Fecal Samples

Cow in Val di Scalve, Alps mountains, Italy

© Elisa Locci | Dreamstime Stock Photos

My previous job was in the field of hydrogeology. One project I helped with involved the collection of fecal samples. Yes, I said fecal, also known as poop. It wasn’t the most glamorous part of the job, but it had a purpose. We wanted to compare the bacteria in the fecal samples to bacteria we found in water. In natural waters, it’s common to find fecal bacteria, especially in the Midwest. I used a swab, the kind you might see on CSI, to collect samples of poop from cows, deer, pigs and geese. Until I started this project, I didn’t know that when a cow first stands up it will usually poop right away. So I spent quite a bit of time prodding cows to their feet. Knowing all this may not enrich your life, nor did it mine, but I was fascinated by the goal of the project.

We analyzed the DNA from the bacteria in the fecal samples and compared it with the DNA of the bacteria we found in the water to see if we could identify the source of the bacteria. Sometimes the source came up cow, often geese, and sometimes pig, depending on the watershed. The different DNA wouldn’t match up exactly, but it would fall into rough groups according to the source of the bacteria. Why would this happen? Because different kinds of bacteria inhabit the guts of different kinds of animals, and their DNA (of the bacteria) gives them away, just like the color of my hair, the slope of my nose and the shape of my eyes gives me away.

My DNA is quite literally the instructions on how to make me. Similar to a recipe, only instead of making brownies, my DNA makes Janice Boekhoff. Where does all this information come from? Well, simply put, intelligence organizes information. We don’t find flour, oil, eggs, water, sugar and cocoa organizing into brownies on their own (only in my most favorite dreams where I’m swimming in a pool of brownie batter). Some sort of intelligence is needed for that. Why would we think the building blocks to make a human being would organize on their own?

God, the ultimate source of information, gave DNA to everything that needed instructions, even bacteria. More information is stored in DNA than can be found in a thousand books. Could a thousand books write themselves (and actually make sense as instruction manuals) through random processes?

Where all this information came from is an issue everyone has to address in some way, because the information is here. We exist.


2 thoughts on “Fecal Samples

  1. The information comes from the few creatures who survived the rigours of nature. Those whose DNA gave them the tools to survive bred others similar to themselves but not exactly the same and, now and then, an offspring arrives DNA slightly better organised DNA to survive and breeds others similar to itself – but not exactly the same…. No design needed. I guess we’re unlikely to agree but hey, there’s room for all of us.

    • Thank you for your comment, Pavel. I can appreciate your point of view. I saw things the same way for many years. Sorry that I didn’t get the comment approved to go up yesterday. We were out of town for spring break. Again, thanks for expressing yourself here. I would love for you to keep the comments coming on future posts!

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