The Need for a Creator
Let's Stay Simple
In his wisdom, God allows the simple to understand but confounds the wise who think they know everything.
1 Corinthians 1:17-31
NEED FOR A CREATOR
What a pity that the Bible isn’t true. That’s what I thought for the first 36 years of my life. Back in Germany as a 7-8-year-old, I would often skip school with a friend and sit in a ditch reading an abridged version of the Bible. We were moved to tears by the wonderful stories of Jesus healing people, but we were refugees in survival mode, far too busy to do something about it. We just kept it in the back of our minds as we wrestled with the daily troubles ahead.
When we immigrated in November 1949 we arrived on my tenth birthday in Port Philip Bay, Melbourne, Australia. From there we were shipped by train to the Bonegilla refugee camp where we undertook intense studies in English. My parents were on the lookout for jobs and accommodation in Melbourne. To cut it short, we rarely spent a moment thinking about Jesus except on special days such as Easter and Christmas. Apart from attending the German Lutheran Church and the Hungarian Reformed Church nobody ever challenged me what I thought about God. I grew up very street wise hanging out with the wrong people. During those years I often thought back about Noah and the flood. I would sigh with sadness if only those stories were true I thought.
At school I excelled in chemistry, mathematics and physics until about year 12 at University High School in Melbourne, but then lost interest - nevertheless I was accepted into medical school but then quickly re-enrolled into engineering. During the brief time that I was enthusiastic about science I convinced myself that everything about the universe could be explained through chemistry and physics – even life itself. God retreated into the background more and more.
At university, at the age of 36, I viewed cells at very high magnification under the electron microscope. I knew something about the complex biochemistry that went on in each compartment of every cell. I knew that recognition systems operated between cells especially the differences between cells that possessed contact inhibition and those that did not – the cancer cells that metastasise and invade other tissues where they don’t belong. There are recognition systems even in plant cells to tell self from non-self.
I will describe some of these later. I knew about the importance of membranes to keep the various reaction products separated from one another until they were required, otherwise cells would short-circuit both electrically and chemically. That’s why my specialty for the PhD was in biophysics where I could study the electrochemistry of living cells. If reaction products of biochemical pathways were not separated from one another by intricate compartments, living tissues would be reduced to a puddle of mud. Even the simplest bacteria are very complex as Dr. Michael Behe testified in the YouTube introduction on my home page. There just had to be an intelligent designer I thought. The evidence fof intelligent design stares us in the face daily. On a molecular level intelligent design is even more compelling.
Whether you look through a microscope or telescope makes no difference, you discover that God is a great designer. Not only that, but it becomes evident how powerful God is, revealed in the tiniest nano-machines in our bodies and in the vast size of the stars and the seemingly endless universe. In the article on God's Power I ask whether He is big enough to meet your needs. Consider also this quotation from a daily devotion,
'Let's look at three of the things He designed: (1) Temperature. The Sun's surface is 5,500 degrees Celsius, and we're 150 million km away from it - just the right distance. If the Earth's temperature was 30 degrees hotter or colder all life would cease. Think about it: why wasn't the Earth placed twice as far away, or twice as close? (2) Rotation. We rotate 365 times a year as we pass around the Sun. Suppose we only rotated 36 times? Well, our days and nights would be ten times as long. We'd be terribly hot one one side, unbearably cold on the other, and life as we know it would cease. (3) Air. Oxygen constitutes 21 percent of our atmosphere: the precise balance of air we need to breathe.t 50 per cent? Because the first time somebody lit a match we'd all be toast! So ask yourself, is the 21per cent by accident or design?' The Word for Today, Bob and Debby Gass, Vision Christian Media, Queensland, Australia, 2018.
Considering DNA and all the complex processes involved, it seemed evident that somebody designed all those pre-existing genes with their precise DNA codes. My third year students did not object when I started referring to genes as being ‘pre-programmed for the task’ though most of them believed in evolution theory. They are and it would be foolishness to deny that. But an ‘Intelligent Designer’? Who would that be?
Who? I first thought it must be one of those Eastern gods because our Asian graduate students were such nice, friendly people - certainly not the Christian God. After all, in 1976, I saw Protestants and Catholics shoot each other in Ireland. Moreover, TV news showed Lebanese Orthodox priests standing behind barricades shooting away at Muslims with machine guns. So I began to ask in my mind ‘which God?’
There was one profound thing my mother taught me and that was to pray. Imagine me as an adult lying in bed talking, quietly in my mind, to an unnamed all-powerful god who is out there in the Universe somewhere. I even imagined that if god is so powerful to have created living cells then it would be well within his/its power to hear the questions running silently through my mind.
It took God another two months to give me a clear and profound answer. He woke me up in the middle of the night and gave me an experience that is best described in the Bible in Acts Chapter 2. From that point on-wards, everything suddenly became very clear. The books of Genesis Chapters 1 and 2 were actually true. It shattered me. It took the Seventh Day Adventist Church to convince me that the whole of the Old Testament was also true. My whole world was being turned upside down, so much so that I told all the other staff at university with great enthusiasm, but they didn’t understand. Charlie has gone mad, they thought.
It doesn’t take a degree in advanced education to be amazed at God’s creation. All it takes is a little time to reflect about our own wonderful bodies. In the next few articles I shall bring to your attention the amazing wonders of the creation that we take for granted, only a few examples of course, because where would one stop?
Autofocusing stereoscopic colour vision immediately springs to mind. I treasure my colour vision, which, by the way is perceived in only three primary colours – green, blue and red - just like the signals transmitted over the airways for colour TV. The brain processes them into all the visible colours of the spectrum that hit our senses and emotions. This is the first trinity I came across, figuratively speaking, of the triune God, but there are many more. It is amazing the way we process what we see through the extensive electrical network of nerves in our brain.
Then there is our capacity to compare what we see with what we have seen before. How do we know that tigers are dangerous? It’s because, when we see one, our brain conjures up past experiences and images that tell us not only that it’s a tiger, but also that tigers are dangerous. This is followed by an almost instant decision to make a response - to flee if we are out in the open or to withdraw our hand from the cage if we are in a zoo. Can we appreciate just how complex each of these steps is?
Let’s just think for a moment about memory. Our memory can be like a colour video complete with sounds. Memory is retained somewhere in our brains inside the mushy proteins of cells. We can conjure up past sights and sounds and even smells just by willing it. How amazing is that? How do we do it? I have no idea.
As I am writing, I can conjure up a whole sequence of events concerning the biggest elephant I ever saw in Perth Zoo. I can see him moving now stretching up on two legs to pull down the bucket filled with goodies with his trunk from way high, ending with a loud crash that made the young child in the pram next to me burst into tears - an entire video clip hiding together with thousands of other video clips in my brain – like the girl on the Cook Islands who was playing goalkeeper, hit smack in the face with the soccer ball speeding through her outstretched hands. The laughter that followed is still in my brain. I only need a cue of some sort to remember a particular clip again.
I admit that sometimes it takes me time to remember an event correctly. Yet, all these processes are captured in living data banks in tiny mushy cells that you could crush between your fingers! Wouldn’t you call that miraculous high tech in living cells? What’s even more stunning is that man has nothing to do with it. The memory system reproduces itself through every generation as instructed by the DNA code.
In the 49th issue of 'Alumni', University of Tasmania, 2017, Associate Professor Tracey Dickson says that our brains are truly amazing, 'Despite its humble appearance the brain truly is an amazing organ. How it performs many of its functions is still a mystery but we and others, around the world are working hard on this. The brain is made up of 100 billion nerve cells all connected in a complicated series of networks via 176,000km of axons and 100 trillion specialized junctions known as synapses. With this level of sophistication it is no wonder that even the most advanced computer is still unable to come close to its' abilities'.
Associate Professor Dickson ought to know. She is the Deputy Director at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research and the leader of the Institute's Neurodegenerative Diseases and Brain Injury research theme in Tasmania. She is a national leader in motor neuron disease research and, in 2017, received almost $1 million in research funding. Can you imagine such a system assembling itself spontaneously by chance interactions and that each cell, axon and synapse just happened to accidentally come up with their appropriate chemical and physical properties to form a sensible information network - a network that is connected to our five senses?
Our ears alone are considered to be the most complicated organ apart from the brain. How did both of our ears, that decode vibrations to electrical signals, get accidentally connected to the network of the brain? To this, add our eyes, nose, lips, vocal cords etc. One should not need further proof that the brain was designed for its specific uses as well as the code for constructing it. The code imprinted on our DNA, as a series of instructions on how to make the brain in the foetus during development is utterly useless unless all the complicated genetic machinery to read the code is already in place in brain cells.
I once gave a talk on creation many years ago. The mother of a university student approached me after my presentation and told me about her daughter's experience in her first year at Melbourne University. The lecturer had just finished saying how marvelous it is that evolution managed to evolve our brains the way it has. The mother's daughter put her hand up in the midst of a biology class of about 500. The lecturer beckoned her to ask her question. She said, 'Sir, I don't believe the brain got here by evolution. God designed the brain'. Well, the lecturer mercilessly tore her to shreds and completely humiliated her for even making such a suggestion. The girl left the class in tears with other students scoffing her.
A few days later the same lecturer approached her in the cafeteria. He said 'I am so sorry. I believe like you do, but if I hadn't done that I would have lost my job'.
The capacity to reproduce is amazing. All the coded information to build a human body is contained within the fertilized egg cell of females. An equally amazing thing, about it, is that the coded messages first have to be decoded before a cell can use it. How do cells do that? Oh yes, science knows some of the mechanistic details, but how did we get it in the first place and how did the necessary information get written into our DNA?
Egg cells are large enough to be seen with the naked eye, but are still very small of course. They are about 26 times larger than red blood cells and about 4 times the size of a normal skin cell. Eight of them, placed side by side, would fit comfortably within a 1 mm graduation on a school ruler. The cells are stationary and it is up to the sperm cells to swim to it, their tails driven by tiny energy-driven molecular rotors (ATPases that I will introduce in a later article). Within that single fertilized cell resides all the information to use raw materials a mother provides and build another potential adult with all its intricate organs from scratch. The cell contains pieces of long strings of DNA, which, if uncoiled and connected end to end, would reach a length of 2.1 metres. DNA is an instruction manual. It is obvious that for all this DNA to be inside a cell it has to be coiled up and coiled all over again and coiled upon itself once again, to fit inside the nucleus (the innermost part) of the cell. This is called supercoiling.
Once fertilized, the egg cell reorganizes its information to ensure a balance between that received from the mother and that received from the father. As the cell prepares itself for division, in a very ordered and reproducible sequence of events, the genetic material is doubled so that, when the cell divides in two, each new cell will have an identical package of genetic information (the manual in DNA code). The pairs of supercoiled DNA, called chromosomes, appear like sausages when viewed under a microscope when cells are ready to divide. Normally they are not seen.
Notice the strings that the cell organizes to pull an equal number of the correct chromosomes towards the opposite ends of the dividing cell. The strings look like the strings used to pull puppets along and it is an interesting sight to actually see this happening live under a microscope. They are contractile and can grow forward appearing from nowhere. Whatever controls these processes? The strings only appear when they are needed and disappear again afterwards.
There is nothing new about this. Every biology student is aware of the processes even before they enter the university system, but my purpose is to extend a challenge to the reader. And the challenge is to meditate on what unseen hands or processes orchestrate these complex events. It’s all happening automatically within the cell and has been happening ever since Adam and Eve. There are even more complex tasks that lie ahead for the dividing cell.
The cells continue to double and a tiny ball of tissue begins to emerge. As the ball continues to divide suddenly the ball takes on a different form, a cleavage appears. The mass of cells begin to take up a distinctive shape, yet the information in each cell is identical. How does each cell know where it will belong and in which direction it is to divide next?
Meditate on what unseen hands or processes orchestrate these complex and accurate processes, billions and billions of times inside your body
Over time various cells begin to divide in distinctive directions. As the tissue grows initiation centres become evident as the origin for limbs and other physical features. There are obvious time-related and locational signals the tissue has to deal with now giving shape to the mass until the distinctive embryo is formed.
What controls these? Have you ever asked yourself? The coded message that resides in DNA controls it somehow, but how? Everything proceeds in clockwork fashion generation after generation. Look, the DNA even provided an embryonic sac for protection, the placenta. Absolutely ludicrous for chance evolution to have done that with such forethought!
But that is not all. When the hands are formed the fingers are stuck together with a web, just like duck’s feet are. These scaffolding tissues need to be removed, cut away or dissolved. The same thing happens with organs where they need to be freed from the mass of other tissues. Cells have to self-destruct - suicide! That’s how they are cut away! Atrophy, or more generally Apoptosis, is the biological term. What tells certain cells, now that they have done their job as part of a scaffold, that they have to die and be digested?
MOLECULAR MACHINES AND MOTION
Words cannot express what a video can. Over the last few decades amazing discoveries have been made in molecular biology. We are all familiar with motion, but are we familiar with the intricate motions that occur within our cells? Our cells are packed with miniature robots and machines that work ceaselessly provided high energy molecules are constantly replenished from the metabolism of sugars, or in the case of plants, by the action of sunlight. There is no other way to describe the inner workings of the cell than to encourage you to look at this YouTube video on the amazing molecular machines that run the cell from physical motion to the contractile filaments that control transport and cell division, which so precisely ensure that each new cell will receive a full complement of genes. Only God could have devised these and put the code for their construction onto their DNA.
In this and other videos in the series concentrate on the amazing molecular machines illustrated by Ron Vale and try to ignore the ever-hopeful evolutionary jargon such as 'the team is now working on how these systems could have evolved billions of years ago'.
APOPTOSIS (PRE-PROGRAMMED CELL DEATH)
The most visible evidence of atrophy or self-destruction to the layman is what happens during the metamorphosis of butterflies and moths, and a host of other insects. Do you know why a caterpillar spins a cocoon around itself? It becomes its' own protective tomb. The caterpillar is pre-programmed to die and most of its body is dissolved away to become a butterfly – just like annual and biennial plants are programmed to die when they flower.
Have you ever watched on YouTube a caterpillar spin itself to death? What a great job it does twisting and turning, entwining itself with more and more sticky thread until it buries itself in its own tomb – the pupa or cocoon. About 70% of its' body tissues and head will then be liquefied. The organism will then use these raw materials to build itself into a butterfly, in the case of caterpillars (or a maggot into a fly).
The prestigious on-line journal, Springernature.com, published a review in 2008 on cell death in caterpillars. Why? Because pre-programmed cell death is critical in the development of the human body. It is an essential feature of development and caterpillars are better for experiments than are babies.
"It's not surprising that we don't tell kids what really happens to caterpillars inside a chrysalis (the pupa). Metamorphosis is pretty gruesome stuff involving flesh-dissolving enzymes and limbs, wings and genitals bursting through what's left of all that tissue. No wonder the whole thing is done behind closed skin. Considering the scope of change it's amazing that the metamorphosis comes down to the interplay between a couple of hormones and some bags of cells that are just itching to grow into butterfly parts… If you look inside a caterpillar you won't see a butterfly all rolled up waiting to emerge. You'll just see more caterpillar and some well-chewed leaves….. But, with a decent microscope and some excellent navigation skills, you might glimpse some tiny disc-shaped bags of cells here and there. They're called imaginal discs, and once the caterpillar silks itself up in a chrysalis they kick into action, each one of them growing into an antenna, eye, wing or other butterfly bits." Bernie Hobs, updated May, 2010
Caterpillars have numerous stumpy legs with pincers for firm attachment. These voracious eating machines have chunky mouth parts well suited for this phase of development. After transformation or metamorphosis they become nectar sipping butterflies as adults with reproductive capacity. Instead of chewing mouth parts butterflies have delicate hollow ‘straws’, made for sucking, that curl up for storage during flight.
All these pre-programmed events are dictated by DNA. Where do the hormones come from that dictate cell death? They find their synthetic origin written either in the DNA that is already in the cell nucleus or in the DNA that mitochondria contain. Mitochondria are tiny organs within individual cells that burn sugars to make energy plus they do a host of other things. We inherit ready-made mitochondria which can multiply, from the egg cell of our mothers. I can only conclude that God created all these wonderful things!