Copyright © 2000 Richard A. Swenson.
All rights reserved.
Introduction: A New Vision of Power.11
1 Our Body in Particles17
2 The Heart, Blood, and Lungs23
3 The Senses.31
4 The Brain and Nervous System.39
5 The Cell, Genes, and DNA.61
6 The Skin, Stomach, Skeleton, and Sperm.79
7 Our Body, His Temple.93
8 Energy, Force, Matter, and God101
9 The New Physics.121
10 The Story of the Stars.141
11 Time, Space, and Light.161
12 Science, Scripture, and Sovereignty181
About the Author.207
Our Body in Particles
When God set out to create humanity He put His genius on display. If we wish to learn more about His ingenuity, precision, and yes, perhaps even His sense of humor, we don't have to go any further than the mirror. The pinnacle of creation, He made us "a little lower than the angels" and crowned us "with glory and honor." As a scientist with training in both medicine and physics, it is easily apparent to me that the majesty of God is revealed in the human body. His fingerprints are, in fact, all over us.
The human body contains [10.sup.28] atoms (1 followed by 28 zeros). The universe itself contains perhaps only [10.sup.20] stars (estimates range as high as [10.sup.24]). In light of such comparisons, I teach young doctors that the human body is a million times more complex than the universe. Before you get too puffed by it all, understand that a cat has [10.sup.26] atoms and thus is also more complex than the universeand don't they know it.
According to isotope studies, 90 percent of our atoms are replaced annually. Every five years, 100 percent of our atoms turn over and become new atoms. Aren't you glad that doesn't hurt? Aren't you glad your doctor can't charge for it? (Perhaps those are redundant questions.)
In the last hour, one trillion trillion of your atoms have been replaced. If all the people on the earth were to set about counting this rate of atomic turnover in your body, each person would have to count ten billion atoms per second to keep up. (By the way, even though we can measure atoms, no one has actually "seen" an atomperhaps making them even harder to count.)
Who is watching over this atomic exchange? You? Your physician? Only God can monitor something of this magnitude a process that causes such dramatic exchange and disruption, yet holds all things together. "We speak of the body as a machine, but it is hardly necessary to say that none of the most ingenious machines set up by modern science can for a moment compare with it," observes Scottish biologist Sir J. Arthur Thomson. "The body is a self-building machine; a self-stoking, self-regulating, self-repairing machinethe most marvelous and unique automatic mechanism in the universe."
Genesis explains how we will one day return to the ground, "since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." Naturally, we thought this verse referred to the end of life. In reality the verse is true every moment of every day, even in our healthiest moments. "We are continually being recreated from dust and returning to dust," explains David M. Baughan, M.D. "We are not objects or machines that endure, we are patterns that have the capacity to perpetuate ourselves. We are not things; instead we are processes." Said Buckminster Fuller: "I seem to be a verb."
"Life is a wave, which in no two consecutive moments of its existence is composed of the same particles," explains another physicist, John Tyndall. The fundamental particles that comprise us have been floating around since the beginning. They roost within us for a while, and then move on down the road to inhabit our neighbor. Some of the atoms that resided within our childhood frames are now probably doing their similar work within a body in Mongolia.
"The body is more like a flame than a lump of clay, burning yet not consumed," says author George Leonard. "The substance of which it is made changes. The essential form persists." This might sound suspiciously New Age, but it is actually pretty good physics. Yes, our bodies are indeed discrete units. But we also leak, both physically and metaphysically. In consequence, we share our physical existence with our neighbors, however remote. Red and yellow, black and whitethey are me and I am them. Through shared sneezes, sloughed skin, the jet stream, flowing rivers, and a myriad of other mixing devices, God brings us together constantly.
The Subatomic Level
Of course there are additional organizational units other than atoms. Each level is miraculous in its own right. From the smallest to the largest, we are constructed of:
subatomic particles [right arrow] atoms [right arrow] molecules [right arrow] cells [right arrow] tissues [right arrow] organs [right arrow] systems
When we first discovered the subatomic particles of the proton, neutron, and electron, we thought we had identified the fundamental building blocks of all of naturesurely nothing could be smaller. But scientists sometimes have a way of being premature with their pronouncements, and since then we have identified over 200 subatomic particles smaller than the initial proton, neutron, and electron.
One such subatomic particle is called the Xi. It has a life span of one ten-billionth of a second. In the amount of time it takes my heart to beat, this one subatomic particle has gone through billions of lifetimes. Why did God make a Xi? Perhaps He was just having fun, and thought "This will keep a few thousand scientists busy for a decade just trying to track this ghost."
After digging even deeper and uncovering still more particles, some physicists began to speculate that we are infinitenot only in the eternal directionbut also in the subatomic direction. Science devises new and sophisticated technology to penetrate ever smaller levels, only to find yet another little critter winking mischievously at our machines. Other scientists believe that beneath the tiny subatomic "quarks," perhaps the newly postulated superstrings might represent the final bottom of the well. Personally, I believe we are indeed "infinite in all directions."
The Cellular Level
Mix together these subatomic particles, add a bit of mysticism, and out pop some atoms. Take about twenty of the most common elemental atomsespecially carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, which account for 99 percent of the dry weight of every living thingadd a bit of mysticism, and out pop some pretty sophisticated molecules. Organize molecules in just the right way, add a bit of mysticism, andthis is the really tricky partout pop some living cells.
Not only are the subatomic particles flashing in and out of existence faster than a New York cabby changes lanes; not only are the atoms turning over at a rate exceeding a billion trillion per second; and not only are the molecules continuously rearranging themselves in a dance we might call the nanosecond shuffle . but, you guessed it, the cells are doing the same thing. It is almost as if God, working at the speed of light, is continuously tinkering with His invention. When Paul wrote: "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day," apparently he was correct on both the spiritual and the physical levels.
The body contains between 10 and 100 trillion cells (and each cell contains approximately a trillion atoms). These cells, like just about everything else in the body, are continually being torn down, remodeled, and replaced. Think of it like this: If your body were a house, and the house were the size of Texas, imagine knocking down the walls in a million rooms every second and hastily rebuilding them again with new materials.
Every couple of days we replace all the cells that line the intestinefaster if we eat Mexican food. Every couple of weeks we replace all the cells of the skinwhere did you think all that house dust comes from? Every seven years we replace the entire skeleton.
Different cell types have differing life spans. Many cells last less than a day. Platelets live only a couple of days. Red blood cells live four months. Certain muscle cells can live for years. And nerve cells can live a hundred years. But all cells eventually die. Some die from injury, some from disease, but most die from a form of suicide called programmed cell death.
The mystery of cell function is both stunning and inspiring:
Each cell is unimaginably complex. Each must live in community with its surrounding neighbors, doing its own specialized part in the whole.
Each cell is surrounded by a membrane thinner than a spider's web that must function precisely or the cell will die.
Each cell generates its own electric field, which at times is larger than the electric field near a high-voltage power line.
Each cell contains specialized energy factories called biofires that use adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Every cell contains hundreds of these miniature
ATP motors embedded in the surfaces of the mitochondria. Each motor is 200 thousand times smaller than a pinhead. At the center of ATP synthase
is a tiny wheel that turns at about a hundred revolutions per second and produces three ATP molecules per rotation.
Cells don't stockpile ATP but instead make it as needed from food consumed. Active people can produce their body weight in ATP every day.
Each cell has its own internal clock, switching on and off in cycles from two to twenty-six hours, never varying.
If after glimpsing the activity, intricacy, balance, and precision of life at this level you do not suspect a God standing behind it all, then my best diagnostic guess is that you are in a metaphysical coma.
If God put this all together, He must be very clever. And powerful. And precise. Does He know the position of all of these subatomic particles, all the timeeven when they come in and out of existence in less than a trillionth of a second? Yes, He does. Not only does He know where they are at all times, but He nicknames them in His spare time.
The point is: such a God can be trusted with the details of my life. After rearranging subatomic particles all morning, the specifics of my life probably seem a bit unchallenging to Him.