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Vail Valley Voices: The origin of life

Bob Branden
Vail, CO, Colorado

Sometimes the teacher was tired. Tonight he was vibrant. He always felt this way after his favorite class, “Discoveries.”

It was designed to encourage the students that their minds were nearly limitless. Whether it was locating lost cities, discovering ancient manuscripts, or devising a way to determine if a gold smith had ripped off an ancient king when he made his crown of gold, it was an exciting class. It turns out the smith had, in fact, ripped the king off. Water displacement proved it.

Tonight’s class had been on the discovery of DNA by Watson and Crick.

“Those two sure looked geeky,” the student chuckled, referring to a slide the teacher had shown. “Maybe everybody looked geeky back in the ’50s.”

“Their geekiness was their strength. It enabled them to ask questions that other scientists wouldn’t ask for fear of appearing ignorant. Watson and Crick were sort of ignorant. Admitting it and then seeking information led them to the solution. What brilliance they displayed. Imagine, the key to life.”

“Soon the scientists will be able to create life.” As usual the student had spoken without thinking first, caught up in the excitement of the implications.

“No they won’t.”

Defensive now, the student replied, “Yes they will. They’ve already nearly done it.”

The student hated it when the teacher didn’t respond for long moments. Oh well, better check the place out tonight. “The usual crowd shuffled in,” sang Billy Joel. “… to forget about life for awhile.”

Huh? thought the student. We weren’t forgetting about life. We were just talking about it. The teacher always had a way of swimming against the current. In fact, that may be close to the heart of his message.

“Did you read that in a newspaper?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, excuse me. It must be true then. I don’t suppose you went to the journals and read about their experiment for yourself. You could, you know.” For a friendly person, the sword of the teacher’s sarcasm was sharper than most. The student felt the lump of the pocket dictionary against the junction between his hip and cheek. “Going to get the story for yourself” was another lesson the teacher preached.

“What you would have found there,” the teacher’s voice spoke pedantically while his eyes were soft, “was, how should I say it?, next to nothing. They were nowhere near creating DNA. They were simply assembling parts that they supplied themselves and then manipulating them to come together.” He spoke in simplistic terms so the student could grasp the concept. “I don’t even think they realized the rather obvious implications of their work.”

The student didn’t like it when the teacher didn’t finish off a thought. That meant he was expected to. But, not knowing how, he studied the fine, but worn, wood of the table instead. Wood was a much better material for a bar than metal or plastic. Like the teacher, he preferred more of an old-school approach to tavern life.

One more sip of merlot while waiting to give the student time, then the teacher continued with a sigh, “That point would be, that the scientists themselves were manipulating things to bring about the result. They weren’t simply sitting there watching if it would happen on its own. In other words, intelligent beings, sort of, were creating the product. Their goal is to prove it can be done without an intelligent creator. So, they’re wrong on both counts. Number one, they weren’t making DNA from scratch. Number two, it was taking intelligent beings to even get as far as they did.”

“I thought you were all about encouraging discovery?”

“Discovery of truth; not ‘discoveries’ intended to ‘prove’ a false paradigm. Get your dictionary out.” He continued while the student reached for his pocket. “The existence of DNA is a fact. That it came about without an intelligent source is ludicrous. Look that up too. Do you know who is having the most fun with DNA currently?”

The student was hoping the question was rhetorical. The long pause shattered his wishes. “No,” he admitted.

“Computer programmers. When they see it, their eyes light up. They recognize it right away. It’s a code. It’s like they’re looking at an 8.0 version of something they couldn’t even get to a beta test on the first version.”

The teacher glanced at the student’s favorite waitress. In seconds another glass of merlot was set beside him. How does he do that? the student wondered. It takes me half an hour to get her attention.

“Imagine the amount of instructions in a production manual at the Ford plant to make a Shelby.” He knew the student liked cars.

“Yeah, I’ll bet it’s really big.” Excitedly he tried again to get the waitress’s attention. Almost supernaturally she avoided eye contact.

“I’m over here,” the teacher directed. “But, imagine how many pages it would be if Ford had to make the Shelby starting from one microscopic cell. That is, the Shelby would have to divide and grow, everything being developed at the right time in the right place. Beyond comprehension, isn’t it? Now, how much more complicated is a human than a car? Infinitely. And, can you imagine getting all that production information into a molecule that is so small you need a microscope to see it? Simply put, there is no chance that happened without an intelligent being.”

A stubborn part of the student began to harden. But a wise part began to soften. It was good to be put into a corner by the teacher, because he always showed you the way out; out into a much better place. A glance from the teacher and a Stella appeared before the student.

“So …” the student encouraged the teacher with a smile.

“So, I’d say that somebody designed that DNA molecule. Somebody with great intelligence, omniscience even. Sounding like someone you know? Take that fact and put it at the top of your pyramid. Adjust your base accordingly. Remove that theory in the middle that talks about us evolving. It never fit any of the facts anyway.”

“Imagine there’s no heaven,” sang William Godwin, “it’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people,” deceived and wondering why, finished the teacher.

Bob Branden is host of the podcast http://twomenandabible.podomatic.com/


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