Wednesday, 21 July 2010
So, there you have it...
A new skull discovered in Saudi Arabia, dated around 25 million years old, is determined to be a primate (Saadanius hijazensis) which brought about the evolution of apes and humans.
Meanwhile, after the recent production by Craig Venter of a synthetic cell, scientists like Jack Szostack are eagerly engaged upon work which forces strands of DNA and RNA to compete in Darwinian struggles for existence whilst experiments like those at the University of Manchester, using raw biochemical pools as a means to re-create the conditions that first formed life, have given many scientists the view that we will be truly creating life ourselves in a few short years.
So that's it then - game over, isn't it?
We know all about life, about how to make it, and that effectively means, as naturalists have been claiming for over a century, that you certainly don't need the divine - just some trial and error combining of the basic building blocks, and you're on your way...
Except, of course, there are a few problems with all of this.
Take the synthetic cell. It's already been admitted that the 'computerized' genetic chain used to devise this was incredibly more simple that the far more complex natural cell that acted as its host. And what about that latest skull fragment?
Well, just place it alongside Geologist Virginia Steen-McIntire's findings in 1966 in Mexico.
The United States Geological Survey Society dated the various tools and spear points she and her team had unearthed by radiometric means to be 250,000 years old - some 235,000 years before modern men were supposed to be in this location.
One is readily accepted a great find because it apparently verifies the consensus theory regarding our development (even though there have been several other such 'finds' which, upon further examination, have been discovered to be no such thing), the other is comprehensively ignored because it argues with convention and therefore is dismissed.
Of course, the thinking goes, there can only really be one way to look at ourselves - as little more than a fluke; animated cosmic dust upon a very tiny ball which just happens to support such a random event - nothing of any lasting consequence, either as individuals or as a species - it's all destined for decay...
but what if another story about us is true, that we are actually skipping the real history of who and what we are in our rush to make a particular "dream" stick?
The Psalmist, so aware of His creator, asks, what are we, that we should even be considered of worth? The New Testament echoes the question, but also posits an answer - we are actually defined now by a single man, a single moment in the history of our race.
The Man is Jesus Christ, and the moment is His life, death and resurrection.
It's not an answer some dare contemplate, because if true, it means there is far more to contemplate beyond our interpretation of bones or biological codes -
it means we were made by One who requires us to know a life defined by more than our present pain, suffering and death - a redeemed creation beyond tarnish and decay.
Life has come, not in an experiment or a theory, but from heaven to earth,
and that life, that light, can crush the darkness of our broken world.
Wednesday, 7 July 2010
Finn -Oh, god. Look at that.
Aunt Pauline -I never liked full moons. They give people an excuse to do foolish things.
Finn -I'm young, I'm supposed to do foolish things.
Pauline -And spend the rest of your life paying for them.
Finn -Well, it's better than spending the rest of my life wondering what I missed.
Pauline -I'd rather wonder than kick myself.
Finn -Well, I'd rather kick myself.
Pauline (clearly irritated) -Fine. You will end up with a deeply sore backside.
From 'How to Make an American Quilt'.
There used to be a word for it - lunacy; a condition when you abandon sanity because something else (an immediate madness) overtakes you and blurs what really counts. That's what is so excellent about the scene that the above speech comes from - Aunt Pauline knows what life is about, and that it's just stupid to short-cut that.
We can so easily find ourselves entwined in the immediate like the young writer in this story - and that's fine, so long as we have the kind of people she has around her to help us navigate our way through to genuine definition and understanding, but what if that isn't the case?
What if, individually and collectively, we mute and neglect those means which truly foster well being and just wallow in the immediate and the superficial - moon-struck, in all the ways that phrase originally meant?
In a truly clarifying passage about the present, writer Peter Hitchens really sums up the results:
"Orwell feared those who would ban books. Huxley feared that there would be no reason to ban - there would simply be no one interested in reading them. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared a time which would give us so much that we would become reduced to passivity or egoism. Orwell feared the truth would be withheld. Huxley feared that truth would become drowned amidst an ocean of irrelevance".
Like that horrifying moment in H G Wells', "The Time Machine", when the scientist from the past discovers that an entire culture - the Eloi - are literally being preyed upon by others - the Morlocks - so our times have become overcome by the liquefaction of Huxley's definition of lunacy - the "drip, drip" of a realm which makes so much of the immediate at the expense of the imperative.
We rake at the moon in countless distractions, and all too often, there are no voices of trust and actual understanding to talk us off the edge, or bluntly wake us to the folly often paraded as 'good'.
What poison has become the succor of our times? How many would, in effect, remain asleep in a burning house, unaware of danger?
How dreadful it is, noted Jesus, when a man comes to call light darkness, and darkness, light -
how great that peril will be!
We need more Aunt Pauline's in our times - maybe then, we'll spend a little less time craving the dimness of the night, and encounter the glory of the sunlight...