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Devotional Biology

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  1. Introduction & Preface
    4 Steps
  2. Chapter 1: Biology for the Believer
    15 Steps
  3. Chapter 2: The Living God: Biological Life
    14 Steps
  4. Chapter 3: God’s Glory: Biological Beauty
    6 Steps
  5. Chapter 4: God is Distinct: Biological Discontinuity
    9 Steps
  6. Chapter 5: God is Good: Mutualism & Biological Evil
    10 Steps
  7. Chapter 6: God is Person: Animal Behavior & Personality
    17 Steps
  8. Chapter 7: The Provider God: The Anthropic Principle
    12 Steps
  9. Chapter 8: The Sustaining God: The Biomatrix
    8 Steps
  10. Chapter 9: God is One: Monomers, Biosimilarity, and Biosystems
    8 Steps
  11. Chapter 10: God is Three: Biodiversity
    11 Steps
  12. Chapter 11: God of Hierarchy: Biological Hierarchy
    13 Steps
  13. Chapter 12: The Almighty God: Metabolism
    8 Steps
  14. Chapter 13: God the Word: Animal Communication & Language of Life
    8 Steps
  15. Chapter 14: God’s Fullness: Reproduction, Diversification, and Biogeography
    10 Steps
  16. Chapter 15: The History of Life
    9 Steps
  17. Appendix
    4 Steps
Lesson Progress
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The following transcript was automatically generated and may contain errors in spelling and/or grammar. It is provided for assistance in note-taking and review.

A fascinating topic in biology is the origin of life. Part of that is, where does life itself come from? If we go back years ago, the answer to this question would have been very different than it is today. But if we realize that it’s interesting that among the organisms of this planet, all organisms, regardless of their size, actually develop from single-celled organisms. Humans developed at some point from a single cell. Really, really small thing to grow up into a large thing. Elephants, big things like that, start from single cells, from things that cannot be seen. Whales, as huge as they are, start from tiny things that cannot be seen. They grow in the course of time to a size that you can see. Given that that’s the case, centuries ago before we had microscopes, for example, people wouldn’t have seen where those big organisms came from. They wouldn’t have seen the little stages, the little guys that developed into the big guys. So for many of them, they saw large organisms kind of appear out of nowhere. Furthermore, at the same period of time, those people would have been completely unaware of a whole bunch of other organisms that are really small, that never do grow into big organisms.

Bacteria and algae, and at least single-celled algae, and single-celled protists. These are things that these folks would have not been familiar with at all. And so for these people at that time, It’s kind of interesting, because they wouldn’t have asked the question, where does a single-celled organism come from? Because they never saw such an organism. But when it comes to the issue of the origin of large organisms, they would have thought, and it’s only natural for them to think, since they observe it, that the big organisms seem to come out of nowhere. It was the position of Aristotle. It was the position of many Greek thinkers, that the large organisms spontaneously generated themselves from non-living things. So living things, the big living things, actually come from non-living things spontaneously. In other words, without any help or without any guidance or without any intelligence working on them, they’re generated, or they’re originated, in this spontaneous fashion. New organisms arise spontaneously from non-living matter. And this was arguably a scientific theory of the past. It’s their understanding of the physical world in that sense. How it was. It’s their understanding of how a whale came to be, how a fly came to be, and so on. So it’s typical for people to see maggots develop on rotten meat and conclude that maggots must come directly from rotten meat. They would see alligators come out of the water. Some people thought alligators came from floating logs that automatically spontaneously generated alligators. Mice come out of the woodwork, literally in a barn. And many people thought they came out of dirty hay, that they spontaneously generated from non-living things. Spontaneous generation, however, that concept began to be challenged by folks. And actually, experiments were performed to reinterpret spontaneous generation over a period of 200 years. This idea that organisms come from non-living things, Spontaneous generation took a long time to be replaced. It took 200 years of scientists arguing against it before people finally rejected the hypothesis. And it began, arguably, with the experiments of Francesco Redi. In 1668, Redi created a rather clever experiment specifically dealing with the issue of where flies came from. Again, as I said, it looked like maggots came right out of rotten meat. So to test this hypothesis, again, the idea in science is scientists are trying to understand the world. They’re trying to create theories of understanding about the world, and then they might actually test them. And Reddy tested this idea that actually maggots came directly out of rotten meat. And he did this by creating three different jars and putting rotten meat in each jar. But one jar he sealed completely. He sealed in such a way that nothing could get in or out of the jar. So it’s got rotten meat in there, but sealed. A second jar is covered with a very fine netting, like cheesecloth or something like that, that allowed air in and out, but didn’t allow anything of any size in or out of the jar. The third jar, also with rotted meat, was wide open to the outside. And then he just waited. He just watched this thing over time. I imagine he probably did this outside or something because it wasn’t going to smell very good for a while. In the course of time, what he found was that of these three different types of jars, the meat rotted in all of them, but maggots only appeared in the jar that was wide open to the outside.

Maggots never appeared in the jar with the sealed meat. Maggots did not appear in the jar with air could get to it, but which had netting on it. This led Reddy to the possible conclusion that maybe meat doesn’t spontaneously generate maggots, but rather flies come in and land on the meat and deposit tiny little eggs that can’t be seen, too small to be seen. And those eggs hatch into maggots, which then develop on the meat. And this became a hypothesis to change as an alternative to spontaneous generation. That flies, in fact, have eggs too small to be seen. Over a series of years, experiments similar to Francesco Reddy’s were used to show that organism after organism after organism actually did, in fact, seem to come out not of non-living material, but you seem to can’t avoid the possibility that maybe little tiny eggs that can’t be seen developed them. At the same time as this was happening in the 17th century, the microscope was invented and was perfected. People started looking at smaller and smaller things and looking at things farther and farther away. They invented the telescope, but in the same sort of sense. They began to see things like fly eggs. So you’re able to test the hypothesis further. Sure enough, flies laid very, very small eggs on the meat, And those eggs did in fact hatch into maggots, which suggested increasingly people began to be convinced that maybe all large organisms actually develop from tiny one-celled organisms that actually come from other organisms.

So that would seem to put the end to spontaneous generation. But alas, the very same thing that seemed to seal the fate for spontaneous generation encouraged people to continue to believe in it. Because now, the microscope showed not just the early stages of big organisms. The microscope revealed a whole world of organisms that no one had ever seen before. We could see pollen. We could see tiny little one-celled organisms and pond water all over the place. We could see eggs and spores. And some of those things seem to come directly out of the water without being laid there by smaller things. So that then produced a… Whereas the large organisms people were becoming more and more comfortable with saying, “Eh, they don’t come about by spontaneous generation.” People began to say that these tiny one-celled organisms did come about by spontaneous generation. That became a little more difficult to reinterpret. So spontaneous generation continued to be believed, at least for microorganisms, for two more centuries. It was challenged in the middle of the 18th century by Lazaro Spallanzani in 1768. He showed that in this case, we’re now dealing with microorganisms. Small little guys. If you have broth, like chicken broth, chicken soup kind of idea. Take out all the big stuff, and you’ve got a broth left behind. If you leave that set out, it goes bad. And it goes bad when you look at the stuff that’s in the broth. You find that there’s tiny little one-celled organisms. Just fill in that broth. When that broth goes bad, There’s a whole bunch of microorganisms living in there. Now, if you start with a broth, let’s say you make your broth initially. You boil the water and whatever else it is you make your broth with. When you look at it right at that point, there’s no microorganisms in it. Let it sit there for a while, and microorganisms appear in it. So again, it was thought that microorganisms spontaneously from the broth. Spallanzini actually challenged that by creating his broth and then sealing the jar. Actually creating glass jars that he could seal with glass. He could melt the glass and make sure no air ever got to the jar. If he had a bunch of jars that were open, they went bad. He had a bunch of jars that were closed, that were sealed, they didn’t go bad. They didn’t develop those little guys in there. So it suggested to Spallanzani, as it had to Ready before, that maybe those little guys inside that broth actually somehow come from even smaller things coming through the air and getting into the broth.

Maybe they came from other microorganisms in other places. Because when you sealed it, you didn’t produce any microorganisms. This was fairly convincing, but not completely convincing. People had other explanations. Eventually, the French government offered a prize to somebody who could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that microorganisms come from microorganisms, or prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that spontaneous generation was true.

The person who picked up the challenge was a hundred years later. Louis Pasteur in 1862 created a very ingenious experiment. He created glass jars with the broth inside the jars with a long neck of the jar. In some cases, he had those long necks open to the air so air could get right into the jar. In other cases, he put an interesting little bend in the neck of the jar and put water in the bend. So technically, air could get into the water, dissolve into the water, undissolve, if you wish, out of the water onto the other side, and get to the broth and the inside.

So technically, air was getting to the broth, but it was being filtered by water. Anything that was in the air, like let’s say tiny little invisible spores of these microorganisms, would go into the water in the neck of the jar and leave behind the spores.

The air would supply air to the broth, and this would test whether or not there’s something the air that actually causes these microorganisms. And truly, what he found was any of these flasks that were open to the outside, they went bad. Any flask that was closed to the outside in this manner, where the air had to come through water, in other words, it was really finely filtered, those did not go bad either.

In fact, he set these things up for months and years. What he did was he had a whole bunch of them to start with, and every month or so, he’d break the neck of one of these things. And soon after he broke the neck, the broth would go bad. But the flasks that were sealed in this fashion, remained without their broth. was good for months and even past a year after the beginning of the experiment. But as soon as he broke it, even if it had been a year since it had been made originally, and it had been good for a year, as soon as he broke that thing, the thing would go bad.

So this indicated, proved to everyone’s satisfaction, that in fact even the microorganisms are coming from tiny little smaller spores, or eggs, or something like that, that are actually found in the air.

What this leads to is the conclusion that every organism on the planet comes from another organism. Even microorganisms come from other organisms. Probably other microorganisms. And in fact, it developed into an idea that replaced spontaneous generation. Spontaneous generation was the thought that organisms arise spontaneously from non-living matter. It was replaced by what’s called the Law of Biogenesis. Arguably, this is the only “law” in biology. You know, it’s not really technically a law. A law is a generality of the universe. This is a law that’s a generality for biological life on earth. And so biologists want to call it a law because they love to have laws. It makes them sound very important or something. But it’s technically not a law. But it is such an important, powerful conclusion, and very universally true, at least among organisms on this planet. It’s called the Law of Biogenesis. Bio is life. Genesis is the origin of. It’s the origin of life. It’s the law of the origin of life. Which is, organisms only come from other organisms similar to it. So maggots, which develop into flies, come from flies. So flies produce flies. Elephants produce elephants, and so on. Organisms, no matter what they are, no matter whether they’re small or big, organisms come from other organisms. And more specifically, they come from organisms very much like them. They come from similar organisms. Another way to put it, often put this way, is that life only comes from life. Life can’t come from non-living things. So this is the law of biogenesis. And okay, honestly, we haven’t tested it on every single little critter on this planet. But every critter that’s been tested, this seems to be the case. And so since the time of Louis Pasteur, We’ve believed in biology. We’ve believed in the law of biogenesis, that organisms only come from the same kind of organism. Or putting it another way, life seems to only come from life. That seems to be true in the present. We can experiment, re-experiment, and test it and re-test it. What about the past? Has it always been true? Has it always been true that life only comes from non-life? Well, this really gets down to the question of, where did the first life come from? Where did biological life come from in the first place? To answer this question, we have several observations. First of all, we’ve never seen life come from non-life spontaneously. We’ve just looked at that. Spontaneous generation was, even though it was believed, and people wanted to believe it for a very long time, No one’s ever been able to demonstrate that life of any sort, no matter how simple, comes from non-life. Life only seems to come from life. Also, even humans have never created life from non-life. Now, this is an important distinction. It’s not the same thing as what I just said. Humans, with all their ingenuity, with all their smartness, with all their machinery capabilities, their technology, no human has ever produced a living thing from a non-living thing.

Maybe you could say, “Well, that’s a really complicated thing to build something as complicated as a living thing from non-living things. So maybe we’re asking too much.” Well, let’s make it easy. Let’s take a living thing, and let’s carefully kill it so that we have all of its parts, we have all of its chemistry, we have everything there. All we got to do is get it to be alive again. Humans haven’t even been able to do that. Now, I say that, but I need to clarify this. I need to explain something. People will immediately say, I know of people that have been resuscitated. They’ve died and come back to life. Let me explain. That’s not actually true. When a person dies, there are all sorts of cells in the body that are still alive. In your body, you have trillions of cells. Each cell is alive. Those cells are kept alive because there’s blood circulating around your body, providing those cells with food and air, taking away waste, and that sort of thing. If you were to suddenly die, let’s say you had a heart attack and your heart stopped, the blood would stop flowing. But for a while, there’s going to be cells in your body, all over your body, that are still alive. Until they run out of oxygen, or until they run out of food, they’re going to continue living after you’re dead for a certain amount of time. usually not very long, but for a time most of your body is still alive, even though you might be unconscious or might even be dead.

The people that have been so-called brought back from the dead have been resuscitated after being dead. They haven’t been resuscitated from being dead. Their heart has been restarted. Their blood has been recirculated again, but that was before their cells had died. If you can get the heart going again, if you can get the oxygen to those cells again, those cells never died. And so the person technically really didn’t die. However, if you have the person the blood stops long enough that all the cells of the body die, then the person is truly dead.

We have never resuscitated a person whose cells have all died. You can resuscitate them. You can do it quickly enough before all the cells of the body die, then the person can be resuscitated, but the person technically never died.

It’s when we say that no human has ever made a dead thing alive, We mean that no human has ever taken an animal or a human where every cell has died and made it come alive again.

With the exception of Jesus, who actually raised people from the dead. In fact, this fact right here is perhaps part of why Jesus waited to resurrect Lazarus. Jesus was not in the place where his friend Lazarus had died. He was some distance away. He was notified that Lazarus was very seriously ill. Actually, by that point, Jesus knew he was dead. And yet Jesus just seemed to continue on with what he was doing, as if he was ignoring the fact that his friend was dead.

And the disciples were disturbed. “Jesus, shouldn’t we go to help out Lazarus? I mean, you know, you can heal him. I mean, you heal people and this sort of thing, and he’s your friend. Surely you want to heal Lazarus.” And Jesus says, “Don’t worry about it. He sleeps.” Well, if he’s sleeping, I mean, this is probably a good thing. We don’t have to worry about it. No, you don’t understand. He’s dead. Okay? Well, why don’t you go? Don’t you want to hurry? and Jesus tarried. Jesus waited. By the time Jesus got there, Lazarus had been dead for three days. And I believe he waited to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Lazarus was truly dead. He wasn’t resuscitating someone who wasn’t truly dead. He was truly dead. In fact, that’s also, I believe, why Jesus wasn’t resurrected until the third day. It demonstrates that Jesus wasn’t simply resurrected in the sense of we got his heart going again, and he really wasn’t dead. No, Jesus was truly dead. It had been three days. So the Bible is, I believe, even pointing out that when a person has been dead a certain amount of time, certainly within three days, by three days, that that person is truly dead.

And no human being has ever resuscitated a person from being dead with the exception of God. Jesus has done it. But Jesus is the only one who can do it. No human being has ever been resuscitated, has never resuscitated a dead thing. Now, note also, Shelley’s novel, Dr. Frankenstein, is not real. Nobody ever did that, okay? Frankenstein never was brought back from the dead. Sorry. There was no electrical charge that took a dead human and made that dead human alive. That is fiction. It’s not real. Humans have never made dead things alive. Only God seems to be capable of creating life from non-life, as Jesus did for Lazarus. So what this suggests is that it is not possible in the present for life to come from non-life. So that suggests, I mean, for all we know, that’s always been the case. That it’s not possible for life to come from non-life. Yet, everyone agrees, whether you’re a naturalist or whether you’re creationist, that at one point in time, going back far enough, there was a time when there was no life. No biological life. There was a time in the Christian worldview when God existed, but no biological life existed. There was a time in the naturalistic worldview where no biological life existed. Yet there’s biological life now. So somewhere in between the two, biological life came into existence. How did that first biological life come to be? In naturalism, that first biological life had to come from non-life. And the process they suggest that occurs through is something called abiogenesis. “A” means “not.” “Bio” means “life.” “Genesis” means “origin of.” This is the origin of life from non-life. This is life beginning from non-life. In other words, this is spontaneous generation. If naturalism is true, the naturalist is forced to believe that spontaneous generation is true. Even though that is contrary to everything we know to be true. The law of biogenesis is that life only comes from life. That life cannot come. Biological life has never come from non-life. Yet the naturalist is forced to accept some form of spontaneous generation sometime in the past. What’s interesting, in Christian theism we would argue that, according to the Bible, God created all the organisms. God is life. Life created the first biological life. In other words, the first biological life came from life, which continues the claim of the law of biogenesis. The law of biogenesis says life came from life. And in creationism, we believe that life only comes from life. Just as all our experience shows. Our experience in biology is consistent with the idea of theism that life comes only from life and has always come from life. God created life. Naturalism is contrary to everything we know in biology about life only coming from life.