Self-Actualization or Creation

I think the two choices for explanations of physical reality boil down to self-actualization or creation. The people who argue for self-actualization (and do they argue) assume that the universe contains in itself properties that caused all that has happened in it since its very beginning. This brings us to the initial difficulty.

The initial difficulty is that before the universe came into being it had no existence we can recognize, at least in terms of something observable or measurable, in other words something subject to science. Some people get around the initial difficulty by postulating an oscillating universe, one that expands and contracts but that is nevertheless self-existent. In this view, the Big Bang was the beginning of the current phase of expansion. Again, there is nothing left from past oscillations for scientists to measure or observe.

One argument for self-actualization that was new to me was the suggestion that what we call the positive part of the universe is balanced exactly by the dark energy and matter that exists so the universe is a net nothing. The person who wrote this possibly was unaware that both traditional Jews and Christians believe that the universe was created out of nothing. If in fact this suggestion were shown to be true, it would be a vindication of some religious beliefs, and undoubtedly require a major expansion of astrophysical knowledge.

Before the Big Bang was accepted as the correct explanation for the beginning of the universe, scientists and philosophers all the way back to the early Greeks had thought the universe to be static and self-existent in its attributes. This thinking is still carried over into present-day understandings. For example, one person dodged the issue of the origin of life by stating that it had nothing to do with the validity of the theory of evolution. For that person evolution was an explanation of almost all of life. The trouble with this older mode of thinking is that science has made our knowledge of everything physical far more complex.

In mathematics, solutions to problems generally begin with a set of initial conditions. It is just these initial conditions that pose more of a problem for science and philosophy than the working out of answers to how physical reality operates. This is because the initial conditions are established by one-time unobservable events. This results in sometimes conflicting ideas. For instance, we are told that all life on earth came from an original biological event. We are also told by some biologists that life will arise in the universe anytime conditions are right. You can probably see the contradiction. Since life has emerged on the earth the conditions are obviously right. So, how come it only happened once in five- billion years.

The space-time continuum is also a great mystery. It would seem to be in a chicken-and-egg relationship with the energy and matter that constitutes the universe. So, did it exist before the Big Bang or was there something in the Big Bang that brought it into existence? And how is it a property of the space-time continuum that it is almost infinitely elastic and that this elasticity produces what we call the force of gravity as a result of the space-time continuum being deformed by matter? The same kind of question applies to the weak force and the strong force. Where were they when no particles existed? Did they exist before particles or were they brought into exist by the formation of particles?

There are more questions for physics, and we have not even reached biology. Where did the properties of quantum mechanics come from? What formed the particular atoms that we arrange into the Periodic Table. Now we can go to biology. Why are there right-handed and left-handed molecules and why are organic molecules shaped in particular ways for specific functions? How did it come about that a genetic code was necessary for life and how did that code come into existence?

The idea of self-actualization becomes even more unlikely as we consider the things that make us uniquely human, such as culture, speech, music, art, abstract thought, technology, agriculture, imagination, conceptualizing and so forth. So why does self-actualization seem very attractive to many people. I think it has to do with two things: ego and rebellion. Our egos are another of our immaterial characteristics. We all seem to have one of either smaller or larger size. It seems to be that people who strongly believe in one of the various forms of self-actualization are people with large egos. I think that one such type, atheists, have egos so large they think they can push God clear out of the universe. That being the case, they typically are sure they are more intelligent than people who believe in creation.

Rebellion comes into the picture as a result of certain temperaments encountering authority figures, normally in their family or in a church where they were taken as children. One way of resistance for such people is to adopt contrary views. When this resistance meets with support in peer groups or educational institutions, it brings ego gratification and a source of identity that is hard to forego. That being the case, it is hard for people in this situation to abandon the idea of self-actualization despite the fact it requires the acceptance of large improbabilities. Self-actualization is in truth a harder belief than faith in creation. This is evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of the human race has always accepted that there was some spiritual entity that brought them and everything else into existence.

Advertisements

Who Wrote the DNA Code?

Recently I watched an episode of “Bang Goes the Theory,” a British popular science program. One segment featured Richard Dawkins, a famous militant evolutionist and atheist, explaining the evolution of the eye to one of the presenters. He described the beginnings and evolution of vision using light-sensitive spots on ancient worms as the beginning. The presenter lapped up the story he gave her like a happy puppy. The problem is that she was being conned by a slick fraud.

The fraudulence of evolution is not my idea. Malcolm Muggeridge, a renowned British journalist and broadcaster, after a speech in 1980, answered a question concerning evolution as follows. “I myself am convinced that the theory of evolution, especially the extent to which it has been applied, will be one of the great jokes in the history books in the future. Posterity will marvel that so very flimsy and dubious an hypothesis could be accepted with the incredible credulity that it has.”

Dawkins spoke as if genetic biology does not exist. Thus he avoided current questions regarding the development of sight such as How are photo-reactive chemicals biologically produced? What places the chemicals at a given spot just under the worm’s skin? How is the nerve function made, then connected to the light-reactive spot, and thus able to sense the change in the chemical molecules? How is the change in light level sent to a muscle function that acts to move the worm in a way that is beneficial to it so it can be naturally selected to continue its existence. Dawkins’ mythology is that the worms decided that it would be good to be able to sense where light was and so they decided to evolve a way to do it.

A French philosopher, Etienne Gilson, wrote in 1975 that evolution was “bad science and worse philosophy.” If intelligent people like Muggeridge and Gilson saw more than 30 years ago that evolution was defective, why has it claimed a larger and larger role in popular culture? While it is true that evolution appears to push God out of biology, there are probably not enough atheists to account for its wide acceptance, so other reasons must be sought.

There seem to be two aspects, that are diametrically opposed features of evolution, that have given it its strength. One feature is that it eliminates human responsibility. If we are products of primeval slime arriving at what we are by way of primates, how can we be held accountable for doing anything other than eating, drinking, sleeping, copulating, along with some war, child care, and recreational pleasures thrown in. There is no reason for any larger loyalty than to our own selves. Certainly there is no need for responsibility to a community, a nation, or to the rest of the people in the world. As for passing along our genes or our culture, all that can be forgotten.

I think the other appeal of evolution is that it makes what Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden appear true. Satan said, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5, NIV). By eliminating God from human culture, evolution allows people to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. However, Satan is a liar, and Eve quickly became one when she told herself she had disobeyed God because the fruit was good for food, pleasing to the eye, and provided wisdom (Genesis 3:6, NIV). There was other good fruit in the Garden but what she wanted from eating that particular fruit was to decide for herself what was right and wrong. Evolution supports the tendency we inherited from Eve of thinking we can make our own rules for our lives. However, thinking that we can invent right rules is as wrong now as it was when Eve first thought it.

The appeal of evolution has in our culture allowed evolutionists to claim all of biology as their own. However, evolution and genetic science are basically incompatible. The theory of evolution came into existence about 100 years before the DNA code was deciphered, and it would have taken something like divine inspiration for evolutionists to have correctly understood how life works. Evolution’s story in fact has been altered several times since Darwin, and there are now even different sects under the evolutionary umbrella. It is thus not surprising that evolutionists are joining themselves to molecular biology and hoping nobody is going to notice that a paradigm shift has taken place.

I think Christians need to use this paradigm shift very carefully. There is an obvious temptation to answer the question, “Who wrote the DNA code?” by stating it was God. However, creationist explanations do not work for secular scientists nor, remembering the attractiveness of evolution to our culture, are they likely to inspire immediate acceptance among the media or the general population. What we can do as Christians, though, is to keep the lies and mythology of evolution out of molecular biology so we can ensure genetic science is done with integrity.

Part of the reformation of American Christianity must include our arriving at a common and true understanding of what science tells us about the physical world. Then when nonbelievers come to us, we can show them what physical reality is like and how it makes sense to those who believe in God to accept that it is all created by God.

Life Is Spectacular

I think life is spectacular and also very, very complex. Each living organism has three separate but intertwined aspects of its being. The first is its shape and structure, its morphology. There is something in us that shapes our ends, and our other body parts. The second is its biochemistry. There is both a commonality and a differentiation in the chemistry of living organisms. For example, grass has chlorophyll and you and I do not. The third is its operating system. This is much like the operating system of a computer. My first computer used MSDOS as its operating system, my present one runs Windows 7. There have been vast improvements in the capabilities of my computers over time but they all operated using fundamentally similar binary codes. It is the same in regard to all the different organisms and their differences in capabilities.

Going back to morphology (and including within it appearance and behavior), biological classification (taxonomy) and also mineral classification effectively had their beginnings with Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778). His three kingdoms were animal, vegetable, and mineral, so he can also be regarded as making a contribution to the game Twenty Questions. There are presently, though there weren’t always, five (or six, if you count viruses) kingdoms used in classifying organisms. There are also now two or three domains, which are classifications more inclusive than kingdoms.

When we turn to the chemistry of life we find the same pattern as we did with the shape and structure of organisms. For example, proteins, which are formed by genetic expression from twenty standard amino acids, are essential to all organisms and are used in virtually every cellular process. Proteins catalyze biochemical reactions; they have structural and mechanical functions; they are part of the scaffolds that give cells their shape. They also participate in immune responses; cell signaling, cell adhesion and cell division. Proteins are often modified after their formation to alter their chemical and physical properties by addition of non-amino molecules, and in the way they are folded.

In proteins we see order among complexity. We also see in protein the linkages in life. We need proteins yet we cannot create in our own bodies all the amino acids necessary for the formation of proteins. This means we have to eat other organisms that do contain the amino acids we need. Fortunately, readily available organisms from various parts of the biological classification can supply people, even with widely varying diets, the amino acids they need.

Now for another characteristic of proteins, the ones that are good for us must be folded correctly. Misfolded proteins are called prions and can cause various fatal diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, or mad cow disease or scrapie in livestock. This shows us there is more to biochemistry than simply atoms assembled into certain molecules in a particular arrangement. We see that biochemistry has in both the width of life and the narrowness of necessity.

Each cell in our bodies (except for egg and sperm cells) contains about 40,000 protein-coding genes. This seems a very large number but it is less than microbiologists expected and actually only accounts for approximately 1.5 percent of the genome. The rest of the genome consists of regulatory DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), non-coding RNA (ribonucleic acid), separators, and sequences whose functions are not known.

Things really get spectacular when we come to the numbers regarding our genomes, each of which contains a complete set of genetic information concerning us. Our mothers had an egg cell containing three billion base pairs and our fathers contributed a like number. These base pairs are contained within 23 chromosome pairs. Other organisms have different numbers of chromosome and base pairs but all life has at least some impressive number base pairs.

I started this post with morphology and ended with genomic biology. Morphology was the biology of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including Linnaeus and Darwin. The twentieth century was the era of biochemical biology which tended to see life and its functions as products of organic chemistry. We are now in the period, possibly only at the beginnings, of genetic biology.

Life is a matter of spectacular complexity but common to it all is DNA and RNA. Although the Urey-Miller experiment showed that the production of amino acids and other organic chemicals could be done in simulated natural conditions, as far as I can tell no one has done an experiment producing nucleic acids. Even if they had, it would not probably not explain the coding, folding and other functions contained in the molecules as they are found in organisms.

I think the tasks ahead for microbiologists include arriving at a genomic theory of life to replace the present theory of evolution, and not to allow that catch-all explanation to be morphed into something called neo-Darwinism, and so to claim it now explains everything about life. Another task for genomic biologists is to show there is an actual process that takes matter and energy and in some way produces nucleic acid with a coding for some form of life.

I think those of us who are not microbiologists deserve a new theory of life based on the reality of what life is and how it works because life is truly, truly spectacular.

 

 

 

Biology 2.0

I think the comments I wrote concerning an article published in the June 17, 2010 edition of The Economist news magazine titled “Biology 2.0” is a good place to begin a discussion of the creation of life. If we are to think accurately about the topic, we must have some common understanding of what we are thinking about. If, as I think, evolution is obsolete then we need to have a new biological paradigm to replace it. The following comments propose a start towards a new way of thinking about life.

The Economist writer first writes of a division of biology into pre- and post-genomic eras and then defines biology 2.0 as a post-genomic biology www.economist.com/node/16349358. Does he or she mean the 10-year period since the decoding of the human genome was the genomic era. Unlikely. It would be clearer to designate the previous biological era as that of evolution and the present one as genomic. With this clarification we can proceed to examine the question as to whether a paradigm shift has occurred or should occur.

Vitalism

According to the Economist writer “no biologist has really believed in vitalism for more than a century.” Too bad. Various philosophers and theologians from Aristotle on have believed that life is more than machinery. Had Henri Bergson used a term for his creative force in life something like “de nueve animel” rather than elan vital we could have acclaimed him for his remarkable insight. This is because it is DNA and quite possibly other coding systems that constitute the driving force of living systems. The Economist moves in this direction by allowing biology 2.0 to be neo-vitalistic. This is a small shift in the right direction.

More than Proteins

Living things are more than proteins. So much more. So much more that it is impossible to find a simple enough example to use as an illustration. Every thing that has life has a mind boggling complexity. This is why the old evolutionary biology seems hopelessly outmoded. To have rejected the creativity of an infinite God and replaced it with a very finite natural selection can now be seen as a choice that should be revisited. This is not to bring God into biological understanding but to set the bar of knowledge high enough to give due respect to its subjects.

Ghosts in the Machine

Physicists have been actively looking for the ghosts in their machine. Presently, in Switzerland, with the Large Hadron Collider they are eagerly searching for a particle that may or may not exist and that may or not give them a final understanding of particle physics. [Note: the Higgs boson was apparently found in July 2012.] At the same time physicists are searching the universe for the twin ghosts of dark matter and dark energy so they can “nail their hides to the wall.” Since the beginning of the twentieth century physics has worked its way through relativity, quantum mechanics and particle physics. Paradigm shifts all. It seems that biology is long overdue for a paradigm shift that will free it from the dead hand of Darwin and allow it to pursue the new understanding that life is formed and operated by software. This will involve the search for all the many unknowns still left to be found.

Biological Ghosts

One ghost that has turned up in the biological machine is the genomic code. A code is a language that can be read and has meaning. But the meaning is not physically in the code. It is an abstraction, just like it is not ink and paper that make a book but the content of the words. The genomic code is the language of life. After all the work evolutionists have done to keep any metaphysic out of biology an abstraction sneaks in by the back door. And it is a ghost that cannot be exorcized because it is a fundamental of biology. Let us hope that Biology 2.0 allows biologists to read the book of life and thus provide themselves with understanding and so produce benefits for the rest of us.