Friday, June 1

Intelligent design

The advent of a winter’s chilly breeze acts as reminder of the advisability to have a flu injection and avoid suffering those severe aches, pains and fever from flu compared to the much milder symptoms of a common cold. Immunisation is a necessity each year as the flu virus drifts into a new strain to the extent last years vaccines become ineffective. Substantial shifts as a consequence of migration into animals can produce particularly potent mutant life threatening strains as is the case with the so called Bird flu.

However most Viruses remain harmless as the vast majority target bacteria, including bacteria currently infecting humans. In fact Researchers are looking for ways to use targeted bacterial killing viruses as a viable alternative to antibiotics which are losing their effectiveness over time.
Viruses are not considered 'living', as they consist of just DNA or RNA wrapped in a shell, without the ability of reproduction as is the case for bacteria. Hence Viruses are unable to survive without first invading a host; as upon entering into the host they hijack the biology of the living cell by replication and then becoming a ‘living’ Virus.

Ultimately with continued replication this process bursts and destroys the original infected cell. Although the viruses can rest on hard surfaces or in the droplets of a contaminated sneeze it remains “lifeless”, and completely dependant for its existence on a host, but hopefully not in yours truly this winter!! Viruses are unlike bacteria, without cell walls or genetic coding for replication, dependant upon the biology of the “host”; but since they also exist independently you cannot also say they are dead! For this reason I think viruses are very interesting; best described as lifeless bodies arising from random evolution but capable of replication and becoming ‘live’ by using the biological coding of their invaded hosts. Think of your personal computer becoming enveloped by a virus, the virus becomes effective (live) when it successfully invades and attaches to prefix code to realise or close down or disrupts your files or operating system; to realise different outcome to what was previously encoded. The original codes can become corrupted and destroyed by the incoming virus, which is incapable of reproduction unless linked to computers code.

Keeping this in mind I find it fascinating to reflect back and imagine the original primeval soup of our fist born Earth following the "Big Bang". So began the many and varied chemical reactions spread out over many billions of years interacted with light and oxygen energy. Although the temperature of our early earth was hostile to life, at 300 degrees Celsius early forms of bacteria have been discovered existing without oxygen in similar conditions within the heart of a volcano. It seems entirely plausible for us to consider the continuous migration that must have occurred amongst uncoded lifeless forms, including viruses which binded together as determined by natural selection. Ultimately what was created from that evolution formed intelligent cells inclusive of the DNA building blocks which make up life today. I would liken it to a form of evolved intelligent design or creation or biological evolution, (whichever term you feel best or most comfortable to describe it) arising effortlessly over many billions of years to our present wondrous life world of to day.

Astrophycist Jesuit George Coyne who has been Director of the Vatican Observatory since 1978 explores these ideas for the universe in a similar way: A theologian already poses the concept of god’s continuous creation with which to explore the implications of modern science for religious belief. God is working with the universe, the universe has a certain vitality of its own like a child does, it has the ability to respond to words of endearment and encouragement.

He also rejects the notions of an omnipotent and omniscient God
The universe is not god and it cannot exist independently of God. Neither pantheism nor naturalism is true. But ,if we confront what we know of our origins scientifically with religious faith in God the Creator –if, that is , we take the results of modern science seriously –it is difficult to believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient in the sense of many of the scholastic philosophers. For the believer, science tells us of a god who must be very much different from a god as seen by them.

1 comment:

Lee said...

Sorry, Lindsay..I've not had a cold in over twenty and more years...and I've never had the "flu" in my life, so I'm damn sure I'm not going to get an injection and thereby come down with it...but then, that is just me. :)