August 7, 2014

In Their Own Words XII: A Cell Is A World Of Supreme Technology

Insulin-Secreting Mammalian Cell-Golgi Region
[Partial 3D Model of Cell]
Dr. Brad Marsh
Institute for Molecular Bioscience
University of Queensland

Michael Denton is a British-Australian biochemist. He is a renowned expert on genetics, evolution and the anthropic argument for design. It follows that he would be an expert on the construction of biological cells. Because of his pro-design presuppositions of nature, he tends to take an anti-Darwinian evolutionary position. Sadly though, Denton has firmly rejected biblical creationism as a viable alternative to Darwinism. In his favor, he categorically denied that randomness accounts for the complex biology of living organisms. Having said this he has also made some pretty profound statements about the field in which he spends his working day. One of those statements is a follows.
“To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times until it is twenty kilometers in diameter and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York. What we would then see would be an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design. On the surface of the cell we would see millions of openings, like the port holes of a vast space ship, opening and closing to allow a continual stream of materials to flow in and out. If we were to enter one of those openings we would then find ourselves in a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity…" ~ Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory In Crisis (1985)
What has Denton just described here? An airship, a spaceship? On the surface, yes he has. There is more here. Essentially he has described an object that was ideally designed to perform a purposeful function. He also uses other descriptions and metaphors that warrant mentioning. He mentions “port holes” or ports, “continual stream of materials” flowing “in and out” of said entity. If one was to enter this object it would be a “world” or effectively a place of, “supreme technology and bewildering complexity.”

Denton hasn't just said technology here, he has said supreme technology. The word technology and its classical definition comes from the Greek τέχνη/ techne which means "art, skill, cunning of hand" and λογία, logia which is the "making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization all in order to solve a problem." Again, it says art, skill, organization and solutions…all are hallmarks of intelligence based in a design. 

Furthermore, the modern definition of technology is:

The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry.

These are all specifically endeavors or actions of a sentient being(s). Denton states that the cell is a supreme form of these. Denton who is an expert in biochemistry is making an authoritative statement here. The word supreme is an adjective akin to absolute, transcendent...divine. What he is saying is the cell is exceptionally designed and is a system that functions with exceptional skill. It is the sum product of a design akin to an art form yet it is utilitarian and built specifically for function. Bauhaus anyone (harmony between function and design)?

What else it Denton describing? He is essentially describing a healthy active city or even a fully interdependent world. A city that houses humans and other life forms. Life forms that are made up of the very things that Denton is describing.

A healthy living cell.

Cities are (to a greater or lesser extent) broken down into neighborhoods and functional areas just like body systems such as respiratory, lymphatic, etc. The city systems are made up of even smaller entities namely people (individual cells). These neighborhoods/systems and individuals/cells are all working together in a symbiotic manner to the greater good of the whole. I don’t see this as ironic or accidental. It is planned and designed from top to bottom. Like gravitates to like and similar to similar. Societies become the sum whole of the individual human entities. The human entities become the sum whole of individual cells. All working to move history and society along. All interdependent, all symbiotic, all miraculously harmonized.

If we look closely at the human body at the cellular lever we can begin to make out things like the white blood cell. Although similar to many other cells in the body, in a sense it is far less free than those other cells. Similar to an individual person with a sense of duty in society (like a soldier), a larger organism determines the white blood cell’s duties. Sometimes the white blood cell will even need to sacrifice its life for the sake of that organism in a war against foreign aggressors. Unlike the evolutionary theory it is supposed to adhere to, the white blood cell does not flee danger…it moves toward it in sacrifice to save the system.

I sometimes think of the human body as a community, and then of its individual cells such as the white cell. The cell is the basic unit of an organism; it can live for itself, or it can help form and sustain the larger organism. I recall the Apostle Paul's use of analogy in 1 Corinthians 12 where he compares the church of Christ to the human body. In this passage Paul shows the unity and diversity in the body both holistically and at the individual level. Although he is referring to the Church and the human body, he could’ve very well have been referring to the relationship between individual cells and a man. It is a beautifully orchestrated symphony of design created by a Master Musician as it could only be a Master that could pull of all of the intricacies and still have it all function as a whole like an orchestra. A well-tuned orchestra I might add.
1 Corinthians 12:12-20 ~ Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body-whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. ~ The Apostle Paul to the Corinthians
I guess Dr. Paul Brand in his book In The Likeness Of God summed up the startling parallels between the macrocosmic and microcosmic, the big and the small, the cells and the individual and the spiritual and the biological when he mimicked Scripture speaking these words…
“The body is one unit, though it is made up of many cells, and though all its cells are many, they form one body... If the white cell should say, because I am not a brain cell, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the muscle cell should say to the optic nerve cell, because I am not an optic nerve, I do not belong to the body, it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an optic nerve cell, where would be the ability to walk? If the whole body were an auditory nerve, where would be the sense of sight? But in fact God has arranged the cells in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If all cells were the same, where would the body be? As it is, there are many cells, but one body.
That analogy conveys a more precise meaning to me because though a hand or foot or ear cannot have a life separate from the body, a cell does have that potential. It can be part of the body as a loyalist, or it can cling to its own life. Some cells do choose to live in the body, sharing its benefits while maintaining complete independence - they become parasites or cancer cells. ~Dr Paul Brand [In The Likeness Of God (p. 35-36)]

Even though this is the borrowing of Scriptural Paul by a modern Paul, isn’t this still a startlingly accurate description of society as a whole? The Church? The Body of Christ? What makes it all the more astonishing is that Dr. Paul Brand’s description maintains an interchangeability between the spiritual and biological just as Paul the Apostle’s did two thousand years ago. The parallels are mind-bending and they bridge the span of millennia…yet both hold absolutely true even now in different cultural milieu. 

Denton was correct, the complexity is bewildering. The complexity is bewildering not only in reference to the individual cell but also the cells similarity to things at the macrocosmic level which it mimics such as societies, communities and the world system as a whole. We can even view the reflection from the other direction. Perhaps it is the macrocosm imitating the microcosm since the macro is nearly always made up of the micro? Either is unparalleled and manifold technology and it is bewildering.

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