had initially
assumed that Evgeny’s sister, Alla, would follow her mom and
play the piano, whilst Evgeny would follow his dad and go into
engineering. At eleven months, though, the boy managed to sing
an entire Bach fugue after hearing Alla practice it. Thereafter
Evgeny pursued singing in response to just about “everything
he heard”. This was so relentless that his mother became quite
Then at twenty-six months Evgeny made his appearance at
the piano. He:
sat down at the piano and with one finger picked out some
of the tunes he had been singing. The next day he did the same,
and on the third day he played with both hands, using all of his
fingers. He would listen to LPs and immediately play back the
music. “Chopin’s ballades, he would play with those little hands,
and Beethoven sonatas, Liszt’s rhapsodies,” [his mom reported].
At three, he began improvising. He especially liked to make
musical portraits of people .
He liked to quiz the family on his portraits.
Kissin demonstrated exceptional skills very early and this
eventually led his reluctant mother to take him to a prominent
piano teacher at the famous Gnessin State Musical College in
Moscow. There at age 5, that teacher Anna Pavlovna Kantor
would later report:
I saw a light in him. Without knowing how to read music or
the name of notes, he played everything. I asked him to translate
a story into music. I said we were coming into a dark forest, full of
wild animals, very scary, and then step by step the sun rises, and
the birds start singing. He began in the piano’s lower register,
in a dark and dangerous place, and then, lighter and lighter, the
birds awaken ing, the first rays of the sun, and finally a delightful,
almost ecstatic melody, his hands running along the keys. I didn’t
want to teach him. Such imagination can be very fragile .
At age 7 Evgeny Kissin began to write down his compositions.
He would later state that, “[w]hen I would return from school, I
would, without taking my coat off, go to the piano and play”. He
then added, “I made my mother understand that that this was
just what I needed” .
Other remarkable prodigy descriptions are given in Andrew
Solomon’s Far From the Tree, as well as Darold Treffert’s 
Islands of Genius. Of note here is the apparent disconnect in
some cases between prodigious child’s focus and their parental
background. Also, of note is Treffert’s  conclusion that some
of these kids seem to know things that they never learned. On
that point I introduce the seeming parallel found with some
transgender kids who can sometimes demonstrate ambitions
that would seem foreign to their own experience. From a New
York Times Magazine article  a description of a 3-year-old
He insisted on wearing gowns even after dress up time
ended. He pretended to have long flowing hair and drew pictures
of girls with elaborate gowns and flowing tresses. By age 4, he
sometimes sobbed when he saw himself in the mirror wearing
pants, saying he felt ugly.
A number of these cases are nicely covered in Solomon’s
Far from the Tree and they leave you wondering how gender
identification along with some associated ambitions are
I move now to briefly consider some paranormal behaviors.
I do this to further consideration of life’s mysteries as well
as for a bit of a protest of science’s prevailing lockout of such
phenomena. I introduce this topic via some examples from the
late Elizabeth L Mayer’s  excellent Extraordinary Knowing:
Science, Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human
Mind . Her book resulted from her personal paradigm
breaking investigations into paranormal abilities following some
remarkable experiences involving mediums. Her detour into
contacting mediums (her work background was as a prominent
psychoanalyst with academic connections) began with her
desperation to regain her daughter’s stolen harp. Following a tip
from a friend she contacted a man in Arkansas who did work as
a dowser. The initial response via phone with the man went as
“Give me a second,” he said. “I’ll let you know if it is still in
Oakland.” He paused, then: “Well, it is still there. Send me a street
map of Oakland and I’ll locate the harp for you.” Skeptical but
what, after all, did I have to lose? I promptly overnighted him a
map. Two days later, he called back. “Well I go that harp located,”
he said. “It’s in the second house on the right on D— street, just
off L—Avenue” .
Mayer’s initial response was to find the house (neither street
nor the general location were familiar to her) and then try get
the police involved. The police, though, said they needed more to
follow up with a search warrant. Elizabeth Mayer then decided
to place rewards flyers in the two block area surrounding the
house which had been identified by the dowser.
Three days later Mayer got a phone call from a stranger
in the flyer posted zone claiming to have seen the harp in the
possession his next-door neighbor. After a couple of weeks
of frustrating phone follow up a meeting was finally arranged
in which she could get back her daughter’s prized harp. This experience really rocked Mayer’s “rational” perspective and she
concluded it “changes everything”. That conclusion is of course
a stretch, but that experience fortified by some subsequent
remarkable exchanges with some other mediums that she
contacted provided a good introduction to some apparent
paranormal abilities. It appears that at least for some individuals
under some circumstances they can obtain information in physics
challenging ways. As an interesting follow up note, Mayer later in
her book adds some more extraordinary information provided
by that Arkansas dowser.
In the larger scheme of things such abilities might not be
significant, but they certainly suggest that human life can be
home to some inexplicable cognitive abilities. In that regard,
such abilities might overlap a little with phenomena found in
the prodigious intellectual realm. I move along now to consider
other phenomena considered by Mayer in Extraordinary
Knowing, that involving the apparent ability to view scenes
from afar. This phenomena, called remote viewing, conveniently
found an almost academic home at Stanford Research Institute
(SRI) in Menlo Park, California, not far from Mayer’s residence
in the San Francisco area. The work at SRI had occurred through
happenstance as an inquiry into a possible grant proposal from
a physicist named Harold Puthoff somehow got sidetracked into
the hands of a New York based artist named Ingo Swann. That
inquiry about a pending proposal into possible “implications of
quantum theory for life” somehow found Ingo Swann who in turn
made a suggestion that SRI instead consider parapsychological
phenomena. Swann mentioned some successful psychic
demonstrations that he had been involved with.
Dr. Puthoff prompted in part by curiosity then invited Swann
to visit SRI to demonstrate some of his claimed abilities. Thus
during a week in June of 1972 Swann visited and the subsequent
events as recalled by Puthoff included as follows:
“Prior to Swann’s visit I arranged for access to a well
shielded magnetometer used in a quark detection experiment in
the Physics Department at Stanford University. During our visit
to this laboratory, sprung as a surprise to Swann, [we asked him]
to perturb the operation of the magnetometer, located in a vault
below the floor of the building and shielded by meatal shielding,
and aluminum container, copper shielding and superconducting
shield. To the astonishment of Stanford physics professor Dr.
Arthur Hebard, whose experiments depended heavily on the
magnetometer’s much vaunted imperturbability to outside
influence, Swann doubled the rate at which the magnetic field in
the magnetometer was decaying. Then in response to Hebard’s
disbelieving subsequent request, Swann stopped the field
change altogether for a period of roughly forty-five seconds. As
if to add insult to injury, he then went on to “remote view” the
interior of the apparatus … by drawing a reasonable facsimile of
its rather complex (and heretofore unpublished) construction.
It was this latter feat that impressed me perhaps better than the
The remote viewing of Ingo Swann sparked quite a bit of
interest including ultimately the Central Intelligence Agency.
With the latter’s interest as well as some of their funding SRI
was able to carry out a series of remote viewing experiments.
The remote viewing work was significant in at least a couple
of ways. It turned out to offer not only amazing phenomena (or
“anything but ordinary and just blew [the scientist’] minds” )
but also some practical results. One remote viewing example
was national security inspired and involved a recruit from the
ranks of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command,
Joe McMoneagle. McMoneagle had been very successful in his
military career and from his answers in a series of interviews
was judged to have good remote viewing potential. As it turned
out McMoneagle in his new intelligence career did indeed turn
out “masses of data that were really hot and totally inexplicable
by ordinary means” .
In one demonstration McMoneagle’s was given some
coordinates in the Soviet Union. Those coordinates unbeknownst
to McMoneagle was where an enormous building had been built
and recently come to the attention of U.S. intelligence officials.
immediate response was that [the coordinates] identified a
very cold wasteland with an extremely large industrial looking
building that had enormous smokestacks, not far from a sea
capped with thick cap of ice. Later we found out the location was
Severodvinsk on the White Sea. .
After seeing this initial success, the investigators then gave
McMoneagle a surveillance photo of the big building and asked
him to try to see inside the building. Here is a retrospective
excerpt from McMoneagle:
I spent some time relaxing and emptying my mind. Then
with my eyes closed, I imagined myself drifting down into the
building, passing downwards through its roof. What I found was
mind blowing. The building was easily the size of two or three
huge shopping centers, all under a single roof …
In giant bays between the walls were what looked like
cigars of different sizes, sitting in gigantic racks. … Thick mazes
of scaffolding and interlocking steel pipes were everywhere.
Within these were what appeared to be two huge cylinders being
welded side to side, and I had an overwhelming sense that this
was a submarine, a really big one, with two hulls .
The US intelligence community’s sense at the time was
that the Soviets were building a new type of assault ship in
the building. After describing some additional observations,
I did a detailed drawing of the submarine, adding dimensions,
as well as noting the canted[/slanted] [ballistic missile] tubes,
indicating eighteen to twenty in all .
Somehow McMoneagle even came up with an accurate January launch date for the submarine. The sub roughly fit Joe’s
description, including the presence of twenty canted missile
tubes. A look up on the internet offers corroboration on length
574 feet and also provides some insane details like the fact that
each of the twenty missiles carried 10 independently targetable
nuclear warheads. The name of this Soviet submarine model
was Typhoon. A remarkable and seemingly sincere report of
“Extraordinary Knowing” which could have had an impact in the
foreign policy area.
Elizabeth Mayer goes into a number of the other SRI remote
viewing cases and a recent book, An End to Upside Down
Thinking, by Mark Gober  provides a few more. Gober’s 
book includes one in which the remote viewer provided details
on the kidnappers of Patrica Hurst. These remotely obtained
details went from the generic picking out their mugshots and
their motivation (political) down to one of the kidnapper’s
recent crazy dental procedure involving the removal of his teeth
Of additional note here is that Gober’s later book also
provided statements from declassified government assessments
of SRI’s remote viewing investigations. In one of these documents
a science panel consisting of Dr. Donald M. Kerr (Director of Los
Alamos National Laboratory), Dr. Fred Zacharaison (physics
professor at California Institute of Technology), and W. Ross
Adey (Chief of Staff, Research Division, Veterans Administration
Hospital) produced a “Principal Findings” document stating (in
capital letters) that:
EVIDENCE TOO IMPRESSIVE TO DISMISS AS MERE
LACK OF PHYSICAL MODEL DOES NOT PRECLUDE
INITIATE A FIVE-TO-TEN YEAR PROGRAM
INVOLVE ADDITIONAL LABS .
Other declassified assessments were provided in
photocopied form. Another supportive conclusion came from
the prominent physicist, Freeman Dyson, in the preface of
Extraordinary Knowing. In it, Dyson wrote that “ESP is real but
belongs to a mental universe that is too fluid and evanescent to
fit within the rigid protocols of controlled scientific testing” .
Contrary to the contemporary scientific consensus, it really
isn’t hard to seriously question scientific materialism. This is
particularly true in the area of behavioral tendencies and also
endowments. In Darold Treffert’s Islands of Genius he suggests
that “[u]ntil we can fully explain the savant, we cannot fully
explain ourselves nor comprehend our full capacities” . His
logic would seem to apply across quite a bit unusual behavioral
phenomena. When coupled with the missing heritability
problem I suggest here that argues for a need to reassess the
contemporary understanding of ourselves beginning with its
presumed genetic basis. One significant development might
be expanding scientific horizons to incorporate challenging
behaviors, including taboo ones.
For possible basic motivation I am reminded of a fine review
of an E. O. Wilson book that I read in Scientific American several
years ago. As is not uncommon in such books E. O. Wilson’s
forward-looking book conjured up some optimism in its
conclusions with regards to humanity’s unfolding sustainability
and ecomanagement crises. The reviewer, though, would have
none of it. That reviewer concluded humans’ beings will not
make significant sacrifices for future people. This reviewer
presumably based their conclusion on a materialist evolutionary
perspective of humans. Broader investigations of human beings,
though, might find reasons for a deeper or dualistic perspective.
With such a perspective, in particular one in which a soul tends
to reincarnate or return, the logic of life, if you will, could be
different. Somewhat consistent with this in Michale Tobias’ man
versus nature epic, World War III, the group identified for their
encouraging sustainability priorities were the lay Jains.
If the missing heritability problem continues to hold, then
that would undercut the modern certainty that underneath it all
is simply physics. It is perhaps noteworthy that such a failure
would appear to be consistent with the suggestion offered by
the Nobel laureate physicist Eugene Wigner  about the
possibility of a contradiction between the “laws of heredity and
of physics” .