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[The Creation of the Chicken]

An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Friday, June 13, 2008

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made - Quantum Chaotic Biology

Recently I was having another traditional discussion/debate with my beloved Atheist. As is often the case, the debate hinged upon the issue of Darwinism. In short, my point was that Darwinism was more and more living up to being an "-ism" rather than science in that far too many people and scientists are taking their reductionist scope on life and applying it universally. I was also noting how a fair number of biologists are beginning to realize that the simplicity of Neo-Darwinism (genetic mutation and natural selection) is not sufficient to explain it all...more than that, that there are definitive examples that other things explain it as well. Essentially, the idea is Biology is on the cusp of a quantum revolution and that Darwinism is akin to Newtonian Physcis in the Quantum world...not unnecessarily wrong, but necessarily short-sighted in scope and complexity. In other words, there is far more at play and that amidst a sweeping complexity that there will perhaps be order even if it cannot yet be wholly discerned...and may never. Regardless, order clearly comes into being...somehow. Like predicting weather or climate, the variables are too vast for us to be accurate. There is always a surprise factor, that while logical, is no less fearful and wonderful (IMHO) and sometimes a real mystery to us in our far more finite contexts.

You will often hear this said: "Within the cell's DNA resides all the necessary information for the creation of a complex organism like you or I." Having heard this during my specific conversation, I stopped and asked simply: "Are you sure?" And more to the point are the scientists making this claim sure? Just like the response I got, you will typically receive: "Of course...what else is there?"

Alas, "of course" is the wrong answer, because in reality we ASSUME that all this "information" is found in the DNA, but we really have no idea if this is the case. In the old days, scientists would be scolded for such assumptions without proof...and in fact many scientists are suggesting that it is patently and mathematically impossible for such vast "information" to fully exist in our DNA. As it is, how DNA codes for an organism's morphology is a complete unknown. Sure, we can tinker with genes and create "monsters" like multi-winged fruit flies and such, but no scientists can point to a definitive region of the genome and explain in detail how exactly those coded proteins work together to make a finger - how does DNA orchestrate such thing?! It's akin to little kids poking a jelly-like blob they found on the ground to see what it will do. Okay, that's a stretch, but not much.

Our understanding of DNA has evolved a great deal just in the last decade. It is, by now, surrounded by a vastly more complex series of mechanisms than when I learned about it in college. Regions thought to be useless have been found to be critical, methods of how it is "read" and "translated" have been expanded and renewed, and even what a gene is is constantly being redefined and debated. The list of questions amidst complexity continue to expand to the extent that I think it should give us pause when scientists speak with such certainty about things related to our geno-centric evolution.

And so when you hear things like this idea that "DNA contains all the information necessary to make you", we ought to challenge this point and ask for scientific proof. What we end up finding is that a good deal of evolutionary science currently handed to us is based more on assumption than real hard scientific facts. Evolutionary psychology and sociology are - in my opinion - huge offenders in this regard. Operating on their reductionist assumptions they can suddenly offer Darwinian reasoning for why we do the things we do and why we have tendencies toward a cornucopia of behaviors and even beliefs (yes, a Darwinian explanation for religious belief is posited so eat your heart out Barak Obama for it isn't the lack of government assistance that drives men to cling to religion, it's their naturally selected genes....somehow.)

And "somehow" is the key word that they often neglect to use. They posit some notions as to how religious belief might be "selected" for, but they can offer no explanation as to how genes or mutations might give me a propensity for belief in God. What single nucleotide polymorphism do I have which my beloved atheist lacks?

So why so much assumption? How can they say our DNA is the library of all the necessary information needed to make us and yet have no definitive proof? May I suggest it is derived from the basic assumption of a materialist universe...and not just that alone, but further from a need for evidence to suggest this reality and truth as a means of explaining away what seems so improbable otherwise. (e.g. you and I...the materials of the universe become self-aware and communicating by means of this blog).

But you see, one needn't just fill the Darwinian gaps with God and call it good. And yes, there are gaps in Darwinism; problems and inconsistencies and poor explanations that have had attention called to by the dreaded Intelligent Design community. Scientists, some of whom I know, who are raising legitimate questions about the reductionists' theories of evolution (some of whom would eschew the title of being proponents of ID) are often simply labeled "creationists" and dismissed and their questions waved away without really being addressed. But, alas, some of those raising these questions are NOT theists and they are doing more than simply punching holes in evolutionary theory, they are actually working at filling those holes. But the neo-Darwinist mantra is a square peg and the holes are decidedly round.

No, these scientists are not appealing to the overly simplistic explanation that "God did it!", but with the sort of complexity that we are finding more and more to be a regularly occurring component of the reality around us. Part of why I support the ID movement is because they ask legitimate questions and point to serious conundrums...unfortunately the institution of science is largely dismissing scientists who are attempting some answers because they are stepping out into the world of what I like to call Quantum Chaotic Biology. By which I mean the immense complexity on a molecular level as combined with huge and almost equally complex macro environmental systems that all play a role somehow in biological organization. Sometimes their verbiage is reminiscient of the unusual dialect of quantum physicists. "Quarks" for the Physicist and "Attractors" for the biologist.

This last March, there was a sort of evolutionary summit held in Altenberg Austria in which some prominent "out of the box" evolutionary thinkers came together to try and do something revolutionary: They came to try and answer that question posed by my Beloved Atheist: "What else is there?" The answer is: potentially a lot!

I find their work fascinating. And, if I may nail my metaphysical colors to the mast: I have never been satisfied with the reductionist theory of evolution. It's primary mechanism of selfishness, war-competition, bloodshed, power, authority, advantage, ruthlessness, death, mindlessness, truly random, and frequent sexual conquests as a means of creating us never seemed to be appropriate to the creative . I'm not ashamed of this bias I have...I simply cannot be conceived that the driving force of God's creative work could be fueled by such brutality and selfishness as described in the geno-centirc Darwinian model.

I expect in the end we will all have to endure a sort of Job's whirlwind experience. It is one of my favorite passages and though we love to put others into the role of the one being quizzed, I think we ought to work hard to put ourselves there. As it is, I love notions of science that proceed with a heart and mind that infers that it is most likely that the REAL picture is far bigger than I am seeing right now.

Oh how many times should I answer: "Behold, I am vile; What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth."

Anyway, go and read the account again...it is wonderful. It speaks of God's glory and power and beauty and wonder in creation...and further it confronts our inability to sit in judgment of its (ultimately HIS) workings. This is why (in part), I think that we are wonderfully AND fearfully made.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:19 AM [+]


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