Friday, April 20, 2007

INTELLIGENCE

How is it that we, as a society, have become so convinced that the only intelligence in the universe is our human intelligence? Let's look at the animal kingdom. Migratory birds, with their 'bird brains' can effortlessly locate five hundred hidden items of food and construction materials for nests, that they had buried a year earlier. These same migratory birds can recreate a flight pattern of a thousand miles after experiencing it once. We are outwitted by our pet dogs when we play tag with them in our own backyards. These, of course, are examples of 'instinct' rather than intelligence. Instinct means that it is not the animal's own intelligence that is being used, but the intelligence of......what?

As was said earlier, intelligence cannot be observed directly. It can only be surmised based on one's words, behaviors and constructions. The more complex the construction, the more intelligence is assumed in the constructor. When one's words seem insightful, seem true to life, or reveal some aspect of life, the author is applauded for his talent and intelligence. When a painting or a story or a piece of music seems to express something profound or real about life, the author is acclaimed for her insight and brilliance. Although we ascribe intelligence to the degree to which a person's words or artistic achievements reveal some aspect of life, we accord no intelligence to the most complex construction of all, life itself.


Biology is the study of life, at least semantically that's what it means. In reality, biology is the study of organic matter. This matter, at least while it is part of a living being, and not when it is frozen with a fixative on a slide and viewed in a microscope, is engaged in myriad activities. Energy is coursing through this 'matter' and so is intelligence. Biologists are determined to explain everything they observe purely in physical terms. The more minutely they study organic matter, the more amazingly complex and 'intelligent' it gets, but their determination not to see any sign of intelligence is absolutely astounding.


Let's look at the manufacture of enzymes, which takes place millions of times in the one hundred trillion cells of your body every day. Over three billion genes are folded over and over again inside the nucleus of each cell. The nucleus is surrounded by a membrane which protects it from anything harmful that might come floating through the cell's cytoplasm. When a cell needs a certain enzyme produced, another enzyme moves to that exact location in the nuclear membrane that separates the needed piece of genetic code from the cytoplasm and this enzyme opens a hole in the membrane. Then, more enzymes separate the strand of DNA that contains the code from its partnered strand so that the needed code is pressed up against the opening in the membrane. Then another molecule, RNA, attaches to the exposed code and 'copies' it. More enzymes close the hole in the membrane and more enzymes help the DNA strand reattach to it's partner strand. Then the RNA with the copied code travels through the cytoplasm to a ribosome molecule which 'reads' the code and manufactures the needed protein. This process goes on millions of times every day within your body. Oh, yes, and not to worry about mistakes made with all this reading and transcribing. There are other enzymes that 'proofread' and correct mistakes in all these processes. Currently some of these processes are considered 'understood' and some are considered 'not yet understood'. By that is meant that many of the enzymes involved in the process have been identified and named and other enzymes have not yet been identified and named.


Let's suppose that everything were 'completely understood' in those terms. Let's suppose that we could specify every enzyme and every molecule that was used in all of these processes. Would we, then, completely understand how enzymes and proteins were manufactured? How does the cell know what enzyme it needs? I know when I need something to eat. I know when I need some sleep, but I am recognized as a modestly intelligent being. How does the cell know precisely what enzyme it needs out of thousands of possibilities if it has no intelligence? I could probably go to the Library of Congress and find a particular article I needed with the help of a librarian and a computer, because, once again, I am a human being with some intelligence and sophistication. Yet, how does that microscopic droplet of enzyme know exactly where to locate the needed genetic information in the nucleosome, which, by the way, contains more information than the Library of Congress?


One thing I absolutely cannot do, intelligent or not, is replicate anything. If a magician puts a ball under a handkerchief, waves a wand, and then pulls off the handkerchief to reveal two balls, we try to figure out the trick. We look for the place where the second ball was hidden. Was it up his sleeve or inside the lapel of his jacket? If he said, "No, actually the second ball was created from the first ball, it's brand new and identical to the first," would we believe him, or be all the more determined to find out the 'truth' to this deception. Yet this 'magic' act of replication happens trillions of times over in our bodies as DNA 'synthesizes' new DNA and genetic code is 'copied' on to the RNA molecule. In the magic trick, if the magician told us that he was going to reveal the 'truth' of his trick and then described the chemical contents of the first ball and then followed this with the chemical contents of both balls (which I guess would be twice what the first one was) would the magic trick, then, be 'completely understood'? Would he have revealed the 'truth' of the trick, or would he have completely ignored it? So, is this great mystery of DNA replication understood or has it been ignored? Do we understand or do we pretend to understand? And all this is only the least mysterious part of replication, because replication involves the whole cell and not just DNA. The replicated cell is just as willful, just as committed to its survival, just as determined to replicate, just as able to grow and manufacture a variety of enzymes at the precise appropriate moment as the original cell. Will, discernment and intelligence has been replicated along with material. Because we live in a world where these miraculous replications happen countless times at every moment of our existence, does not make them any less miraculous. Let's not delude ourselves into thinking that, because we have identified some of the enzymes and proteins involved in the process, that it is in any way 'understood' or that we have, in any way, removed intelligence from replication.


It's quite amazing really. Scientists call the genes instructions to the cell. If you say, well then who or what is giving these instructions and who or what is receiving these instructions, they will say, no, they aren't really instructions, that's just our way of anthropomorphizing the process so that it can be understood. But what other way could it be understood? What would giving and receiving and executing billions of instructions mean if there weren't some intelligence to give and receive and execute these instructions? When that microscopic drop of enzyme goes directly to the precise piece of code that is needed, how does that droplet know what enzyme is needed and how does it locate that particular piece of code among the billions of pieces of code in the nucleosome? Again, how can you imagine such a thing without intelligence? Does the ribosome read the code from the RNA? We use all these verbs to describe what is going on in a cell that imply intelligence, that make no sense without intelligence, verbs like instructing and reading and transcribing and proofreading, and yet we refuse to see any intelligence in it.


This is what happens when we start our observations on the physical, visible, plane and refuse to make causal inferences to the spiritual, invisible plane. How did Albert Einstein come up with the theory of relativity? He made one vertical line with three horizontal lines attached to it and that gave him the E. Then, he made two horizontal lines, one underneath the other, and that gave him the =. He followed this with two vertical lines attached two two slanted lines which yielded the M, one curved line which gave him the C and, for his coup de grace, he took a curved line and attached a horizontal line to the bottom of it, and he was done; E=MC2. See, now we completely understand the theory of relativity!



Please feel free to comment.

4 comments:

Jon said...

I am amazed...your ideas are almost exactly like mine! Scientists deny the "supernatural" while Fundamentalists deny science. You have done a masterful job of putting Intelligence in proper perspective. We're all swimming in Cosmic Consciousness.

Ben said...

Matt,
This is a very important essay.

Michael Prescott has today linked to your post on "Intelligence".

Keep up the good work!

Andre du Plessis said...

Hmm, yes I have always wondered about what makes a dog, a dog and a human, a human. Why does a dog not have a human's conciousness and vice versa. Why does one look at one person and like them and not another person ? It is not 1+1 simplicity. We observe many things put the origin of that observation is what I ponder about.

Michael said...

Good post!!!

The cell needs intelligence to operate no question about it. Even a evolutionary scientist at NASA says a cell needs software...

Just like a regular machine, the design was made by someone intelligent, the raw materials were made, then the machine was put together, otherwise the machine doesn't function.