Sunday, 13 August 2017

Is the earth alive?



Until only the last decade or so there appeared to be a widespread belief among most biologists that life on earth was not really that mysterious. (Many physicists and most engineers did not share this view.)

Admittedly there was much to learn but ultimately it was just a matter of finding the mechanisms by which atoms and molecules had accidently arranged themselves into reproducing entities which by random genetic mutations and natural selection would evolve into a bewildering plethora of competing viable species of  bacteria, insects, reptiles, fish, birds and mammals.  It all started with 20 different kinds of amino acid molecules being thrown together by chance to produce the first organisms able to reproduce and with the potential to differentiate into future species in a way which would ultimately lead to the biosphere we know today. There was admittedly a growing recognition that cooperation between species, as in symbiosis, played a role but it was all driven by chance and selection pressure.

The widespread appearance of design was considered illusory - but not even neo-Darwinists ever suggested that design did not seem to be present.

Now this picture is beginning to be recognised by most scientists, even many neo-Darwinists, to be at best inadequate and probably fundamentally wrong.

1.SPECIATION. This is observed mainly in  bacteria and some insects but as far as I am aware (I only have the knowledge of the interested layman) no new bird or mammal species has occurred since humans appeared a few tens of thousands of years ago. One occasionally hears about a 'new' species but this always means 'newly discovered', unless it is a bacterium.

2.MUTATIONS. The so called random mutations which give rise to new species of bacteria while intrinsically stochastic do not occur anywhere in the organism at random - they only happen where they lead to a viable variation of some kind.

3.EPIGENETICS. Learned behaviour and acquired characteristics are passed on down the generations. The gene is not the master. What determines the behaviour and characteristics of a organism is what genes are turned on or off and the instructions for this somehow get passed to the offspring. What you learn now on how to cope with your environment can be passed on to future generations. How many generations is not known.  I saw one paper recently talking about 18 generations but I can't remember at this moment what kind of life it was.


4.COOPERATION betweeen species seems to be common throughout the ecosphere, This, as far as I am aware, occurs for all types of life, from bacteria to mammals, both within one type of life and between different kinds of life.

5.BIOLOGY AND GEOLOGY INTERACT. For instance, vegetation in prehistoric times lubricated the movements of rocks in a way which led to certain patterns of tectonic activity which indirectly affected earthquakes, volcanoes, vegetation, animal life and human settlements today.

6.INTELLIGENCE is ubiquitous in nature. New examples appear in the scientific press almost daily whether it is insects solving the 'travelling salesman problem' or crows using twigs as tools . A clue as to how this intelligence is achieved may lie in recent quantum biological investigations into photosynthesis and bird migration.

7.PURPOSE.  Everything from an embryonic stem cell to the leader of a lion pack in some sense knows its purpose and behaves accordingly. In his book Improbable Planet the astrophysicist Hugh Ross cites a wealth of meticulously referenced evidence to support the thesis that the entire cosmic history is directed towards the realisation of human civilisation.

8.QUANTUM ENTANGLEMENT. Physicists since the mid 20th century have been aware that molecules, atoms and other particles are able to interact independently of separation. This interaction is instantaneous, and so independent of time. In principle it is possible for particles on opposite sides of the universe to interact regardless of future, present or past. The controversial reports of learning within a species being passed without human intervention to another in a different part of the world should be seen in the light of this and the intergenerational information transfer proven in epigenetics (item 3 above).

While not inferring here  anything about the philosophical or theological implications of this emerging picture it worries me that many scientists, in particular biologists and cosmologists, are made uncomfortable by it. They also show great reluctance to accept, if not a fear of, the hyperfine tuning of the initial state of the universe for life  (e.g. gravitational constant, dark energy, electromagnetic constant, initial mass and initial entropy, to name only a few, are finely balanced to permit living systems to function). Yet the scientist's role is to discover truths about the world, not pretend they don't exist.

Some cosmologists have been so nonplussed by the Big Bang model (first conceived by a Roman Catholic priest), the fine tuning and the teleological evolution of the universe that they resort to invoking chance under the auspices of parallel or multiple universes which by definition cannot be experimentally verified, rather than focus on understanding the real universe we live in, over 90% of which is a total mystery..

Many young people regard scientists as priests and expect them to be guardians of the search for truth. If humanity is to continue to progress the holding of truth as a sacred target is its most precious resource. Popular science, e.g. BBC's Horizon, or the Discovery Channel or science articles in the press, need to acknowledge and discuss these aspects of the world. Otherwise instead of a new generation of scientists respecting God and truth we risk a descent into alchemy under magic.

John Sears
author, 2077:Knights of Peace

Father James reflects on God's universe

Father James is a character from the novel 2077: Knights of Peace
Image result for universe

Travelling between Earth and the monastery on Mars I feel especially close to the Almighty God.

Why should this be? The environment of space is mainly sterile, apart from a few hardy types of bacteria, as are all the stars within it. I get a similar but less intense feeling when I look at the Moon while standing in open country on Earth. Yet the Moon is a barren ball of rock, almost  lifeless.

I look upon the Moon as part of God's creation illuminated by the Sun, the source of life's energy, to reveal its beauty to creatures that can experience it. The fact that it looks the same size in the sky gives a sense of everything being set up by a deity for some purpose. (As some cadets have pointed out during Enlightenment, the very existence of life on earth depends on the moon-earth system being exactly as it is. Praise the Lord.) 

 The ancients thought the Moon, planets and stars had something to do with God, and they were right. Today we understand the schemes and mechanisms by which they shine and are formed; we know how to describe them and even predict their movements and their critical role in allowing life on our planet; but why they should be there we can only wonder.

The panorama I get from the Confucius viewing port starkly places before me the celestial drama and omnipotence of the godhead. In the latter part the 20th and in the early 21st century many thought the very size and complexity of the universe earth showed we were of no significance in the scheme of things, that our planet was a pointless fluke in a meaningless universe, a mere grain of sand in the desert. Now we know that humanity is the whole point of God's creation. The home He has made for us, this Garden of Eden oasis, is uniquely beautiful, richly alive, wondrously intricate and fuitful beyond understanding. To create it he needed to create a universe. The universe, from flower to Milky Way, is made for us and is needed for our existence.

To quote from the introductory text used in the Enlightenment programme for both cadet Knights and dominophiles:

 Had the universe not been exactly this massive - to the weight of a coin - during its early expansion stage, had its initial degree of disorder not been exactly as it was, had the laws of physics been slightly different, the physical constants wrong by a hair's breadth, had not the celestial events leading to the earth's formation been orchestrated as they were and had life not been designed as it is, then humanity's origin and history could not have occurred. For this we must thank the Lord.

Technology, through the Grace of Our Lord, allows us not only to observe but to visit and experience other planets. It also allows us to delve further into the secrets of physics, life and the universe. By the creativity within us, being made in God's image, we invent new technology. As we do so, and stay humble, our faith in his benevolence strengthens, our wonderment at his majesty magnifies, our joy in the unfolding  dimensions of being is intensified, our praise of Him grows and we are eternally thankful to have this bountiful, beautiful planet to return to after experiencing the stark but faith affirming beauty of the worlds beyond.

Glory be to God the Father. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.


Click  here for the cumulative writings of Father James.




Monday, 17 July 2017

Apollo moon programme : the God factor


 There is in the western secular establishment an ongoing and insidious movement to expunge Christianity from public life, a process which I believe will lead to untold social and political problems as the spiritual basis of the western democracy is removed. The story below shows how this was beginning to happen c.1970, as exemplified in these  background stories of the Apollo moon missions.

Even after some promising changes to the American judiciary following the 2016 election it  still raises eyebrows if 'God' , the very kernel of reality, is mentioned in public life.


 It was Christmas Eve 1968 when the message of Genesis chapter 1 streamed from Apollo 8, in orbit around the moon, into our small black and white TV set. Each of the three astronauts in turn read a short passage. I was a science-obsessed agnostic at the time but 



click below

 for a video on the astounding story behind this photograph.

it stirred me deep down because it said that God was a real presence and power in the Universe, albeit a transcendental one, even though most of the time I either half acknowledged our Creator’s existence or was unaware of it entirely. It also revealed vividly to the world that humankind was one species on one precious planet in a vast universe.

Madalyn O’Hair, it appears, was also stirred; but in her case it was to anger and hatred. She brought a lawsuit against NASA for promoting religion.  From thenceforth astronauts and NASA as an organisation would be forbidden from associating themselves with Christianity. She had already succeeded in getting prayer banned in US state schools, after which crime levels by young people rapidly escalated. Her speech showed deep phobia against Christianity and was sometimes vitriolic, peppered with four letter words.

The lawsuit, based on the separation of church and state, forbade future astronauts from religious rituals during missions. They saw this as an infringement of their rights under the First Amendment and various subterfuges took place. The following is based on an excellent article in Spaceflight (Dec 2011), On the Wings of Apollo by Dwight Williams:

  • Aldrin wanted to take Holy Communion on the Moon during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission and so smuggled aboard a ‘communion kit’ in a pouch, part of his Personal Preference Kit. He took Communion shortly after landing on 20 July and read out John 5:15 from a card: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains  in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit....’ 



  • The Apollo 11 crew left a silicon disc on the Moon with the voices of world leaders, including Psalms read by Pope Paul VI.



  • The Rev John Stout, inspired by the devout Ed White who died in the Apollo 1 fire of 1967, started the Apollo Prayer League with 40,000 members and resolved to have bibles placed on the Moon. 300 microfilm bibles were indeed smuggled aboard Apollo 14 by Ed Mitchell.



  • Ed Mitchell of Apollo 14 announced at a business conference that the Apollo 13 mission had been saved from disaster by public prayers after its oxygen tank had exploded. Mitchell, I understand, had an IQ of 180  and proposed theories concerning the nature of awareness, quantum physics and the interconnectedness of life.
Madalyn O'Hare, the founder of American Atheists, had a tragic life. In 1993 she and one of her sons, Jon Murray, and her grand daughter Robin Murray O'Hare were murdered and mutilated by the former office manager of the American Atheists, David Roland Waters. The details are complex but it appears to have been the result of a financial dispute. Kyrie Eleison.

To me it is heartening to note that her son William J Murray is now the leader of a Christian church and author of My Life Without God. 

Western critics of Christianity, who are usually comfortably off,  should take a hard look at the world and ask themselves whether there are any nations without a Christian heritage where they would rather live. The West can be criticized for its past and it repeatedly rebukes itself; but by what standards, if not those of Christ?



John

cosmik.jo@gmail.com