Thinking Beyond the Moment

(or seeing the full panorama)

revelation

But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”

Daniel 12:4

I’m sure not an intellectual. I know some, and I aint like that at all. No sir… Not even close. I just have sixty-eight years of info-marbles rolling around in my head that are still active. With all that acquisition in there, I’m quieted that I can trust my thought processes for now. At least until senility seeps into my gray matter, or memories become long forgotten in layers of trivia-dust.

I’m also aware of the deeper meaning behind the great chain of human events throughout history. I’m reasonably confident that I see and understand more than ninety percent of liberal, worldly journalists who believe they have all the data we’ll ever need but has to be updated hourly. Their function is to focus on each brief period that any one event unfolds in, then quickly move on to the next one. Or update that last one. They have neither time nor the desire for circumspection or to step back and observe the grand mosaic being pieced together right in front of them. They’re too nearsighted to see it, and frankly, they don’t have the perception to do so if they tried.

It can be difficult, but I try my best not to padlock initial observations or foregone conclusions of history-making events that make their way into tomorrow’s encyclopedias without consulting my loyal comrades, ‘The Guiding Triad’ who are always close by thank goodness. And their names in order of rank are,

  1. ‘Biblical Knowledge’ inspired by God and written by His prophets and disciples,
  2. ‘Lessons of History’ and
  3. ‘Verifiable Science.’

Leaning on these three heroes of civilization rather than my understanding unveils an enlightening panorama before me that says man’s darker machinations on this Earth have an unfortunately high probability of happening despite teaching and warnings—and then repeating over and over with bits of quieter time bridging the events. By our nature, we seem to be unable to avert them successfully. Postponed sometimes, but inevitable because most aberrant social behaviors are burned into us like the bios chip on your computer’s motherboard. And it traces all the way back to the Garden of Eden. And if someone tells you that’s not true, they’re probably one of those journalists I spoke of earlier. Or a relative.

The dark and horrific human events we continue witnessing during our brief time on this planet seldom catch me entirely unsuspecting. Nor do they induce my mind to a state of irrecoverable pandemonium when they occur. My confidence is wholly due to ‘The Guiding Triad.’ They have taught me over decades to take on a more reflective mindset and view world events not as singular instances but as the waters of a flowing river, winding its way toward the end of a long journey.

Assuredly, I lower my head in sorrow and prayer when evils like 911 happen, but I’m able to rally and tell myself not fall to pieces over them because the greatest of ‘The Guiding Triad’ says, “Trust me and stay the course to the end. Then I will call you my child.” While the lesser two say, “Remember, we’ve seen this before and there’s more on the way before it’s over. So dig in and keep your chin up.” Thus, I’m able to make it through man’s continuous despicable doings by trusting these wise counselors.

Jesus explained there would eventually be an end to mans’ destructiveness, but He reminded His disciples that only the Father in Heaven knows when that will be. If Jesus didn’t know, then anyone claiming to know specific events because they did some convoluted math with the calendar and a few misinterpreted verses is either:

  1. Trying to sell a book.
  2. Are two bricks short of a load.
  3. They’re deviously forming a cult and will be seeking emotional believers just anytime now.

Doubtless, they’ll be in a bit of a hurry since their span of opportunity to leave a twisted legacy is so brief. And even more so if they’re planning on drinking the Kool-Aid at the height of their following. The point of this paragraph is, though we can not know specifics, we can still open those eyes and arrive at a rough approximation of our position on the timeline by:

  1. A logistic comparison of past to present.
  2. How much we’ve advanced scientifically and technologically.
  3. The exponentially growing lethal capacity we’ve acquired as compared to rock-throwing eons past, and
  4. The continuing loss of knowledge while mans’ hatred increases.

And because we only need to push some buttons for a few minutes to burn and kill all life on the planet, I’d say we’re pretty far along the timeline. Well, maybe in the future, we could get that annihilation time down to just one minute after the buttons are depressed. Gotta love progress.

Each generation is a tiny blip on humanity’s timeline, but we can simultaneously see the past and present. Obtaining the ability to do so allows one to see the River of Life’s rapids ahead, and we know how severe the drop will be by the loudness of its roar. I’ve rafted down actual rapids in my youth, and that’s precisely how it is. The louder the roar, the more treacherous the rapids. The more destructive humanity becomes, the greater the calamity, and the more dangerously close we are to our demise.

The key to understanding the thousands of years of human events still in progress is knowing it’s the Creator’s perfect multi-purpose mechanism to, among several other things:

  1. Allow us to learn from past mistakes.
  2. Discover how it feels to endure loss.
  3. Experience the bad with the good.
  4. Pass on God’s word to future generations
  5. And essential to God… because unfortunately, great lengths of time are required to populate heaven when there’s only a mere 6-8 percent of people from each generation who actively search for and find Him.

That’s not many of us for every eighty years. And I have a feeling the dimension of heaven is a real expansive area to have to populate. The point is we are the family God was looking for when He created the universe, and to us all this history feels like a slow moving train.

God is outside the universe that came into being with His words, “Let there be light.” Omnipresence enables Him to see the distant end of our ‘do-it-myself’ story, which Jesus hints to as not rosy. And God sees that finale as quick as the lapse between flipping the switch and seeing the light come on. It’s instantaneous because He views it from a timeless standpoint, not as a physical entity imprisoned inside His own cosmos of moving photons of light, to be measured by the ticking clock.

A side-note on the subject of time:

He created it by having the universe continually expand and giving those little white photons crisscrossing through it a traveling speed of 186,000 miles per second. We call that time over here in cow country. It took thousands of years for us to figure that one out. In the meantime, everyone stood around outside, watching boring shadows move across metal discs while waiting for Einstein to finally show up.

God intentionally had the corridors of time prerecorded in an understandable form, written by Christ’s disciples and the prophets hundreds of years before Him, so we can read them today, being prudent not to distort their teachings by taking them out of text. And when we gain the knowledge contained in its pages, we often come to an understanding of what is happening around us as pertains to the long haul of life on this temporal spinning blue satellite. That’s not being a prophet. It’s being wiser and more understanding of our purpose and destiny. We still don’t know the times and dates of anything, and it doesn’t matter anyway. It’s enough to know it will happen.

There is nothing mystical about seeing the unfolding of human events as the assembling of a divine, lengthy, and super-sophisticated plan while you’re here in a physical body. Don’t bother with reading books by people claiming to be today’s prophets. It’s doubtful that there are any prophets around as their work is finished, and these authors are usually eccentric literates twisting individual events into ominous interpretations. There are no precise interpretations for any one occasion, and you can see the lunacy of these writers just by reading the summary on the back jacket cover. I’ve read a few back flaps, and they’re always far fetched and never come close to being accurate in their predictions. If you want the genuine article, which is recommended but not required reading, I suggest you get it from all three of the authoritative Guiding Triad guys.

I don’t give credence to the forecasts of the future from televangelism either. Some of them are the very ones writing those books I just mentioned, and I can tell you they’re completely unnecessary for your salvation. And in the end, most give Christianity a black eye. They primarily attract the elderly, which is fine in itself until they clean out their bank accounts, but they also gather in the ‘sheeple’ who blindly follow their shepherd in huge flocks, backing these men or women no matter the facts, even when they’re blatantly wrong. So if you think you are a sheeple, then by all means, turn the TV on and lose the remote between the couch cushions.

You can discern how the events of yesterday, today, and tomorrow are falling into place for yourself, and be confident and calm while you’re doing it. The most important part of the effort to reach an understanding and insight into the grand path we are on is Bible lessons. Read the books of Daniel’, Ezekiel, and ‘St John’s Revelation,’ and if you actually end up doing that, why don’t you go ahead and read the rest of the book instead of raiding the refrigerator all night. Tell yourself you’re doing it just to be sure you got all the facts straight. It’ll be good for you and put hair on your chest. And a lot of women these days would kill to have some of that. Seriously.

The other two categories of lessons are the history and science ones. According to one’s mental acuity, these are more scholarly and can be challenging to grasp and understand. Mine aren’t so great, but I get the basics. History and science jump all through time and space, so persevere through it for the rewards they deliver. There’s no rush. After all, you have the rest of your life to figure it out. Or at least until they ship you off to the nursing home. You might try skimming over some of the volumes of “World History” by Howard Spodek or the easier ‘Guns Germs and Steel’ by Jared Diamond. If you don’t take a shine to either of these, find an old world history school book from way back in the 60s before history got canceled by the left. Finally, you can at least find some authoritative history lessons from the Old Testaments of the Bible. The New King James version is a bit easier as it replaces all the ‘thees and thous’ with ‘you,’ but doesn’t alter much else.

The ‘science lessons I’ve learned are all free to borrow as ‘young adult’ science books available at your local library. There’s also layman science publications like Discover, Smithsonian Magazine, and Popular Science. If you’re more of a couch potato, try watching science-based shows like the PBS Nova series. Finally, there are organizations like ‘Reasons to Believe’ whose impressive materials bring science and faith together.

A word of caution:

Once you’ve studied hard and mastered the teachings of The Guiding Triad, including Bible, history, and basic science knowledge, your thoughts, eyes, and ears will become blindingly enlightened, and you’ll see the complete mosaic of the collective doings of man as a continuum with a beginning and end. And it’s not that great of a painting. I’ve seen better, scotch-taped to the grade school walls and refrigerators. Don’t panic, though, when you view it. Just lean back and have a cigar, or maybe you’d prefer some Rocky Road ice cream because there’s not a bloody thing you can do to stop the wheel from turning. You can pray for the situations passing by, but that’s it. Some folks like to label those dark instances as, “Well, it’s in God’s hands now!” That’s fair enough. Whatever floats your boat, I always say.

Here’s some humor to end with:

“As for nit-picking laws dictated to this generation, that are siphoning away freedom by telling us what to put on our bodies, or what not to put in our mouths, or how we have to show our ID, sign three forms and give a urine sample to buy a can of air at Walmart…

Well, I have a habit of disobeying those nit-pickers for the sole reason that it lets me take a swing (and a miss) at Big Brother and his system we’re being oppressed by with the least chance of suffering the fine of the infraction. And that makes me a happy camper for the rest of the day. On the rare occasion when I get caught, it further allows me to be a vocal dissident for a few hours. What? Did you think I always go by the book because you gathered as much from this message about seeing the big picture? Brother, are you ever naive. It looks to me like you need to get started with those Guiding Triad classes real soon.

dougsign

Have Researchers Developed a Computer Algorithm that Explains the Origin of Life?

By Fazale Rana – November 4, 2020

As a chemistry major at West Virginia State College during the early 1980s, I was required to take a library course on the chemical literature before I could graduate. During the class, we learned how to use the many library reference materials devoted to cataloging and retrieving the vast amount of chemistry research published in the scientific literature. Included in this list was the multivolume Beilstein’s Handbook of Organic Chemistry.

Beilstein’s Handbook of Organic Chemistry

Beilstein’s Handbook consists of hundreds of volumes with entries for well over 10 million compounds. The books that originally made up Beilstein’s Handbook took up rows of shelves in the library with new volumes added to the collection every few years. Today, the Beilstein’s volumes are no longer published as printed editions. Instead the entries are now housed online in the Beilstein’s Handbook database, with the old print volumes serving as little more than artifacts of a bygone era in the annals of chemistry.

Learning to master Beilstein’s Handbook is no easy task. In fact, there are textbooks devoted to teaching chemists how to use this massive database effectively. It is well worth the effort. If you know what you are doing, Beilstein’s Handbook holds the key to finding quickly anything you need to know about any organic compound, provided it has been published somewhere.

Beilstein Synthesis and the Origin-of-Life Problem

The utility of Beilstein’s Handbook is endless and its applications far-reaching. In fact, Beilstein’s has even served as the inspiration for origin-of-life chemists seeking to make sense of prebiotic chemistry and chemical evolution. These investigators think that if they can master an approach to prebiotic chemistry called a Beilstein synthesis, then they may well gain key insight into how chemical evolution generated the first life on Earth. In short, a Beilstein synthesis involves a chemical reaction taking place in a single flask with a large number of chemical compounds serving as the reactants. This process is so named as a nod to the 10 million entries in the Beilstein’s database.

Origin-of-life scientists are interested in Beilstein synthesis because they think that these types of reactions more closely reflect the chemical and physical complexity of early Earth’s environment. Yet, very few origin-of-life researchers have even attempted this type of reaction. Understanding what transpired during a Beilstein synthesis has long been an intractable problem. Until very recently, the analytical capabilities didn’t exist to efficiently and effectively characterize the myriad products that would form during a Beilstein reaction, let alone identify and characterize the different chemical routes in play. For this reason, origin-of-life researchers have focused on singular prebiotic processes involving a limited number of compounds, reacting under highly controlled laboratory conditions. In these types of reactions, it is far easier to make sense of experimental outcomes—but the ease of interpretation comes with a cost.

Over the last 70 years, the focus on singular sets of reactions and highly controlled conditions has produced some successes for origin-of-life researchers—albeit qualified ones. Focusing on isolated reactions and specific sets of conditions has made it possible for researchers to identify a number of physicochemical processes that could have contributed to the early stages of chemical evolution—at least, in principle. Unfortunately, serious concerns remain about the geochemical relevance of these types of experiments. These reactions perform well in the laboratory, under the auspices of chemists, but significant questions abound about the productivity of the same laboratory processes in the milieu of early Earth. (For a detailed discussion of this problem, I recommend my blog article “Prebiotic Chemistry and the Hand of God.”)

Additionally, these highly controlled reactions—carried out under pristine conditions—fail to take into account the chemical and physical complexity of early Earth. Undoubtedly, this complexity will impact the physicochemical processes on early Earth, shaping the outcome of plausible prebiotic reaction routes. No one really knows if this complexity will facilitate chemical evolution or frustrate it, but now we have some idea, thanks to the work of a research team from the Polish Academy of Sciences. These investigators moved the origin-of-life research community closer to achieving a prebiotic Beilstein synthesis by developing and deploying a computer algorithm (called Alchemy) to perform computer-assisted organic chemistry designed to mimic the earliest stages of chemical evolution. In effect, they performed an in silico Beilstein reaction with some rather intriguing results.1

Alchemy and the Prebiotic Chemistry

The researchers used Alchemy to identify the reaction pathways and products that could have formed under plausible early Earth conditions. They initiated the computer-assisted reactions by starting with hydrogen sulfide, water, ammonia, nitrogen, methane, and hydrogen cyanide as the original set of reactants, under the assumption that these small molecules would have been present on early Earth. After the reactions reached completion, the researchers removed any products that possessed an “invalid” chemical structure, then incorporated the remaining reaction products into the original set of starting compounds, and ran the computer-assisted reactions again. They repeated this process 7 times.

For each generation of reactions, they “computed” reaction pathways and products using a set of 614 rules. These rules were developed by encoding into the algorithm all of the known prebiotic reactions published in the scientific literature. They also encoded plausible conditions of early Earth. As they developed the list of rules, the researchers also paid close attention to chemical functional groups that would be incompatible with one another. As it turns out, it was possible to group these 614 rules into 72 chemical reaction classes. The algorithm began each generation of reactions by identifying suitable reactants for each class of reactions and then “reacting” them to discover the types of products that would form.

Alchemy Results

Through the course of 7 generations of reactions, Alchemy produced almost 37,000 chemical compounds from the initial set of 6 gaseous molecules. Of these compounds, only 82 were biotic. And, of this collection, 41 were peptides (formed when amino acids react together to form an adduct).

As it turns out the biotic compounds had some unusual properties that distinguished them from the vast collection of abiotic molecules. These compounds:

  • Are more thermodynamically stable
  • Display less hydrophobicity (water-insolubility)
  • Harbor fewer distinct functional groups
  • Possess fewer reactive functional groups
  • Have a balanced number of functional groups that were hydrogen-bond donors and acceptors

The researchers also discovered that there were a number of distinct pathways that could produce biotic compounds. That is to say, they observed synthetic redundancy for the biotic compounds. They discovered that they could eliminate nearly half of the 72 reaction classes from the algorithm and still generate all 82 biotic compounds. In contrast, the abiotic compounds failed to display synthetic redundancy. Only 8 of the reaction classes could be eliminated and still generate the same suite of abiotic molecules.

Additionally, the team discovered that some of the compounds generated by the in silico reactions—such as formic acid, cyanoacetylene, and isocyanic acid—served as synthetic hubs, giving rise to a large number of additional products. It is quite possible that the existence of these reaction hubs contributes to the synthetic redundancy of the biotic compounds.

Through the course of 7 generations of chemical synthesis, the researchers found that the Alchemy algorithm produced all of the prebiotic reactions reported in the scientific literature, to date. This finding isn’t surprising because the research team used these reactions to help design the rules used to guide Alchemy.

The algorithm also yielded prebiotic reactions that, heretofore had not been discovered by origin-of-life researchers. The research team demonstrated the validity of these pathways, discovered in silico, by successfully executing these same reactions in the laboratory.

Emergent Properties of Prebiotic Reactions

One of the most exciting discoveries made by the team from the Polish National Academy of Sciences was the emergent properties that arose after 7 generations of in silico prebiotic reactions:

  • Unexpectedly, some of the reaction products catalyzed additional chemical reactions, which expanded the range of available prebiotic reactions.
  • Reaction cycles and reaction cascades emerged, with the reaction cycles displaying the property of self-regeneration. In fact, after 7 generations, the chemical space of the prebiotic reactions became densely populated with reaction cycles.
  • Surfactants, such as fatty acids, emerged. They also discovered peptides with surfactant properties. These types of compounds can, in principle, form vesicles that can encapsulate materials yielding proto-cellular structures.

In many respects, this work reflects science at its best. It ushers in a new era in prebiotic chemistry, demonstrating the power of computer-assisted organic chemistry to shed light on chemical evolution. Coupled with the increased capacity to analyze complex chemical mixtures (thanks to advances in analytical chemistry), Alchemy and other similar software may make it possible to provide meaningful interpretations of real-life Beilstein reactions.

This work also shows that, in principle, complex chemical mixtures can give rise to some interesting emergent features that have bearing on chemical evolution and the rise of the chemical complexity and organization required for the origin of life. Nevertheless, we are still a far distance from arriving at any real understanding as to how life could have emerged through evolutionary processes.

Are the Alchemy Results Geochemically Relevant?

It is critical to keep in mind that this work involves computer modeling of chemical processes that could have taken place under the putative conditions of early Earth. And, though the algorithm developed by the investigators from the Polish National Academy of Sciences is quite sophisticated, it still represents a simplified set of scenarios that, at times, fails to fully and realistically account for our planet’s early conditions.

For example, some of the starting materials selected for the in silico reactions, such as ammonia and methane, likely weren’t present on the early Earth at appreciable levels. In fact, most planetary scientists believe that Earth’s early atmosphere was composed of water, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. When this type of gas mixture is used in spark-discharge experiments—such as the ones carried out by legendary origin-of-life researcher Stanley Miller—no organic compounds form. In other words, this gas mixture is unreactive.

The researchers also ignored the concentration of the reactants. Laboratory studies indicate that many prebiotic reactions require relatively high concentrations of the reactants. Given the expansiveness of early Earth’s environment (particularly, its oceans), it is hard to imagine that the concentrations needed for many prebiotic reactions could ever have been achieved. In other words, it is quite likely that the concentration of prebiotic reactants on Earth was too dilute to be meaningful for chemical evolution.

The research group also ignored kinetic effects. Not all chemical reactions proceed at the same rate. So, while a chemical reaction may be possible, in principle, in reality it may transpire too slowly to be meaningful. By not taking into account rates of chemical reactions, the researchers undermined the geochemical relevance of their computer-assisted reactions.

The availability and types of energy sources on early Earth were ignored as well. Many prebiotic reactions require energy sources to trigger them. In many instances these energy sources have to be highly specific to initiate chemical reactions. Energy sources need to be powerful enough to kick-start the reactions, but not so powerful as to cause the breakdown of the reactants and ensuing products.

The researchers also failed to take into account the stereochemistry of the reactants and products. For this reason, they have failed to shed any insight into the homochirality problem, which beleaguers origin-of-life research.

So, the results of Alchemy have questionable geochemical relevance, and thus, questionable bearing on the origin-of-life issue. Still, the work demonstrates the value of Beilstein reactions—even, if performed in silico—and does indicate that emergent properties can originate out of chemical complexity, in principle.

It is also worth noting that this work sheds potential light on the earliest stages of chemical evolution. Even if building block materials are in place, there still needs to be an explanation for the emergence of information-rich biopolymers and stable membrane-bound vesicles that would form protocells. The work of the Polish National Academy of Sciences investigators provides clues as to how this might happen, but significant hurdles remain.

The Homopolymer Problem

One of the interesting findings of the in silico experiments was the recognition that prebiotic reactions generated around 40 peptides. The peptides became larger and more numerous for each generation. These compounds are formed from amino acids, which combine into “chain-like” molecules and could be viewed as the stepping stones to proteins. Some of the peptides produced in the prebiotic pathways display “nonbiological” bonding. This type of bond formation arises from reactions between the hydroxyl and carboxylic acid side groups of serine and aspartic acid (produced in the prebiotic reactions), respectively, and the carboxylic acid moiety and amino groups bound to the alpha carbon. These nonstandard linkages would render these peptides irrelevant for the production of larger proteins because of the homopolymer problem.

The late Robert Shapiro first identified this problem a number of years ago. For biopolymers to be able to adopt higher-order three-dimensional structures or to carry out critical functions, such as self-replication, the backbone must consist of identical repeating units. For intermolecular interactions to stabilize the higher-order structure of biopolymers or for these biopolymers to serve as templates for self-replication, the backbone’s structure must repeat without any interruption. This means that the subunit molecules that form the self-replicator must consist of the same chemical class.

Chemists call chain-like molecules with structurally repetitive backbones homopolymers. (Homo = “same”; poly = “many”; mer = “units”). DNA, RNA, proteins, and the proposed pre-RNA world self-replicators, such as peptide-nucleic acids, are all homopolymers and satisfy the chemical requirements necessary to function as self-replicators.

Undirected chemical processes can produce homopolymers under carefully controlled, pristine laboratory conditions. However, as Shapiro pointed out, these processes cannot generate these types of molecules under early Earth’s conditions. The chemical compounds found in the complex chemical mixture that origin-of-life researchers think existed on early Earth would interfere with homopolymer formation. Instead, polymers with highly heterogeneous backbone structures would be produced. The likely chemical components of any prebiotic soup would not only interrupt the structural regularity of the biopolymer’s backbone, but they would also prematurely terminate its formation or introduce branch sites.

The homopolymer problem is an intractable problem for chemical evolution—at least for replicator-first scenarios. Even though the in silico experiments demonstrated that amino acids can form and even combine into useful peptides, they also demonstrated that undesirable switching, branching, and termination reactions take place. Ironically, the in silico experiments have also provided added validation for the homopolymer problem.

The Membrane Problem

Another interesting feature of this work is the generation of surfactant molecules, such as fatty acids and amphiphilic peptides. Presumably, these materials could form vesicles with the capacity to encapsulate materials, leading to the first protocells. Yet, this process seems unlikely under the conditions of early Earth. Laboratory studies demonstrate that vesicles assembled from fatty acids are metastable and highly sensitive to fluctuation of environmental conditions. In fact, fatty acid vesicles assemble only under exacting solution conditions and require precise lipid compositions.2

Again, these insights raise questions about the geochemical relevance of this result. So, even though surfactants can form under prebiotic conditions, their assembly into bilayer-forming vesicles is not a given, by any means.

Prebiotic Chemistry and the Anthropic Principle

Even though the sophisticated work from the Polish National Academy of Sciences was designed to validate the notion of chemical evolution, the study’s results produced some interesting theistic implications. There are good reasons to think that origin-of-life researchers will never determine how evolutionary pathways generated the first life-forms because of seemingly intractable problems facing chemical evolution. In the face of these dismal prospects, it becomes hard to argue that mechanism alone can explain the origin of life and the design of core biochemical systems. The conviction that a Creator isn’t necessary stands on shaky ground.

Still, even if one grants the possibility that life had an evolutionary origin, it is impossible to escape the necessary role a Mind must have played in the appearance of first life on Earth—at least based on some intriguing results that emerge from the computer-assisted Beilstein reaction. As a case in point, it is provocative that the 82 biotic compounds which formed—a small fraction of the nearly 37,000 compounds generated by the in silico reactions—all share a suite of physicochemical properties that make these compounds unusually stable and relatively unreactive. These qualities cause these materials to persist in the prebiotic setting. It is also intriguing that these 82 compounds display synthetic redundancy, with the capability of being generated by several distinct chemical routes. It is also fortuitous that these compounds possess the just-right set of properties—many of which overlap with the set of properties that distinguish them from the vast number of abiotic compounds—that make them ideally suited to survive on early Earth and useful as building block materials for life.

In other words, there appear to be constraints on prebiotic chemistry that inevitably lead to the production of key biotic molecules with the just-right properties that make them unusually stable and ideally suited for life. This remarkable coincidence is a bit “suspicious” and highly fortuitous, suggesting a fitness for purpose to the nature of prebiotic chemistry. To put it another way: There is an apparent teleology to prebiotic chemistry. It appears that the laws of physics and chemistry may well have been rigged at the outset to ensure that life’s building blocks naturally emerged under the conditions of early Earth. Could it be that this coincidence reflects the fact that a Mind is behind it all?

It is remarkable to me as a biochemist and a Christian that the more insight we gain into the origin of life, the more the evidence points to the necessary role of a Creator, whether the Creator chose to directly intervene to create the first life-forms or whether he rigged the universe in such a way that life would inevitable emerge because of the design and constraints imposed by the laws of nature.

It really is a new era in origin-of-life research.

Endnotes

  1. Agnieszka Wołos et al., “Synthetic Connectivity, Emergence, and Self-Regeneration in the Network of Prebiotic Chemistry,” Science 369 (September 25, 2020): eaaw1955, doi: 10.1126/science.aaw1955.
  2. Jacquelyn A. Thomas and F. R. Rana, “Influence of Environmental Conditions, Lipid Composition, and Phase Behavior on the Origin of Cell Membranes,” Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres 37 (2007): 267-85, doi:10.1007/s11084-007-9065-6.

Resources

Reprinted with permission by the author

Original article at:
https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/the-cells-design

Where Greed Comes From

I’ve been sharing this planet with humans for three-quarters of a century, and my multitude of first-hand observations of individuals and groups of them, dating all the way back to the early 1950s, take precedence over any books on the subject of greed. And that includes the one titled, “How to Be Greedy Without Even Trying”, by Ima Takinedal.

Greed is a nasty affliction of humanity, and it begins manifesting itself from the very moment the brain develops the capacity to decide and choose. A typical scenario of early childhood greed may go something like, “I finished my ice cream cone already, and now I want yours.” The little tyke didn’t need one bit of prodding from an adult on how to want more than their share. It is, unfortunately, the result of man’s fallen status with the Creator of the cosmos.

Here’s another example of the early onset of greed. Peek around the corner at little Billy and Johnny in a room full of toys. Billy suddenly decides to pick up a particular toy and begins to have fun with it, becoming fully engaged, complete with uttering cute sound effects. While all is calm and peaceful, Johnny glances over at the now enthralled Billy and observes that he’s experiencing a fulfilling moment, and he immediately desires to be in that same blissful state for himself. The shortest, most straightforward route to achieving parity with Billy is to take possession of the thing which seems to have the power to provide instant gratification, so Johnny reaches over and tears the toy from Billy’s hands. Thus the fighting, shouting, and crying ensue, and the situation has gone from content to war-like.

Johnny required zero coaching to instantly become consumed with possessing his toys, plus little Billy’s now special one. This selfish behavior is inherent. Unless medical science eventually discovers a viable way to excise or neutralize this conflicting aspect of the human mind at birth, it will never wane from our existence.

Career Politicians are an excellent example of adult greed on steroids. Aside from always giving themselves salary increases while accomplishing less by not showing up, the hypocrites among them will expound on how they need to reduce the deficit by raising taxes. But the increase must not affect their particular non-profit institutions, which often have no contributing benefit for the working class whose taxes just got raised.

It’s a real shame that Adam and Eve chose to disobey God in the Garden of Eden. The consequences were losing the benefit of never being in need or want of anything, and their penalty wound up altering their son Cain and his siblings’ behavior, along with everyone coming after them, right down to the present.

Gotta go. My wife is eating all the M&Ms… again.

One Take on the After Life

The data goes, while the shell turns to dust

A truly eternal paradise would not be a state of solid matter, comprised of atoms and elements such as those listed on the Periodic Table here in our current physical realm, as all these things are subject to decay at the molecular level over linear time, and humans are comprised of these same elements as well, primarily C ‘carbon: group 14’ and H²O¹.

An eternal realm would necessitate a particular type of super-perceived, timeless state of being where everything still appears entirely tangible and yet wholly foreign and imperishable compared to the cosmos in which we currently exist. It would be a place where the laws of physics cannot coexist, and by its very nature, would exclude expansion or movement as our universe experiences. Such a state would also mean the absence of time, which is the measurement of light’s speed, represented to us as a clock’s ticking.

So how do we get there, aside from the fact that we first depend on Jesus covering our fare? The logical answer is that the soul would have to move toward or be guided through some form of interdimensional portal, which cannot begin until one first stops breathing, and the soul is loosed from the expired body it inhabited in this world of decaying particles. I would venture that it’s apt to be the same portal used by angels and Lucifer, as in Job’s story wherein he pays God a personal visit.

A super-perceived realm opens up limitless possibilities that could never occur here on earth, not excluding such things as streets of gold or traveling at the speed of thought. If any of the so-called near death experiences are remotely accurate, it would also explain why the authors of those events record such observations, as running through a field of flowers and then looking back to find that not a single flower has been crushed. It would be because they had perceived the field of flowers they’re seeing. The flowers weren’t biological in makeup.

A realm of super-perception would genuinely be a paradisiacal place. Do you say you miss all the dogs you ever had? Well, that’s not a problem. Simply think them back, and there they’ll be, standing at your feet wagging their tails. The saying would be correct. “All dogs go to Heaven!” I know I certainly won’t have any problem living forever in a place where I can have my heart’s desires. I’ll definitely be visiting my mom to listen to the golden harp she said she wanted when she got there. If she plays it anything like she did the piano, there’s a constant crowd around her.

Time To Sleep

All God’s creatures, great and small,
Are in their roosts and in their stalls.
They do not bark, nor chirp nor peep,
Their heads are bowed, they’re fast asleep.
Secured within their nests they be,
And like these creatures, so should we.
For soon the morning sun will shine,
Then tails will wag, and legs unwind.
Now off they’ll go, each to their place,
And all day long, they’ll share God’s Grace!

Clive Staples Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven high fantasy novels by C. S. Lewis. It is considered a classic of children’s literature and is the author’s best-known work, having sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages. Written by Lewis between 1949 and 1954, illustrated by Pauline Baynes and originally published in London between October 1950 and March 1956, The Chronicles of Narnia has been adapted several times, complete or in part, for radio, television, the stage, and film.

Set in the fictional realm of Narnia, a fantasy world of magic, mythical beasts, and talking animals, the series narrates the adventures of various children who play central roles in the unfolding history of that world. Except in The Horse and His Boy, the protagonists are all children from the real world magically transported to Narnia, where they are called upon by the lion Aslan to protect Narnia from evil and restore the throne to its rightful line. The books span the entire history of Narnia, from its creation in The Magician’s Nephew, to its eventual destruction in The Last Battle.

Inspiration for the series is taken from multiple sources; in addition to numerous traditional Christian themes, characters and ideas are freely borrowed from Greek, Turkish and Roman mythology, as well as from traditional British and Irish fairy tales. The books have profoundly influenced adult and children’s fantasy literature written since World War II. Lewis’ exploration of themes not usually present in children’s literature, such as religion as well as the book’s perceived treatment of issues including race and gender, has caused some controversy.

YOU Are Important

dennishomepage

Whether you believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit are who they claim to be does not change the fact that they are, indeed, who they claim to be. One part of this precept supports the notion that the Bible is literally the inspired word of God. Additional support for this hypothesis is provided in II Timothy 3:16 and provides concrete evidence of this hypothesis. Timothy states that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” This point is foundational to the Christian belief system and to our healthy development as human beings.

Let me explain.

The Biblical character, King David, notes in Psalms 139 that our God, the everlasting presence, knows everything there is to know about us. There is no place where we can hide from God, and no thought that we can prevent Him from knowing. Actually, King David suggests that God already knows our thoughts, needs and desires. How does this relate to YOU and your importance?

Knowing that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and King David is right in his Psalms 139:14 narrative when he states that “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”, then, before the beginning of time, God has known you. I suggest, no: I know, that YOU are so important that Christ designed your specific DNA before the Father actually spoke the creation narration. The artist Lindsey-Anderson depicts this concept in the painting on this page.

Please do not believe the doubts you sometimes have about your self, or what others may say or think about you. YOU are important! God said it, I believe it, that settles it! I love you.

jesushands

Comments Welcomed on:

  1. Who is the artist in the picture, and how do you know?
  2. What are your observations of the pencil?
  3. What is the artist drawing?

Ref:

The Holy Bible. The Open Bible. King James Version. (1975). Thomas Nelson Publishers.

A School Librarian Is Using Drones To Deliver Books To Kids All Summer

June 18, 2020

A middle-school librarian in Virginia has found a way to ensure kids can still rent books during a time when libraries are closed to the public.

She’s delivering them by drone.

school librarian delivers books by drone

Kelly Passek / Credit: Wing

Kelly Passek was one of the first customers of a drone delivery service launched in Christiansburg, Va., last year by Wing. After seeing how quickly her household items were delivered, she petitioned the company to take on library books, too.

She asked the school’s superintendent, Mark Miear, who was “immediately on board.”

“Montgomery County Public Schools will be the first public school system in the world to use Wing to deliver library books to our students,” Passek said. “We are thrilled for this opportunity to have a really unique way to deliver resources to our students and do it practically on demand.”

Passek coordinates the delivery process with Wing. Students can request to take out library books using an online form. Passek then packs the books up in special delivery boxes, then drops them off at Wing, which handles the deliveries.

“Our libraries are essential and unique parts of our community and it is extremely important for our students to continue to have access to the resources that are here in our libraries in order to guarantee their success,” Passek said.

Now, students in Montgomery County can choose from the library’s more than 150,000 titles, and have their books delivered right to their front yard.

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A Carpenter Is Building Insulated, Mobile Shelters For Homeless People To Stay Warm This Winter

October 28, 2020

A carpenter in Toronto is building insulated, mobile shelters for homeless people who will be outdoors this winter.

carpenter Khaleel Seivwright

Khaleel Seivwright / CBC

Khaleel Seivwright, 28, started building mobile shelters for the homeless last month. Each unit costs about $1,000 in materials and takes Seivwright eight hours to construct. But he’s been happily giving them away for free.

“It just seemed like something I could do that would be useful because there’s so many people staying in tents,” Seivwright told the CBC. “I’ve never seen so many people staying outside in parks, and this is something I could do to make sure people staying outside in the winter could survive.”

Seivwright says the shelters will be able to keep people comfortably warm with their own body heat in temperatures as low as -20 C.

To help fund his mission, Seivwright launched an online fundraiser which has raised more than $50,000.

Khaleel Seivwright

“I’m excited to do this because I know it can work, I love designing and building different interesting ideas and I know it might help at least a few people get through this winter who might not and others in the future as well. As shelters are usually at capacity at some point in the winter in Toronto and also because of this coronavirus, making space to allow for social distancing will put even more strain on Toronto’s capacity,” he wrote on GoFundMe.

Do Goosebumps Send a Chill Down the Spine of the Creation Model?

By Fazale Rana – September 2, 2020

I think few would be surprised to learn that J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter titles are the best-selling children’s books of all time, but do you know which works take second place in that category? It’s the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine.

From 1992 to 1997, Stine wrote and published 62 Goosebumps books. To date, these books have been printed in over 3o languages, with over 400 million copies sold worldwide (this does not include Stine’s numerous spin-off books) and adapted for television and film. Each book in the Goosebumps lineup features different child characters who find themselves in scary situations that often involve encounters with the bizarre and supernatural.

The title of the series is apropos. Humans get goosebumps whenever we are afraid. We also get goosebumps when we are moved by something beautiful and awe-inspiring. And, of course, we get goosebumps when we are cold.

Goosebumps are caused by a process dubbed piloerection. When we feel cold, tiny smooth muscles (called the arrector pili) deep within our skin contract. Because these muscles are attached to hair follicles, this contraction causes our hairs to stand on end. Getting goosebumps is one of our quirks as human beings. Most biologists don’t think this phenomenon serves any useful purpose, making it that much more of an oddity. So, if goosebumps have no obvious utility, then why do we experience them at all?

Evolutionary Explanation for Goosebumps

Many life scientists view goosebumps as a vestige of our evolutionary history. So, while goosebumps serve no apparent function in modern humans, evolutionary biologists believe they did have utility for our evolutionary ancestors, who were covered with a lot of hair. Presumably, when our ancestors were cold, the contraction of the arrector pili muscles created pockets of air near the surface of the skin when the hairs stood on end, serving as insulation from the chill. And when our ancestors were frightened, contraction of the arrector pili muscles caused their hair to puff up, making them seem larger and more menacing.

These two behaviors are observed in other mammals and even in some bird species. For evolutionary biologists, this shared behavior attests to our evolutionary connection to animal life.

In other words, many life scientists see goosebumps as compelling evidence that human beings have an evolutionary origin because: (1) goosebumps serve no useful purpose in humans today and (2) the same physiological process that causes goosebumps in humans causes hair and fur of other animals to stand erect when they feel cold or threatened.

So, one theological question creationists need to address is this: Why would God create human beings to have a useless response to the cold or to being frightened? For those of us who hold to a creation model/design perspective, goosebumps in humans cause us a bit of a fright. But is there any reason to be scared?

What if goosebumps in humans serve a useful function? If they do, that function undermines the idea that goosebumps are a vestige of our evolutionary history and, at the same time, makes it reasonable to think that human beings are the handiwork of a Creator. Accordingly, all facets of our anatomy and physiology are intentionally designed for a purpose, including goosebumps. And this is precisely what a research team from Harvard University has discovered. These investigators identified an unexpected function performed by arrector pili muscles, beyond causing hairs to stand erect.1 This new insight suggests a reason why humans get goosebumps, making it reasonable to interpret this physiological feature of human beings within a creation model/design framework.

Multiple Roles of the Arrector Pili Muscle

To carry out its function, the arrector pili muscle forms an intimate association with nerves in the sympathetic nervous system. This component of the nervous system contributes to homeostasis, allowing the bodies of animals (including humans) to maintain constant and optimal conditions. As part of this activity, animals receive sensory input from their surroundings and respond to environmental changes. So, in this case, when a mammal experiences cold the sympathetic nervous system transmits the sensation to the arrector pili muscles, causing them to contract, helping the animal to stay warm.

Recently, the Harvard research team, working with mice, discovered that the arrector pili muscle also plays a structural role, with the individual nerve fibers of the sympathetic nervous system wrapping around the muscle. This architecture positions the nerves next to a bed of stem cells near hair follicles, providing the sympathetic nervous system with a direct connection to the hair follicle stem cells.

Normally, the hair follicle stem cells are in a quiescent (inactive) state. Under conditions of prolonged cold, however, the sympathetic nerves release the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. This release stimulates the stem cells to replicate and develop into new hair. In other words, the interplay between the arrector pili and the sympathetic nerves provides both a short-term (contraction of the arrector pili) and a long-term (hair growth) response to cold.

The researchers discovered that when they removed the arrector pili muscles the sympathetic nerves retracted, losing their connection to the hair follicle stem cells. In the retracted state, the sympathetic nerves could not stimulate the activity of the hair follicle stem cells. In short, the arrector pili plays an integral role in coupling stem cell regeneration and, hence, hair growth to changes in the environment by functioning as scaffolding.

Goosebumps and the Case for Creation

In mammals (which have a coat of fur or bodies heavily covered with hair), the dual role played by the arrector pili muscles in mounting both rapid and long-term responses to the cold highlights the elegance, sophistication, and ingenuity of biological systems—features befitting the work of a Creator. But does this insight have any bearing on why humans experience goosebumps if they are created by God?

Toward this end, if the arrector pili muscles served no true function, evolutionary theory predicts that they should atrophy, maybe even disappear. Yet, the work of the Harvard scientists makes it plain that if the arrector pili muscles became more diminutive or were lost, it could very well compromise the overall function of the sympathetic nervous system in human skin, because the scaffolding for nerves of the sympathetic system would be lost.

The recognition that the arrector pili muscles prevent the sympathetic nerves from retracting away from hair follicles in mice suggests that this muscle functions in the same way in human skin. In mice and other mammals, the positioning of the sympathetic nerve is critical to stimulate the growth of new hair in response to ongoing exposure to cold. The same should be true in humans. Still, it is not clear at this juncture if hair growth in humans under these conditions would have any real benefit. On the other hand, there is no evidence to the contrary. We don’t know.

What we do know is that without the arrector pili muscles the sympathetic nerves would lose their positioning anchor in human skin. It seems perfectly reasonable to think that the proper positioning of the sympathetic nerve in the skin, in general, plays an overarching role in communicating changes in the environment to our bodies, helping us to maintain a homeostatic state.

In other words, because the muscle serves multiple purposes, it helps explain why these intact, fully functional muscles are found in human skin, with goosebumps produced as a by-product of the arrector pili’s association with hair follicles and sympathetic nerves. And who knows, maybe these muscles have added functions yet to be discovered.

There may be other reasons why we get goosebumps. They help us to pay close attention to the happenings in our environment. And, of course, this heightened awareness provides a survival advantage. On top of that use, goosebumps also provide social cues to others, signaling to them that we are cold or frightened, with the hope that these cues would encourage them to step in and help us—again, a survival advantage.

The cold truth is this: gaining a better understanding about the anatomy and physiology of the skin makes goosebumps less frightening for those of us who embrace a creation model approach to humanity’s origin.

Resources

Endnotes
  1. Yuli Schwartz et al., “Cell Types Promoting Goosebumps Form a Niche to Regulate Hair Follicle Stem Cells,” Cell 182, no. 3 (August 6, 2020): 578–93, doi:10.1016/j.cell.2020.06.031.

Reprinted with permission by the author

Original article at:
https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/the-cells-design