Science in Christian Perspective



L W. Knobloch, Ph.D.

Chemical Basis of Living Matter Created by Scientists

From JASA 9 (September 1957): 20-22.

An international group of scientists has synthesized RNA (ribonucleic acid), the energy-packed cell machinery that manufactures protein. RNA is also found in the genes of cells in another form (DNA of desoxyribonucleic acid) and holds the secret of heredity.

The synthesis of RNA was made possible by an enzyme called polynucleotide phosphorylase, which is able to weld together all the small molecular parts that make up the long-chained RNA molecule. The enzyme was isolated by Dr. Severe, Ochoa of the New York University-Bellevue Medical Center.

The synthetic RNA has been formed by adding this enzyme to a water solution of the four bases of nucleotides. These nucleotides, when strung together in a very special way, make up the long RNA molecule. The nucleotides themselves are formed by the combination of sugar (ribose), phosphate, and any other of, the four chemical bases (adenine, guanine, uracil, and cytosine). Nature carries on life by transferring energy laden phosphate groups into, out of, and between these nucleotides.

Numerous other scientists took part in the research which was supported by the American Cancer Society, National Institutes of Health, Office of Naval Research, New York University College of Medicine, and the Rockefeller Foundation.

A new vitamin temporarily labeled "Factor 3", probably a member of the family of B vitamins, has been discovered by Dr. Klaus Schwarz and associates at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.

The new vitamin protects the heart, liver, kidney, and muscle tissue against dietary degeneration. "Factor 3" is so labeled at present because two other vitamins, cystine and vitamin E, are known to be essential to the life of liver cells.

The new vitamin is an extremely powerful substance, for extremely tiny amounts accomplish its vital protective f unction.

Dr. Schwarz reports that even after major degenerative changes have occurred in heart, liver, kidney and muscle cells, the injection of microscopic amounts (10-70 gamma) of the protective substances into the portal vein bring about striking recovery of metabolic function within only 30 minutes.

Development of a new hormone called Medrol, with 12 to 18 times the potency of cortisone and hydrocortisone in fighting inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, but lacking the chief side effects of these drugs has been reported by Dr. E. Miles Glenn of the Upjohn Laboratories, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Known technically as 6-methyl-delta-l-hydrocorti sone, the new compound has great potential usefulness as an improved agent in the treatment of arthritis and a host of inflammatory diseases including many allergies such as hay fever.

(Above three items from Aminco Laboratory News, Vol. 14 (No. 2) March 1957).

When one reads that modern physics has done away with "causes" and when one sees cause and effect relationships every day, one wonders if physics is not trying too hard to get away from reality. A recent book on this matter may be of interest "Causality and Chance in Modern Physics" by David Bohm. Van Nostrand Co. The publisher's comments on the volume follow.

"Developments in modern physics during the past twenty-five years, especially in the field of quantum theory, have led a great many physicists to the conclusion that in the fundamental laws of the microscopic domain the basic processes are governed only by pure chance, while the causality that appears at the large scale level is regarded as merely the result of a statistical average of chance fluctuations, taken over large aggregations of atoms.

"The work leading to this book arose from discussions with Einstein, and in it the author analyses and criticises the above conclusion, in order to understand more deeply what is the real relationship between causality and chance. It will be seen that the experimental and theoretical data of modern physics do not necessarily imply that the laws of nature are nothing more than the laws of chance. And it is quite possible that below the level of the quantum theory there may be a more fundamental "subquantum-mechanical" level, satisfying new kinds of laws that are more nearly determinate than those of quantum mechanics.

"Reasons are given why such new kinds of laws are likely to be needed to resolve a current crises in microscopic physics. Thus, physics may now be suffering from a kind of dogmatism, in which the possibility of a deeper level of new kinds of causal laws, operating below the level treated by the current theory is refused consideration.

"Here, many new directions of theoretical research are opened up, directions which are of important consider ation for the further progress of physics, invaluable to all scientists today."

Scientific Rationalism and Christian Faith-by R. E. D. Clark. Intervarsity Fellowship, London, 1951.

Here is a small book of only 110 sub-standard sized pages, which is recommended reading for all Christians. He deals with the philosophy of such acknowledged agnostics and atheists as Professors Haldane, H. G. Wells, Lancelot Hodben and Julian Huxley and shows that these men have been led to their savage viewpoints by unfortunate occurrences in their childhood and youth or by vain attempts to solve the problems of the world by social rather than religious viewpoints.

Dr. Clark deserves a great deal of credit for his courage in attacking such an array of highly intelligent and articulate talent. He shows that their reasoning in certain matters is not above reproach.

Clark points out that belief in God does not make scientists lazy-they do not lay back waiting for God to reveal himself. Rather they are stimulated to uncover the secrets of the universe-to till the fields of science and to work in the vineyards. Boyle, Faraday, Galileo, Newton and Clerk-Maxwell are a few of the great "religious-scientists" of the past.

Some scientists think that we shall have to lay aside the cause and effect relationship which has guided science these many years. Some are happy to see it go because if the relationship does not hold, then there is no need for a First Cause. This is utter nonsense because in the everyday world, we still see bacteria causing disease and so on ad finitum. Cause and effect still rule the scientific world although one may have to distinguish among a number of causes and among a number of effects. It is no longer the simple thing that it was, but it is still here with us.

Rationalism, to Dr. Clark, is built upon faith in reason, which is, as everyone knows, not so dependable that we can afford to be dogmatic about the products of reason.

Creation-by R. E. D. Clark, Tyndale Press, London, 1953.

This is a booklet of only 72 pages but it is quite interesting reading. It deals with beginnings, design in nature, evolution, evil and agnosticism, all very controversial topics.

Among other things, Clark points out that modern physics is thought to deal with uncertainties although he doesn't mention Heisenberg. It seems to escape certain people that there can be levels of certainty and while it has always been known to people of discernment that the speed and position of a particle could never be known simultaneously, it is an equally reasonable fact that there is an average certainty in the world -at least I think that I am typing this.

Dr. Clark says that the truth about relationships and functions remains as it was but the uncertainty arises when we start to ask questions about the ultimate nature of matter or energy. Thinking about ultimate matters hinders modern physics and so it is considered more profitable to ask questions which can be answered.