If you’ve heard the name “Perry Marshall” before, it probably wasn’t in the context of science. Neither was it likely to be in the context of religion, either. Marshall attained money and fame by being very, very good at marketing. He’s one of the most recognized gurus in a field saturated with them—and over the years, he’s taught hundreds of thousands of people how to grow big businesses, including the founders of FanDuel and InfusionSoft.
But his latest venture is a little different …
Marshall’s new project is called Evolution 2.0, and from what he says, it will fundamentally change the way we look at the world around us—regardless of whether we’re religious or not, or how much we’ve looked into the question of evolution.
He insists both religion and science have missed fundamentals about life’s origins and the relationship between science and engineering. That the world is more complex and beautiful than we ever dreamed. I was fascinated and decided to interview him.
What he told me only whet my appetite even more …
Crisis of Faith
Evolution 2.0 began 15 years ago with an argument with his brother. Both grew up in a religious family, children of a pastor. But Marshall’s brother had gone from devout missionary to nearly atheist in only four short years. Marshall, still religious, fought him.
His brother posed questions he hadn’t considered. Marshall’s work as a business consultant and electrical engineer had given him a well-reasoned, structured view of the world. He decided the same logic he’d applied to his career needed to go into his understanding of evolution and creation.
“I dug deep,” he says. “I bought hundreds of books. Read hundreds of scientific papers.”
“When I set my mind to look at the science behind evolution, my decision was absolute. Wherever the road took me, that was where I was going to end up—even if it made me an atheist. What I found was not nearly as straightforward as either side likes to pretend.”
A Real Missing Link?
Much has been made of the “missing link”—the intermediate ancestor between humans and simpler primates, the smoking gun that would forever blunt the creationist point of view. But he says there’s a missing link much closer to home that both creationists and evolutionists were overlooking.
“When I began to dig, I found that instead of random, accidental mutations advocated by traditional Darwinists … or the ‘lack of evidence for evolution’ as the creationists claimed… there was something new. The building blocks of life resemble nothing so much as code, but code that rewrites itself at a speed, complexity and agility no human has ever approached.”
Continues Marshall, “A germ resisting antibiotics does more programming in 12 minutes than a team of Google engineers can do in 12 days. If a single company in Silicon Valley held a fraction of the secrets of a single cell, they’d set the NASDAQ on fire.” Organisms edit DNA and reprogram their own genes in real time. Cells perform feats of adaptation that dwarf anything manmade.”
Marshall found a 70-year-long treasure trove of scientific papers that people on neither side of the creation/evolution debate were talking about. Using the term “code” when talking about DNA and the building blocks of life is nothing new; we can even edit parts of the genetic code now with technologies like CRISPR. But the capabilities Marshall witnessed ignited his imagination.
War of Worldviews
“I’m still a Christian,” says Marshall. “But I found Creationists and evolutionists alike are so entrenched in their blood match, they’re ignoring or downplaying incredibly powerful data. Traditional medicine assumes cells are dumb and competitive; in reality they are smart and cooperative. This completely changes our approach to disease and cancer.”
Evolution 2.0 came from his desire to create a de-militarized zone, a place where people could present ideas based on confirmed, peer-reviewed data and observation.
“At the Royal Society in London, my investors and I announced a $10 million prize for anyone who could discover the source of this ‘natural code’, with the goal of developing and commercializing it,” says Marshall. “I’m a technologist and a businessman. A prize is a proven way to motivate people.
With this prize, his book Evolution 2.0, the talks he’s giving around the world and newfound zeal for the science of life, Perry Marshall thinks he can change the world. Or, at the very least, lay the groundwork for people to change the world themselves. “All we need is intellectual honesty, curiosity and the courage to be right or wrong in public,” he says.
“When my brother and I had that argument 15 years ago, I could never have believed I’d wind up here,” he says, laughing. “It’s not the path I would have laid out for myself. But sometimes that’s the case when you’re willing to follow the evidence and lay aside your prejudices. All I can do is hope other people will do the same.
“This is the most fundamental question in science that can be precisely defined,” he continues. This prize is a search for the next Nikola Tesla or Albert Einstein. If we crack this, it will literally change the course of humanity.”