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Crossroads in Biology

Creation – Thesis 4

Thesis 4: We believe life is God’s gift. However, we do not claim to know fully its processes, capabilities, and development. We welcome the use of life sciences to better understand it. Science cannot deny God. 

In the previous post I submitted to you the idea that we, as part of Creation, cannot fully understand the Creation. Take for instance these two concepts: “God is unlimited and omnipresent” and “the Creation is limited in space and time”. How do you put these concepts together? Is the Creation part of, or incorporated in, God, or is it outside God? Did God restrain Himself in order to create a space where a limited Universe could be placed? Astronomers do  not have an answer whether the Universe is infinite or finite. They only can tell that in whatever direction they look, it seems that there are no repeated formations, there are no other “you” or “me” out there. However, I ventured to say that the Creation, understood as the totality of what has been created, is limited in time and space, because I started with the premise that God exists (whatever that means) and if God exists, He created something that has to be finite, limited. If the Universe were infinite, it would be itself God, or it would mean that unlimited version of “you” and “me” would be out there, with the possibility of you meeting at some time and space the others “you” out there, and that is nonsensical.

As much as we would like to know and as much as we have learned already, there are many unknowns yet to be discovered. I mentioned that the “creation science” has failed to make progress towards knowledge in terms scientific because: a) it started on a wrong premise, a religious belief based on a literal understanding of the Book of Genesis taken as inerrant, and b) because they did not have a solid set of scientific evidence to call upon, but rather felt pressured by evolutionists to offer “an alternative”. On the other hand, naturalists and evolutionists did not offer a coherent theory either. It is enough to mention “the origin of life” and the evolutionists will jump like burned by a torch: “that’s not our business; that is abiogenesis’ field”. They think that by creating a separated field of science dedicated to studying the possibility of life arising from inorganic matter, the theory of evolution can explain how life “evolved” once the first replicating organism appeared. But it can’t. Based on what we know today in the fields of biology, microbiology, genetics, epigenetics, etc., there is no “light at the end of the tunnel” yet, no coherent and proven theory that can account for the development of life. All we have is a series of conflicting theories than cannot be sewn into a harmonic, fully integrated explanatory theory.

Classical Darwinism failed because it was more about theology rather than science. Darwin was right to observe that the concept of “special creation” needed to be abandoned, but he did not have any clue as to how organisms transmit their attributes to their offspring. He thought that the mighty natural selection is capable of shaping the biological world, which later has been discarded by scientists like Kimura and Shapiro. Darwin introduced the concept of “Common Descent with Modification” (Common Ancestor) where the natural selection would act upon the slow occurring and continuous changes in organisms provoked by the changing environment. Regarding life itself, Darwin mentioned in his Origins of Species that “it was created”, but later he regretted making that statement because, you see, he was now in the era when everything had to be explained by natural means.

Punctuated equilibrium theory of Eldridge and Gould (which was developed within the Neo-Darwinism) proved Darwin’s idea of gradualism wrong by showing that the fossil record provides absolutely no evidence for a gradual development of life but rather shows that life developed in “leaps and bounds”. Eldridge and Gould showed that species tend to hold to their form and attributes for as long as possible, an attribute called stasis, but they still believed that evolution occurred by allopatric speciation, a process by which species are split and isolated geographically due to natural or man-caused events. Thus, the isolated population would be prevented from normal genetic interchange and will differentiate from the original species until it would become a new species. This may be true, as it is clearly the case with the radial speciation of finches observed by Darwin in the Galapagos Islands. But this is not a proof for macroevolution “from-cell-to-human”; rather it is a proof that organisms have been endowed be the Creator with certain abilities to adapt to their surroundings.

Neo-Darwinism appeared in the first half of the twentieth century as a reaction to the rediscovery of the Mendel’s principles of inheritance and the challenges to Darwinism coming from the new field of genetics. Discarding the classical Darwinian view that the environment influenced changes in organisms, while maintaining the concept of natural selection, Neo-Darwinists embraced the idea that random mutations in the DNA are responsible for innovations that lead to new forms of life. In spite of the fact that renown mathematicians like Fisher, Wright, and Haldane gave neo-Darwinism the aura of science by conceiving mathematical models that could provide a “way” in which evolution may happen, those mathematical, theoretical, models contained clauses and premises that never applied to the real world. Fisher showed that a single random mutation has way too little, if any, chance to be preserved in a population, so, in order to have an influence towards modification of species, random mutations needed to be occurring in significant and consecutive numbers, but this has never happened in real life. On the other hand, Haldane calculated that there is a limited number of mutations that can simultaneously undergo fixation within a population before provoking a breakdown of the system that can lead to extinction of the species, this being known as “the Haldane Dilemma”. Some theorists tried to discard the Haldane Dilemma, charging Haldane for making various technical errors, but Crow and Kimura confirmed Haldane’s findings of how many places in genome can undergo simultaneous mutation. The main errors of Neo-Darwinism are: a) that random mutations, which have been empirically proven to be mostly detrimental or slightly neutral, can never produce the variety and complexity required by the concept of evolution, and, b) the natural selection raised at high, almost personal, status of a biological mastermind, is actually a very limited phenomena that,  like random mutations, is incapable of producing the complexity of life as we know it. The hocus-pocus of Neo-Darwinism was to shift the unit of natural selection from the organism, as a whole, to that of the gene or nucleotide, but selection can never act at the nucleotide level. Its supposition, proclaimed by ideologues like Dawkins and Coyne, that these uninterrupted chain of mutations lead to the accumulation of “junk-DNA” as being the 98% of the genome has been seriously challenged by the ENCODE project, which showed that up to 80% of the whole genome has various functions, thus pointing to us how little we know about life.

Kimura and his student Ohta came in 1968 with an opposing theory, the Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution, first because they realized the power of Haldane’s argument that put limits on the number of simultaneous possible fixation of mutations, but also because Kimura showed that natural selection has almost no role in evolution. He admits that most random mutations are deleterious, thus are eliminated by selection, and those which are not eliminated are not positive mutations either, therefore he concluded that they are neutral mutations (mutations that do not affect reproduction and survival) and they “fly under the radar” of selection. Kimura proposes that these neutral mutations lead to mutant alleles. These mutants will undergo genetic drift and thus may lead to disappearance of certain alleles in offspring of populations, leading to new species. Of course, Kimura’s theory runs contrary to Fisher’s ideas who did not consider the genetic drift having any significant role in evolution. Ohta brings a modification to the theory in 1973 by what she called the Nearly Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution to show that what was considered neutral mutations are not really neutral, but rather slightly deleterious. Therefore the genetic drift’s effect, she argued, depends on the size of the population and the generation time. Leaving the details on the side, it is noteworthy to mention that Kimura and Ohta’s theories run against neo-Darwinian theories, at the same time being just as “theoretical” and without empirical support as Neo-Darwinian theory.

All the differences, puzzles, and contradictions noted, the late scientists brought additional phenomena to light, with the field of epigenetics taking a central stage since 1990s. At a 2008 meeting at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, as noted by this article, it has been adopted the definition that: “An epigenetic trait is a stably heritable phenotype resulting from changes in a chromosome without alterations in the DNA sequence.” This means that changes in how organisms look or function depend considerably not on changes effected by mutations at the chromosomal level, but by other changes that leave the DNA sequence intact, like those induced by environmental factors, internal stressors, or such processes as DNA methylation or histone modifications. It amazes me how amateurs bring, for example, the human development from one fertilized egg (the zygote) to the amazingly complex mature individual as an argument for evolution, when, in fact, this is an example of what epigenesis is like, where genes are expressed or suppressed, made active or silent, due to the program encoded in the DNA coupled with the stimuli from the environment.

With epigenetics coming strongly into the filed of life sciences, another field of biology is taking now the center stage, that of systems biology, which starts looking at the whole individual and its interaction with the outside world in order to understand the smaller components functions, as those of cells, organs, etc.. Systems biology is a holistic approach compared with the reductionist approach of molecular biology, which started from the smaller units of life in order to understand how they lead to the full grown-up organisms. Part of this kind of systems biology is James Shapiro’s theory of Natural Genetic Engineering. After showing that the classic and neo versions of Darwinian theories are incapable of explaining almost anything in biology (far gone is the once famous saying of Dobzhansky that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”), Shapiro acknowledges that we have no clue as of yet regarding how life emerged, how prokaryotes and eukaryotes came into being, and how many of the complex organic systems have been formed, such as the immune system or the blood coagulation cascade. He is showing that, far from being a result of random mutations and selection, the organism is a system of systems working together in an unimaginable precision and cooperation, and with purpose and scope, within which information is being exchanged between various body parts in any direction, not only in the old-fashioned direction described by the “dogma of molecular biology”, to use Francis Crick words. So close to a design theory Shapiro’s theory can be read that some evolutionists “hard core” like Coyne called him a creationist or Intelligent Design advocate, accusations that Shapiro had to fight by distancing himself of the ID movement, which he publicly blamed for lacking a scientific basis. Indeed, like I mentioned in the previous post, any approach that makes room for a Creator who was involved, more or less, in the formation of life, cannot attain to a scientific status, but is a religious belief.

So, what is life after all? We have some idea but nobody has a definitive answer.  How did life start? This has absolutely no answer at all. The Miller-Urey “classical” experiment of abiogenesis conducted in 1953 is mostly cited by those who try to argue that life could have arisen from various chemical reactions that lead to more complex organic structures in what was considered to have been the putative conditions of an early Earth. Not only that nobody knows what those conditions could have been, but later studies showed that Miller-Urey assumed conditions that were erroneous. Surely, in a very controlled environment and under the input provided by intelligence (of scientists) you can have amino-acids formed thru chemical reactions that are similar to the amino-acids occurring naturally. You may have prebiotic molecules flying thru space, given the carbon content present out there, but we know not of any form of life without DNA, and this is the real “irreducible complexity” of life, an expression of functional information that only intelligence can produce. Yes, we would like to know more about life. Yes, life sciences can help our understanding of it and we welcome it to the extent that it is done properly and avoids supposition and pseudo-knowledge. But we also believe that true science will never deny God and can never deny God if it is done with all diligence and humility.

 

 

 

Creation – Thesis 3

Thesis 3: Since we are created beings, we cannot fully understand the Creation. We are not attempting a definition or description of Creation, its timing, process, scope, extensiveness, or future. 

Humans have always wanted to know more about themselves and the surrounding world. It is in our being to observe, to question, to look for answers, to develop concepts and beliefs. Far from being a damper on our desire for increased knowledge, the third thesis aims at highlighting the limits of our pursuit. When we create something, we can tell what it is and how we created it. We can explain when we did it and the procedures we followed for creating it. Also, we can explain the scope of that which we created, what it is good for, and for how long will or should it last. However, when it comes to God’s Creation, we cannot fully understand it because we are ourselves part of the Creation. We may do our best to observe, inquire, and try to understand it, but we will never have all the answers regarding the “when”, “where”, “how”, “what for”, and “until when” of the Creation process, which is not an “argument from ignorance” but is a realistic understanding of our limits. This should lead us to humility in understanding our limitations and to an attitude of carefulness in making judgements or assumptions about the Creation.

There are two major attempts at explaining the world: “creation science”, also known as “scientific creationism”, and the “theory of evolution by natural processes”, which is mainly based on the Darwinian model. Both of these worldviews are flawed. We will address here the failures of the so-called “scientific creationism” and in the following theses we will look closer at the theory of evolution.

The Failures of “Scientific Creationism”

Even though ideas about a natural process of evolution, cosmic and biologic, came as early as in the 6th and 7th centuries B.C., the prevailing concept about for the origins of life and all observable world was that they came from the acts of creation of God or Gods. The idea that Deity created the world predates the Book of Genesis by hundreds of years. Even if one believes that Genesis was written by Moses, which cannot be proven by any means, both Enuma Elish and The Epic of Gilgamesh, which are Mesopotamian myths, predate the time of Moses. Most religions have their version of creation. In Hinduism, the material forms like animals and plants are believed to be manifestations of a “pure consciousness” with repeating cycles of births and rebirths. In Orthodox Judaism, science is considered as true as the Torah and the discrepancies between what is expected and what really is point to the fact that, many times, things may be different from what they appear to be. If there seem to be irreconcilable points between the Torah and science, epistemological limits are invoked (source).

With the advent of the scientific revolution that started around the 16th century AD with the works of Copernicus, and especially after Charles Darwin’s publication of The Origins of Species in 1859, creationists were baffled by the naturalistic evolutionary theories, which slowly and surely eroded the belief in a “special creation”, the idea that God created in various places on Earth fixed forms of life (or baramins, according to Marsh).  As Wikipedia shows, “Creation Science” is a form of Young Earth Creationism that appeared around 1960s as “a fundamentalist Christian effort in the United States to prove Biblical inerrancy and nullify the scientific evidence for evolution”.

Here you have the first two erroneous steps taken be the “scientific creationists”. On one hand, nobody can prove the inerrancy of the Bible. If you look closely at the 1978’s Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy and 1982’s Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics, you cannot help but notice the irrationalities and logical contradictions from one article to another. I do not intend to examine them here, but in my opinion these are nothing but political platforms for reinforcing the authority of the religious leaders by claiming the ever powerful “inspiration”. Our SDA church leaders, as I stated in other posts, play at “both ends” of the stick. They realize that “verbal inspiration” cannot be sustained and as such they deny it, but at the same time they affirm the “propositional truth, or inspiration” of the Bible, which is in fact the very same thing!

Besides the inability to prove the Biblical inerrancy, the “scientific creationists” cannot nullify the scientific evidence that clearly contradicts the “inerrancy” of the Genesis rendition of origins, firstly because they can’t sustain the Genesis report with science and, secondly, because it is not in their not-so-honest interest to do so. As I already stated, I am not a supporter of the evolutionary theory, for which I can offer harsh criticism, but I am not willing to offer a “blind eye” to the hocus-pocus of “here is the inspiration, here is not”. In the Article X of above mentioned Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy we read “WE AFFIRM  that inspiration, strictly speaking, applies only to the autographic text of Scripture“, but… guess what? the autographic text of Scripture has not been preserved, it simply does not exist! Therefore, all the texts of Scripture, whether from OT or NT, are just copies more or less accurate of the supposed “autographic text”.

Among the creationists who prepared the way for a more modern “creation science” is George McCready Price, a Seventh-day Adventist who assumed the E.G.White views on the Creation issue. Price wrote works against evolution and pro-creation and was particularly interested in geology, or rather flood-geology, which he re-invented. But even he acknowledged that “the Creationary account of origins could never have been developed as a hypothesis from the study of nature alone, rather it was “suggested by our religion.””, as shown by the Wiki page mentioned above. Price tried to argue that the geological strata and the fossils they contain have resulted from the Flood. He was aware of the difference between facts and their interpretation, but his interpretation falls flat on its belly. Not only that the fossils are arranged from the simplest forms of life at the bottom of the strata to higher complexity as you move upward on the strata, but there are considerable age differences between various strata. With all the approximation or infidelity of the radiometric dating systems, claimed by the YEC rather without merit, all that strata containing fossils should show relatively the same age, accurate or not! Price didn’t know about radiometric dating methods then, but now we know.

Borrowing some of Price’s ideas, Henry M. Morris would later be considered the father of modern “creation science”. A believer in Bible inerrancy and literal reading of Genesis, Morris argued against the old age of the Universe and the Earth. In 1961 he wrote, with John C. Whitcomb, The Genesis Flood, which was heralded as the “strongest argument against evolution” since the Scope trial and “the first significant attempt in the 20th century to offer a systematic scientific explanation for creationism” (Wiki). Surely enough, his book was embraced by YECs who felt that they now had a solid scientific basis for their belief in the Genesis account of Creation. However, Morris has never been a scholar of geology or life sciences. Morris studies were on hydraulic engineering (PhD in 1950) and outside the YEC community his views on geology and creation were never taken seriously by most of the scientists. Again, the “scientific creationism” could not gain any recognition in the world of modern science because it has sprung from a religious belief and adherence to Biblical inerrancy and literal interpretation of Genesis, which we will examine in later theses.

As a short conclusion, “Scientific Creationism” is a contradiction of terms. There is nothing to be proven scientifically about God or His acts of creation since God is outside not only of the scope and means of science, but of our capacity to understand Him. Creationism, in any of its forms (including theistic evolutionism, which is taught at most Protestant seminaries) is therefore a religious worldview. But I suggest it needs to be also a cognitive, rational and humble religious worldview that does not affirm absolutes in regard to the fabric of Creation, but allows science to enrich our understanding of it.

 

Creation – Thesis 2

 

Thesis 2: God is the Creator of everything there is. This means that we do not believe in the absoluteness of time, space, matter, energy, etc., but all of the above have been created ex-nihilo by God. 

 

Following the first thesis, where God is the only unmade, unborn, self-existing, eternal, and  indescribable “I AM”, this second thesis affirms that anything else outside God comes into existence because of God, meaning that: it is created, it is temporal, and it is limited, in other words it is what we call the “Creation”. This belief is also expressed in John 1, 3:All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made”, where John is making a philosophical statement about the eternity of God. 

If nothing existed before God started to create, it follows that the Creation was “ex nihilo” (from nothing), not in an absolute sense (one may suggest that the Creation resulted from God’s energies) but in the sense that God did not use pre-existing matter. This concept is fundamentally different from that of materialism, which states that matter is the only reality, the only ground for being. As to what is matter, many philosophical and scientific concepts have been advanced throughout history, from the prima materia (alluded to in Genesis 1, 2 as Tohu wa-bohu) to the theories of quantum physics, however, physicists have yet to define it. As we will examine more in-depth the language of the Book of Genesis in the articles to come, we need to keep in mind that the language used in Genesis is subject to the culture and knowledge of the time in which the author(s) lived.

Another aspect of Creation is that God is completely different and separated from the Creation, this concept being opposed to the pantheistic views that God and Nature is one and the same. God is eternal, the Creation is temporal, God is infinite, the Creation is finite, God is self-existing, the Creation exists because of God’s action in bringing it in existence and sustaining it continually. This should make us, Christian theists, a bit more careful in how we interpret Biblical notions like “heaven” or “eternal life”. To imagine that God’s “heaven” is somewhere within our physical universe is contradicting the very idea of an infinite God who is outside space and time. The Creation is not eternal, as both forms of matter, inorganic and organic, are subjected to the laws of entropy. Isaiah 65, 17 says “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind”;
Jesus says in Mark 13, 31 that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away“; 2 Peter 3, 10 says “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare“; and Revelation 21, 1 states “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away, and the sea was no more”.

Our theistic concept is also opposed to that of deism, which states that God has created the universe based on laws that God designed and, from that point on, the Creation is self-sustaining and it behaves according to the laws of nature. Deism rejects the idea that God reveals Himself in history and in Scriptures, is skeptical of miracles, and posits that our reason is the only foundation for certitude, thus it provides all the knowledge we need. We agree that God established the natural laws and, as Einstein stated, the Universe is intelligible. But we also believe that this very intelligibility of the natural world has been intended by God as a guide to understand some of His works. We agree that we have been endowed with the capacity to understand, to reason, but we also believe that the Creation has a purpose whose full dimension is not to be known “here and now”, but is part of what Jesus called “the eternal life”, i.e. knowing God.

Creation – Thesis 1

In my previous post I listed ten theses that I thought could form a basis for a coherent creationist approach. Evidently, I use “thesis” and “theses” in their common usage such as “statement(s)”, or “idea(s)”. Given the concise format used in formulating these statements, I thought it would be necessary to explain them, one by one, for a better understanding of the points I intended to make.

Thesis 1: God is the only Supreme Being, unborn and unmade. He is both Transcendent (He is beyond space and time) and Immanent (He reveals Himself in Creation and sustains it).

This thesis is actually the hardest to develop or to comment on because we are dealing with a subject that is outside of our capacity to understand or define. At the same time, I considered appropriate to set a basis for our creationist approach, since before we talk about Creation we need to mention the Creator. Humans always engaged in what could be considered the highest level of meditation, that of thinking about God, however, our mind and our language are incapable of fully grasping the concept of God. It follows that “Supreme Being” or “Divine Being” or even the “Absolute Being” are not quite appropriate terms, as much as there are no appropriate terms for God to start with, and do not subscribe to the notions of “being” as defined by Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), where being is mostly defined by temporality as it applies to human beings.

In attempting to understand God, scholars use two main theological approaches: the apophatic approach, also known as negative theology, which uses “negative” terminology, i.e. what God is not, and the cataphatic approach, also known as positive theology, which uses “positive” terminology when referring to God, i.e. what God is. In the Bible we find both apophatic and cataphatic statements. These statements contradict each other, yet some scholars consider that they are complementary to each other.

Moses Maimonides (1120-1190) is perhaps the first Hebrew scholar who uses apophatic statements about God, suggesting in his best known work The Guide for the Perplexed that God is unknowable to man, therefore we cannot make any direct statements regarding God, nor can we attach any positive attributes to God. Citing Psalm 65, Maimonides concludes that the highest form of praise we can give God is silence (citation). Later, Wittgenstein asserts something similar in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus  (the seventh statement) saying “What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence”. In Jewish belief, God is the Creator (Genesis 1, 1; Isaiah 44, 24) who is outside of Creation, a transcendent God who is outside of space and time, as Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan also states. Among the names used for God in the Old Testament, the most used name is YHWH, or the Tetragrammaton, (“[He] was being”) which, along with the similar expression in Exodus 3, 14 (I Am the One I Am), “refer to God in his ‘negative attributes’, as absolutely independent and uncreated,”, as Wikipedia puts it. Starting from the 3rd Century B.C.  and especially after the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., the Jews are not even allowed to pronounce this name, so instead of YHWE they use the name Adonai (“My Lord”) when they pray or read the Torah, or in other occasions they use HaShem (“The Name”).

An important concept of the Old Testament is the Unity of God expressed in Deuteronomy 6, 4: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one“, which Maimonides considers to be a positive command, and explained by Kaplan as “God is a most perfect and absolute Unity”. No attribute we can think of can be “added” to God because it would imply plurality; therefore “according to Maimonides, there can be no plurality of faculties, moral dispositions, or essential attributes in God” (citation). Being separate and different from all that is created, the attributes asserted to God refer to God’s actions, not his Being. When we find expressions like in Genesis 1, 26, “Let us make humankind in our image”, that does not mean a hint to plurality in the Godhead, as later Christianity would assert under the influence of the concept of Trinity. The NET Bible commentary says: “In its ancient Israelite context the plural is most naturally understood as referring to God and his heavenly court (see 1 Kgs 22:19-22Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6Isa 6:1-8) (citation).

As we enter the New Testament, most statements about God are cataphatic in nature (they use “positive” terminology) thus, we are dealing with opposing views about God compared to the Old Testament. As Wikipedia puts it, “To speak of God or the divine kataphatically is thought by some to be by its nature a form of limiting to God or divine. This was one of the core tenets of the works of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. By defining what God or the divine is we limit the unlimited. A kataphatic way to express God would be that God is love. The apophatic way would be to state that God is not hate (although such description can be accused of the same dualism). Or to say that God is not love, as he transcends even our notion of love. Ultimately, one would come to remove even the notion of the Trinity, or of saying that God is one, because The Divine is above numberhood”. The main issue with the cataphatic approach resides in the concept of Trinity and the Immanence of God, which mainly states that God, who is transcendent and cannot be seen or approached in His Being, becomes Immanent in the incarnate person of Jesus the Christ, as stated by John 1, 1. This means that Jesus is the Logos, fully God and with God, and the concept has resonance in Jesus’ words in John 8, 58: “Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am!’”, which is clearly connected with Exodus 3, 14. The reaction from the Judeans, picking up stones to throw at Jesus for blasphemy, confirms that in this occasion “I am” is an explicit claim to Divinity. As John 1, 3 states, the Logos/Jesus is the Creator, thus Judaism will never accept this concept because it is in contradiction with the principle “God is One”.  As Christians, we accept the doctrine of Trinity, generally speaking, but there is no consensus regarding what exactly Trinity means. A general description would define Trinity as God’s manifestations in Creation, Redemption, and Revelation, which I find acceptable; therefore we can say that Immanence of God is manifested in Creation and in Creation’s constant sustaining.

A Complete Overhaul …(part two)

As I mentioned in the first article on this topic, just a few of my friends joined into the conversation on Facebook. Perhaps I cannot understand the true reasons of those who decided to be silent on the subject of Creation. From the comments of those who shared their opinion, I draw a few ideas and present them here (without naming the authors) as an introduction to what I would later present as “A Coherent Creation Model for the 21st Century”.

One of my friends opined that it would be wise to consider the Pascal’s Wager before we discard the belief in God. I answered that I agree with Pascal and I don’t discard the belief in God, but my approach was not about God’s existence; it was about the Creation. At this he replied that we should take them as a “package”, meaning that if we believe in God, we should also believe in Genesis’ literal rendering of Creation. To this I cannot subscribe. The belief in God is subjective since God is outside our possibility of inquiry, therefore He is outside the scope of science. There is no wonder then why finding two persons who have the same understanding or concept of God is such a daunting task. With the Genesis, however, things are different. Genesis is a text that we can examine scientifically. Even though we do not know for sure who the author is, we can understand the times, the style, the reasons, the rhetoric, the polemic, the audience intended, and the author’s position on all the fundamental questions he tries to address in the Book of Genesis. Only when we employ a sound hermeneutic and understand this text in the context of all the conditions surrounding the producing of this text, we can attempt a “coherent creationist approach”, as pastor Mike put it.

Another friend acknowledged that the Genesis description of Creation is problematic, but he considered that the reason for it has to do with the “incompleteness” of the description. He said “I think that, if we are honest, we will have to admit that the Creation story has many points that we simply haven’t been told yet”. Then, using the example of Einstein’s Cosmological Constant where he used a division by zero (caught by the Russian scientist Friedmann) my friend made a second point that had to do with how scientific theories are dealt with, meaning that when a mathematical theory is proven to have faults, that is enough to discredit the theory and there is no need for presenting a better one. In other words, Einstein removed the Cosmological Constant without asking Friedmann to present a better version of the theory. Suffice to say that the removal of the Cosmological Constant by Einstein is actually considered to be his real blunder (see here). Even though pointing to flaws in a mathematical theory can lead to the discard of such theory, our discussion regarding the Creation is not a scientific attempt because the Creation is not, and it cannot be, a mathematical theory. The Creation paradigm is a philosophical-theological worldview that rests, in most cases, on the text of Genesis, or rather on the interpretation of it. I believe that it is self-defeating to point towards the flaws of various scientific theories in order to discard them, while at the same time we entertain a theological position that is filled with contradictions and paradoxes. In order to be successful in deciphering and exposing the pseudoscience, we first have to examine our theological position and update it so that believers would not have to live constantly in a state of cognitive dissonance with the rest of the world and the scientific facts.

Yet another old friend of mine (meaning that we know each other for a long time, not that he is an old man) took an apologetic position towards the literal interpretation of Genesis, while inserting a little of his known sarcastic style in his comments. He asked whether my intention was to “come up with another Creation model than what the Bible says”. In his opinion, “the report of Creation in Genesis concerns is not a scientific description but still an accurate one”. When you add to this his following sentences, “His (God’s) Creation has deep symbolical connotations. But it surpasses our understanding”, it appears that my friend is either ignorant of the contradictions resulting from such statements, or that he is not bothered by such contradictions. I tried to reason with him and pointed out that the Creation models in Christianity are based on the Genesis text, therefore I was not pleading for a model that disregards Genesis. On the contrary, I believe we ought to devise a Creation model that is based on a better understanding of Genesis. The laws of nature are constant throughout the passing of time, but in the case of theology this is not true, theology being constantly changing. You cannot use the term “accuracy” without noting that this term describes a result of a scientific inquiry. How do you determine that something is “accurate” except that you observe, measure, quantify, check and re-check your calculus and make sure you are not calling “accurate” something that is in fact inaccurate? And how do you engage in this undertaking and declare something to be “accurate” if you are dealing with “symbolical connotations that surpass our understanding”? I agree that the Genesis story has many symbolic connotations. Moreover, I suggest that the value of Genesis consists exactly in these symbolical connotations, but I believe that we are able to understand what is written because that was the intention of the author. Otherwise, why would an author write something that is not understood neither by his generation, nor by the future generations? Wouldn’t that be a silly and fruitless activity?

The opinions expressed by my friends are somewhat representative of the general understanding of Creation among the evangelical Christians, in general, and the Seventh-day Adventists in particular, where the Biblical interpretation is dominated by the doctrine of a literal Divine inspiration of the Bible, hence “you take it as you read it”. Where does this understanding come from? Who is educating and formatting the mind of the believers? And, more strikingly, what is the purpose for such education? Could it be that our spiritual leaders are actively involved in a “blatant thought control” of the people, as my preferred theologian put it? For those who are interested in understanding the relationship between the Book of Genesis and the prevailing mythological texts and perceptions of that time, I recommend the article “THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE COSMOLOGY IN GENESIS I IN RELATION TO ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN PARALLELS” by Gerhard F. Hasel (deceased), a scholar of Andrews University. Also, see “CREATION AND COSMOGONY IN THE BIBLE” from the Jewish Virtual Library. These are easily accessible sources and there is no need that I repeat or summarize the ideas contained in them as I move toward a new, balanced and coherent approach to the Creation, such as proposed below.

A Creation Model for the 21st Century

  1. God is the only Supreme Being, unborn and unmade. He is both Transcendent (He is beyond space and time) and Immanent (He reveals Himself in Creation and sustains it).
  2. God is the Creator of everything there is. This means that we do not believe in the absoluteness of time, space, matter, energy, etc., but all of the above have been created ex-nihilo by God.
  3. Since we are created beings, we cannot fully understand the Creation. We are not attempting a definition or description of Creation, its timing, process, scope, extensiveness, or future.
  4. We believe life is God’s gift. However, we do not claim to know fully its processes, capabilities, and development. We welcome the use of life sciences to better understand it. Science cannot deny God.
  5. We understand the Bible as a human enterprise and search for God, an interface that allows us to draw closer to God and understand His love. The Bible is not dictated by God and is not inerrant and absolute.
  6. The narration of Genesis does not represent a historical and factual report of Creation, but a polemic device against the mythologies of Ancient Near East, namely Sumerian, Babylonian, and Egyptian.
  7. The Genesis creation story is dependent on the socio-cultural conditions surrounding the time, place, knowledge and understanding of its author(s) and has been influenced by similar writings of the time.
  8. Because Genesis sets important lessons for humanity, the later use and citation of Genesis by other Bible writers or by Jesus should be understood also as a cultural application, not as a literal confirmation of it.
  9. We agree with Galileo: the Bible and Nature are two “books” that reveal some of God’s Majesty. Nature reveals how heaven work and the Bible reveals how to get to heaven.
  10. Science and Faith should not conflict with each other. When Science contradicts the Bible, we need to reassess our theology and that is ok with God. He is greater than our weak understanding of Him.

A Complete Overhaul of Creationism is Needed!

One of the most challenging problems we face as SDA Christians in the 21st Century is the contradiction between our Creation model, the scientific data, and the secular evolutionist views regarding the origin of biological life. Our educated youth and adult members alike are leaving the church at an alarming rate due to this controversy in which they feel that our traditional concepts of Creation, as they were taught in church, are hopelessly wrong. Yet, the church leaders seem to ignore the problem and shift the attention toward evangelistic crusades and their successes in less educated areas of the world like Africa, South America, Eastern Asia and the like. For me, the evolution/creation debate is a serious issue that we cannot ignore any longer. During the past few years I have read extensively materials, books, science papers, apologetic remarks from the left and the right of the aisle, trying to understand better the strength or weaknesses of either side. Having the background of biology and microbiology courses I took in the few years of college I took here in the USA, I can say that I am used to the jargon of scientific literature. On one hand, studying the intricacies of biochemical mechanisms pertaining to living beings my faith in a Creator became stronger and I could say with the Psalmist “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made”. As such, I am opposing the materialistic worldview that matter and life exist outside any influence from an intelligent being and on my blog I uncover the vacuities of the Darwinian evolution presented in academia as “fact”. On the other hand, however, I noticed that every time evolutionists are cornered with questions to which they have no answer, they will divert and attack the creationists at the very foundation of their model, the Creation story of Genesis 1-2, and they win every time! Why? Because our Creation paradigm is poorly designed and cannot stand in the wake of the scientific discoveries of the last century or so. That is why I propose that a thorough investigation and revamping of our concept of Creation is needed, sooner the better. In what follows, I suggest a few things that may seem radical, even dangerous for the welfare of the church, but I believe that unless we take action now, there will be no church to care for tomorrow.

Where do we start?

The root of the problem has to do with our hermeneutics. We consider the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2 as being a factual, historical account of Creation, not because we can support it with scientific data (actually, the data speaks against our model), but because we assume the book of Genesis to be inspired by God, thus what it says it must be true. But what does the author of Genesis really say? And what does it mean that the Genesis is inspired? In which way is it inspired? These are open questions which should be addressed honestly by our scholars, not addressed in a blog post. Still, I see no compelling reason why “inspiration” should lead to “literalism”. As a matter of fact, SDA church has departed from the “literal, verbal inspiration” position which it used earlier in its history (the verbal inspiration is still used by other evangelical fundamentalist churches), possibly because they realized that there were errors and contradictions both within the books of the Bible as well as in the works by Ellen White. Today we speak of the “inspiration of the author”, allowing for language limitations or cultural and historical influences, therefore making adaptation for an “imperfect” wording of Scriptures while upholding the “inspiration of the message”. This is very confusing, because on one hand we say that the author and the message are inspired, but at the same time we say that the language used is imperfect and the author possibly made errors in writing the message. How many errors are there? How strong were the authors influenced by the culture and worldviews of their day? And how is it that the “inspiration” allowed error to creep up in the message written? What I notice is that the church is using double-play, pretending to be reasonable and realistic about the limitation of the authors, yet it is re-enforcing (at the San Antonio GC session in 2015) the 6th and the 8th Fundamental Beliefs with strong, specific language that is nothing short of a “verbal inspiration” approach to Genesis. I think it is somehow cowardly on our church’s policies to be ignoring the scientific data that contradicts the Genesis report, being afraid that without the imposition of a literal interpretation of Genesis we do not have any longer a good support for observing the Sabbath. I beg to disagree and I will try to show a different view of the matters. For now, we need to observe that the meaning of a text resides in the text itself, not on a pre-conceived idea of what it says or should say, neither should we look for meaning using texts written much later, like those of the apostles or of Ellen White. Regardless of whether the text was inspired or not and regardless of what, or how, it was inspired, we have nothing else to draw meaning from except the text itself. When we do this, we have to understand who is the author, when and where did the author live, what was the author’s background (ideologically, socially, politically, etc.), what did the author intend to accomplish by writing the text, who were the audience intended to read the text, how would the intended audience have understood the text, etc. The author of Genesis does not pretend that God or angels told him anything to write down. He does not mention any dream or vision he had before writing. Even when an author uses phrases like “the angel told me” or “God showed me” we ought to use our rationality and discern what is true or not. Otherwise, how do you distinguish whether it is truth or error when Mohammed pretends that an angel dictated to him the Coran and Joseph Smith pretends to have been a prophet who had prophetic dreams and visions? The Bible itself shows that there are false prophets along the true ones. Except our rationality, we have nothing else to make a distinction between truth and error, between good and evil. It is too bad that the doctrine of inspiration is used as a tool for claiming authority in the name of God by exactly the people who want to exercise authority over other people.

The way I see things

The author of Genesis, be it Moses or not, was a Jew who had a vast understanding of the previous literature and of the customs/mores of various people living in the Mesopotamian area. He must have been used to other works about the origins of the world and the flood, like The Epic of Gilgamesh or Enuma Elish.The first section of Genesis deals with a “primeval” era and consists of 11 chapters (which, by-the-way, is a later separation of the text – the author does not use chapters, titles, and subtitles but rather uses the concept of “generations”) which is more of a rhetorical reply toward the ideas, concepts, and perceptions of his time rather than an intent to describe historically and physically the making of the world. A bulleted list may help us organize a few ideas here.

  • While the ancient Near Eastern accounts of origins (Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian) places the matter above everything else (even the gods are made from matter), Genesis shows a unique, never-made kind of God who is before and above everything else, the One Creator who created all things, matter and humans included. I would say this is quite a radical statement for his time, wouldn’t you?
  • The gods of other traditions are said to have created humans so that the humans work for them, to feed them, etc. Genesis, however, shows that God created humans not to work and feed Him, but in order to continue the work of creation, to be His representatives, the rulers and administrators of the Earth. Critical to the understanding of Genesis is the concept of humans made “in God’s image”.
  • The author describes the Creation being done in six days with God resting on the seventh day. There may be several reasons as to why he described the Creation in this way.
  • First, the seven-day week was the actual custom, the actual model for work and rest used at that time not only by Hebrews, but also by other people in the area as it is documented in Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, or Hebrew traditions. For the passing of a day it was enough to observe the Sun and describe this short period as “an evening and a morning” but for a greater period they used the phases of the moon, mainly a period of 28 days divided in four periods of seven days. The Babylonians were actually as accurate as to realize a slight overage of time above the 28 days and made adjustments as to bring the first day of the month back to the new moon cycle.
  • Then, it may be that the author intended to show that this model was used by God as an example of how humans were to work and rest because it is a very sound, healthy model. Since Genesis shows that God made humans “in His image”, it follows that humans were to continue the creation and to manage the Earth. The SDA church clings to a literalistic interpretation of Genesis in order to justify its observing of the Sabbath, but I suggest that this is not really a sound reason. It is suffice to say that Jesus observed the Sabbath and He recommended it for mankind, the Sabbath being made for man, “not man for the Sabbath”. For me, that is quite a very good and sufficient reason to observe the Sabbath, would you agree? Also, the narrative shows that after each day of work, God looked upon what He has made and “it was good”. This can be understood as an example of what it means to work and to rest. We are supposed to engage in “good work” every day, meaning a conscientious preoccupation to distinguish between good and evil and to choose to do good. Only after doing “good work” six days can we really enjoy the rest of the seventh day, the Sabbath.
  • The Book of Genesis was not written in a scientific language. The author could not even hope to understand how God creates, even if God would have explained it to him. I believe that even we, humans of the 21st century, with our much greater understanding of the natural laws are still unable to understand how Creation took place. It helps nobody to hold a dogmatic presupposition of how God created the natural world based on the literal reading of Genesis.
  • The Book of Genesis, at least the first 11 chapters, was not written in a historical language. History, as we understand it today, starts with Herodotus and the Greeks. As the author uses the “generations” concept again and again, it seems reasonable to think that the author is not concern with the linear course of history in time, as we do. He was concerned with providing an explanation as to why the world was the way it was, what were the causes of violence and suffering, and what was God’s ideal for the human beings. The author shows that the ideology of good and/or evil is something that is transmitted from generation to generation. Cain and his successors were men of violence and crime and the Genesis shows that violence ends up in destruction, not only of others, but also of themselves. And when Cain successors died in fighting and the “sons of God” (read “successors of Seth”) took their widows, “the daughters of men” as wives, the Genesis shows that those mothers educated their sons in the same spirit of violence, hence the Nephilim, their great warrior sons continued the work of violence and crime.
  • The Book of Genesis does not tell us that the rocks have 6-7000 years, much less that the Cosmos as we know it is 6-10000 years old. We know that our closest star outside our solar system, the Proxima Centauri, is actually so distant from us that it takes 4.24 light-years to reach it, that is, travelling with the speed of light (186000 miles per second) it takes 4.24 years to reach the destination. This detail only is sufficient to show that the seven-day creation of Genesis must be saying something else than the literal reading would confer. Our own Geoscience Research Institute is not able to contradict the radiometric dating of the rocks. These sophisticated scientific methods show a much older age of the Earth. As the apologists of the literal reading have tried, a concept called “Gap Creationism” was submitted, where the Genesis 1,1 is shown to suggest that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” should be taken to express the possibility that the Earth was indeed much older, but life was recent as 6-7000 years. However, when it was discovered that there were fossils of living creatures in rocks as old as 3 billion years, that concept had no more use.
  • The wording of Genesis suggests that what we read must be understood in a different “key” than the literal rendering. I will not take every verse and examine it because that would take quite some space. But I briefly mention here some of the ideas which merit our attention: God formed the man from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2,7), God had planted a garden in the east (Gen. 2,8), God made trees with fruit good for food, but also made the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which suggest they represent something else, so here we are faced with the question “what does it mean to eat from the tree of knowledge”? (Gen. 2,9), God took one of the man’s ribs to make him a helper (Gen. 2,21-22), a serpent speaks (Gen. 3,1), to be like God means to know good and evil (Gen. 3,5), the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden was “desirable for gaining wisdom” (Gen. 3,6), God is walking in the garden in the cool of the day (God has feet and walks like a man?)(Gen. 3,8), etc. What all these texts mean? Could it be that the author is trying to describe why the world is the way it is, why the woman gives birth in pain, why the man goes into dust when buried, why being naked in public is shameful, etc.?

I will have to stop here for now because this article becomes too long and there are so many other things to be said. While preparing this article, I submitted a short commentary on Facebook and I asked my friends to share their ideas. My hope was to have attracted more people into the discussion, like pastors, leaders, and educators of the church, but only two or three of my friends dared to share their opinion. Would I be too wrong to deduce that the “officials” who draw a salary from the church would not freely comment for fear of bad repercussions? Could it be that the great majority of lay members are just too ignorant in science matters as to have an opinion? Either the case, I will come back and continue this talk, hoping that the freedom of speech is granted in our church as it is granted to all the inhabitants of the country by our Constitution.

(to be continued)

Viaţa, ca informaţie (III)

In timp ce in opinia lui Christoph Adami informatia cuprinsa in sistemele organice “trebuie sa fi aparut la inceput din intamplare” ca apoi sa se dezvolte datorita evolutiei, Jeremy Englang, un tanar biofizician si profesor la MIT, propune o noua teorie a aparitiei ordinei din haos, unde rolul principal este jucat de capacitatea materiei de a se auto-organiza. Teoria lui England, un evreu orthodox care se roaga de trei ori pe zi, sustine ca in prezenta unei surse de energie, atomii, prin miscarea lor si ciocnirea dintre ei, se organizeaza in sisteme din ce in ce mai structurate datorita caracteristicilor lor fizice si chimice. England afirma ca o trasatura fundamentala a materiei, si in special a materiei organice, este capaciatea de a absorbi energie din mediul inconjurator si a elibera apoi energie sub forma de caldura, procese care duc in cele din urma la cresterea entropiei universale, asa cum prezice legea a doua a termodinamicii. In opinia lui England, aparitia ordinei din haos, aparitia vietii si a inteligentei din materie inerta, anorganica, este un proces absolut normal, ba chiar necesar, “ca rostogolirea unei pietre pe un plan inclinat”. Deocamdata, teoria sa este doar o ipoteza inca nedemonstrata.

In limbaj simplu, nestiintific, entropia este considerata ca o masura sau dimensiune a starii de dezordine intr-un sistem inchis. Mai corect ar fi sa pornim de la intelegerea ca insasi materia este o forma concentrata de energie. Conform primei legi a termodinamicii, energia nu se pierde si nici nu poate fi distrusa, desi ea se poate transforma dintr-o forma in alta. Unul din modurile de a deosebi energia, cu scopul de a intelege mai bine ce este entropia, este deosebirea intre energia utilizabila, capabila de a efectua un lucru mecanic si cea neutilizabila. Entropia este definita asadar ca o masura a diferentei dintre energia utilizabila si cea neutilizabila. Cu cat un sistem poseda mai multa energie utilizabila, cu atat entropia sa este mai mica, si invers, cu cat un sistem poseda mai multa energie neutilizabila, entropia sa este mai mare. Adesea creationistii neinformati au sustinut ca evolutia contrazice legea a doua a termodinamicii, care arata ca tendinta naturala a materiei intr-un sistem inchis este spre dezordine, spre entropie tot mai mare. Sunt de acord ca acesta este un argument slab care ar trebui abandonat de catre creationisti, unul din motive fiind acela ca pamantul nostru nu este un sistem inchis ci permanent primim energie de la soare, fara de care viata nu ar fi posibila. Impotriva evolutiei vorbesc insa procesele moleculare la nivelul genomului si in cele ce urmeaza voi continua idea din finalul articolului trecut, anume aceea ca viata nu a aparut la intamplare si nici nu este un rezultat al intrepatrunderii unor forte fundamentale ale naturii, ci viata poarta amprenta inteligentei unui Creator.

Deosebirea esentiala intre un obiect anorganic si un organism viu este ca in timp ce un bolovan este strict determinat de legile naturii, un organism viu are capacitatea de a sesiza mediul inconjurator si de a se adapta prin diferite procese care includ chiar modificarea propriului genom. Un organism “vrea sa existe”, sa supravietuiasca si sa se inmulteasca, adica este constient de sine intr-un mod pe care inca nu-l intelegem pe deplin. Stiu, ideea ca exista chiar si la nivel microscopic un anumit grad de conștientă (capacitate cognitiva) a celulei vii deranjeaza pe materialistii atei, dar James A. Shapiro si alti cercetatori studiaza de cateva decenii sistemele biologice la nivel micromolecular si documenteaza rezultatele obtinute si concluziile care deriva din ele.

Inainte de a examina capacitatea unei bacterii, E-Coli, de a diferentia si alege hrana preferata,  as vrea sa notez rezultatele unor cercetatori ca Peter Devreotes, director al departamentului de biologie celulara la Universitatea John Hopkins, si ale colaboratorilor sai, care si-au propus sa inteleaga mai bine cum se deplaseaza celulele vii intr-o anume directie, proces deosebit de important in dezvoltarea organismului, in procesul de vindecare a ranilor, in raspunsuri imunitare, cat si in metastaza cancerului. Ceea ce Devreotes si colaboratorii sai au observat este ca celula vie se deplaseaza intr-o anume directie datorita capacitatii sale de a sesiza si diferentia intre semnalele biochimice din mediu (un mecanism deosebit de complex), sesizand diferentele de concentratie chimica din proximitatea unui capat al celulei fata de celalalt, modificandu-si forma si indreptandu-se catre zona cu o mai mare concentratie, asa cum se poate vedea si aici. Nu numai atat, dar un studiu recent arata ca si in absenta acestor stimuli chimici, celulele vii stiu directia unde sa se deplaseze doar prin contactul fizic la ciocnirea cu alte celule, in experimentul citat fiind vorba pur si simplu de un anumit stres mecanic la care au fost supuse celulele (articolul se gaseste aici). Intrebarea pertinenta care trebuie pusa aici este: cum se recunosc celulele intre ele, cum comunica si cum stiu cu cine sa se alature, si cu cine nu? Aceste intrebari nu sunt abordate inca deoarece deja exista aici o indicatie spre o anume inteligenta caracteristica oricaror sisteme organice, de la cele mai simple la cele mai complexe. De altfel, un studiu relativ recent arata ca molecula de ADN cu toata complexitatea ei era deja prezenta acum trei miliarde de ani, inainte de presupusa evolutie divergenta a bacteriilor, eukaryotelor si archaebacteriilor (?). Ca unul care nu am o problema cu timpul adanc, amintesc cititorilor ca in paradigma evolutionara se considera ca viata ar fi aparut cam la un miliard de ani dupa formarea pamantului, adica acum aproximativ 3,5 miliarde de ani. Daca deja se vorbeste de un ADN complex similar cu cel cunoscut astazi in urma cu 3 miliarde de ani, cum este posibil ca in doar 0,5 miliarde de ani sa evolueze acest sistem de codare inimaginabil de complicat? De unde, cand si cum a aparut aceasta complexitate a codului genetic? Nimeni nu stie.

Un alt exemplu de inteligenta la nivel microscopic a fost revelat inca de prin 1942 de catre Jacques Monod pe care James A. Shapiro il mentioneaza in cartea sa “Evolution – a View From the 21st Century”. Monod a demonstrat ca bacteria E-Coli, un organism unicelular, este capabila sa distinga intre diferitele soiuri de zahar si are anumite preferinte in ce priveste ordinea in care se foloseste de ele. Intr-un experiment unde s-a oferit bacteriei atat glucoza cat si lactoza, bacteria a consumat la inceput in mod preferential doar glucoza, pana cand a terminat-o. Apoi a urmat o scurta perioada de stagnare cand bacteria si-a modificat metabolismul astfel incat a consumat apoi lactoza. Daca in timpul experimentului se adauga o cantitate suplimentara de glucoza, bacteria se oprea din consumul lactozei, isi modifica metabolismul si trecea din nou la alimentarea cu glucoza, zaharul ei preferat. Monod nu a inteles pe deplin care sunt mecanismele de adaptare la mediu si preferinta bacteriei E-Coli pentru glucoza, dar experientele sale au insemnat deschiderea unei noi arii de cercetare. In cartea amintita mai sus, Shapiro arata ca biologii care au continuat sa cerceteze mecanismele de reglare a metabolismului folosite de bacteria E-Coli au stabilit cel putin cinci principii importante in ce priveste procesarea informatiei si comunicarea intre organism si genomul sau:

  • Nu exista molecule dedicate procesarii informatiei separat de moleculele care efectueaza operatiile. Toate clasele de molecule (proteine, acizi nucleici, alte molecule minore) participa in sesizarea, procesarea si transferul de informatie, iar unele efectueaza si alte functii, ca cele de transport sau cataliza.
  • Informatia este transferata de la suprafata sau interiorul celulei catre genom prin intermediul unor relee de proteine, mesageri secundari (molecule mai mici) si proteine specializate in a se atasa de ADN. Aceste molecule cum sunt mesagerii secundari pot fi considerati ca fiind parte din lexiconul chimic simbolic al celulei, ceea ce a determinat pe unii sa descrie procesele de procesare celulara a informatie dintr-o prisma semiotica sau lingvistica.
  • Exista in genom locatii speciale unde are loc recunoasterea si decodarea informatiei primite. Descrierea prin 1961 a primei astfel de locatii speciale, lacO (lac operon) a constituit a revelatie deosebita in microbiologie deoarece natura si functia lor sunt diferite in mod drastic de secventele care codeaza pentru proteine cunoscute ca “gene”. Aceste locatii speciale  sunt formate din o serie de nucleotide care actioneaza ca un singur unit. Ele formateaza genomul pentru diferite interactii, cum sunt transcrierea genomului, compactarea sa, copierea sa, transmiterea genomului la celulele-fiica, sau restructurarea genomului. Aceasta formatare a genomului poate fi comparata cu formatarea datelor intr-un sistem computerizat pentru ca ambele sunt esentiale in stocarea si procesarea informatiilor.
  • Proteinele care se ataseaza la ADN si semnalele acestora de formatare cognitiva a genomului functioneaza intr-o maniera combinativa si cooperativa. In sisteme complexe cum sunt plantele si animalele aceasta caracteristica permite formarea unor regiuni complexe de formatare numite CRM in engleza (cis-regulatory modules).
  • In circuitele regulatorii, proteinele actioneaza ca mini-procesoare. Functionarea lor difera in functie de interactiunea lor cu alte molecule sau proteine.

In articolele urmatoare vom continua sa examinam cateva procese moleculare absolut impresionante, cum sunt mecanismele de verificare si mentinere a acuratetei informatiei in procesul de copiere si reproducere, sistemele de reparare a genomului in cazul mutatiilor nedorite, si altele.

Va urma…

Intre devotiune si fanatism

Pe vremea comunismului În Romania, un tânar adventist abia trecut de 19 ani a primit ordinul de recrutare. Serviciul militar era pe atunci obligatoriu. Cei care au făcut armata deja ştiu, şi cei ce n-au făcut-o vor Învăţa, că “ordinul nu se discută; se execută”. Aşadar tânărul, pe care îl întâlnisem şi îl cunoşteam ca fiind un tip sensibil, firav, iubitor de muzică şi purtator al unor ochelari de vedere ce astăzi se pare că revin la modă, se prezintă la centrul de recrutare bântuit de o înteleasă nelinişte.

Una din formalitatile procesului de recrutare este vizita medicala. Recrutii sunt aliniati pe un rand sau doua si li se ordona “dezechiparea”. Totala! Toti tinerii se conformeaza ordinului si raman in pielea goala asteptand examinarea infirmierului. Tanarul nostru se dezbraca, dar nu si de ceea ce noi numim “underwear”. Plutonierul vine spre el nervos si-l intreaba:

  • “Tu nu ai auzit ce am spus? De ce nu te dezbraci?”
  • “Dom’ plutonier, m-am dezbracat.”
  • “Si cu “astia” ce e pe tine? Da-i jos!”
  • “Dom’ plutonier, pe “astia” nu pot sa-i dau jos.”
  • “Ma! Tu crezi ca esti la mama acasa? Aici esti in armata romana. Cand eu dau un ordin, tu executi, ai inteles?”
  • “Dom’ plutonier, iertati-ma, puteti sa ma si bateti daca vreti, dar pe “astia” nu pot sa-i dau jos.”
  • “Recrut, ma scoti din minti! Cum adica, ma, “nu poi sa-i dai jos”? De ce nu poti sa-i dai jos?”
  • “Pai… dom’ plutonier, eu am o credinta.”

Raspunsul tanarului este, sa recunoastem, foarte nostim. Noi, cei care stiam povestea, l-am incorporat in jargonul nostru. Daca mergeam undeva, sa spunem intr-o excursie pe munte, si cineva era trimis sa execute o corvoada, sa aduca apa de la izvor sau sa faca focul, uneori raspundeam cu “nu pot, eu am o credinta”. Dar povestea este adevarata si introduce tema acestui scurt editorial: cei care au obiectii la servicul militar datorita constiintei ( adesea religioasa) s-au expus intotdeauna ridiculizarii si chiar suferintei venite din partea superiorilor (in grad) sau chiar a camarazilor. Unii tineri au refuzat sa atinga arma sau sa depuna juramantul militar, preferand sa mearga la inchisoare pentru asta.

Filmul recent produs de Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge, prezinta un caz real din istoria celui de-al doilea razboi mondial, mai exact al bataliei de la Okinawa, Japonia. Desmond Doss este un adventist de ziua a saptea care s-a inscris in armata americana de buna voie, insa a refuzat sa poarte arma si sa se antreneze pentru a omora alti oameni. Intentia lui a fost sa activeze ca paramedic, sa salveze vieti omenesti. Nu am de gand sa va rapesc placerea de a descoperi singuri, la vizionarea filmului pe care vi-l recomand, ce a insemnat pentru tanarul Desmond Doss aceasta hotarare, si nici de ce presedintele Truman i-a acordat lui Doss Medalia de Onoare pentru eroism pe campul de lupta. Acest erou este unul neconventional, este un erou a carui singura arma a fost constiinta sa, mai scumpa decat propria viata. Si totusi…

Unii critici de arta pun sub semnul intrebarii ideea fluturata de diferiti comentatori, inclusiv de catre cei din biserica mea, ca Mel Gibson a intentionat sa evidentieze eroismul si integritatea tanarului Doss. Mai degraba, Mel Gibson exploateaza convingerile lui Doss si episodul real din Okinawa pentru a aduce in fata spectatorilor de astazi, cu tot realismul si grotescul scenelor de lupta cu care ne-a obisnuit in filme ca Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ, si Apocalypto, o anume obsesie cu scenele violente, o preamarire a stimularii hormonale si gloriei varsarii de sange in lupte, indiferent de cauza dreapta sau nu a razboiului dus, adica ceea ce adevaratii veterani sarbatoriti ieri in sarbatoarea anuala Ziua Veteranilor au refuzat sa faca, au refuzat sa divulge, au refuzat sa glorifice. Ceea ce Gibson evidentiaza de fapt in Hacksaw Ridge este admiratia bolnava, a lui si a maselor, fata de super-eroii conventionali cu arme adevarate, a Nephilimilor din toate vremurile, de la Cain la Achiles si Rambo.

Nu pot sa nu atrag atentia bisericii mele, care se simte foarte onorata de filmul lui Mel Gibson, ca linia de despartire intre devotament si fanatism este extrem de subtire si adesea trecuta sub tacere. Au fost masacrele Vechiului Testament o cauza dreapta? Dar Cruciadele? Dar Razboiul de 30 de Ani? Dar terorismul religios, fie islamic, fie catolic sau protestant? Poate fi credinta religioasa justificare pentru genocid, pentru violenta? Asta a invatat Isus pe urmasii sai?

Eu am facut armata “sub arme”, am considerat ca un exercitiu de auto-depasire sa trag bine la tinta, merg uneori in poligon pentru a-mi pastra abilitatea, si am arma incarcata in sertarul noptierei. In ce consta valoarea credintei? Sa spui unor comunisti ca tu “nu atingi arma”, ca si cum arma este ceva pacatos in sine? Sa nu dai pantalonii jos pentru o vizita medicala? Ceea ce am invatat din exemplul lui Desmond Doss este ca diferenta intre devotiune religioasa si fanatism religios este ca, in timp ce fanatismul face rau aproapelui (indiferent cine este el), in timp ce fanatismul nu se da inlaturi de la violenta in a distruge vieti omenesti, devotiunea face bine aproapelui (indiferent cine este el) si in loc de a distruge vieti, ea le salveaza.

Mi-e teama ca, asemenea lui Mel Gibson, interesele in spatele programelor de “evanghelizare” ale bisericii mele si a altora nu sunt atat de mult fata de bunastarea oamenilor ci de cresterea conturilor bancare. Nu spun asta cu usurinta, nici cu mandrie, ci o spun privind sarcastic, e drept, la avioanele personale ale conferintelor, la pantofii de comanda extrem de scumpi ai liderilor, la deplasarile lor interne sau internationale cu tarif de clasa intai pe banii enoriasilor, la nenumaratele apeluri si predici pentru tot felul de “proiecte” ale bisericii, asta pe langa zecimile si darurile obsinuite care se strang. Nu, Mel Gibson nu a fost vreodata un favorit al bisericii mele, care a criticat conceptele lui Gibson exprimate in filmul The Passion of the Christ. Dar daca Gibson produce un film, indiferent de motivele sale, prin care biserica are sansa de a fi prezentata in mod pozitiv, ocazia este fructificata si o “noua oportunitate pentru evanghelizare” este propagata in diferite media, ca in Southern Tidings aici.

A comment on “Dezamagiri”

This was too long of a comment to simply add under the previous post:

I think it’s abundantly clear that Christianity as a whole has become bloated, complacent and “rusted” as noted. There are many reasons for this: a steadily declining moral atmosphere in the Western world and in America specifically, increased materialism and a decreased value placed on life, among others. While as Seventh-day Adventists we claim to understand and interpret the Bible correctly (and therefore imply that all other denominations do not), we also run the risk of lazily settling into some truths that we have been handed down by the forefathers of our church without careful, ongoing study and/or a real, personal conviction of the faith we ascribe to.

This is acutely evident starting in our academies and colleges, where students are taught (spoon-fed?) what to believe without being made to think about the history and implications of our faith. We just repeat what we’re told. For many of us, religion boils down to daily chapel meetings, visiting other churches with our choirs in order to raise money (even though the churches in the conference already give money to Adventist education), and just becomes something we do versus something we truly believe that then changes our lives in a significant way. This is the norm, granted there are exceptions to this.

As I’ve stated before, many of these students then get into “real life” attending public universities, realizing that they are ill-prepared to face both the academic challenges as well as the secular Darwinistic onslaught in the first science class they attend. With a shaky foundation, they are faced with powerful peer pressure, countless temptations and difficult moral choices, clashes of culture shock and feeling lost on a campus of thousands whereas previously they were “kings of the hill” in an academy of several hundred at most. Many are easily overcome with doubt, with secular and leftist pressure to give up “silly traditions,” or “bigoted views,” are made silent to adhere to political correctness and often chastised by both their peers and their professors when their views may seem to be “tainted” with religious or moral overtones. And so, in an effort to find external peace and to fit in, they gradually let go of their childhood faith (which was just that) and become open to new ideas, such as the one that says all religions are equally valid and that they have their cultural applications but they are merely outdated attempts to show humanity the way forward. What we should focus on now, they claim, is that all morality is relative and that you may have your truth and I can have my truth and we are both right; we should all get along and focus on hard facts of Science and the progress we’re sure to make towards Utopia.

With the astronomical rise in the acceptance of legalized sodomy (homosexuality), the continued push for transgender identities and other mental disorders being perpetrated as “normal behavior,” and enforced by mainstream media to be seen as progress, these students grow up into adults who are without a true moral compass, much like a ship without a rudder being tossed by each wave, whether it’s climate change activism, equal rights for LGBTQIAetc., political activism bordering on Communism and many others. Without a strong foundation of personal faith and understanding the Bible for themselves, they latch onto whatever current is strongest and go along with the majority. If the majority decides attending church is overrated and outdated, they cease to attend church. If the majority is more worried about getting jobs once college is finished than about true education which never takes a break (spring, summer or otherwise), then they join that bandwagon too and live off of their parents rather than risk applying and interviewing for jobs they are not prepared to perform. Meanwhile they complain, behave as if they’re entitled, take to social media to “express” themselves and become increasingly confused about the things that really matter.

This is a grim picture of the majority of students coming out of church academies and/or colleges, who are slowly but surely leaving their faith instead of feeding it with good works. The leadership of the SDA church is partly responsible for this, since they in part deny that there is a problem in the first place and because the half-measures they employ to counter the real issues are weak and ineffective. Leadership is also partly to blame for the lackluster educational and spiritual preparation of many pastors who are nothing more than PowerPoint preachers. They speak without conviction, without relevant life experience and afraid to speak the uncomfortable truths that Jesus spoke when He walked the earth more than 2000 years ago. Many others are simply not “called” nor truly equipped for the work, but see it as an easy income and relatively safe career path. These are most loathsome. As in His time, the religious leadership is more worried about their positions, their salaries and benefits and their reputations than being worried that the sheep they have been entrusted with are being stolen by the enemy, not just during the night but in plain daylight. They would rather silence the ones that rock the boat rather than admit their boat has been taking on water for years. Jesus plainly called them out, in public, for all to see.

It can be further said that people are leaving the church because the love of many has grown cold. Some have never learned to love in the first place. They are seemingly Christian in appearance, but on the inside they are not filled with the Holy Spirit and do not know God. As John poins out:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another… If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”

How many professed Christian church members are failing in this regard? By failing to see the beam in their own eye and constantly nit-picking their neighbor about the speck in his or her eye, we have turned off many would-be believers, young and old, and have been called hypocrites by many more. Young people especially are victims of this behavior by older and should-be-much-wiser members. The younger generation of people deal with much more bombardment of the world on all sides than did their parents, constantly under the pressure and gaze of social media, with mainstream media telling them that what was once good is now evil and what was evil is now good. They are confused and therefore easy prey for the enemy to snatch when they are dismissively treated to a cold shoulder, a cold gaze or an icy response from a more holier-than-thou “veteran member.” It is easier for these younger ones to head out into the world, where anything goes as long as you’re not a bigot. They are received and celebrated as belonging to the world, and our seminars and potlucks hold little prospect of winning them back, unless we are changed to be more Christ-like in our love towards them. Many of them are guilty of public sins and eagerly we point the accusatory finger, while inwardly we hold some cherished sin that no one sees. We pride ourselves on our piety while condemning when one of them stumbles. Instead of comforting the wounded, hurt and confused ones, we end up pushing them out altogether so as not to “infect” ourselves just by their presence. It matters not if previously they may have contributed their God-given gifts and talents in service of the church; we let one person’s actions or mistakes define what we think of them, and by default, who they are.

Having said all this, I don’t believe that any one person or group of people can “fix” the church. Only Christ, at His second coming will separate the wheat from the chaff and His criteria will be whether or not we have known Him. It won’t matter how many Revelation seminars we’ve presented or Sabbath school classes we’ve taught. It won’t matter if we brought vegetarian dishes to potlucks or whether we are vegan or not. The only things that will matter then is if He knows us and if we have known Him, and have made our lives a testament of obeying the greatest commandments: loving Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. That will be the difference and this is not being told to the people in church as often as it should be. Instead we have lost our focus, fighting battles that are not ours, such as defending God in the science arena. He doesn’t need our defense, and due to our remarkable ignorance of both science AND religion, we make things much worse than they are. We make ourselves look foolish and defensive instead of sticking to the mission that Jesus gave His followers, which is to preach the Gospel to all the world. The Gospel is the Good News of eternal life and salvation through faith in Christ. The fruits of that faith will be good works in this life, works that are blessings for others, which in turn helps attract them to Christ and propagates the movement. Christianity was never meant to be a rigid, defunct and bloated organized industry that merely serves as a members’ club to belong to. It was meant to change people’s hearts and minds and that of their families, friends and neighbors into the likeness of Christ so that He could come quickly and claim them as His own. This is what His peculiar people should be like, serving as a beacon of light in a darkening world. From that point of view, true Christians are indeed becoming an endangered species. The disappointment is that we have perhaps relied too much and too long on our church leaders, instead of relying on and getting to know Christ, who is the chief cornerstone on which the church was built.

Dezamagiri de 22 Octombrie

Programul serviciului de inchinare pentru 22 octombrie (acum doua zile) pe care il primisem deja prin email inca din timpul saptamanii trecute, continea un titlu interesant pentru predica de la pranz: “Adventismul, o specie in pericol” (Adventism: Endangered Species by Jared Thurmon) . Aha, mi-am spus, probabil ca ceva-ceva se intampla in biserica si unii, mai tineri, incep sa-si dea seama ca sunt unele probleme in adventism. Intrebarea pe care mi-o puneam era, ce fel de probleme se vor aborda? Chestiuni din teologie, din administratie, din pastoratie, ori ce? In plus, vorbitorul era un pastor tanar, vanit in vizita de la Adventist Review. Asadar, m-am dus la biserica anticipand un serviciu mai “altfel” decat cele ruginite.

Prima surpriza a fost placuta. In loc de predica, avea sa aiba loc un dialog. Mi-am spus  ca, mai direct sau mai indirect, exemplul nostru, al celor “eretici” care organizeaza dezbateri si pun intrebari incorect-politice, are un efect si fratii nostri incep sa-si dea seama ca de predici s-a cam saturat lumea si ca mai interesante sunt discutiile si dezbaterile deschise, chiar controversate, pentru ca exista multa rugina pe rotitele mintilor credinciosilor. Unul din membrii bisericii, fost coleg si prieten cu pastorul vizitator, avea o lista de intrebari pe care avea sa le puna, iar pastorul avea sa raspunda la ele. Bun, pana aici. Insa pe masura ce se desfasura pretinsul interviu, mi-am dat seama ca totul fusese aranjat, probabil de tanarul pastor. Intrebarile nu veneau din gandirea, curiozitatea sau nedumerirea membrului bisericii, pe care il cunosteam ca un om inteligent si capabil sa gandeasca, ci erau intrebari pregatite astfel incat sa se dea impresia ca se abordeaza probleme serioase ale adventismului, insa raspunsurile au fost orice altceva decat adresarea chestiunilor ridicate prin intrebari. Era un fel de circ. “Uite, vedeti? Noi abordam problemele arzatoare ale membrilor si nu ne este frica de intrebari dificile”. Din pacate, intrebarile au ramas fara raspunsuri concludente si membrul nostru care nu a facut decat a “citit” intrebarile nu a avut, practic, drept la replica.

Printre altele, s-a pus intrebarea “de ce credeti ca pleaca lumea din biserica”? Raspunsul a fost ceva de genul “lumea pleaca din biserica pentru ca este confuza cu privire la crezurile bisericii”. Poftim? Dar cine este responsabil pentru aceasta confuzie? Nu cumva invatatorii nostri? Asa m-a enervat raspunsul dat incat, dupa ce m-am dus acasa, mi-am facut un cont pe Facebook doar pentru a putea comenta la subsolul emisiunii, unde am spus ca cei care pleaca sunt de fapt confuzi cu privire la motivele pentru care noi credem ceea ce spunem ca credem. Alta intrebare a fost “au dreptate cei care ne acuza ca nu intelegem Daniel 8,14”? Tanarul pastor a neglijat complet intrebarea pusa, ca si cum nici nu a auzit-o, si a raspuns prin repetarea unor slogane, cum ca cele 2300 de zile se termina in 1844, etc.. Ma intreb, pana cand vom ignora faptul ca Daniel 8,14 se refera la judecata cornului mic, nu a celor mantuiti, si ca nu exista nici o legatura intre Daniel 8,14 si Leviticul 16 (ziua ispasirii)? De doua zile, de cand am comentat la subsolul acelei prezentari video, nimic nou, nici o reactie, nici o replica, nimeni nu a mai spus nimic. Pacat.

Ceea ce s-a intamplat sambata trecuta, pe 22 octombrie, nu face decat sa confirme – din nefericire – ceea ce spunea domnul Edi: liderii nostri striga “redesteptare si reforma” nu pentru a ne trezi din vreun somn sau din vis, ci pentru a ne induce somnul si visarea, perpetuand aceeasi naratiune ineficienta, aceeasi adormire a spiritului si gandului. Bine ca am invatat sa ducem mana la portofel, asa, ca un reflex conditionat de seminarii cu Apocalipsa. Acum 172 de ani, “marea dezamagire” a fost o rusine din care nu am invatat nimic, nu ne-a determinat la un studiu mai atent al Scripturii si nu am lepadat erorile vechi, ci le perpetuam, evident, cu buna stiinta a liderilor, pentru ca astfel credinciosii sa fie manipulati dupa dorinta. Asa ca, degeaba ma supar ca acum doua zile am sarbatorit “mare dezamagire” cu o alta, mai mica, dar tot atat de amara. Intreb totusi: pana cand octombrie va fi luna dezamagirilor?

Revenirea lui Isus şi parabola fecioarelor

Al doilea advent al lui Isus (primul fiind cel din secolul intai cand a fost crucificat) este un concept biblic bazat pe scrierile Noului Testament si este incorporat in crezul majoritatii denominatiunilor crestine. El este ultimul eveniment inainte de escaton, care denota stagiul final al istoriei, viata “cereasca”. Exista pareri diferite in escatologia crestina. Unii (pre-milenistii post-tribulationisti) printre care se numara si adventistii, cred ca ordinea escatologica este: timpul incercarilor (plagile, tribulatia), apoi revenirea lui Isus cand va lua pe “ai Sai” la cer, urmata de un mileniu literal de dezolatie cand doar Satana si ingerii sai raman in viata, dupa care urmeaza a treia venire a lui Isus impreuna cu “ai Sai” pentru a executa judecata celor nemantuiti. Altii (pre-milenistii pre-tribulationisti) in care se includ mai toate nuantele de evanghelici americani, cred ca mai intai este venirea a doua a lui Isus (secreta) cand cei alesi sunt rapiti in ascuns la cer, urmata de perioada tribulatiilor, apoi o a treia venire a lui Isus cu cei alesi cand incepe mileniul (care are o conotatie pozitiva, o viata frumoasa), si apoi urmeaza judecata. O alta categorie sunt post-milenistii, care cred ca mai intai este mileniul (cand se crede ca pe pamant va domina binele) urmat apoi de a doua venire a lui Isus cand are loc judecata.

Adventistii de ziua a saptea pun un deosebit accent pe revenirea lui Isus, ei numindu-se “asteptatori” ai acestei reveniri, insa exista si pareri diferite printre actualii sau fostii adventisti. Unii considera ca “imparatia cerurilor” este un simbol si ca Isus nu va reveni niciodata in mod fizic, domnul Edi Constantinescu declarand in mod public acest lucru. Altii, ca domnul Aurel Ionica, se angajeaza in ceea ce mai este numit “imanentizarea escatonului” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanentize_the_eschaton), o ideologie care propune ca viata cereasca, escatonul, se realizeaza aici si acum in lumea noastra prin promovarea de cat mai multi oameni (si in final de catre toti) a binelui, un concept utopic care a fost respins atat de protestanti cat si de catolici. In catechismul bisericii catolice, la articolul 676, (preluat de pe Wikipedia) se mentioneaza urmatoarele:

“The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism.”

(in traducerea mea) “Inselaciunea Antihristului deja se contureaza in lume oridecate ori se pretinde ca speranta mesianica realizabilă doar in afara istoriei, dupa judecata escatologica, se realizeaza acum, in timp istoric. Biserica a respins chiar si forme modificate ale acestei falsificari ale imparatiei viitoare prezentate sub nume ca milenism, si in special forma politica de mesianism secular care este in mod intrinsic perversa”.

Exista destui adventisti care sunt obsedati de ideea revenirii si a evenimentelor finale, aici incadrandu-se si domnul Flavius Pana care a predicat intens ca Isus va reveni maine, 16 Octombrie, 2016! Acestia sunt considerati de catre BAZS “main stream” ca excentrici si eretici, dar pe de alta parte biserica produce propriile show-uri de “chemare la trezire” prin reciclarea unor slogane ca “Redesteptare si Reforma” sau seminarii de Daniel si Apocalipsa, cu fiare, persecutii, etc. De exemplu, ma aflam saptamana trecuta in Romania, la Piatra Neamt. Acolo inca nu a fost desemnat un pastor dupa plecarea celui precedent, asadar cu aceasta ocazie, sambata dupa-amiaza a vorbit un pastor care era in vizita la Piatra Neamt, un tanar cu un usor accent ardelenesc al carui nume, din motive binecuvantate, l-am uitat. Predica a fost despre nevoia bisericii de trezire din somnul spiritual, o aplicatie omiletica la parabola fecioarelor care, in asteptarea mirelui, au adormit. La iesire, pe holul bisericii l-am intalnit si i-am spus ca, desi nu m-a deranjat neaparat aplicatia pe care a facut-o, de fapt in parabola fecioarelor adormirea lor nu are nici macar umbra de conotatie negativa. Nu adormirea lor a fost problema, pentru ca adormirea lor a fost un process natural si nevinovat in contextul cand o extenuanta asteptare induce somnul. Problema a constat in faptul ca atunci cand s-a strigat “Iata mirele, iesiti in intampinarea lui”, s-a dovedit faptul ca unele fecioare nu erau de fapt bine pregatite. In ce a constat greseala lor? Exact in nepriceperea lor cu privire la faptul ca era posibil ca mirele sa intarzie si, deci, ca era nevoie sa-si fi facut rost de o rezerva suficienta de ulei pentru candela lor.

Se pare ca adventistii, in general, si cei alarmisti ca Flavius Pana in special, nu inteleg nici acum, 172 de ani dupa dezamagirea din 1844, invatatura prezenta in parabola fecioarelor. Noi nu ar trebui sa ne concentram atentia in a alarma pe membrii bisericii cu privire la iminenta revenirii lui Isus, ci dimpotriva ar trebui sa ajutam pe membri sa se pregateasca pentru o revenire intarziata despre care nu stim mai nimic si sa ne intrebam in ce consta pregatirea eficienta inainte de a adormi, fizic sau simbolic. Mi-a parut rau ca nu am avut mai mult timp de discutie cu acel tanar pastor, care era destul de bine pregatit din cate mi-am dat seama, pentru ca imediat si-a dat seama ca aveam dreptate si nu a ripostat ci a recunoscut. Daca as fi avut mai mult timp, i-as fi spus ca exact “trezirea spirituala” despre care a vorbit nu este decat un slogan fara valoare. De fapt, adormirea membrilor este indusa in primul rand de catre liderii bisericii pentru ca astfel sa poata manipula masele de credinciosi mai usor. Daca membrii se “trezesc” si pun intrebari incomode liderilor bisericii, ei vor fi imediat izolati si chiar reprimati pentru “erezie”. Teama de persecutie, de plagi, de fiare, este indusa in credinciosi pentru a-i tine intr-o stare de nesiguranta si pentru a induce in ei nevoia de a sta cat mai aproape de biserica pentru ca daca membrii stau aproape, va sta aproape si portofelul lor.

Da, sunt de acord ca este nevoie de o reala trezire spirituala, sau, asa cum bine spunea un blogger pe care il respect, este timpul sa ne facem in mod permanent o arheologie a ideilor si a crezurilor. Este timpul sa renuntam la slogane si cancane și este timpul sa abordam problemele reale ale timpului si societatii in care traim pentru a fi capabili sa oferim raspunsuri oneste si rationale. Va las cu un gand din Matei, 5,13: “Voi sunteti sarea pamantului. Dar daca sarea isi pierde gustul, prin ce va fi facuta din nou sarata?! Nu mai este buna la nimic, decat sa fie aruncata afara si calcata in picioare de oameni.” (NTLR)

Viaţa, ca informaţie (II)

Asa cum am amintit in alte articole, datorez domnului Edi Constantinescu provocarea de a studia conceptele si preceptele evolutiei. Numai cine studiaza indeaproape aceasta paradigma a originilor si dezvoltarii vietii poate observa numeroasele neajunsuri si prea desele apeluri la scenarii imaginare ale acesteia. Am mers pana acolo incat am crezut ca, odata ce am fost invitat sa particip ca autor si contributor al blogului oxigendoi, se dorea cu adevarat o discutie deschisa si onesta in ce priveste validitatea teoriei evolutiei, insa am fost dezamagit tot mai mult de faptul ca respingerea si denigrarea a ceea ce spuneam pe oxigendoi erau proportionale cu pozitia mea tot mai critica fata de ea. Dupa primul articol din seria aceasta, publicat pe oxigendoi, m-am retras din discutii, nu fara un gust amar al unei incercari nereusite de dialog. Astfel, mi-a trebuit un timp, iata, mai lung decat mi-am inchipuit, pentru a relua si continua aceasta serie aici, pe blogul personal.

Este oarecum ironic ca primul articol din aceasta serie a fost socotit ca o exprimare a unei ideologii, in timp ce este complet ignorat faptul ca afirmatia lui Adami, citata in editorialul precedent (postat pe oxigen2.net), este in mod clar o exprimare a filozofiei sale materialiste. O traduc si o subliniez mai jos:

“Desigur, noi stim ca toate formele de viata pe pamant contin cantitati enorme de informatie provenita din evolutie, care permite informatiei sa se dezvolte gradat. Inainte de evolutie, nu ai fi putut avea acest proces. In consecinta, prima piesa de informatie trebuie ca a aparut din intamplare.”

Doar ca sunt niste probleme aici. Cum poate evolutia sa produca informatie cand insasi evolutia are nevoie de informatie pentru a avea loc? Si cum se face ca “prima piesa de informatie” nu este produsa de evolutie? Bineinteles, cand zeul caruia te inchini este materia, informatia trebuie sa apara din intamplare. Doar ca si aici este o problema. Insasi materia, ma refer acum la cea anorganica, nu creaza informatie ci doar o exprima. Apa care curge nu creaza legile carora se supune, si nici legile naturii nu creaza informatie ci sunt doar expresia unei prezente apriorice a acesteia. Nu este intentia mea sa demonstrez stiintific aparitia sau sursa informatiei. Intrebari ca “de unde vine informatia, ce a fost inainte de Big Bang, ce este mintea si gandul nostru, ce este constiinta” raman deocamdata in domeniul filozofiei. Eu doar imi exprim parerea cu privirea la faptul ca nici sinteza moderna si nici celelalte ipoteze aparute mai recent, ca cele ale lui Kimura, Ohno, ori Shapiro, nu pot explica aparitia si cresterea gradului de complexitate a informatiei. In alte cuvinte, evolutia nu poate avea loc prin mecanismele sugerate. Vom examina aceste mecanisme, pe rand, in articolele viitoare.

In ce consta informatia sistemelor organice? Cata informatie este cuprinsa intr-o celula vie? Biologia moleculara, desi reprezinta un model reductionist[1] care are avantaje si dezavantaje deja recunoscute de oamenii de stiinta, ne ofera un microunivers fascinant. Ceea ce deosebeste un sistem organic de elemente inorganice ca apa, roci sau alte formatiuni nu este componenta fizica. Aceleasi molecule, aceleasi elemente chimice, aceleasi caracteristici atomice sau subatomice se gasesc si intr-un sistem, si in celalalt. Diferenta consta in tipul si calitatea informatiei encodata si exprimata prin ele, deci este vorba despre o diferenta calitativa si nu cantitativa intre viata si neviata, sau, pentru a simplifica, este diferenta intre conditia statica, strict determinata, a sistemului inorganic si una dinamica, nedeterminata a sistemului organic. Doar cineva care si-a vandut sufletul materialismului nu va recunoaste aceasta diferenta, mergand uneori pana acolo incat chiar si modul cum functioneaza mintea umana, cum sunt alcatuite, transmise si intelese gandurile noastre, va fi considerat doar un efect al unor reactii chimice ale unor componente ale creierului nostru, i.e. celule, sinapse, diferente de sarcina electrica, etc.. A spune ca atunci cand lasi din mana stiloul sa cada pe birou ai creat informatie “noua” nu este decat o echivocare marca EdyCon. Stiloul cade conform legilor fizicii deja existente, se loveste de birou si ramane acolo, adica nu trece prin birou ca printr-o panza de apa, asta tot datorita legilor fizicii deja existente, nu se ridica si revine in mana scriitorului, si cu atat mai putin nu incepe sa scrie singur un poem. Un proces care isi propune sa explice evolutia trebuie sa arate in ce fel se ajunge de la microb la om. Nu de o poveste avem nevoie, ci de un proces care se poate testa in mod empiric, de experimente care demonstreaza in timp real cum apare si se dezvolta informatia noua, ne-existenta aprioric intr-un sistem organic.

Se estimeaza ca numarul celulelor vii care alcatuiesc corpul uman ar fi intre 40 – 100 trilioane (folosesc termenul englez, adica un trilion este notat 1 x 1012 sau 1.000.000.000.000). Fiecare celula are un nucleu cu un diametru de aproximativ 6μm (6×10-6 sau 0.000006 metri) si un volum de 137μm3. In fiecare nucleu al fiecarei celule ale corpului se afla macromolecula de ADN, care daca este desfasurata are lungimea de aproximativ 2 metri. Cum incap 2 metri in  137μm3? Raspunsul consta in aceea ca molecula de ADN este impletita si condensata in repetate randuri, si as adauga, in mod uimitor, asa cum este ilustrat aici: https://www.dnalc.org/resources/3d/08-how-dna-is-packaged-advanced.html. Inainte de a ne concentra atentia asupra ADN-ului trebuie sa amintesc faptul ca nu doar macromolecula de ADN din nucleul eucariotelor (sau din citoplasma, in cazul procariotelor) contine informatie dinamica, ci ea se gaseste in multe alte mini-organe ale celulei vii: in nucleu (adica nu doar in ADN), in membrana nucelului, in citoplasma, in ribozomi, in mitocondrii, in membrana mitocondriilor, in membrana celulei, in acizii nucleici, in proteine, etc.. Cand m-am referit in editorialul precedent la faptul ca “dogma centrala a biologiei moleculare”, care spune ca informatia se transmite in sensul ADN –> ARN –> proteina, a fost depasita sau complementata de descoperirile recente care arata ca informatia se transmite in toate sensurile, nu m-am referit la fizica cuantica, asa cum si-a imaginat cineva (habar n-am daca pisica doamnei X este moarta sau vie), ci la faptul ca informatia se transmite si in sensurile proteina –> ARN, proteina –> ADN, proteina –> proteina, ARN –> ADN, celula –> ADN, celula –> ARN, etc., si asta a fost foarte elocvent explicat de catre James A. Shapiro in cartea sa “Evolution –A View From the 21st Century”[2]. Diversitatea tipurilor de informatie, a locatiei si a modului in care se manifesta duce la recunoasterea faptului deosebit de important ca intr-un sistem organic informatia este distribuita pe multiple etaje si diverse grade de complexitate, ceea ce face imposibila selectia naturala la nivelul nucleotidei sau genei. Asa cum amintea John Sanford in Genetic Entropy[3], o singura nucleotida poate afecta transcrierea unei gene, care la randul ei va afecta procesarea moleculei de mARN (ARN mesager), care la randul ei va afecta abundenta unei anumite enzime (proteine), care la randul ei va afecta un anume proces metabolic, care si el va afecta apoi diviziunea unei celule, ea afectand apoi un anume tesut, care si el va afecta intregul organism, asta avand apoi un efect asupra probabilitatii de inmultire a organismului, care la randul ei va afecta sansa ca o anume mutatie sa fie transmisa generatiei urmatoare. La fiecare din aceste nivele de organizare se adauga cantitati considerabile de incertitudine si dilutie care duc la cresterea “zgomotului” ambiant si diminuarea claritatii informatiei. Ceea ce sugereaza sinteza moderna este ca selectia naturala este capabila sa discearna caracteristicile organice pana la nivelul abisal microscopic al componentelor subatomice, dar asta nu este decat o eroare.

Exista o prapastie de netrecut intre mutatiile/modificarile la nivelul genomului si selectia naturala deoarece selectia naturala nu distinge niciodata nucleotidele, ci ea opereaza la nivelul intregului organism, al fenotipului. Mutatiile sunt abnormalitati si sunt daunatoare organismului. Supravietuirea unei specii depinde de copierea cat mai exacta a informatiei in procesul de inmultire, indiferent ca este vorba de fiziune nucleara, mitoza sau meioza. Totusi, mutatii se produc, si din punctul de vedere al informatiei, mutatiile sunt intotdeauna negative, adica informatia este degenerata. Nu exista nici un experiment de laborator care sa demonstreze o inovatie in genom in sensul ca informatie noua, functionala, a fost produsa de mutatii aleatorii, ci intotdeuna mutatiile au fost negative, adica au generat o alterare a informatiei existente, chiar si cand aceste mutatii au avut un efect benefic pentru organism. Unele mutatii sunt atat de grav-negative incat o singura mutatie poate duce la o extinctie rapida a organismului si/sau a speciei. Alte mutatii, desi sunt daunatoare, sunt doar usor-negative, adica nu duc in mod independent la extinctia organismului, dar efectul combinat al multor astfel de mutatii usor-negative afecteaza totusi organismul in mod daunator. Pentru ca selectia naturala sa poata elimina greselile de copiere si diferitele mutatii care apar in genom (cauzele mutatiilor sunt multiple si nu le amintesc aici, dar le vom examina in viitor) ea poate actiona doar cand sau daca efectele mutatiilor se exprima la nivelul fenotipului si afecteaza capacitatea de reproducere a organismului, adica ea poate selecta pozitiv sau negativ intregul genom, care in cazul omului are peste trei miliarde de perechi de nucleotide, adica peste sase miliarde de nucleotide.

Un alt aspect important este acela ca nucleotidele nu sunt unitati functionale in mod independent, capabile de a fi selectate pozitiv sau negativ, ci ele sunt ansamblate in ciorchini de mii sau zeci de mii de nucleotide care nu pot fi separate in unitati singulare fara ca organismul sa fie pus in pericol de extinctie. Shapiro le numeste “insule genomice” care nu sunt functionale decat in componenta lor multi-nucleotidica.

adnCum este codata informatia in ADN? La o privire sumara, molecula de ADN, care este o macromolecula de acid nucleic, este compusa din peste sase miliarde de nucleotide (folosesc ADN-ul uman ca exemplu), care sunt de patru tipuri: adenina, guanina, timina si citozina. Acestea sunt cunoscute ca “baze” si se noteaza presurtat cu A, G, T si C. Pentru motive cunoscute doar partial, aceste baze se cupleaza in mod exclusiv in perechi fie A-T, fie C-G, astfel ca molecula de ADN contine peste trei miliarde de astfel de perechi. Codarea informatiei consta in modul in care aceste perechi de baze se succed pe aceasta “scara” a ADN-ului sau, altfel spus, este succesiunea sau ordinea acestor baze, i.e. ACTGCCTGAACTGAACG, etc.. In timp ce un sir de nucleotide poate sa apara in ordinea pusa de mine (arbitrar), sirul complementar care contine “perechea” va avea o succesiune inversa, adica TGACGGACTTGACTTGC. Pentru aceste doua succesiuni de nucleotide se folosesc termenii de “sens” si “anti-sens”. Codarea unei proteine incepe cu sinteza moleculei de ARNm (ARN mesager), care se face prin copierea secventei “anti-sens” a ADN-ului. Acest sir de nucleotide este eliminat din nucleu in spatiul citoplasmic. In clipul de mai jos notati exactitatea cu care portiuni care sunt copiate dar nu sunt necesare in procesul de sinteza a proteinelor sunt eliminate de molecule specializate.

Succesiunea rezultata formata din axoni care codeaza pentru proteine va fi “citita” in procesul de “traducere” care are loc in ribozomi, proces in cursul caruia pentru fiecare nucleotida, sa zicem A, va fi adusa o nucleotida T, astfel incat secventa creata, din nou inversata fata de ARNm, va fi de fapt identica cu secventa “sens” din ADN. Transportul acestor nucleotide care sunt aranjate in ribozomi este facut de catre ARNt (ARN transportor), o molecula specializata pentru fiecare nucleotida aparte. Procesul de “copiere si traducere” (transcription and translation) este extrem de fidel si implica un numar impresionant de module de control, printre care extrem de important este locul de unde trebuie sa inceapa copierea si locul unde trebuie sa se termine ea.

Aceste actiuni nu se produc la intamplare, ci urmaresc un scop precis. Este evident caracterul prescriptiv, al urmaririi unui rezultat anume, si asta sugereaza, in opinia mea, o inteligenta care a configurat modul in care se produc sau trebuie sa se produca aceste fenomene. Viata nu este la intamplare.

(va urma)

 

 

 

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[1]Regenmortel, Marc H.V. Van. Reductionism and Complexity in Molecular Biology. EMBO Reports 5.11 (2004): 1016–1020. PMC. Web. 11 July 2016.

[2] Shapiro, James Alan. Evolution: A View from the 21st Century. Upper Saddle River, NJ: FT Science, 2011. Print.

[3] Sanford, John C., and John R. Baumgardner. Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome. Waterloo, NY: FMS Publications, 2008. 48. Print.

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