The Dharma in DNA:

Insights at the Intersection of Biology and Buddhism

Tuesday, May 31 | 7-8pm | LInC 210

A Book Event with Author Dee Denver and Panelists Kameron Kadooka, Vrushali Bokil, and Rebekah Sinclair

Featuring music by the OSU Classical Guitar Quartet: Triet Ho, Zoe Moulton, Stan Lyakhov, & Dylan Schillinger

Books will be available for purchase from Grass Roots Book Store and a book signing will follow

Free and Open to All

Please join the Contemplative Studies Initiative and Grass Roots Bookstore in a celebratory inquiry of Dee's newly published book! 

The Dharma in DNA has three objectives: (1) to share the rich but underappreciated history of biology–Buddhism intersections and surprising harmonies between the two traditions, (2) to evaluate Buddhist teachings from a scientific perspective using DNA as the focus of study, and (3) to propose a new approach to science, Bodhi science, as an ethical and operational framework for conducting Buddhist wisdom–guided science and preventing pseudoscience. An interwoven side project examines the life journey of the author, a professor of genetics and father in a transracial adoptive family, who questions the apparent paradox of his fascination with DNA in the lab but disinterest in passing on his own DNA. Early book chapters present the core teachings and diversifications of Buddhism over the last twenty-five centuries. Subsequent chapters share stories of biology–Buddhism interactions, situated in colonial contexts; examples derive from early twentieth-century Sri Lanka and Japan, and contemporary activities of the Dalai Lama and Western biological scholars. The hypothesis-guided analysis of Buddhist principles and DNA then begins, touring through classical genetic research alongside modern postgenomic insights. The investigation reveals strong support for three core Buddhist concepts--anitya (impermanence), anatman (non-self), and pratityasamutpada (mutual cause and effect)—as applied to DNA. Bodhi science is proposed as a new mode of scientific inquiry rooted in Buddhist teachings. The approach is based on four qualities: selflessness, detachment, awareness, and compassion. Bodhi science provides a path to strong science rooted in logic-based Buddhist ethics, and it helps scientists avoid the deceptive and damaging waters of pseudoscience.

Dee Denver is father to Amani and Hirut Denver and husband to Steph Swenson. There is no Dee without these three. This family of four enjoys sports, travel, hanging out with friends, and spending time with the two canine members of the family, Barley and Rey.

Dee is a Professor of Integrative Biology at OSU, and also currently serves as the department chair. At OSU, Dee leads a research lab and teaches courses in genetics, evolution, and the intersection of biology and Buddhism. He is especially proud of BI 175 Genomes, Identities, and Societies, developed for the OSU Difference, Power, and Discrimination program. Dee was a Visiting Research Professor at Maitripa College from 2012-13 where he learned about Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and practice from Yangsi Rinpoche and James Blumenthal. He visited Sri Lanka in 2017, with support and guidance from Sulochana Wasala and Amila Liyanage, to learn about Theravada Buddhism and Bodhi trees. Dee's Buddhism knowledge base further expanded with trips to China, Hawai'i, and India between 2018 and 2020. 

Dee was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, USA in 1973. He was raised by Phil and Kay Denver, growing up alongside his sister Tammy and brother Phil Jr.  Dee graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1996 with a BS in Biological Sciences, moving on to obtain a PhD in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2002.  He was a NIH postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University from 2002-2005, and an Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution postdoctoral fellow in New Zealand from 2005-2006.  Dee joined the faculty at Oregon State University in 2006.