| The Ascent
1//1/2012 -- Life is the universe experiencing itself.
Do your bones know that their atoms were made in an exploding star? Do they have a will of their own? No, they are like the limbs of a tree, only reacting to external forces as their DNA instructs -- different from a stone in but that one single way, which in itself is one step above that stone's reaction to volcanic heat or rain. The first DNA is the physical laws of nature. Heat, cold, wind and the various characteristics of each kind of molecule were all created by that first DNA -- the fundamental laws.
Science knows when they were forged, but not why they appeared.
Stones, exploding suns, rain and life. How did the last come out of the first three? And how did you, the strangest creation of the Cosmos, evolve out of them? Well, to get answers, you must ask questions. What difference, for example, is there between the tube worms that live on volcanic vents at the bottoms of oceans, and you? Often, what seems to be a big difference isn't. A whale's genetics, or gene sequence, is strikingly similar to yours. And the tube worms? The worms have bacteria in their guts which transform clouds of liquid volcanic sulfur into compounds which fuel the animal. Some say the the animals and plants in these places break an accepted rule of life. Water and sun. They do not have sun.
These bio-chemical processes use matter and energy. They are formed and shaped by a genetic code. Gravity, Electromagnetism, the Strong nuclear force and the Weak nuclear force (GESW) were the first instructions. Biology's double helix was created by them. Its genius makes ocean trench tube worms, professional sumo wrestlers and you.
GESW led to the ACTG helix. Helix number two.
The carbon in your body did not exist in the Cosmos for a long time. When the hydrogen gas clouds after the Big Bang began to condense into smaller clouds, and those clouds condensed into stars, then the first stars turned on, the table was set for life. While burning, then eventually exploding, those first stars and their nuclear forces made new elements. All the elements in the famous chemical table were made from the original hydrogen, and possibly some original helium. As the suns burned, they made heavier and heavier elements until they came to iron. To make an element heavier than iron, a standard explosion, a nova, won't cut the mustard. You need at least a super-nova. Gold is made in such titanic explosions inside later generation stars. That is also where we get elements, like uranium.
Water is made from two atoms -- the hydrogen that was there first, and the much heavier atom, oxygen, which was made in the stars.
H2O. No form of life ever discovered exists without the presence of water.
So, it was GESW that created water, and somehow as a result of that, ACTG appeared, guaranteeing that Charles Darwin's life wouldn't consist entirely of collecting dead insects. What I'm calling the first DNA somehow created the second DNA, then the second DNA, God Knows Why, created every plant, then animal, on the planet.
Nobody knows how that happened, Probably I should say "or why." But it happened, and every living thing on the Earth, most of which are gone,now, appeared.. Some were like this for a while, then changed into one of those, and then changed back. Whales were once a kind of land mammal, but for reasons of their own went back to the sea. DNA two spent many millions of years making life, including the mold-covered stromatolites -- mushroom-shaped things in shallow seawater which exhaled oxygen as a waste product (like trees do), turning the seas and the skies from green to blue and opening the door for life forms that live both in water and on land. It ended up giving dinosaurs something to breathe while chasing their dinner.
So, the earliest forms of life were plants. They reproduced by cell division, which still goes on inside you. (Skin cells divide constantly or you'd look Eighty by the time you reached the age of Five.) Then came sexual reproduction. Flowers use bees to do it. Coral reef life forms use a particular and specific moon for an egg timer as part of the same process. As I see it, animals, have improved the methodology from a Darwinian standpoint. After a while, both types moved onshore. Finally, came the apes, some varieties of which closely resemble modern humans.
Arthur C. Clarke
And, that is where my third DNA comes in. This is the DNA of humanity. Science says it's a genetic accident, a lucky, if logical, reaction to stress or opportunity. They don't see the progression from stage to stage as pre-ordained. They might take inevitable, but pre-ordained, never.
Man is like the design of a great sculptor shaping a big rock into a beautiful statue. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, scientist and science fiction author, A.C. Clark opens with some apes at a waterhole. They are chased away by larger apes, who claim the water hole for their own. During the night, a rectangular stone with the dimensions of one by four by nine (the squares of the numbers 1,2 and 3, appeared in their midst, and when the thirsty apes touched it, something happened. One of them looked at a large animal leg bone on the ground, then picked it up and began to pound on other bones with it. That, my friends, is the use of a tool to magnify the impact of a blow.
The next day, armed with such weapons, the thirsty apes retook the water hole from their bully relatives. Clearly, Clarke is implying that that was the moment. The point of change. The breakthrough instant of the departure from ape to human. The beginning of the species branching that would lead to beings who can build ships to set out from Earth, heading for the final frontier that is space.
Was it just a statistical biological DNA accident?
The change, according to the most recent genetic science, had to do with portions of the Ape-family (certain monkey species) that experienced something previously unknown. It has to do with "switches," or segments of the human DNA code which were once thought archaic and inoperable, but which now are known to be timers, activators which control when and how-long specific active genes for various physical components like brains, fingers, vocal chords and so forth operate during the early stages in the womb. (They paint the final living picture that emerges. As a foetus, you had the potential to have gills, but those switches controlled the creation of that area, turning it into a body part near your ear.)
We'll set aside the obvious fact, ignored by most scientists, that Clarke's stone monolith is clearly evidence of interference by "Intelligent Design." (A metaphor for God.) My point here is that the change in behavior exhibited in his story does not represent the change to human intelligence. It represents the last and highest "animal" stage. Apes and sea otters can do it.
Here is where Man began
To me, what we call God invented the whole thing, in the beginning, Man included.
I don't need a monolith to get around God because, as I see it, each stage of matter from clouds of hydrogen gas to one-celled life to us evolved from the original structure. (The first DNA, or the laws of physics.) All stages of life from stromatolites to Einstein can be described as inevitable developments arising from the initial design. If that isn't true, then the First Cause, the Big Bang and the Primordial Ylem it came from, is the only effect in the history of the Cosmos that didn't have a cause.
How scientists -- whose entire lives are about discovering causes -- can reject God and leave Original Cause as the only event in the history of the Universe without a cause is beyond me.
Here is the truth. It has to do with a gate that only your species passed through. A miraculous departure from all other things and life forms ever to appear on this planet.
The key difference between you, a tube worm and a blue whale is that you have the ability to learn that these things exist and how these things are accomplished. A monkey makes a tool from a stout stalk of grass, and pokes it in a hole in a tree to spear the grub hidden in the bark. A California Sea Otter puts a stone on its stomach while floating upside-down on the surface and strikes shells on the stone to get at the soft tissue inside.
But, primitive Man was born with the ability to evaluate and imagine. Not just to use, but to improve. His brain allowed him to test which was the best tool for the job and if necessary, invent a tool.
The difference between Man and all other animals -- the instant the two paths diverged -- if you wish to take the secular path -- was when Man put a handle on the spear point and the axe. That was the first thing in history that what we call nature did not create. Stones cannot use. Animals can use, even shape a tool. But, it took the brain of Man to construct a tool made of more than one part. (A match for Clarke's one, two and three?) The handle, the blade or spear point and the sinew that combined them into a device. God or secular accident, that represented the moment of departure. Awareness, symbolic abstraction, the beginning of invention. No wonder Steve Jobs used an apple with a bite out of it for his corporate symbol.
That is why I have long disagreed with the PhD's. Any ape can make a tool. Only Man can imagine a way to make a task easier, then make a device that can do it.
Man is not the tool maker. He is the device maker -- the predecessor of Homo Agricolae, the farmer, who invented irrigation and the plow -- and from there took over the entire planet.
Inanimate matter, life and Man. Stages one, two and three, the inevitable evolutions of the Architect's original design.
The Genesis of the Universe and Science and Creation Myth
© 2012 Oregon Magazine