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.
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.