Thursday, February 12, 2009

Part Four

In 1976 Darlington wrote'
The problem which, in the age of enlightenment, the learned and even. the ecclesiastical world thought might engage the curiosity of all thinking men' became in the following century a dangerous subject divorced from polite conversation as tending towards atheism, obscenity and sin. A gulf was fixed between the secluded specialists who discussed these matters in profound or at least technical language and a public who were educated on moral principles laid down 2,000 or more years ago. Modern education is often attempting to bridge this gulf. But it is doing so under great difficulties. Discovery is proceeding at a great pace Those engaged in it are very deeply engaged in it, often to the exclusion of wider public or cultural interests. The fact that, the advances of the last fifty years requires new thinking out of our social, moral and intellectual ideas has therefore almost escaped notice. The system of teaching, even in the most advanced centres, is inevitably twenty or thirty years behind-hand in facing this problem. Educated men and women are therefore by no means ashamed of professing an ignorance of the discoveries which should determine their conduct. They are content to use the ideas of life, heredity and society which have done service since Old Testament times.'
.Nothing has changed in the last quarter of a century. There is still this great gulf Then Keith Devlin writes in the Guardian Weekly in 2001, that'
Any British academic who drains his or her brain across the Atlantic soon finds there is a lot of truth in the quip that Britain and the United States are "two countries divided by a common language For a British university scientist who makes the big trip, one startling discovery is that 44% of Americans believe the biblical story of Creation is true. For almost half the population the Big Bang theory and the theory of evolution by natural selection are rejected outright. And this in a country that leads the world in scientific discoveries and technological advances, whose universities and research laboratories are homes to more Nobel prizewinners than anywhere else, and whose vast resources put a man on the Moon. Yet a person who has made meaningful contribution in his or her own career field takes a superficial glance at another field like science and evolution, finds things that are not understood by a large portion of the population, and then exploits that general ignorance in a way that is profitable, yet demonstrably incorrect. Richard Dawkins writes; 'It has become almost a cliché to remark that nobody boasts of ignorance of literature, but it is socially acceptable to boast ignorance of science and proudly claim incompetence in mathematics. In Britain, that is'.
Devlin is writing about the country that produced scientists of the calibre of James Watson of the 'Double Helix', and Craig Venter who has made such a contribution to hastening the sequencing of the Human Genome and hence the discovery of many genes and their possible function. From the beginning of the 1990's many misspellings in the DNA have been discovered that are responsible for a multitude of illnesses which include schizophrenia, dementia, Alzheimer's, asthma, MS, muscular distrophy, obesity, diabetes, psoriasis, porphyria varigata[VP], migraines, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer ,hemophilia and cystic fibrosis to name but a few. About twenty five percent of brain diseases are caused by genetic mutations. Some genetic mutations are beneficial. A small percentage of parts of the European population are completely immune to AIDS through having two copies of a gene for an alteration of the receptor on the white blood cells preventing the entry of the HIV virus. This was a result of the exposure to the plague 700 years ago where the population was put under evolutionary pressure and selected for those immune to that disease. Their descendants have inherited that immunity which by good fortune provides immunity to Aids. Sickle cell anemia gives immunity to malaria but makes you feel unwell.. You take your choice.

Mutations and disease have had a considerable effect on our evolution We are who we are because of our genes, but our environment originally shaped the genes we humans have and made us what are. Having said that these genes are then switched on or off by our environment so we can't get away from our genes or the environmental effects.Our original bodies we have to accept but we can in some cases choose or improve our environment and in a way control many of the damaging effects of mutations by not having them switched on. Environmental effects such as smoking, pollution,nutrition,exercise, sunburn, alcohol,housing and temperature Why would God, a God of Love, have created man in his own image with about five thousand genetic mistakes that have played havoc on our health. Diseases that we will soon be able to correct with gene transfers or genetic engineering.Some high profile genetic diseases or disorders are Huntington's disease,Down Syndrome,Dyslexia,Hemophilia,Cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia. All this does not prove that there is or is not a God but just that he is not the God we have created for ourselves.The Church through the ages has taught that God's creation is perfect and that the faults in man are through man's sin This can't be right because through our own ingenuity we can correct these faults.Things aren't wrong or right they just are. I do not know but I have a feeling that most people talk glibly about DNA finger printing and analysis and evolution but really don;t understand the implications of it all. There are science writers like Matt Ridley and Steve Jones,themselves PhDs who explain very clearly these implications but I am sure the books are not that widely read. Are there so many copies in private hands that the library copies are not read ,because they remain there week after week, they are not in the book shops. Do people learn of these advances in science through Science fiction like Jurrasic Park? These are up to date writings so it seems to me that many people are simply ignorant of what goes on.Or am I wrong,we seem to absorb information by osmosis. According to recent research [Keith Sutherland JCS on-line]Astrology has been growing in popularity. Surveys suggest that a majority of people in Britain believe in it, compared with only 13 per cent 50 years ago. The Association of Professional Astrologers claims that 80 per cent of Britons read star columns, and psychological studies have found that 60 per cent regularly read their horoscopes. To my mind this is because of the ignorance of the general population about the findings of science.Is the all cause of mystical and religious beliefs, one of ignorance?.

In the same way as we can compare the Ptolomiac and Copernicum theories and say that neither are right nor wrong in a meaningful way, we can take the two theories, Darwins evolution by natural selection on the one hand and the Creation explanation on the other, both of which may seem meaningful, but to this we must add the words of Dobaninsky 'that nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of evolution' so one can therefore say scientists would have made no progress if the creation point of view had been elected. This has been the Church's second denial but in this case it can never come to terms with Darwinism. If it accepted evolution by natural selection everything would come tumbling down. Darwinism and Creationism are mutually exclusive and can't both be right. Intelligent design is a way in through the back door to evolution but it is not really compatible with Biblical teachings and does not fit Darwins jigsaw picture. The designing force is natural selection not intelligent design. Surely the fate of Aristotleism does not await Darwinism. .Nothing of our discoveries fit Aristotles theories but all fit Darwinism or do we await a Copernicus to put us right? I find it much more conceivable that animals gradually evolved from a very primitive beginning than that they were placed on the earth in one fell swoop
ex nihlo . The evidence is overwhelming that animals and plants evolved. What could have brought about their evolutioin other than a gradual adjustment to the ever changing environment than by a process of natural selection. We do not have to look for evidence in fossils we can see it all written in our genes. The unity of life . We are all related to everything else. To the chimp and the fruit fly. We all belong to one great gene pool.,but we can trace the evolutionary history in the genes.

References. Sayre, April Pulley Rosalind Franklin and Dna
Janet Browne, Charles Darwin, Voyageing Charles Darwin, The Power of Place 2003
Steve Olson, Mapping Human History, discovering the past through our genes.
Martin Brookes. Fly : the unsung hero of twentieth-century science /2002 1st ed. London [England] : Phoenix, 2001.
Kevin Davies. The Sequence : inside the race for the human genome / London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001. Portugal and Cohen. A Century of DNA.
Matt Ridley, Nature via Nurture, genes,experience what makes us human 2003
Matt Ridley, Genome


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