Saturday, June 28, 2008

WHO DOES WHAT?

"Do you think that I know what I'm doing?
That for one breath or half-breath I belong to myself?

As much as a pen knows what it's writing,

or the ball can guess where it's going next."
Rumi

Our mothers taught us to chew our food. But after we chomp down a few times on whatever it is that is in our mouths, we don't really digest that food, do we? It is done for us. And when we want to make a baby, those little gyrations that we do together, as profoundly satisfying and bonding as that experience may be, we are not really making babies are we? At most we are turning on the switch, or, perhaps more appropriately, plugging in the plug. It is done for us. Aside from the occasional times that we perform for our doctors, we don't really do breathing, and we certainly don't oxygenate our blood supply which is the result of that breathing. It is done for us. Really, we are being breathed. We don't circulate our blood and we don't grow ourselves. It is done for us. When we have an overwhelming desire for a piece of cherry pie, we don't put that desire in our bodies, that desire whose satisfaction simultaneously gives us intense pleasure and supplies us with vital nutrition, do we? It is done for us. And when we find the smell of that fresh baked pie absolutely intoxicating, we don't put those sensors in our nose that allow us to have that experience, do we? It is done for us. And when we race over to the pantry to grab a plate and fork and seat ourselves at the table, we don't provide ourselves with all that equipment (our muscles and bones and nervous system) that allows us to move wherever our desires take us, do we? It is done for us. And when we find the taste of that pie, as we are chomping down on it, to be too delicious to adequately describe, we don't put those taste buds in our mouths that allow us to have those sensations, do we? It is done for us.


For the last two hundred years or more, we have learned about many biological processes that take place in our bodies. Everyone now knows that we digest, we reproduce, we eliminate, we metabolize, we grow, etc., etc. But all of these are misnomers. We do not actually do any of the biological things that are happening in our bodies. We may, acting on our desires, do things that initiate certain processes. But even those desires, the ones that are integral to our survival, like the desire to eat, to drink, to sleep, to have sex, come from urges put in our bodies that we automatically react to. Everything that happens biologically within our bodies, is being done for us.


Now let's get much smaller. Our bodies contain one hundred trillion cells. And over the last one hundred years we have learned, thanks to the microscope, and many sophisticated forms of chemical analysis, about many biological processes that happen within these cells. One of the important functions of cells is growth. Our bodies grow as various cells replicate. But the cells know no more about how they biologically replicate than we know about how we biologically reproduce. It is done for them. And when they replicate the cells don't say, "I think I'll replicate now, because little Joey needs a bigger arm." When they replicate and how often is not coordinated by the cells, it is done for them. Cells don't really 'figure out' how to make anti-bodies to protect them and us from a wide variety of viruses and bacteria that might invade their cell walls and harm them, do they? Cells know no more about producing antibodies than we know about producing blood, sweat and saliva. It is done for them and for us. And enzymes are manufactured in the cells, enzymes that keep us alive and keep all our biological processes working. But our cells don't decide, "Hmm, I think Dr. Dawkins needs a little more glyoxalase. Let's see, where among these three billion genes did I put that glyoxolase sequence? Ah, yes here it is. I'll just copy it, move the copy over to my ribosome and manufacture a little." Cells don't really know how to manufacture enzymes, do they? It is done for them. And although all the ten quadrillion biological processes that are taking place at each moment in the cells of our bodies are all synchronized and coordinated, it is not our cells that are synchronizing and coordinating these processes with each other, are they? You don't think that same cell of Dr. Dawkins calls five hundred million of his neighbor cells on his phone (a cell phone) and says, "Listen Molly(or Dora, or Irving or Stinky) I was thinking of making a little glyoxalase this morning. Are you making any, because I don't want to make too much?" Cells don't communicate with each other. It is done for them and for us.


Cells have multitudes of molecules within them, just as we have multitudes of cells within us. Cells know no more about what their molecules are doing than we know about what are cells are doing. If we, who are the supposed pinnacle of evolution, know nothing about our cell's activities, how can we imagine that our cells, which are supposedly only the beginning of evolution, know anything about what their molecules are doing? They don't. The knowledge of our cells' activities and the coordination of our cells' activities are not known or coordinated by us. They are done for us. The knowledge of a cell's molecular activities and the coordination of those molecular activities is not known or coordinated by the cells. It is done for them and for us.


Now lets get a whole lot smaller than that. Thanks to the electron microscope, and ever more sophisticated instrumentation and analysis, including DNA microarrays, X-ray chromosome analysis and single molecule sequencing, we now know that each human cell contains some three billion pairs of nucleotides. Some twenty thousand stretches of these nucleotide pairs are arranged in codes which are recipes for enzymes; the basic building blocks of all the physical ingredients that make up our bodies. Do the nucleotides arrange themselves into codes so that the body can manufacture enzymes? No, of course not. Do letters form themselves into novels? Do numbers form themselves into equations? It is done for them and for us. Do these genetic sequences or the cells in which they are housed figure out when to copy these different sequences to provide the body with its moment to moment needs? No. It is done for them and for us. Do these nucleotides control the construction of our bodies, so that the enzymes that are manufactured are combined with other enzymes to form proteins and then shaped and imbued with function and purpose to create the organs of our bodies? No, of course not. Not even Michaelangelo could come anywhere close to creating and molding such precise shapes; how could we be insane enough to imagine submicroscopic pieces of nucleic acid doing any such thing. It is done for them and for us.


Modern science's understanding of life begins when a DNA molecule, or a molecule similar to DNA, containing a genome, an entire set of genes, which it supposedly had accumulated by an amazing series of fortuitous coincidences, including thousands of week long lightning strikes and its thousands or millions of organic components somehow bonding and staying in tact for millions of years; when this molecule replicated, or, as Richard Dawkins says, 'began to make exact copies of itself;' that was the beginning of life and evolution. But this, of course, is also a misnomer. A replicating molecule does not replicate itself. It is a molecule. It has no self. It does not replicate. IT IS REPLICATED. Replication is done for it and for us. Even if you accept Dawkins' perspective and his time line, you must say accurately, that life began when a DNA or a DNA type molecule was replicated. And if it was replicated, who replicated it?


Dear God, dear Allah, dear Cosmic Consciousness, dear Tao, dear Brahma, dear Atman, dear Great Father: please forgive our scientific brothers and sisters. In their enthusiasm to find out all the things that You have been doing on this physical plane, they forgot that You were the One that was doing them.




Please feel free to comment.

11 comments:

Ben said...

Matt,
I like that "it's all done for us" argument. It implies that 'Mind' or 'Consciousness' does it, and therefore Mind or Consciousness is the basis of Existence rather than dumb matter. However, it also suggests free will is low on the priority list. Do you think?

Matt Chait said...

Ben,
I appreciate your feedback. Two things I should mention in regard to free will:
1. What I am trying to say in this post, and please forgive me if I wasn't clear enough, was that what is done for you are the biological processes that support your life and that allow you to have your own 'piece' of consciousness and mind that enable you to experience things, make decisions and choices.
2. The issue of free will on a deeper level, like whether or not you 'chose' this life, is connected very much to the relationship between God, or the cosmic consciousness and man. I will be writing more about that in a new post called 'The Game of Life,' but I do think, briefly, that we began as part of the One and chose this separate existence.

The most important issue of free will is not whether or not we can choose our fate, but whether or not we can choose the way that we experience whatever fate has been dealt to us. And if we are able to change the context within which we experience that fate, then the content of that experience will automatically change as well.

Ben said...

Nicely put, Matt! Your thinking is ahead of me on free-will. I look forward to 'The Game of Life'. I have mentioned your website to Michael Prescott, and I hope very much he'll draw attention to it.

Michael H said...

Excellent blog, Matt. I'm looking forward to working through your other posts as I get the chance.

In the meantime, if you haven't seen it before, I thought you might like to read a piece published last year in the American Scholar by Robert Lanza (vice president of research and scientific development at Advanced Cell Technology and a professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine).

His premise dovetails with what you are pointing to, although he's addressing the biological foundation of space and time itself.

I think we are on the verge of some sort of paradigm shift of significant proportions. The essence of the shift will be the accepted understanding that the mystics are actually the realists, and always have been.

:-)

Anonymous said...

This is a really good article and it almost reinforces my previous belief in fate that was getting a little clouded. However, as a biology student, I must advise you to get your facts straight. There is one sentence in this article that tears at my heart strings. You claim that cells do not communicate with each other. What do you call cell to cell signaling then? I'm sorry, but when you spend several weeks learning about signaling, it is cruel to read a sentence that claims that cells do not communicate. Other than that, I enjoyed reading this article.

Matt Chait said...

Anonymous,
I appreciate your comments but I think you missed the main point of the post. Because signals are moving between cells does not mean that the cells, themselves, are communicating. If I am talking to you on the phone, there are signals that are moving from my phone to yours, but the phones are not communicating, we are. There are ten quadrillion cellular processes taking place at every moment in your body that are perfectly synchronized and coordinated. This miraculous feat is accomplished not by the cells but by God or the cosmic consciousness whose intention it is to keep you alive. To say that the cells are doing this makes no more sense than saying that the keys of a piano are playing a concerto or that telephones are having conversations. They are simply the equipment that allows these human intentions, like the desire to make music or to talk to someone, or divine intentions, like keeping us alive and functional, possible.

Ben said...

Matt, I support you and really love your blog. When I put your latest point on Communication to a biologist (who refused to read it, by the way), he said, “I don’t see the need to go beyond cellular communication to find WANT or DESIRE. Consider hunger. As each cell gets into distress, it sends a signal to the brain, co-ordinating the needs of the organism as a whole. When millions of cells are signalling, hunger gets worse. So we eat. It’s stimulus and response.”
I wasn’t quite sure how to answer this. Can you think of a way I can get through to him? (By the way, the Post A Comment link is missing at the bottom of your latest essay)

Matt Chait said...

Ben,
I very much appreciate your support and Michael's. I'm not sure what the problem is with the Comment link, but it seems to be working now. I will respond to your comment at the end of 'Communication.' Thanks.

Michael Prescott said...

Hi Matt,

I very much enjoy your blog, but I have a question about a number you frequently cite:

we now know that each human cell contains some three billion genes

Sources I've consulted put the number much lower than this. For instance, this Web page estimates that there are fewer than 30,000 protein-coding genes.

A Wiki article reads:

"The haploid human genome (23 chromosomes) is estimated to be about 3 billion base pairs long and to contain 20,000-25,000 distinct genes."

Perhaps your estimate of three billion applies to base pairs, rather than to genes?

Matt Chait said...

Michael,
Thank you for the comment, and I very much appreciate your support and your fascinating blog. Some scientists now refer to gene sequences, which are long chains of genes that have been discovered to produce particular enzymes, simply as 'genes.' By far, however, the great majority of genes, and I use that in the original sense of a base pair of adenine, guanine,cytosine or thymine, make up the so-called 'junk' DNA for which science has found no observable use. I think the term 'base-pairs' is now used instead of the term 'genes' to imply that those found in junk DNA are of lesser value. I believe, however, that DNA, in addition to its observable function of enzyme production, also functions in an unobservable way as a receiver, and for this function all the genes, not just those relative few that are identified in gene sequences; and their spatial relation to each other; and the unique way that they are enfolded in the nucleus or spatially related in the cytoplasm of prokaryotes, is vitally important, not in determining the mix of enzymes, but in determining shapes and in attracting to it the particular dreamer, the particular being with a unique set of desires that we were before we had this body.

Matt Chait said...

One more thing Michael. The word gene comes from the word generate. Base pairs that were not part of enzyme manufacture sequences were no longer considered genes, because it was felt that they didn't generate anything. But if all that is generated is enzymes,then I wouldn't be writing this comment. I would be a lifeless, soulless, inanimate puddle of proteins. So, I am not diminishing the value of genes. I am exalting them. But I exalt them not for what they do by 'themselves' because they do nothing by themselves. I exalt them because they are the instrument through which divine intentions are translated into physical form.