Thursday, October 28, 2021

Our Amazing DNA: We Are Indeed Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge."
--Psalm 19:1-2

This past Sunday our church had a guest speaker who gave message on the above passage from Psalm 19. It began with an imaginative "what if" story about the moon landing of 1969. What if as Neil Armstrong stepped down from the Eagle landing craft he noticed a Swingline stapler by his foot there on the surface of the moon. What would people think? 

Obviously, it didn't appear out of thin air. The stapler, as simple as it is, demonstrates features of an intelligent design behind its creation.

This tale became a stepping off point for his sermon, which highlight four points. This blog post is based on his third, our amazing and mind-blowingly complex DNA.

Some of the details he shared were so over-the-top incredible that I didn't even want to share them until I'd confirmed them from multiple sources. Here are a few details about our DNA to wrap your head around. Sources include Britannica Kids (courtesy our speaker Dan Vander-Ark), and 

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DNA is the material that carries all the information about how a living thing will look and function. For instance, DNA in humans determines such things as what color the eyes will be or what color your hair will be. Each piece of information is carried on a different section of the DNA. These sections are called genes.

DNA is in every cell of every living thing. It is found in structures of the cell called chromosomes.

When DNA works correctly, it helps keep the body functioning properly. DNA helps cells to make the proteins which cells need to live. DNA also allows living things to reproduce. The genes in DNA pass along physical traits from parents to children.

Those are the basics about DNA that most of us have been familiar with. We see physical traits in our kids that were in our parents, passed down over generations. But here's the part where it becomes remarkable.

DNA has an extremely complex structure. It's made of chemical substances that are linked together like a chain. Each piece of DNA has two long strands, or chains. The two strands are joined together. They form a shape like a ladder that has been

twisted into a spiral. We've come to know this as the double helix. This ladder has 3 BILLION RUNGS! puts it this way: "The double helix describes the appearance of double-stranded DNA, which is composed of two linear strands that run opposite to each other, or anti-parallel, and twist together. Each DNA strand within the double helix is a long, linear molecule made of smaller units called nucleotides that form a chain."

Every cell in our body has a strand of DNA in the nucleus – and that strand is 6 ft long! But it would be only 50 trillionths of an inch wide. And if you put all the DNA in all of our cells together it would stretch twice the diameter of the solar system

This seemed so unbelievable to me that I had to check it out, lest I be guilty of passing along "fake news." That led me to the Science Focus article, How Long Is Your DNA?

"Your DNA is arranged as a coil of coils of coils of coils of coils! This allows the 3 billion base pairs in each cell to fit into a space just 6 microns across. If you stretched the DNA of one cell all the way out, it would be about 2m long and all the DNA in all your cells put together would be about twice the diameter of the Solar System."

In other words, the DNA in your cells is packaged into 46 chromosomes in the nucleus and supercoiled using enzymes so that it takes up less space. 

Vander-Ark went on to say, "Human DNA contains more organized information than the Encyclopedia Britannica, which contains approximately 44 million words." 

In a 1999 Wall Street Journal article George Sim Johnson wrote: "If the full text of the encyclopedia were to arrive in computer code from outer space, most people would regard this as proof of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. But when seen in nature, it is explained as the workings of random forces."

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A suitable close here comes from Psalm 139, a Psalm of David from 3,000 years ago, and even more astonishing today.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Illustrations courtesy Zephyris, Wikimedia Commons

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