Perspectives on the Scriptures: Genesis Day Five – ‘Programming’ of Animal Life: Reason in the service of Instinct
Day Five starts with these words:
“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.”[Genesis 1: 20]
The first thing we should consider here is what is meant by “the waters”.
Although Day Four clearly refers to our particular solar system, and thus our planet, Genesis tells us that at the end of the six days there was still no water on the Earth, at least not water in liquid form. And the reason, according to Genesis, was that “God had not caused it to rain upon the earth ...” [Genesis 2: 5]
It is only after the six days of creation, and after the seventh when God is said to have rested, that water in liquid form is said to have materialized on earth: “But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.” [Genesis 2: 6]
However, we should recall from the first three “days” that the word “waters” was used to describe the life-giving properties of matter during its various stages of creation. We should also recall that Day Three can only be construed as having created primitive DNA structures as a sort of blueprint for life that was to follow. As Philo says, this primitive DNA would have acted as the “incorporeal ideas perceptible only by the intellect, which have been appointed to be as seals of the perfected works, perceptible by the outward senses.”
So it seems most likely, and consistent with the use of the word “waters” throughout Genesis Chapter 1, that in Day Five the words “the waters” are referring to the primitive DNA which had “seeded” the matter making up the early Earth and its atmosphere. And when we recall that the words “And God said …” have been consistently used to represent a manipulation of probabilities with the objective of creating a desired result, then this verse begins to make some sense.
The primitive DNA structures are undergoing a modification so as to enable them to respond to a future environment they will soon encounter. And that environment would be planet Earth in a form more similar to the one we see today; a planet with liquid water, and a life-permitting atmosphere. The primitive DNA that had “seeded” the early planet was being ‘programmed’ to respond to its intended future environment. Like the particles in the delayed-choice experiments, we could say that “it’s as though the [primitive DNA had] a ‘premonition’ of the [future Earth] they [would] encounter farther downstream, and [were adjusting] accordingly.” Except that Genesis is telling us that the primitive DNA was being ‘programmed’ by God to ‘know’ what was coming, and also to adapt itself to develop in the environment it was to encounter as Earth cooled down. And as any school child with even a little knowledge of what is called ‘evolution’ will tell us, animal life as we know it started in the oceans, then adapted to the skies, and land.
So what seems clear is that “the waters” have a kind of double meaning: they refer to the properties of primitive DNA which were being ‘programmed’ to develop into more advanced life once they encountered liquid water; and it means that the first ‘advanced life’ on Earth was destined (or ‘programmed’) to emerge from water, which, of course, it did – so far as we know.
The next verse follows the familiar sequence by introducing the second stage of what we could call the quantum effect as seen in the delayed-choice experiments – the ‘intended’ result, as expressed in the ‘instructions’ following the words “And God said …”, are implemented. In this verse, God is said to do those things He previously said should be done:
“And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” [Genesis 1: 21]
Following the usual pattern, the words “And God saw that it was good” lock in, so to speak, the ‘programming’ that had taken place. But in the case of the creation of more advanced life, we have a very significant addition to the normal sequence of events. God is now said to speak to what He had just created:
“And God blessed them, SAYING, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.” [Genesis 1:22 – my emphasis on saying]
This is a very significant verse, and becomes even more significant when we contrast it to the words God is said to have spoken to human beings when they were created in Day Six. And it is for that reason, as we shall see, that I have emphasized the word “saying”.
So why these words?
Well, what is clear is that verse 21 refers to the physical composition of the creatures God is said to create – “whales, and every living creature that moveth …”; whereas verse 22 clearly refers to the composition of the brain, and how it is ‘programmed’.
The reason for this is obvious. In verse 22, God is said to ‘speak’ when He blesses the creatures He has just created. And ‘speaking’ implies a neurological process or activity. But when God is said to bless the creatures, He does not ‘speak to’ them, instead he blesses them “SAYING, …”
By contrast, when it comes to “man,” which God is said to create “male and female,” we find these words: “And God blessed them, and God SAID UNTO THEM, …”
And there is a very big difference between simply “saying” something and speaking to someone in particular.
The difference is something we experience in daily life. We often simply say something to no one in particular, or even to ourselves. Most people with pets will ‘speak’ to their pets. For example, if we take food out for the dog, we may say something like, ‘there you are, eat that, it will keep your fur shiny.” Of course, we don’t expect that the dog understands what we are ‘saying’. We are more ‘relating’ to the dog, not ‘reasoning’ with it as to the benefits of the nourishment of the food we are giving it. We do not expect the dog to respond in an intelligible way. And we certainly do not expect to hold an intelligent conversation with the dog.
Contrast that with what happens when we speak to our children. Even from an early age we speak to our children because we know that they have the capacity to come to understand what we are saying to them. We speak to our children in a very different way to the way we ‘speak’ to our pets. And as the children acquire a capacity to understand and respond, we hold intelligent conversations with them. And in time we expect to discuss things like the nutritional value of the food we prepare for them. And we also hope for intelligent discussion about the more profound issues of life.
In both cases, however, there is an element of ‘reason’ going on. And that is clearly what Genesis is referring to.
In the case of animals, they are being ‘programmed’ with a limited ability to ‘reason’. They can work out that when we come out at certain times of the day they will eat. In the wild, that limited ability to ‘reason’ is applied to determine the most likely places to find food, and the most effective way to hunt, for example.
So the use of the word “saying” clearly refers to a ‘programming’ of animals with a limited ability to ‘reason’. But ‘limited’ to what?
Well, that is found in the words that God is said to have used. And these words are the key to properly understanding Genesis, and the human condition:
“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.” [Genesis 1: 22]
They are being ‘programmed’ with primitive INSTINCTS – reproductive and survival instincts. In order to “be fruitful and multiply” there must be some mechanism to attract one sex of the species to the other so that they can reproduce. And in order to sustain their existence, they need to survive; and for that they need to eat. And for the species to “multiply”, they also have to ensure the survival of their offspring, so they need a strong instinct to protect their young.
So verse 22 can only refer to the ‘programming’ of DNA so that animals have basic reproductive and survival instincts, and a limited ability to ‘reason’; and the fact is that animals do have such instincts, and they do have a limited ability to ‘reason’ in order to work out how they can most effectively service those instincts.
Therefore, the only real difference between science (or biology) and Genesis is not whether animals possess such instincts, and posses a limited ability to reason in order to most effectively service those instincts, but how they got there.
The general scientific consensus is evolution.
However, with each passing year, the theory of evolution appears to be on increasingly shaky ground.
As we saw in Chapter 4, discoveries of life-forms from space are a direct challenge to the accepted propositions of evolution. As we noted there, Professor Milton Wainwright said: “If life does continue to arrive from space then we will have to completely change our view of biology and evolution.”
And it gets even more intriguing.
The Encode Project, a multinational 5 year study to analyze the 98% of human DNA that does not constitute a protein-creating gene (classified previously as Junk DNA), has now discovered that “this DNA is not junk at all … [and] … that as much as a fifth [of it] is instead made up of “switches” – bits of DNA that turn some genes on and others off.” As the Hanlon article notes, human beings are “not much more well endowed genetically than a fruit fly or even a lump of yeast.”
Hanlon goes on to note that “… the more we learn about our genome, the more complex it becomes. We have genes that tell our bodies to make proteins, genes that affect other genes, genes that are influenced by the environment, segments of DNA that switch certain genes on and off, as well as RNA, the still-not-fully understood messenger molecule that conveys information from our DNA to protein factories in cells.” And furthermore, DNA also “consists of ‘pseudogenes’ – non-functioning copies of active genes that form the raw material for evolution’ – sort of ‘reserve genes’ waiting to be switched on.
Now, although the Encode Project was looking at human DNA, the same principles apply when it comes to animal DNA. And taken in the whole, what this shows is that DNA is somehow ‘programmed’ to ‘know’ what it will encounter in the future and has prepared the mechanisms to respond to those eventualities.
Whether the ‘reserve genes’ are ‘pre-programmed’ to develop certain characteristics as they encounter certain environments, or whether DNA somehow ‘knows’ how, and with what, those ‘reserve genes’ need to be programmed when certain environments are encountered, is not important. Either way, DNA seems to ‘know’ which switches to operate in order to activate (or ‘program’) the ‘reserve genes’ necessary to respond to the different environments it appears to ‘know’ it will encounter at some point in the future.
In considering Hox Genes (the genes that that control the body’s organs), Gerald Schroeder says this: “It is true that Hox genes have been discovered to control the location and development of entire organs. But the genes that actually form these organs must already be present in the genome. We are forced to revert to the idea of latent genes, waiting patiently to be cued by the environment for expression.” The Encode Project appears to endorse that observation.
So how can DNA ‘know’ all this?
The answer may be found in the delayed-choice experiments referred to by Brian Greene (discussed in Day One).
Greene’s interpretation of the results of these delayed-choice experiments was this: “it’s as if the photons adjust their behaviour in the past according to the future choice of whether the … detector is switched on; it’s as though the photons have a ‘premonition’ of the experimental situation they will encounter farther downstream, and act accordingly.”
These remarkable properties of fundamental particles clearly show that they do have the ability to ‘know’ what the future will look like, as long as that future is somehow made aware to them. They then assume the correct mode to prepare for that eventuality.
But can these properties of fundamental particles be translated to explain the behavior of DNA? The answer must be yes.
On the connection between the quantum phenomena of subatomic particles and DNA, Weinberg says that “DNA is too complicated to allow us to use the equations of quantum mechanics to work out its structure. But the structure is understood well enough through the ordinary rules of chemistry, and no one doubts that with a large enough computer we could in principle explain all the properties of DNA by solving the equations of quantum mechanics for electrons and the nuclei of a few common elements, whose properties are explained in turn by the standard model. So again we find ourselves at the same point of convergence of our arrows of explanation.”
And of chemical reactions, which of course underlie the creation and functioning of DNA, Weinberg says this: “We believe that atoms behave the way they do in chemical reactions because the physical PRINCIPLES that govern the electrons and electric forces inside atoms leave NO FREEDOM for the atoms to behave in any other way.”
Rees puts it this way: “Mathematical laws underpin the fabric of our universe – not just atoms, but galaxies, stars and people. The properties of atoms … determine the chemistry of our everyday world. … And everything takes place in the arena of an expanding universe, whose properties were imprinted into it at the time of the initial Big Bang.”
However, we should also remember that the quantum phenomena which determine how chemical reactions create DNA, and make it function, are subject to the two-stage process of probability and observation. So if DNA somehow ‘knows’ that it should accommodate its structure to the environment it finds itself in, or that the molecules and proteins which make up DNA somehow ‘know’ that in certain environments they should ‘create’ sophisticated DNA structures, that must be down to the quantum phenomena of the subatomic particles whose properties are themselves determined by the phenomena of probability and observation. As the experiments referred to by Greene make clear, for particles to ‘know’ how to react to a future environment, they have to be observed.
We can thus apply this connection between the quantum phenomena of particles, and the structure and functioning of DNA, to the creation of higher life-forms referred to in Day Five and, as we shall see, Day Six.
So Day Five sees the ‘creation’ of DNA that will produce the various animal life-forms, but only once the Earth has stabilized to an environment containing water and the right atmosphere in which that DNA can manifest itself as the life it was intended to be. Further, the act of God blessing and speaking to the life created, symbolizes the ‘programming’ of the DNA with instincts and a limited ability to ‘reason’. And the limited ability to ‘reason’ also infers a limited capacity to communicate. Clearly the symbolism of God speaking as He blesses the creatures He has just created suggests that animals are ‘programmed’ with limited communication skills. And our everyday experience of animals confirms that fact.
At this stage, we should consider for a moment the question of statistics. There are many who argue that the very emergence of life is so statistically unlikely that it must point to a creator. In his book The Science of God, Gerald Schroeder devotes a lot of time to statistics and it does make interesting reading. But the argument based on statistics is circular, if not destined to be a dead end. It’s like the lottery. A statistician could no doubt convince most of us that the chances of winning the lottery are so infinitesimally small that it would be a waste of money to play. Yet, most weeks someone does win. To be ‘certain’ of winning the lottery, you may need to play for several lifetimes. The fact is, statistically remote as it may be to win, it does happen – regrettably, not to me.
So although I do mention statistics from time to time, A ‘Final Theory’ of God is not based on improbability – although probability does play a subsidiary role.
In the next article we will deal with Day Six – the culmination on the creation story; and the intended final cosmic product – human beings.
By Joseph B.H. McMillan. This article is an abridged extract from Chapter 6 of A ‘Final Theory’ of God, available from Amazon.com.
Copyright © Joseph B.H. McMillan All Rights Reserved
 Philo, On the Heavens, XLIV – 129.
 Adapted from Greene, pages 188 – 189.
 Press Association, http://uk.yahoo.com/organisms -originated-space-154844488.html.
 Michael Hanlon, The Daily Telegraph (London), September 11, 2012.
 Schroeder, The Science of God, page 119.
 Greene, pages 188 & 189.
 Weinberg, page 32.
 Weinberg, pages 9 & 10.
 Rees, page 1.