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Time Machines And Ancient DNA

September 5, 2012

You can maybe guess from the title - we're going to sciencemag.org again for this one. If you don't have an ID for the site - I highly recommend getting one. It's free. And it's the only way to read the whole article. It's called Tiny Time Machines Revisit Ancient Life. Unfortunately, something about that page prevents it from opening properly from this site without taking over your browser - so if you go to www.sciencemag.org and search for the article name - you can read all of it.

I'm putting this article under Things from the news - because that's how I came across the topic. But - as we'll see, it could also be Who gets the credit.

If you're a regular reader of this site - you may know there's a section called Lord, why don't you listen? It occurs to me today - I could also do one called My children, why don't you listen and see Me? This one would fit in there quite nicely.

The opening paragraph of the sciencemag.org article talks about the progress made in the field of learning more about extinct creatures. It includes this sentence -

But something even more revolutionary has been afoot: a new kind of analysis capable of revealing anatomical adaptations that skeletal evidence can't provide, such as the color of a dinosaur's feathers or how woolly mammoths withstood the cold.

If you went to school when I did - you may have to get past the part about the color of dinosaur feathers. I don't remember dinosaurs having feathers - I thought they had scales. Anyway - the point is that they're trying to learn about how animals adapted.

So they go on to talk about collagen and DNA.

<for more about collagen, see wikipedia - but a short description from there is

Collagen is a group of naturally occurring proteins. In nature, it is found exclusively in animals, especially in the flesh and connective tissues of mammals. It is the main component of connective tissue, and is the most abundant protein in mammals, making up about 25% to 35% of the whole-body protein content. Collagen, in the form of elongated fibrils, is mostly found in fibrous tissues such as tendon, ligament and skin, and is also abundant in cornea, cartilage, bone, blood vessels, the gut, and intervertebral disc.

Back in 1997, the field was just getting started. In 2010, the DNA model for Neanderthals was published - which was 10 million times as much DNA as that first one 13 years ago.

The article goes on to highlight the amazing discoveries that have been made in the field. It's pretty much summed up by the line -

Over the past decade, these molecules have painted the past in living color...

Not that all of this research is even accepted by all scientists. One little line towards the end of the article says -

Some scientists suspect that the collagen comes from bacteria rather than dinosaurs, but others are investigating collagen as a way to bar-code scraps of unidentifiable bone.

While some doubt that the material being investigated is genuine and intact - others plow ahead undaunted.

So - where am I going with this?

Well - there are three possibilities concerning the validity of what is being "discovered".

  1. it's all true
  2. some of it is true
  3. none of it is true.

HHmm - that sounds kind of familiar.

In July 2010, I wrote an article called Truth - Half Truth / Half Lie - Lie.

It was based on a line from The Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, by C. S. Lewis -

"And then she understood the devilish cunning of the enemies' plan.By mixing a little truth with it they had made their lie far stronger."

Then the question becomes - what's true and what isn't?

OK - some of you may think that's not the first question. Even as I was writing that line - I realize I'm making an assumption that some have not agreed to yet. Some may think it's all true. Others may think it's not.

For those who think it's all true - the scientific model of total randomness and nothing after this life - it's very hopeless. I encourage everyone who believes that to explore outside of that model - look for hope and purpose in your lives. It's there if you seek it. I pray that you will.

For those who think that none of it is true - I suspect that's also rather hopeless, although I must confess it's a point of view that I have never actually had. The reason I say it seems hopeless - it would mean that there is little to no truth in the world - nothing we can count on - and that appears to me to be just as random and purposeless as the strict scientific model above. To you - I also encourage you to look beyond that view - and look for hope and purpose in your lives too. It's there for all who seek it. I pray that you will.

How can I say the things above? It's a verse I've often written about before - and it's one that I think we need to always remember. It's from Romans 1:18-20 -

Ro 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

If God is making Himself plain to us - there must be at least some truth available for us to "discover". If He doesn't give us anything, then two things are likely true -

  1. He lied to us, because if there's no truth available - then nothing is plain at all.
  2. He's really mean - because if there's no truth, then there's no hope.

The problem with both of these assumptions - He sent His Son to suffer and die for us to be saved. That is most certainly not the evidence of a lying, mean God.

And that's where we get back to C. S. Lewis. Part truth - and part lie.

Before going into that - if you're asking why God allows that - I would just say this. It's about free will. We have a choice to follow Him or not. If we had no choice - that's pretty hopeless and pointless - just like the all truth and the no truth models above. Without free will, we would be no better than perfectly programmed robots. That's boring. That's pointless. That's just not how God made us. Don't get me wrong - I can't wait to get to Heaven and get away from all the evil in this world - but I also realize that since the fall in the garden of Eden - we just aren't "ready" for that. When the time comes - through Jesus - we will be made ready. But for now - we are in and of this world. So we'd best better learn about it and it's ways.

So - back to the point.

Back in Genesis 3:1-5 -

The Fall of Man

Ge 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Ge 3:2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

Ge 3:4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

What God first told Adam & Eve was True.

What Satan asked put a little doubt, by twisting the Truth.

In answering Satan, Eve didn't quite get God's original command correct - taking away a little more Truth.

In responding to that - Satan twists the Truth even more.

Ending up in a lie.

And that's why it's important for us to know The Truth - so we can recognize the lie - and take it back to The Truth.

For those of you that like puzzles - mysteries - intrigue - just plain solving things and figuring things out - this is where it's at.

This is really interesting and exciting stuff!

It's the ultimate exploring experience. Trying to figure out God's truth and Satan's lies.

And it's high stakes too. Life or death - forever.

And we're all playing.

News flash - this isn't new either - although many don't realize it. From Wikipedia -

"All the world's a stage" is the phrase that begins a monologue from William Shakespeare's As You Like It, spoken by the melancholy Jaques. The speech compares the world to a stage and life to a play, and catalogues the seven stages of a man's life, sometimes referred to as the seven ages of man: infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, pantaloon, and second childhood, "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything". It is one of Shakespeare's most frequently-quoted passages.

All the world is a stage - but the play is about the battle between good and evil. And we are all players. But we don't have to play an active part. We're in it either way. And we win or lose either way. But if we aren't active - we will lose.

So let's play the "Ancient Collagen and DNA" game.

Let's say there's some truth in it.

For those who remember back in 1997 when that first DNA strand was released to the world - it was really amazing. So much detail in a tiny little piece of DNA. The knowledge that came from it was astounding.

Now we have DNA that has 10 million times as much. How much more amazing is that?

Maybe it's intact ancient DNA - maybe it's contaminated.

But - and here's the real issue - it exists - it is real. The only unknown is exactly how old is it. Get past that question - ask yourself, what if I ignore the age question and just look at what really exists. That one little DNA genome is absolutely incredible - no matter how old or new it is!

Can one really think it was totally random?

And then consider that each living thing has it's own DNA - totally unique to each and every living creature. Including each of us human beings.

Can one really think that it's all random - no duplicates - totally random - and it all just happens to work out?

Or is this the Truth that exists - and the other issues are twists of the Truth that lead to the lie?

What if the Truth is that God created the world - and everything in it - just like He said in the Bible?

Just given the statistical odds against all of that randomness turning out what we are learning the world to be - it's more likely that God really did what He said. It's harder to believe that randomness could have produced what we can all plainly see. It gets increasingly harder to believe in randomness producing the incredible details that science is telling us makes up each and every one of the things that we see.

I mentioned earlier that this article could be under Who gets the credit. In the battle between good and evil - that's what credit is all about. Everything that Satan can make us believe is not from God - but from anything other than God - that's a win for evil.

I also mentioned that I could make a section from God's point of view asking why don't we see Him? The twisting of the Truth - the half truths - the resulting lies - that's why we don't see Him. But - if we take the time to investigate things - get involved in what's happening on the stage we know as life - the Truth is there.

We won't know the whole truth - not until we are in Heaven (and maybe we won't even be able to understand all of it even there) - but there is enough for us to see and hear that we can see enough Truth to see that God does exist - that He does care about us - and that He wants us to go to Him.

So if you're not already, get out there - take an active part on the stage - find out why we're here - find the purpose - solve the real mysteries - and begin to know God - accept His gift of Jesus for your salvation.

We all like to play games.

This one is for keeps.

Play - find Truth - find Jesus - win.

Then - you too will encourage others to do the same.