Mark Swint

Resurrection – You 2.0

In Bible, cloning, God, Philosophy, science, Science and Religion, technology on October 20, 2008 at 11:10 pm

 

By

Mark Swint

author of

OCULUS: The Zebulon Initiative

             

 It seems that there is no greater conflict between science and religion that the issue of life after death. The question of what happens after death has been the subject of philosophers, poets and the huddled masses since time began, whenever that was. Most people, when asked, expressed some belief that something happens after death; that is, consciousness continues in some form and manner. What this afterlife is, and how it manifests itself is a subject of much and passionate debate.  This blog will not side with any particular definition of that afterlife; rather, I would like to take a look at the issue of afterlife and see if there is any science that could allow for some continuation of life after death. There are actually two issues of afterlife.  The first is a spirit world or place for angels and the disembodied spirits of men and women who have departed this life. The second issue is resurrection, or the taking up once again of the body with which we walked this earth. I think I would like to explore the second issue – resurrection – in this post. My next post will discuss angels and the spirit world.

 The scientific community feels pretty confident that they have this one ‘in the bag’. After all, it’s pretty easy to see that when something is dead it’s dead! We can go to a cemetery and exhume old coffins for a look inside. We know that we will find dusty and decayed old bones and such. There doesn’t seem to be any afterlife abounding. Similarly, the discussion can follow the natural objections to the belief in life after death with the simplistic but compelling arguments about people who died in some horribly destructive way where a body did not remain. Explosions, fires, plane crashes etc.etc. all pretty much take care of the mortal vessel after life has exited.  Perhaps one might be willing to believe some miraculous event could, indeed, raise a dead person if they left a nice intact body behind but once that is no longer the case our fantasies turn to Zombies and the ‘Living dead”.  In film these creatures always have lost their humanity and they walk around in decaying – sometimes skeletal – bodies with the sole purpose of killing any living thing in their way.

Notwithstanding the obvious observable realities around us concerning death and dying, the Bible (and most religions) maintains that Jesus resurrected, and many others who resurrected with him came into the city and were seen by many.  Old Testament prophets all testified of the ultimate certainty of the resurrection.  Job said “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:26). Other scriptures promise that in the resurrection every body shall be restored to its “perfect and proper frame” and “not a hair of the head shall be lost.” How could this be? Surely this is one argument that the theologians should give up, right? Well, maybe we shouldn’t be so hasty.

For centuries now, millennia in fact, people have looked to the promise of resurrection and the hope that one day they might again live in a physical body. Throughout time there was no rational, or even plausible, explanation of how this could possibly happen. This was and is an area where faith is requisite and hope is based on belief. It appeared to all that there was just no explicable way that a bag of bones and a pile of dust could ever be reconstituted into the same vibrant and youthful body that we enjoyed in our early lives. To make the promise that, “not one hair of the head should be lost,” or that everything should be restored to its, “perfect and proper frame,” seemed ludicrous.

Now, however, researchers are on the cusp of accomplishing the very thing that they have for so long scoffed at – the resurrection of life. And how are they going to do this? Through the use and exploitation of something that no one had ever heard of or dreamed of for the vast expanse of human history from the beginning of time to the last century. That something is DNA.

Simply put, DNA is the double helix molecule that contains the formula that defines each and every one of us. It is a strand of coding made up of billions of genes, and combinations of genes, each of which is made from a combination of proteins represented by the letters G A T & C. This formula defines, regulates and repairs who you are. It determines your hair color and texture, as well as if you are prone to baldness. It determines your eyesight and eye color, your bone structure, your height as well as your tendency to gain or lose weight. Your voice timber and quality are determined by your DNA as are many of the natural talents that you possess. In fine, everything about your body, from warts and moles to bone density and good teeth, everything is determined by you particular and unique DNA formula. In all of the billions of people on the earth, no other person has exactly the same combination of G A T C proteins and Gene combinations that you do.

Given this fact, it becomes apparent that your uniqueness does not go away when you die. Theoretically, and soon in reality, scientists will be able to take the smallest particle of you, an eyelash, a hair follicle, a piece of fingernail even a single skin cell, and from that, decode your DNA and reproduce you! The replication of the DNA molecule in each and every one of your cells that make up your body guarantees that a record of you is not lost. Given this fact, is it really so hard to conceive of the idea that you could be remade? This was the theme and overriding plot device of the movie “Jurassic Park”. In that film and in its sequels, scientists recovered the DNA from dinosaur bones which they were subsequently able to cultivate and gestate into newborn living dinosaurs.

Scientists have already taken the first tentative steps in this direction with the emerging technology of ‘Cloning’. This was first manifest with the cloning of a sheep named Dolly in England. Now cloning is going on in labs all around the world. Cattle are being cloned and the technology is branching out into other limbs o the biological tree of life.

The discovery of DNA by Watson, Crick and Wilkins earned them a Nobel Prize and gave the world its first glimmer of understanding as to the feasibility of resurrection. Of course many questions and arguments can be raised here and, again, I choose not to delve into theology other than to consider the particular claim of the Bible that people can be resurrected.

Another fascinating aspect of the DNA molecule is that, in theory at least, is should guarantee immortality and physical perfection! Here in mortality this doesn’t manifest itself as we all age and we all have some form of physical imperfection, whether it be that we are too short and squatty or our legs are abnormally long. All of us have imperfections that seem to manifest themselves at the most inopportune times. Things like acne that seem to erupt just before Junior Prom or high cholesterol that plague most of us throughout our life remind us that we are mortal and imperfect. Researchers ask the question “if we can learn to manipulate DNA why not learn how to fix DNA? Why can’t we one day take a look at someone’s particular DNA formula and ‘fix’ the ‘cancer gene’ or the ‘heart disease gene’ and even more enticing that this, why not look for ways to fix the aging gene?

All this speculation is the stuff of science fiction but the fact is we now know we have an individual formula – a program – for all of us. How hard is it to believe that this program cannot be retrieved and run to create another, better you? You could call it YOU 2.0 only this new you would not age, would not be too short, nor too tall, neither too fat nor too skinny. All the physical imperfections we suffer from would be distant memories and life would take on a whole new paradigm.  

I’m not saying this is the way God does it. I am only saying that the power of humans to figure this out someday soon should serve as support for the Biblical idea that resurrection will come to all mankind. Life 2.0 might not be as far fetched as it appears after all.

 

 

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  1. I have always been fascinated by the notion of reproducing a body from our DNA. I have also been fascinated by the notion, some have concluded, that once the body is reproduced we would be the same person all over again.

    While all the character traits, gifts and talents would still be available for our use, the environment in which would be living has not the same DNA of that which formed us in the first time around. If we grew up in an abusive household the first time around, developed an love for abuse in relationships, married several times with abusive endings, one of which caused our death initially, there would be no counting on our second go around to have those same factors for development.

    All speculation about the importance body as being essential for our happiness is hype. For centuries, we have (it would seem) developed quite a love affair for allowing our bodies to define us. When, in fact, the body is simply a tool through which we express who it is we think our Self to be. Much of what we do in an effort to design this body is done through the prism of each of our version or vision for how love of our life is suppose to work.

    At present, I am 360 pounds, fifty years old, and too damn stubborn to make a forty-five minute stop at the gym to lose some of this weight to live a more healthy and productive life. The reasoning behind my not doing so makes very little sense: I am too tired to make the visit. Well “Duh!” a regular visit to the gym to remove a few pounds will provide me more energy.

    With this said, “Maybe in my second go round I will stop in to exercise……Maybe!”

    AngllHugnU2
    Author of IM with God

  2. I thank you for your comment. I agree that environment affects us perhaps as greatly as our genetic inheretance. This is the old discussion of ‘Nature’ vs. ‘Nurture’. However, one of the things that I find comforting about the notion of resurrection is a promise found in other scriptural sources which says that we will resurrect to a PERFECT AND PROPER form. This, I think, is consistent with the idea that each of us carry flaws, some tiny some big, in our DNA. The idea that these flaws (I use the term broadly, recognizing that some of those flaws give us our personality and uniqueness and aren’t necessarily bad)could be corrected and perfected is both comforting and intriguing.

    While my own religious beliefs bring me comfort on this subject, I have disciplined myself in this blog to speak on these subjects from the viewpoint of a scientist rather than as a theologian. My whole purpose with SCIENCE AND RELIGION is to bridge the gap between these two forces and show that there is room within the world of science to accept the things put forth in the scriptures. I do not believe that SCIENCE and RELIGION are at opposite ends on these subject – only bad science and bad theology.
    Again, thank you for your comment and very good luck with your book and other efforts.

  3. An artist gazes upon the scene he or she wishes to paint and begins to caress the brush upon the canvass to express or imitate the view. I sense you have already bridged the gap between religion and science simply by considering the way life moves about in concert with each and everyone of our hands upon the brush.

    I am sure you will agree with me when I say there is only a percieved divide between science and religion. Division or conflict only exists between two version, visions, or illusions of what is thought to be truth. Neither religion, per se, or science are seperate unto their selves. Religion is simply ones professed belief in the wonder of it all. Science is the pieces and the parts as to how the way we discover the truth about living a life so full we would want to experience it eternally.

    So, for those few who choose to maintain the seperateness of one from the other the percieved divide will play out in silly creationist vs evolutionist debates. These are entertaining moments for sure. In some measure, we are all members of this debate. Eventually though, every body will come to recognize they are some one part of The One (God) moment….Life.

    Thanks for you wish of success.

    AngllHugnU2

  4. Theoretically, and soon in reality, scientists will be able to take the smallest particle of you, an eyelash, a hair follicle, a piece of fingernail even a single skin cell, and from that, decode your DNA and reproduce you!

    A clone would not be you, nor more than anyone else is ‘you’.

    Identical twins are made from the same DNA, but they are different people; if were an identical twin, there would not be ‘another you’. Your clone, made from your DNA, would be a different person to you – they would be your identical twin brother or sister, born at a later date.

    You can no more achieve immortality through cloning than you can by having children.

  5. I agree with you completely! You are absolutely correct. The essense of a person is not the color of their hair or the shape of their nose. The spirit, or whatever you wish to call that part of the person that leaves when the body dies is the real identity of the being. The body may, and does, change with age but the person inside is always the person inside. The point of my blog was that the reasonableness of the claim that a body could be recreated anew, and “in a perfect and proper form” is only reinforced by the understanding and the work going on in labs all around the world right now to reproduce complete creatures from a single cell.

    Certainly, science fiction writers have embraced this notion for a long time now. Real scientists are not far behind. As for the theological implications, which include the restoration of the same spirit or ‘persona’ to the restored body, that would necessitate additional processes not covered in this blog.

    However, as to your ascertain that “You can no more achieve immortality through cloning than you can by having children.” I humbly disagree. Scientists know the genetic processes that cause aging but they DO NOT know WHY the affected genes turn themselves off. (see previous blog – The 900 Year Old Man ). In fact, it is they who postulate the thneory that immortality is a real possibility. As research continues on the DNA molecule, and the genetic coding that controls all of our physical existence, it is only a matter of time, and a few breakthroughs, that will ultimately lead to what they like to call “Designer Genes” capable of modifying almost any part of the body. This ability, when it comes, will no doubt lead to tinkering on the gene sequence that controls aging.

  6. I am by no means a scientist. I have always felt the body displays the expression of our beliefs and values. With that said, I wonder if the reason these aging genes turn themselves off have anything to do with that measure of awareness all of us might have for that which is eternal. It is safe to say, we live much longer today than those of whom we would call ancestors of centuries ago. Perhaps, over time, in the far distant future the slow process of our eternal awareness will stretch the average aging process of the body well into the century mark.

    Again, we ARE only talking about a fragile instrument within which we experience a portion of what life is all about. We have not a clue that there be anything beyond this moment. As such, devising ways to genuinely enjoy the present, loving the now (which is our only true reality, is our call.

    In conclusion, creating learning moments as what we have shared here is really what life truly depends.

    Thanks for you blog.

    AngllHugnU2
    Author of IM with God

  7. The point of my blog was that the reasonableness of the claim that a body could be recreated anew, and “in a perfect and proper form” is only reinforced by the understanding and the work going on in labs all around the world right now to reproduce complete creatures from a single cell.

    But of course. But if God could create Adam from dust, why should He need our DNA to create a perfect and proper body like our own?

    This ability, when it comes, will no doubt lead to tinkering on the gene sequence that controls aging.

    Yes, but there are two points I must make here. Genetic engineering is different to cloning, though both are related biotechnological problems. And not ageing is different to being immortal – even without age, we could be hit by a bus and our lives ended.

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