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11 Tishrei 5766 - October 15, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Seeing Hashem in His Creation

by Mordecai Plaut

Although many people today do believe in G-d, the modern world is definite proof that even deep knowledge of the material world does not force one to be a believer. Nonetheless, if someone has a healthy mind (as HaRav Elchonon Wasserman calls it in Kovetz Ma'amorim) and has "perfected his mind" (as the Rambam calls it in Moreh Nevuchim) to be able to see things clearly, he can find many things in the world that lead to emunoh.

We truly live in an amazing world. There are many things that cannot be dismissed as coincidences. There are many things that, when normal people see them, they feel that they see the work of a Higher Intelligence, and not just the result of blind, random nature. I have catalogued some of these here.

All of these are logically and philosophically variations of what is known as the Argument from Design, the idea that the world we live in shows evidence of order and design that implies a Designer. However putting it that way is much drier than reading about the specific examples that are given. Even reading about these ideas and examples is, for many people, not as convincing as actually seeing some of them in person and working with them.

In the first part we touched on specific natural systems, particularly the human body, the migratory behavior of birds and butterflies, and the hag fish.

In this part we discuss some of the more general arguments that have to do with systematic aspects of the way the world is and functions.

Irreducible Complexity

The phrase "irreducible complexity" was introduced by Michael Behe, a professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. In his book Darwin's Black Box he defined the concept of irreducible complexity (IC) in the following way: "By irreducibly complex I mean a single system which is composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning." (p. 39)

Behe argues that such irreducibly complex systems in nature cannot be produced by evolution using natural selection, since evolution is a step-by-step process and these systems depend on several parts that must be present in order for the system to have any functional value. A process cannot proceed step-by-step in order to produce a system that needs several independent components. "Someone" must have had a plan when producing the parts that eventually mesh in the final irreducibly complex system.

One of the examples Behe gives is that of the ability of blood to coagulate when there is a wound. Blood is usually a liquid, but when there is a break in the blood vessels, parts of the blood come together and interact to form solids that plug up the leaks. The process by which blood coagulates is known technically as a cascade, since it involves a number of steps that occur one after the other until the desired result is achieved.

(Note: The next eight paragraphs are a technical presentation of the blood coagulation process. It is not necessary to understand this in order to understand what follows. Non-technically-oriented readers may skip to the next section — beginning "All biologists and students . . . " — without loss of continuity.)

The coagulation cascade has two pathways, the Contact Activation pathway (formally known as the Intrinsic Pathway, which occurs when the wound has caused damage within the body, that is, internal bleeding) and the Tissue Factor pathway (formally known as the Extrinsic pathway, meaning that the wound is at the edge of the body's boundary with the outside world — an external wound). Both of these pathways lead to fibrin formation that causes the blood to coagulate, that is to turn into a solid, so that the bleeding stops.

The primary pathway for the initiation of blood coagulation is the Tissue Factor pathway. The pathways are a series of reactions, in which an enzyme precursor made up of serine protease and its glycoprotein co-factor are activated and then catalyze the next reaction in the cascade. Coagulation factors are generally indicated by Roman numerals by scientists, with a lowercase a appended to indicate an active form. Eventually the chain reactions result in cross- linked fibrin.

The coagulation factors are serine proteases (enzymes) except FVIII and FV which are glycoproteins. (See chart.) The serine proteases act by cleaving other proteins at specific sites. Factor XIII is a transglutaminase. Protein C is also a serine protease.

The coagulation cascade was summarized in Wikipedia as follows. The specifics are very complex and difficult to follow, but one can get an impression of the complexity of the mechanism involved.

1. Tissue Factor pathway: The main role of the tissue factor pathway is to generate a "thrombin burst." Thrombin being the single most important constituent of the coagulation cascade in terms of its feedback activation roles. FVIIa circulates in a higher amount than any other activated coagulation factor and following damage to the blood vessel endothelium, Tissue Factor (TF) is released. This then forms a complex with FVIIa (TF-FVIIa) this activates FIX and FX. FVII itself is activated by thrombin, FXIa, plasmin, FXII and FXa. The activation of FXa by TF-FVIIa is almost immediately inhibited by tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI). FXa and its co- factor FVa form the prothombinase complex which activates prothrombin to thrombin. Thrombin then activates other components of the coagulation cascade, including FV and FVII (which activates FXI which in turn activates FIX), and activates and releases FVIII from being bound to VWF. FVIIIa is the co-factor of FXIa and together they form the "tenase" complex which activates FX and so the cycle continues.

2. Contact Activation pathway: formation of the primary complex on collagen by high molecular weight kininogen (HMWK), prekallikrein and FXII (Hageman factor), prekallikrein is converted to kallikrein and FXII becomes FXIIa. FXIIa converts FXI into FXIa. FXI is also activated by FVIIa. Factor IX is in turn activated by FXIa which with its co-factor FVIIIa form the tenase complex which activates FX to FXa. The minor role that the contact activation pathway has in initiating clot formation can be illustrated by the fact that patients with severe deficiencies of FXII, HMWK and prekallikrein do not have a bleeding disorder.

3. Thrombin - Thrombin has a large array of functions. Its primary role is the conversion of fibrinogen to fibrin, the building block of a haemostatic plug. In addition, it activates Factors VIII and V and their inhibitor protein C (in the presence of thrombomodulin), and it activates Factor XIII, which forms covalent bonds that crosslink the fibrin polymers that form from activated monomers.

Following activation by the contact factor or tissue factor pathways the coagulation cascade is maintained in a prothrombotic state by the continued activation of FVIII and FIX to form the tenase complex, until it is down regulated by the anticoagulant pathways.


All biologists and students who study and work through these mechanisms carefully, agree that the process is awesome and even beautiful, however they think it originated.

Behe argues that it is also irreducibly complex and thus cannot be accounted for by an evolutionary process. Many scientists disagree with him.

Behe maintains that the entire system needs to be set up at once or else it will not work. If only one pathway works, then people will die if wounded in the other way. All the biochemical processes must work, one after the other, in order for the blood to eventually coagulate. The system works as a single, integrated complex. The individual components are meaningless and worthless unless the whole system does its job. Thus they cannot evolve in a step-by- step order.

Various substances are required for the proper functioning of the coagulation cascade: Calcium and phospholipid (a cell membrane constituent). Vitamin K is an essential factor, as well as Protein S, Protein C and Protein Z. Deficiency of vitamin K impairs the function of the enzyme.

Three mechanisms keep the coagulation cascade in check: Protein C, Antithrombin, and Tissue factor pathway inhibitor.

This wonderfully complex process that gets the coagulation going when it is needed, prevents it when it is not needed, and controls it at all stages, certainly appears to have been constructed from a plan that knew what it was doing.

This is one example of many that are given by Behe. Other examples include the bombardier beetle which can shoot a stream of noxious chemicals at their enemies from special glands in their posterior. These glands store the chemicals until needed and then expel them with force. Charles Darwin when he was young became involved in the then current craze for collecting beetles. On one occasion he caught a rare beetle in each hand, but then saw another new species. He popped one into his mouth to free his hand, but it was a bombardier beetle and it bombarded him. Forced to spit it out, he lost all three.

Other examples of IC given include the bird lung whose evolution was accomplished — if at all — through stages that did not confer survival advantage; the flagella of certain bacteria which function as a molecular motor requiring the interaction of about 40 protein parts, and the absence of any one of these proteins causes the flagella to fail to function; eyes; feathers; antibodies; and many more.

Wonderful Water

Water, water everywhere. This is not only true on the high seas, but almost everywhere there is life as we know it.

Water is the most abundant liquid on earth, by far. About 70 percent of the earth is covered with water and ice, most of it thousands of feet deep. More than 97 percent of the world's water is in the oceans, and over 2 percent more is in the polar ice — together they have about 99.4 percent of all the water on earth. Only about 0.6 percent of the earth's water is fresh, that is drinkable, and most of this is in underground aquifers. The water that flows through rivers and streams is a very slight amount relative to all the water that there is on earth.

A good part of most living things is water. About 60 percent of the human body is water. Milk is about 85 percent water, as is an apple. A potato is "only" 75 percent water.

Within the human body, most of the living tissue is made up of water: it is about 92 percent of blood plasma, about 80 percent of muscle tissue, about 60 percent of red blood cells, and over half of most other tissues.

Water is one of the best solvents around. Almost everything can be dissolved in water, and the movement of water across the surface of the earth carries all sorts of matter with it.

Also, many biochemical reactions take place in water solutions and have no other way to take place. Water carries nutrients into plants and circulates them within living bodies — both animal and vegetable. It also carries away waste products.

Most substances get denser as they get cooler, and their solid forms are denser than their liquid forms. Water is different, and this is crucial for aquatic life.

As water cools it does get denser, but only until it hits about 4 degrees Celsius (4C — about 40F). That is its densest point. After that it starts to expand. Frozen water (ice) is less dense than any liquid water and will always float. By convention, at 4C one cubic centimeter (cc) of water weighs one gram.

As bodies of fresh water become colder in winter, the colder water at first sinks. But when it reaches 4C and then gets colder, the colder water floats above the warmer water. Eventually the ice forms on top and insulates the water underneath so that it can stay at 4C. This allows the aquatic life to survive through the winter. The result in salt water is similar, though the freezing point and the point of maximum density are lower than in fresh water. Saltwater ice forms at about -2C, and the liquid water below it is at about 0C. The ice still floats on the top.

Water absorbs a great deal of heat and can give it back. This has a very noticeable effect on our climate. In the fall, the heat that water has absorbed over the summer makes winter come on gradually, and in the spring the absorption of heat by the ice and cold water keeps the heat of summer at bay. The climate in England and northern Europe is heavily influenced by the massive amounts of water that come from warmer areas that are brought in by the Gulf Current. Other parts of the world that are as far to the north are much colder. The weather in England and the western part of northern Europe is fairly mild compared to areas further east.

Water also has high surface tension. That keeps water drops together as spheres. This property is also important for life since water rising in plant stems will stay together as a column as it is pulled up, because of this surface tension. Also various bugs use it to skate across the tops of bodies of water. Detergents reduce the surface tension of water. The surface tension of water combined with the fact that it expands upon freezing cause erosion of rocks to form soil.

The Celsius temperature scale, used in most of the world, is based on water. Water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius (32F) and boils at 100 degrees Celsius (212F). Chemists say that based on the place of water in the chemical world, that is, compared to other molecules of similar weight, water should boil at a very cold temperature: -90C. If this were so, all water at temperatures that we know would be a gas.

Water can also be called Dihydrogen Monoxide (H2O — two Hydrogen and one oxygen, also called DHMO). Many spoofs and scams rely on referring to water by this technically correct but unusual chemical name. A small town once almost voted to ban its use.

The Anthropic Principle

In many, many ways, the world seems to fit man perfectly, or man fits the world. This is not surprising from a Torah viewpoint, since the world was made by Hashem for man.

Science can see that there are many things which have to be "just so," for life as we know it to exist. Several of these were mentioned in the section on water.

Another condition that is related to water is the temperature on earth, which is related to the distance between the earth and the sun. If the earth were closer, the weather would be warmer — and the water on earth may well have boiled away. A range of 100C is not big in cosmic terms, but that is the range within which all life as we know it exists. If the earth were farther from the sun, all the water might be ice.

The air pressure in the atmosphere is ideal. It is balanced to provide a reasonable amount of air circulation, without storms that are too many or too destructive. The circulation in the atmosphere also ensures that there is a collection of water vapor and later a distribution of water in the form of rain.

The pressure of the atmosphere is about one kilogram per square centimeter at sea level (14.7 pounds per square inch). This pressure also is good for lungs. It also works out very well for airplane flight.

The mass of the earth fits our lifestyle well. It is big enough to hold an atmosphere, but not too big so that it crushes us.

There are a number of technical, physical properties that seem tailored to people and to life. As reported by Oliver S. Wenger et al., "Electron Tunneling Through Organic Molecules in Frozen Glasses," Science 307 (2005): 99- 102, the value of the level of uncertainty in the Heisenberg uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics is exquisitely fine-tuned so as to permit an extremely broad range of quantum tunneling rates (50 or more) for many life-essential biological reactions. Without such exquisite fine-tuning, life would be impossible. In quantum mechanical tunneling, a particle goes from one point to another point in terms of potential energy, even though those points are separated, according to physical calculations, by intermediate points that have more energy than the particle has. The particle is thus said to "tunnel" through the too-high energy curve.

Another example is the exact force of universal gravity. Among other things, this determines what kinds of stars are possible in the universe. If the gravitational force in the universe were slightly stronger, all stars would be more massive than our sun by at least 1.4 times. Large stars manufacture elements heavier than iron, and they alone disperse elements heavier than beryllium. Such elements are essential for the formation of planets as well as of living things in any form. However, these stars also burn too rapidly and too unevenly to maintain life-supporting conditions on surrounding planets. Stars the size of our sun are necessary for that.

On the other hand, if the gravitational force were slightly weaker, all stars would have less than 0.8 times the mass of the sun. No heavy elements essential for building such planets or life would be formed in that case.

In fact the gravitational force is "just right" and a variety of stars form.

The strong nuclear force holds the particles in the nucleus of an atom together. If the strong nuclear force were slightly weaker, multi-proton nuclei would not hold together. Hydrogen would be the only element in the universe.

If this force were slightly stronger, not only would hydrogen be rare in the universe, but the supply of the various life- essential elements heavier than iron (elements resulting from the fission of very heavy elements) would be insufficient. Either way, life would be impossible.

The electromagnetic coupling constant binds electrons to protons in atoms. The orbits of electrons about atoms determines how the atoms will bond with other atoms to form molecules. If the electromagnetic coupling constant were slightly smaller, no electrons would be held in orbits about nuclei. If it were slightly larger, an atom could not "share" an electron orbit with other atoms. Either way, molecules, and hence life, would be impossible.

A proton is 1,836 times more massive than an electron. If the electron to proton mass ratio were slightly larger or slightly smaller, molecules would not form and life would be impossible.

The expansion rate of the universe determines what kinds of stars form in the universe. If the rate of expansion were slightly less, the whole universe would have recollapsed. If the universe were expanding slightly more rapidly, no galaxies (and hence no stars) would form. How critical is this expansion rate? According to Alan Guth ( "Inflationary Universe: A Possible Solution to the Horizon and Flatness Problems," in Physical Review D, 23. (1981), p.348) it must be fine-tuned to an accuracy of one part in 10*55 (1 with 55 zeroes after it — an incredible number). Guth, however, suggests that his inflationary model, given certain values for the four fundamental forces of physics, may provide a natural explanation for the critical expansion rate.

Fine Structure Constants

The fine structure constants relate directly to each of the four fundamental forces of physics (gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear). Compared to the coupling constants (which affect the strength of the forces, as discussed above), the fine structure constants typically yield even stricter design constraints for the universe.

The 8*Be, 12*C, and 16*O nuclear energy levels affect the manufacture of elements essential to life. The first coincidence here is that 8*Be decays in just 10-15 seconds. Because 8*Be is so highly unstable, it slows down the fusion process. If it were more stable, fusion of heavier elements would proceed so readily that catastrophic stellar explosions would result. Such explosions would prevent the formation of many heavy elements essential for life. On the other hand, if 8*Be were even more unstable, element production beyond 8Be would not occur.

The second coincidence is that 12*C happens to have a nuclear energy level very slightly above the sum of the energy levels for 8*Be and 4*He. Anything other than this precise nuclear energy level for 12*C would guarantee insufficient carbon production for life.

The third coincidence is that 16*O has exactly the right nuclear energy level either to prevent all the carbon from turning into oxygen or to facilitate sufficient production of 16*O for life.

Fred Hoyle, who discovered these coincidences in 1953, concluded that, "A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature." ( "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections," in Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20. (1982), p.16).

"Just Right" Conditions

The distance between stars affects the orbits and the existence of planets. The average distance between stars in our part of the galaxy is about 30 trillion miles. If this distance were slightly smaller, the gravitational interaction between stars would be so strong as to destabilize planetary orbits. This destabilization would create extreme temperature variations on the planet. If this distance were slightly larger, the heavy element debris thrown out by supernovae would be so thinly distributed that rocky planets like earth could not form. The average distance between stars is just right to make possible a planetary system such as our own.

Similarly, the coexistence of the solid, liquid, and gaseous phases of water on Earth is vital to the origin and evolution of life on Earth as we know it. However, if the Earth's location in the solar system was marginally closer or further from the Sun, the conditions which allow the three forms to be present simultaneously would have been more unlikely.

Earth's mass allows gravity to hold an atmosphere. Water vapor and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere provides a greenhouse effect which helps maintain a relatively steady surface temperature. If Earth were less massive, a thinner atmosphere would cause temperature extremes, preventing the accumulation of water except in polar ice caps (as on Mars). According to the solar nebula model of the solar system's formation, Earth's mass is coordinated with its distance from the Sun.

The distance between Earth and the Sun and the combination of solar radiation received and the greenhouse effect of an atmosphere ensures that its surface is neither too cold nor too hot for liquid water. If Earth were more distant, most water would be frozen. If Earth was nearer to the Sun, its higher surface temperature would limit the formation of ice caps, or cause water to exist only as vapor. In the former case, the low albedo of oceans would cause Earth to absorb more solar energy. In the second, a runaway greenhouse effect and inhospitable conditions similar to Venus would result.

The Information in the Universe

It is clear that man is too limited to have created the universe. But, it should also be evident that the universe is too limited to have created man. The universe contains no more than 10*80 baryons and has been in existence for no more than 10*18 seconds.

Compared to the inorganic systems in the universe, biological systems are enormously complex. The genome (complete set of chromosomes necessary for reproduction) of an E. coli bacterium has the equivalent of about two million nucleotides. A single human cell contains the equivalent of about six billion nucleotides. Moreover, unlike in inorganic systems, the sequence in which the individual components are assembled is critical for the survival of biological systems.

Also, only amino acids with left-handed configurations can be used in protein synthesis. The amino acids can be joined only by peptide bonds, each amino acid first must be activated by a specific enzyme, and multiple special enzymes (enzymes themselves are enormously complex sequence-critical molecules) are required to bind messenger RNA to ribosomes before protein synthesis can begin or end.

The bottom line is that the universe is at least ten billion orders of magnitude (a factor of 10*10,000,000,000 times) too small or too young for life to have assembled itself by natural processes based on simple chance evolution. These kinds of calculations have been done by researchers, both non- theists and theists, in a variety of disciplines. Dr. Lee Spetner's book, Not By Chance! is a good example of these calculations, presented in terms that are understandable to anyone willing to put in the effort to think it through.

Randomness (chance) is capable of producing alphabetic strings like "lafhjioenamn;g" and law (necessity) can produce repetitive strings like "m,m,m,m,m,m,m,m," but only intelligent activity can produce, "Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echod!" As William Dembski demonstrates in "The Design Inference" (Cambridge, 1998), identifying such phenomena, which he calls "specified complexity," is a reliable way to detect intelligent design.

Is there information in nature?

Richard Dawkins writes, "When you eat a steak, you are shredding the equivalent of more than 100 billion copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica" (The Blind Watchmaker p.18). And Microsoft's Bill Gates notes, "Human DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any we've ever created."

The creation is quite explicit about its Creator. The truth is that evolution was concocted to allow people to be intellectually honest atheists. Up until Darwin, no respectable intellectual would admit to not being a believer. It was just too ridiculous for any thinking person not to believe in G-d.

An honest statement by the British thinker and writer Aldous Huxley exposes what many tried to conceal: "I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption! The philosophy of meaninglessness was an instrument of liberation" [A. Huxley, Report, June 1966, "Confession of a Professed Atheist"].

Another believer in evolution — Dr. Richard Dawkins — was even more explicit: "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist!" [R. Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, p. 6 (1986)].

The Bottom Line

An intelligent, transcendent Creator must have brought the universe into existence. An intelligent, transcendent Creator must have designed the universe. An intelligent, transcendent Creator must have designed planet Earth. An intelligent, transcendent Creator must have designed life.

Ani ma'amin be'emunoh sheleimoh shehaBorei yisborach Shemo, Hu borei umanhig lechol haberu'im, veHu levado Osoh, ve'Oseh, veYa'aseh lechol hama'asim.


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