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Lorin Thwaits A geek says what?

This post was prompted in part by the creationist views that D'arcy blogged earlier today.  But it's also a collection of thoughts that have been on my mind for the past few years.

As a species, it's interesting that we've "woken up" in the past several thousand years to find this wonderful world, full of diversity, looking the way it does.  Before our current era of recorded history this earth certainly has been a very busy place, almost as if it were getting ready for us to arrive.  Life forms have been multiplying and diversifying on the earth for such a long time in the most remarkable way.  Comparatively, the human populous has blossomed so recently that it's somewhat like homo sapiens are time travellers, having forgotten our origin, and emerged at this time and place as curious explorers.  I'd like to postulate a little about how all this life we see around us came to be, examining at a more fundamental level than was addressed by Darwin or even the Big Bang.  I suppose my viewpoint could be best classified as that of a theistic evolutionist.

First some basic observations.  Does natural selection occur?  I think so.  (Too much evidence not to think so!)   But then with solely natural selection could all this existence, with amazing highly-developed animals always symmetrical and very specialized, have happened by chance?  I really don't think so.  I suppose many people have a similar kind of hybrid viewpoint between creationism and evolution.  Along those lines I'd like to share my viewpoint of the origin of species.  Perhaps there are some tidbits you'll find quite unique.

To set the stage, here's what I believe is the real underlying question that keeps many scientists digging to learn more:

Just how is it that this amazingly rich and beautiful world come about, with what appears (at first glance anyway) to be consistently zero interaction with any kind of divine being?

If the plants and creatures around us were hapazard amoebic-style life forms then fewer people would consider that there is a significant outside influence.  But here we are in a world with lots of randomness at a molecular level, and yet the resulting life forms, including ourselves, are very symmetrical and refined.  Complex organs such as the eye and brain have come about.  (And as D'Arcy notes, the ear!)  So my take: I believe the logic for life has been programmed into the very elements themselves.  That's right, God is a programmer, having prepared intricate rules inside even the protons, neutrons, electrons, and other most miniscule bits of matter.

"What in the world?" you may wonder, thinking perhaps that I'm envisioning that God runs some kind of machine spewing out these various nuclear particles, quarks, and other little building blocks that form everything around us.  Well, that's not exactly it.  Anyway, more about the "how" comes later.  But for now, just start by considering an interesting piece of workmanship that must be precisely enginieered to provide life: the water molecule.  The layout of the hydrogen bonds are offset instead of straight across from each other, and this allows, among other things, for the boiling point of water to be much higher.  There are many other unique properties of water, and without them life would not be possible.  Here's a partial list:

  • Water has a huge heat capacity, meaning it can absorb lots of heat energy without changing its temperature very much.  This regulates the temperature of the oceans allowing life to be possible.
  • Maximum density of water occurs at 4 celsius.  This causes the surface of lakes or rivers to freeze from the top downwards, preserving warmer water below, thereby allowing life forms below the ice to be unharmed.
  • At night water vapor is a very important regulator of earth's temperature.  It allows nearly all visible light through, but absorbs infrared.  So in the nighttime the heat that would have otherwise radiated from the earth's surface out to space is retained very near the surface.  This is why there is little temperature variation in humid environments.  This quality is likely the means by which land-based life has formed at all, providing a much more controlled environment.

It's perfectly amazing that on this isolated rock, warmed by the sun, there is enough stability in temperature and enough shielding from radiation to support life.  Even more amazing the enormous diversity of life that exists.  Water plays a huge part in this role.  Not enough time to go into more of its incredible properties such as surface tension, solubility, etc.  But just as amazing as water is, so are the many other molecules that provide the basis for life.

Getting a little more complex, consider the Miller--Urey experiment in the 50's.  What we have here is some guys that took pure water and added some methane, ammonia, and hydrogen.  Nothing that's even remotely alive.  They put a few big sparks right in the middle of this soup, just like lightning would provide, and remarkably it formed sugars, nucleotides, and amino acids.  These results tell me that the elements themselves naturally tend to create life.  There's a very recent finding that carbonyl sulfide helps to form peptides, explaining how significant quantities of complex amino acids could be formed under such simple circumstances.  I believe this is all carefully influenced at a sub-atomic level, the nuclear particles having been pre-programmed to build life.  No external physical force is necessary to make that happen.  (For those out there that sarcastically subscribe to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, nobody needs to be touched by his "noodly appendage"!)

Ponder for a moment what chance is there that the very atoms themselves would naturally have formed with this tendency towards creating life?  Absurd to imagine that a physical existence could randomly have come about with so much built in at the atomic level.  But here it is, the elements programmed to create life as we know it.

So this next part may cause some of you to say, "Whatever, you're nuts!" or "Hmmm, makes sense, never thought of it that way!"  Or maybe you've already jumped to one of those two conclusions from my previous observations.  Anyway, this is the real interesting part to me.  The physical world we can see and touch has a very real and interrelated spiritual component.  Let me explain.

Things are not always really cut-and-dry with atoms in reactions.  Take a single atom, and it will act in a random way when influenced with other ions.  (Or may even break apart entirely when hit by a fast neutron!)  Sometimes it will react, changing the molecular or even atomic bonds, and sometimes it won't.  To start with, consider the very simple bonds in ice.  On the surface there are always molecules leaving the lattice and turning into liquid or water vapor, and others going back again from water vapor to bond as part of the ice again.  Depending on the humidity, pressure, and temperature of the ice and its surroundings, the general trend will be one way or another, but changes will still occur in both directions.  The only predictable thing is an overall percentage of how many atoms will change their state.  Why are those individual atoms so darned unpredictable?   Taken as whole on the scale of billions of atoms, there's that very predictable percentage of atoms that will react in a certain way.  You just don't always know which specific atoms will react.  The same is true of any reaction, not everything will react completely, and some products may go back to their original reagents.

How does this relate to these physical elements having a spiritual tie?  I believe there is a spiritual competition of sorts between order and chaos.  On a specific atomic level, each atom acts independently, being influenced to support either greater order or greater chaos.  When a large number of atoms are involved, a certain percentage will tend towards greater order, and a certain percentage towards chaos.  If it were 100% order then a predictable result could be obtained every time in a reaction, and there would be no random decay in things around us.  Perhaps most exciting to us would be an absolute zero decay of DNA, halting the aging process in our bodies that causes apoptosis (individual cell death).  But that's not our current state, and randomly our DNA is damaged, be it by radiation, free radicals, or whatever.  Hence we age, and eventually decay enough to die.  Imagine if the DNA and everything else in our bodies could be 100% reliable, and never break down.  Just about the only parallel I can think of to compare it to would be a bug-free computer program.  (Isn't that a rarity!)  But still it is possible to program a computer to give 100% predictable results, every time.  The code would be perfectly deterministic.  When you use ones and zeroes it's black or white, so there's no room for error or confusion, and the results can be the same every time.  I wish it could be that way in the world around us.  No white noise.  Exacting results for everything, every time.

So what keeps perfection at bay?  I believe it's a force imposing chaos on our existence, just like there is an opposing force encouraging order.  Call it God and Satan if you want.  Or Allah and Iblis.  Whatever names you want to apply.  I believe life as we know it, and the creationist "hand" of a divine being, emerged from an overall gentle persuasion of this positive force over a huge amount of time.  This spiritual nudging caused the very quarks, neutrinos, and other miniscule building blocks of life to establish their overall behavior.  Wow is that complex.  Imagine if the underlying force that instills chaos around us could one day be limited, or even bound completely, such that the force which causes order could prevail.  It would change the entire landscape of our earth as we know it.

So for those readers who are not inclined to acknowledge a spiritual influence of any kind, I realize this last part is quite a stretch.  Why do I believe in such things?  In my life I can't deny that at certain points there's something beyond my physical existence that has inspired me, directed me, whatever.  Certain insight that I just couldn't have had on my own.  Conversely at times I've been influenced in a negative way towards a more destructive end.  I believe this comes from those spiritual forces encouraging either order or chaos in this physical world.  Can the entirety of emotion we experience be explained simply by the unique layout of physical neurons we have in our brain?  There's more to it.  I have three children, and anyone with multiple children can attest to the stark difference in personality between each child.  Could those unique traits really have come solely from a common set of genes?  I think not.  The spirit which inhabits a person's body also influences the physical makeup of that person, including their tendencies and desires.  If you know a set of identical twins, they'll obviously have very similar physical characteristics, but generally radically different personalities, I believe originating from their individual spirit.

Another evidence that there's a spiritual side to all of us is in the inborn tendency seen in young children to know that certain things are right or wrong.  Unless surpressed by a bevy of bad example, it seems that children innately understand that such things as stealing and other dishonesty are wrong, and generosity is good.  How did they arrive upon those conclusions on their own?  I think it's that they respond to that spiritual influence.  Through their lives they may consciously choose to suppress that inborn tendency and enter into a "rebellious" lifestyle.  Rebellious compared to that spiritual guide, anyway.  If it continues then eventually the influences for chaos will dominate above order.  Alternatively, and more happily, they may increase the level of order and discipline in their life, introducing more of that positive spiritual influence.  God knows that there are many areas in my life that could use a little more of that refinement!

So I guess that's about as religious as I'd like to get today in my blog on how I think we made it out here to all be together on this planet at this time.  Although I am a church going kind of guy, I should mention that these opinions are specifically my own, and don't directly come from my faith.  But related to my faith I do believe that a pivotal moment in history occurred some 2000 years ago as chaos was set aside, order prevailed, and Jesus Christ rose from the tomb.  And I'm sure that a few reading here will also be celebrating that next week!

Posted on Sunday, April 1, 2007 10:50 PM | Back to top


Comments on this post: Is evolution pre-programmed? And is God the programmer?

# re: Is evolution pre-programmed? And is God the programmer?
Requesting Gravatar...
Good thinking.I am a devote christian myself and a scientist as well and having

thoroughly examined both sides of the divide,it is not difficult to see that

neither religion(as we know it) nor science has the complete picture.It will

take a careful alignment of both schools of thought to arrive at an explainable

answer to the Darwin Vs. God question.In as much as the christian faith is

baffled by questions on Archeological finds dating millions of years ,vestigial

organs and other scientifically proven issues,science on the other hand falters

on issues like complexities found in nature that natural selection is far from

explaining.i personally believe in Intelligent design.It is too obvious to be

discounted.But the level to which such an intelligent being actively

participated in developing the world as we now see it and to what level he left

to natural selection is what i cannot say for sure.But as a christian i

personally beleive life has been around for longer than a few thousand years and

for any christian that fails to accept this,archeological finds and the accuracy

of radiometric dating becomes a very touchy issue.I personally believe that

christianity has the timeline of creation wrongly figured.Nowhere in the bible

was the the timeline of human existence or life as a whole defined.The theory of

around five thousand years has only been imposed by theologians and bible scholars who erroroneosly assusme the bible to be a complete encyclopedia on the history of life and human existance.The world was created by God but not in the

timeframe christians believe.For God's sake, it would not take Eistein to know

that dinassaurs lived millions of years ago.When the bible says the world was

created in six days, this does not literally translate as six earth days, does

it?This sterotype of fixing our own timeline on God should be re-examined very

carefully.Six days to us could well have been millions or billions of years to

an ommipotent being who is not defined by the rising and the setting of OUR

sun.Try figuring out creation as the bible explains it under a much broader

timeline that strecthes over hundreds of millions of years and Voila!,you see

that it all makes sense and the fact that man was the last to appear on the

scene(as the bible clearly mentions) unto a perfect world makes sense.Every

other thing that has taken place between the completion of such an extended

creation and life as we know it now has been a result of an interplay of complex

structures(physical and spiritual if you like) already programmed into the world

by its maker.This i beleive between creationism and Darwinism and looking at it

in this light but schools of though can easily fit into na complete picture that

makes more sense than the choas each side proposes.The wolrd is much too perfect

and ordered to be a game of chance.Surely anybody can see that.
Left by Platini on Jun 10, 2007 11:45 AM

# re: Is evolution pre-programmed? And is God the programmer?
Requesting Gravatar...
This article is so plain with a ting of religious motivation....... sorry this is what I felt.

In the Universe, as every one experienced from lay man to great scientist irrespective of religion, creed, region and gender, each and every process is irreversible and clue-less. It is simply because each and every component is in dynamic state.As Lehninger says.... all the living creatures are made up of non living component, if we isolate in pure form, they obeys all the physical and chemical laws!!!! See the truth is always blank. Why, so far no scientist succeed to create even a single cell artificially? Please Dont justify blindly again as"these are all gods creature".

Forget about other living beings.... just consider the human beings.... as per the recent data of Human Genome Project, humans are composed of more than 40000 genes?????

The appearance, behaviour, and performance at any given circumstances of any individual is the outcome of interaction between all these genes... now I am interacting with you through your write-up.... now the resulting outcome is the interaction within and between 40,000+40,000 genes.... this is just the probability of two individuals. At population level, no one computer, no one technology and no one developments assess/predict the dynamics of any population. Though every one seems to be as identical, their identity is different.

"DNA is a genetic material" - Universally accepted statement!!!
"Central Dogma of Mlecular Biology" - Universally accepted process.
"Chromosome is the Unit of seggregation" and Genes are fundamental Unit of Organism - these are all so called Prooved with experimental observations and evidences...... beyond this no one answere exactly wether "Nucleus" perform physical role or physiological role.....

Who knows the overall energy content of the cell nucleus???? No one Knows exactly the relationship between Nucleus and surrounding plasma membrane with regard to the energy content, utilization and conservation of it....

If we think we r highly evolved among all the living creatures... these puzzlings usually stands infront of us... suppose if we think we also just like nothing but its all a state of dynamics of universe, we doesn't loose anything.

Just because we thought that we born here, with the fear of death we justifying our existance like this.... but if u doesn't think as we born here then we cannot realise as in one or the other day we die.... its just a state of thought, taste and temper!!!!

Then.... please dont forget to tell...

What is evolution????? Who and where is the programmer????

No need to justify my wright up... it itself is a justification.

Thank you so much
I believe in god - dont mistake

Left by Dr. Annaiah Ramesh on Jan 12, 2009 12:25 AM

# re: Is evolution pre-programmed? And is God the programmer?
Requesting Gravatar...
i wrote the same thing and i think your 100% correct... its the only way these complex system could ever come into being... I'm and SE and i think these chemical systems were pre-programmed long ago. religions have been trying to explain all of this forever but have done a poor job. thru their frustrations in trying to understand this they come up with all kinds of religions. i would like to talk to you more about this...
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# re: Is evolution pre-programmed? And is God the programmer?
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# re: Is evolution pre-programmed? And is God the programmer?
Requesting Gravatar...
I think you are missing a crucial thing in your

analysis . What is the role of various energies

that surround us. Energy is everywhere and it is

not same as matter. I think Spirituality is much

concerned with energy ... think in terms of

good/bad vibrations. Maybe there are various

spiritual energies controlling our existence . It

makes sense ... think of sound it exists

momentarily , once vibrations subside it is not

there ... hence detection of such energies is

difficult(such energies are beyond our senses to

detect) or light it can pass through vacuum where

there are no atoms(hence no programming) . I think

in the overall picture various energies have a

role.
Left by ane on Apr 10, 2010 6:27 PM

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