"Venter thinks that with the 2010 announcement he finally answered the question posed by physicist Erwin Schrödinger in his 1944 book written for the lay reader – and of which Venter owns a first edition – What is Life? 'Life is a DNA software system,' says Venter. All living things are solely reducible to DNA and the cellular apparatus it uses to run on. The DNA software both creates and directs the more visible 'hardware' of life such as proteins and cells.
"With that question settled, says Venter, it's clear that if you give an organism new software by rewriting its genome, you have rewritten the software and life itself. He dismisses his scientific critics who say there is more to remaking life than creating DNA molecules as guilty of a kind of modern day vitalism, the pre-scientific notion that an intangible something sets life apart from other things made from atoms and molecules.
"Although Venter works on single cells, he says he believes it holds true for even the most complex organisms. 'I can't explain consciousness yet, but like anything else it will be explainable at the molecular level, the cellular level and therefore the DNA coding level.'"