Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Cell -- Small Wonder

Searching through dusty picture albums of my early childhood, I find snapshots of my toddler years do not resemble those taken at my wedding. They bear even less resemblance to my appearance today. Likewise, my high school and college biology textbooks would not compare well with the texts in use today. Molecular biology was in its infancy during the Dwight Eisenhower administration. Today it has achieved adulthood.

Knowledge of what occurs inside the cell has multiplied exponentially in the past six decades. One of my primary basic resources is the ever-popular Biology by Neil A. Campbell and Jane B. Reece. In its 1231 pages of text, my sense of wonder and worship is heightened as I study it and contemplate the secrets of life our Creator has enabled man to discover. At mid-20th century, biologists basically knew what occurs inside the cell, but not very much about how things occur. They did not know the structure of DNA, how it functions as a code, how the information in the code translates to an instructional system, and finally, how many thousands of proteins needed to build the body are actually synthesized.

To illustrate, when we were young, we recognized the splendor of Grandmother’s completed Thanksgiving dinner. Years later when we became adults, however, we became fully aware of the many intricate steps necessary in procuring, preparing, processing, and presenting such a magnificent feast.

In the last sixty years we have discovered the structure of the cell’s molecular genetic material. We now know how its information storage and transfer mechanisms work and how the synthesis of thousands of new proteins needed for life actually occurs. The essentials of this knowledge were in place fairly early after the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure and composition. Noted biologist Sydney Brenner (b. 1927) stated in 1963 that nearly all of molecular biology’s classic problems had been solved or soon would be. One could compare solving these classic problems to ascending a steep slope on our way to achieving our goal of reaching a broad plateau. The ascent may be slow and difficult, but it makes possible exploration of the potential of the broad plateau. For example, we have now sequenced the complete human genome, making possible treatment of some diseases. And we have the potential ability to create artificial, non-natural microbes for possible production of new fuel sources. The possibilities are almost limitless.

Scripture (Daniel 12:4) refers to an increase in human knowledge during the end times. Proliferation of knowledge has never been harmful when achieved with the help of God’s wisdom and for God’s purposes. Increased knowledge of cell function, cosmology, particle physics, earth sciences, and digital technology are God-enabled gifts to man. We are able to see and understand the works of God in ways impossible a few generations ago. Knowledge of our intelligently designed universe and its life forms enables man to make a more intelligent choice in accepting the reality of the work of the Creator, or even choosing willfully to deny it.