Privilege of New Discovery

By: Jim Virkler; ©2012

Some senior citizens past age 65 were blessed to have been raised in families with a rich heritage of rural memories to share. Many of our parents regarded the great outdoors as an inexpensive learning laboratory and vacation venue. Many of my grandparents’ generation were also farm owners. People of this demographic are becoming scarce. Their experiences appear to match my own. A disclaimer is in order for many post-65 residents who do not share the experiences I describe. Urban children of that generation may share satisfying personal adventures from their city life. Different types of coping strategies may make their past metropolitan life seem worlds apart from those who fondly recall the pastoral life and its appeal. In either setting, rural or urban, fond memories have evoked lingering fascination.

Curious children were blessed with parents or instructors who encouraged their young people to dig more thoughtfully into the wonders of animal life. Parents and teachers sought to light the fires of investigation. Awaiting inquiring minds were explanations about how such animals functioned and how our physical world operated generally. In our homes, motivated by the responsibilities of making a humble living under harsh economic realities, we were impelled by the joy of discovery for God’s glory manifest in the created world around us.

As we became older, young people of my generation were treated to additional instruction provided by their high school and college biology courses. The biology courses of that era were bringing to a close a traditional era in biology instruction. A Wikipedia article on the “History of Biology” expresses the new discipline rapidly overtaking biology education: “Following the…cracking of the genetic code, biology was largely split between organismal biology—the fields that deal with whole organisms and groups of organisms—and the fields related to cellular and molecular biology. By the late 20th century, new fields like genomics and proteomics were reversing this trend…” My high school and college biology courses may have instructed me in the wonders of the circulatory, digestive, reproductive, respiratory, nervous and other organ systems. But the new emphasis in molecular biology was tantamount to a sudden leap in man’s knowledge.

Stated another way, biology of the 1950s and 1960s was entering the transition from the study of organs and organ systems to molecular biology. We were at the threshhold of the age of bio-chemistry. The biochemical research of the last 40-50 years has opened the curtain on life processes of cells and explaining them in detail. Now we understand what is happening within the whole organisms and organ systems. Then the era of expanded discovery arrived and continues to expand as we speak. The age of discovery of wonders of living things had moved from a more devotional appreciation of God’s glory manifest in living things to a genuine understanding of how God accomplished the task.

Nowhere can we appreciate more clearly the joy of discovery than in understanding the beauty of DNA and RNA in the delicately twisted bio-molecules of inheritance and replication within every body cell of every living creature we admired on the farm or in the city. The information stored and duplicated is coded with three billion bits of information consisting of three billion “letters” whose sequence is absolutely critical to produce the many thousands of proteins, the building blocks of life, at just the right time, in the right order, and in the right place. It is no mystery why some modern high school biology texts number a thousand pages or more. Each text tells a miniscule fraction of the story of biology. The unlocking of the genetic code opened a new vista in bioscience during the 1960s.

In the realm of physical matter during the 1960s and 1970s “simple” protons and neutrons were found to be composed of three quarks each. Therefore, protons and neutrons assumed more complexity than we had thought initially as instructed by our high school chemistry courses prior to the onset of the 1960s. There were discoveries of six leptons, the most famous being the electron discovered in 1897. For the next hundred years the family of leptons grew. And now we are blessed with the apparent discovery of the seventeenth particle, the Higgs boson, recently added to the Standard Model of particle physics.

All living and non-living things are composed of particles such as protons, neutrons, and electrons. These are particles having incredibly precise masses, sizes, and forces. Quarks and leptons, in turn, also have predictable properties. Matter out of which our world is composed is predictable in its behavior. It is not a chaotic mass. Living and non-living matter is the handiwork of a Master Creator. We need not grasp all the details of matter’s properties in order to appreciate the orderliness of God’s creation.

How do senior citizens transition between the simple joy of discovery we experienced as teen-agers and the overwhelming knowledge scientists have acquired in the past fifty years? Our society seems bent upon using scientific discovery to draw us away from God instead of toward Him. Instead of drawing us nearer to the God of Creation, increase in human knowledge has led many to embrace the paradigms of evolution, materialism, and naturalism. Is it possible to use the same evidence to deter us from God-awareness as to attract us to Him?

“Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!” (Psalm 96:1 NLT). Creation cries out with praise to the God of Creation.

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