[asa] What is life? (letters in Raleigh News & Observer)

From: Alexanian, Moorad <alexanian@uncw.edu>
Date: Sun Oct 14 2007 - 08:54:19 EDT

http://www.newsobserver.com/690/story/736491.html <http://www.newsobserver.com/690/story/736491.html>

Published: Oct 14, 2007 12:00 AM Modified: Oct 14, 2007 05:28 AM


Final Word


Readers react to recent Q topics on defiining life as scientists work to create synthetic organisms and on North Carolina's water supply.


Theology vs. science


Building life from scratch is not playing God but shows our expanding mastery of science. Inadvertently, it succeeds in demonstrating once again that a need for a deity is obsolete, and that will threaten many people but liberate even more.


Science grows and evolves; religion and theology do not. And that's OK as long as we realize they are not and never were meant to be compatible. The notion that they could overlap needs to be abandoned since God as a "gap filler" is counterproductive to inquisitive research. Before any effective argument can be made about what life is, we need to once and for all separate theology from science.


Craig Conklin




Science may prove God


For some 2,000 years, many have found the answer to the question, "What is life?" It began with a revelation to 12, then 70, then 120, then thousands and multiplied thousands, and now millions who know and have experienced God.


I have no empirical evidence to support my belief in God, or factual historical events recounted in the holy word of God, which is called the Bible. Nor do I have any factual evidence that love exists other than what I have experienced, which has become the foundation for my belief in love. Faith establishes a belief that when manifested becomes as much a reality as a reality established by concrete and visible evidence.


I have no problem with scientific research. After all it has, and can, produce great benefits for society. Furthermore, I am convinced that one of two things will occur. The scientific apple can be pared to the core and at the core evidence will point to God as the creator and sustainer of life; or the exercise of science will exceed the master's plan and we will have a "Tower of Babel" experience and all of our scientific facts will be for naught as we regress into an environment where we know everything about nothing.


William R. Henderson




No substitute for God


A first, reasonable and useful definition of science is the study of the physical aspect of nature, with subject matter data that can be collected, in principle, by purely physical devices. For instance, physics deals with energy, chemistry with molecules, genetics with DNA, RNA, etc.


Human consciousness and reasoning summarize all physical data into laws and create the mathematical theories that lead to predictions. However, the human element that creates the theories is totally absent from the laws and theories themselves. Only the physical aspects of physical/nonphysical entities are amenable to the study of science.


Consciousness and rationality are purely nonphysical, since purely physical devices cannot detect them, and can only be "detected" by the self in humans. In addition, life cannot be reduced to the purely physical, so living beings are both physical and nonphysical.


The true nature of life, human consciousness, and rationality point in a direction other than the physical. One would then have the curious paradox of humans as living, rational beings that successfully describe the physical aspect of reality yet may never be able to develop a scientific theory of what life, self, or reasoning is.


No humanly conceived theory of nature, however complete, can ever encompass all that exists or the creation process that brought everything into being. In Scripture, man was fashioned from the dust of the ground, and God breathed life into his nostrils. Can science, which has successfully studied the physical (dust), ever make the "breath" of God part of its subject matter? I doubt it!


Moorad Alexanian




The study of life


"What is life" brought to mind these words of a 1937 Nobel laureate, Albert Szent-Gyorgi. I wonder if his words will lose their luster in years to come.


"In my hunt for the secret of life, I started my research in histology. Unsatisfied by the information that cellular morphology could give me about life, I turned to physiology. Finding physiology too complex, I took up pharmacology. Still finding the situation too complicated, I turned to bacteriology. But bacteria were even too complex, so I descended to the molecular level, studying chemistry and physical chemistry. After twenty years work, I was led to conclude that to understand life we have to descend to the electronic level and to the world of wave mechanics. But electrons are just electrons and have no life at all. Evidently on the way, I lost life; it had run out between my fingers."


Teresa Rowe Blue


Chapel Hill



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Received on Sun Oct 14 08:56:18 2007

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