The com­plex­ity of Cre­ation

The week af­ter Christ­mas con­tin­ues the sea­son of miracles

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Robert Knight Robert Knight is a se­nior fel­low for the Amer­i­can Civil Rights Union.

The week af­ter Christ­mas, lead­ing up to the New Year, can be the rich­est time for re­flec­tion. Hol­i­day gift-buy­ing is over, the presents are un­wrapped or even re­turned, and not much hap­pens in the news. One can sit back and con­tem­plate those mo­ments in which the Christ­mas spirit over­comes worldly con­cerns, such as an im­promptu sight­ing of a star on a dark night and won­der­ing what it was like 2,000 years ago in Is­rael.

Or watch­ing a baby smile, elic­it­ing a mother’s ten­der touch. Or see­ing a new fa­ther’s pro­tec­tive pres­ence.

In “O Lit­tle Town of Beth­le­hem,” writ­ten in 1868, church rec­tor Phillips Brooks of Philadel­phia pon­dered the mixed re­ac­tion to the Sav­ior’s birth: Above thy deep and dream­less sleep The silent stars go by

Yet in thy dark streets shineth The ever­last­ing Light

The hopes and fears of all the years Are met in thee tonight Hopes, yes. But fears? Cer­tainly. Be­cause if the Bi­ble is true, and Je­sus is who He said He is, then all of us have some ’splain­ing to do. And, given our na­ture, we hate to do that. But the good news is that all of us, even the most mis­er­able sin­ner, have a way to sal­va­tion be­cause that baby was born.

Dur­ing this sea­son of miracles, it’s a good time to re­flect on ev­ery­one’s sheer, mag­nif­i­cent unique­ness.

Whether you be­lieve in God and Christ or not, we are all won­ders of unimag­in­able com­plex­ity. As Pig­pen would say, “sort of makes you want to treat me with more re­spect, doesn’t it?”

As walk­ing miracles, we com­prise tril­lions of cells, each of which is a marvel of engi­neer­ing with its own mil­lions of mov­ing parts.

“Think of the cell as a minia­ture so­ci­ety,” Ref­er­ence.com of­fers in this ac­ces­si­ble de­scrip­tion. “Within its walls are fac­to­ries, power plants, a leader, a pack­ag­ing plant, a cen­tral gath­er­ing place and re­cy­cling sta­tions. All work to­gether to sus­tain the com­mu­nity.”

Now, you can ar­gue that this all hap­pened as a re­sult of ran­dom, un­guided ac­ci­dents, or you can make the ar­gu­ment for de­sign, which rests largely on ir­re­duc­ible com­plex­ity. That term, cham­pi­oned by Le­high Univer­sity bi­ol­o­gist Michael Behe, means some­thing that must be fully as­sem­bled and can­not log­i­cally come to­gether grad­u­ally.

He uses a sim­ple mouse­trap as an ex­am­ple. Without all its parts — spring, plat­form, snap bar — it is use­less. Mouse­traps are an in­ven­tion, the re­sult of a guided process. How much more so are the fath­om­lessly com­plex cells whose parts must all work pre­cisely to­gether in or­der to al­low our fath­om­lessly com­plex bod­ies and brains to func­tion?

In “More than Meets the Eye,” Richard A. Swen­son, M.D. has as­sem­bled a mind-bog­gling ar­ray of facts about the hu­man body and brain that should leave any reader in a state of awe, re­gard­less of the­ol­ogy.

The body has 10 to 100 tril­lion cells, with each cell hav­ing a tril­lion atoms. They are all com­ing and go­ing at as­tro­nom­i­cal speed. “Every cou­ple of days, we re­place all the cells that line the in­tes­tine — faster if we eat Mex­i­can food,” Mr. Swen­son quips.

That per­son sit­ting next to you? Her eyes have reti­nas that con­tain 120 mil­lion rods and 7 mil­lion cones. “The rods ac­com­plish dim vi­sion, night vi­sion, and pe­riph­eral vi­sion. The cones are for color vi­sion and fine de­tail.” The hu­man eye can rec­og­nize lit­er­ally mil­lions of shades of col­ors.

Now, here’s the re­ally as­tound­ing part: “To sim­u­late 10 mil­lisec­onds of the com­plete pro­cess­ing of even a sin­gle nerve cell from the retina would re­quire the so­lu­tion of about 500 si­mul­ta­ne­ous non­lin­ear dif­fer­en­tial equa­tions 100 times and would take at least sev­eral min­utes of pro­cess­ing time on a Cray su­per­com­puter. Keep­ing in mind that there are 10 mil­lion or more such cells in­ter­act­ing with each other in com­plex ways, it would take a min­i­mum of 100 years of Cray time to sim­u­late what takes place in your eye many times every sec­ond.”

Sort of gives the phrase “in the blink of an eye” new mean­ing, doesn’t it?

Given all the ways that hu­man be­ings tick each other off, it helps to know just how much of a bi­o­log­i­cal mir­a­cle that guy is who cut us off in traf­fic. It can af­ford us strange, new re­spect for oth­ers, es­pe­cially those quite dif­fer­ent from us.

A handy phrase to re­mem­ber when we’re tempted to de­hu­man­ize some­one for some rea­son is that “God don’t make no junk.” Or the mem­o­rable line from Psalm 139 about our be­ing “fear­fully and won­der­fully made. Your works are won­der­ful.”

These are just some things to pon­der while we shed mil­lions of cells and ac­quire new ones, tap­ping out a text or read­ing an ar­ti­cle as we await the dawn­ing of a New Year.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY HUNTER

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