Biochemical Soul Musings on Nature, Science, Evolution, Biology, and Education

6Aug/08Off

23 Things Science Can Tell Us about Life, the Universe, and Everything

Ever since the evolution of the sensory neuron, organisms have been using the these amazing peepholes into existence to direct the course of their lives. Now, humankind has elevated the role of these senses, and even created technological extensions of them, in order to find order and true knowledge of this Universe in which we exist. We are all scientists looking at the world through our own tiny peepholes, attempting to find our place within it. We have sought to understand what we are made of, what drives our constant fight against entropy, and what defines us as thinking, living entities. Who knows what the future may hold or what constraints will be placed on our knowledge, whether through considered intellect and experience or through societal and cultural pressures? For the purpose of this article, I am ignoring any social, cultural, or religious implications or constraints that may face the endeavors of science. I simply ask: what questions remain about our selves and our reality that science may theoretically be able to answer in the future?

  1. What exactly makes us different from our animal cousins?
    With the completion of the human genome project, we now know that at the DNA level, we are 96-98% identical to our closest cousin, the chimpanzee. Scientists around the world are now scrambling to decipher what exactly in that DNA defines us as human and what separates us from the rest of our animal brethren. We have far yet to travel. It appears now that only about 1.5% of our genome encodes for proteins; the rest of it is often (and inappropriately) called “junk” DNA. We have deciphered the function of only a fraction of the protein-coding genes. Furthermore, many of the differences between chimps and humans lie within this non-coding DNA. The coming years and decades will yield much knowledge as to exactly which genes have evolved in the hominin line, which regulatory regions within the non-coding sequences have changed, and which structures in the brain and other organs define our differences. We already have a sizeable list of genes that putatively separate us from apes. However, there is still much work to be done.

  2. What is the nature of the mind? How do the emergent properties of consciousness arise from the underlying interactions of synapses and neural pathways in our brain?
    This one is going to take a while. Eventually, however, we must assemble a complete working knowledge of all genes and all of their functions and interactions. We will combine our knowledge of molecular biology with our knowledge of cell biology. Over this synthesis, we will layer our understanding of neuroscience and cognitive psychology. We must take into account the existence of memory, emotion, learning, sense perception, and every other integral process or function of the brain. The question is: will the underlying structures and functions of all microscopic and macroscopic aspects of the human brain allow us to predict and explain the emergence of consciousness? Only time and science may tell.

  3. What is love, hate, and emotion?
    Scientists have largely answered this question already, but as with most neuroscience, the details remain fuzzy. It is quite clear from decades of research that everything we feel, whether it be sensation or emotion, is mediated by the release of molecules, largely neuropeptides, between synapses in the brain. Dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine, and a large cadre of other small molecules act as the signals between our brain cells. Our understanding is growing by piecemeal, but as with the emergence of consciousness, soon we will hopefully be able to synthesize a complete model of emotion, including not only happiness, anger, sadness, joy, fear, and courage, but also spiritual experiences, amazement, and euphoria.

  4. Who am I? What is the self?
    This may be seen as more of a philosophical question than a question that science can answer, and there are obviously huge aspects of this question that are inherently untouchable by science. However, I think that if we can understand all aspects of neuroscience and cognition, and if it turns out that we can predict and explain the emergence of consciousness from the underlying levels of complexity, then a full understanding of what defines the “self” may be a natural outcome. We will have a full synthesis of all aspects at all levels of the human brain, and it seems likely that we will then be able to define the “self” as a construct containing everything within the model. That is, you are the sum of all your parts, biochemistry, memories, senses, experiences, feelings, and the emergent properties themselves.

  5. Can artificial intelligence have consciousness?
    No doubt, this question may be answered sooner than we think. The field of artificial intelligence is ever expanding, and as the complexity of our computing systems and programming grow, so too may that complexity lead to emergent properties that we may define as consciousness. A better question is perhaps: how long will it be before a computer or robot passes the Turing test (a conversation in which the human cannot tell whether he or she is talking to a human or a machine)?

  6. Can a single human consciousness be replicated or simulated by computer or another organic form?
    This is almost the same question as number five, though it has a slightly different focus. This question could be reworded: if we can understand all aspects of consciousness and “self,” and if we have the computing power or organic synthesis power, could we theoretically “download” a human consciousness into another brain or into a computer. It’s the classic sci-fi dream. Who knows whether this is even theoretically possible? It would certainly take an almost unfathomable level of complexity of circuitry. In all likelihood, any specific consciousness or self would be too defined by the molecular and perhaps even quantum properties of its own constituent parts. I cannot really conceive of humanity becoming so adept at manipulating the physical world that we can completely mimic every neuronal connection and interaction in the brain. But then again, this very thought may be considered small minded several generations from now. There are also the philosophical issues of whether the “self” would truly be transferred. Nonetheless, I think this is a mind boggling question that may just be answered by science. Who wouldn’t want to be made virtually immortal?

  7. What is the nature of memory? How is it stored in the brain?
    Here’s what we know: certain structures such as the hippocampus and amygdala are integrally involved in memory. In addition, much research is going on at this very moment in an attempt to define the method in which memories are encoded. Current results have shown that memories are likely encoded by the formation and connections of specific synapses (neural connections). There are an estimated 60 trillion (that’s 60 million million) synaptic connections in the brain. Hopefully, we will soon understand exactly how information of our perceived reality is stored in these connections. Just as importantly, we hope to discover how this information is retrieved and processed, parsed, and associated with other memories and senses. Why are smells so often vividly linked with memory?

  8. How did life evolve?
    Although this is a question we will never be able to definitively answer (unless Number 18 becomes possible), I think we will one day be able to demonstrate practical ways in which life can evolve from non-life. In 1953, Miller and Urey demonstrated the formation of essential amino acids by simply electrocuting boiled methane, ammonia, hydrogen, and water – compounds believed to be abundant on the early Earth. Since then, many researchers have uncovered many specific conditions that can result in the formation of compounds necessary for life as we know it, including the formation of nucleic acids. It is very conceivable that in the near future, scientists may demonstrate the formation of self-assembling, replicating molecules in such an experiment. Perhaps they will then show how these replicating molecules can acquire membranes, like the phospholipid bilayers of our own cells (which are already known to be self-assembling). A wide variety of theories exist concerning the abiotic origins of life, too many to debate here, and I think that we may in our own lifetimes find practical methods that our own molecular ancestors might have used to become life.

  9. What is the exact evolutionary lineage of all life on Earth?
    As above, historical events are by definition inherently unknowable, from a definitive standpoint. However, as the fossil record continues to accumulate, and more importantly, as more and more genomes are sequenced, we will be able to use compare the specific DNA codes of all life on Earth (or as much as we want) to calculate the ultimate Tree of Life on Earth. There will always be holes, and specific areas of fuzziness in the data. Many organisms have been show to transfer genetic material between species, largely due to things like retroviruses and bacteria, which can muddy our understanding of specific lineages. Nonetheless, we will eventually construct a tree of evolution that comes close to outlining the entire history of natural selection on Earth.

  10. Can we engineer our own evolution?
    The trajectory of current molecular and developmental biology places us squarely in line to eventually understand the contributions of all genes within human development and physiology. We are already at the point where embryos can be screened for genetic defects, such as Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), before being implanted into a woman’s uterus. Our tools for genetic manipulation are improving, though we are still far from using gene therapy as a routine treatment. It seems likely that we will one day be faced with the opportunity to engineer our own evolution. The current state of civilization seems to suggest that at least a macro level, humans are not experiencing selective pressure to evolve, other than negative selection against disease (see my article on human evolution below). However, we may one day be able to direct the course of our own evolution. We would need the currently unimaginable computing power necessary to simulate potential genetic changes, and superb genetic tools. Perhaps with enough knowledge of developmental biology, physiology, anatomy, and with the necessary computing power and tool, we could make our species happier, adapted to undersea life, more intelligent, free of disorder and disease, or any number of things we can imagine for our species. Of course, there are enough moral and societal issue with this possibility to fill a Wikipedia. Then again, who knows what kind of world humans will live in many generations from now.

  11. What is are the costs and benefits to specific changes in the brain?
    An interesting issue has been brought up by the fields of clinical psychology and cognitive psychology, and it is the issue of the cost/benefit of deficits or enhancements in the brain. Many have speculated a growing list of artists, geniuses, and creative thinkers from our history to have been autistic, or at least have had personalities on the autistic spectrum. In addition, creativity has been positively linked with bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression). The study of neuroscience and neuropsychology will likely discover some interesting links between gaining certain abilities or traits, while displaying deficits of others. We have all heard of the rare “savants." If do get to the point of self-directed evolution or even personal enhancement with drugs, it may be interesting to define the interplay between these different traits in the human psyche.

  12. How does a single cell turn itself into a thinking, breathing organism?
    How does a fertilized egg regulate its own genes and control the timing and three dimensional growth of cells to form tissues and organs? The field of developmental biology is currently in an explosion of data. What at first seemed only insanely complex, now seems near-infinitely more so with the discovery of the roles of things such as microRNAs, epigenetics, maternal contribution on development, on top of the role of protein-coding genes. It seems like it will take centuries for us to parse out the different factors, interactors, and processes involved in the construction of an organism. However, time is something we’re not concerned with here. Assuming all remains right with the world, science will almost definitely explain exactly how a sperm and an egg can come together to create someone like you.

  13. Is there a maximum human life span?
    The human body did not evolve to be particularly long-lived. As we age, our somatic telomeres shorten (which degrades genes at the end of a chromosome), we accumulate mutations, oxidative damage, and cellular debris, and we develop diseases. How many of these things can we overcome? As of this moment, there is only one proven method of extending life spans in mammals: caloric restriction. Eat less, live longer – at least on a population level. It remains to be seen how long we can extend the human life. Even if we can extend it further, we will have to address issues of quality of life as well. Nevertheless, I have much optimism that science could extend the human life dramatically, given the time and knowledge.

  14. Can we save our planet?
    How much power can we wield over mother earth? Will we learn to alter climate? Will we learn to utilize renewable energy? Can we cure hunger? To me, it seems that we may always remain as ants when compared to the larger forces of this planet. I cannot foresee large scale engineered climate change and weather control. Then again, who could have conceived of gene therapy two hundred years ago? I think that science has already provided at least rudimentary answers to both renewable energy and hunger. The main issues with these seem now to be cultural and economic, which I don’t want to get in to here. Bioengineering is almost assured to produce a new revolution in energy production. I predict that we will soon have microbes producing ethanol or other hydrocarbon fuels from cellulosic material. We already have solar technology. And bioengineering is also in the beginning stages of creating more nutritious foods that are easier to grow. These will have negative effects and issues of their own (such as the loss of biodiversity and increased susceptibility to sudden disease), but these are issues that I believe we can overcome.

  15. Can humans survive on other planets?
    Scientists have already discovered over 300 extrasolar planets (planets around other stars). Right now, our technology is limited to inferring planets by the wobble their gravity induces on nearby bodies, so most of the discovered planets are enormous Jupiter-like planets. However, mounting evidence suggests that earth-like planets orbiting “habitable” zones, which are areas of proper temperature ranges, may be much more common than initially suggested. Thus, I think it’s easily conceivable that with new detection technologies, we may discover watery earth-like worlds in our own lifetime, or our children’s. Now can we get there?

  16. Is interstellar travel possible?
    This would obviously take a revolution in the world of physics. Light seems to be the limit right now. The closest star to Earth is Proxima Centauri at 4.2 light years distant. However, our current technology cannot even hit 0.004% the speed of light. Perhaps we will one day be able to accomplish a more sizeable proportion of the speed of light and reach the nearest star within a lifetime (10 years at about 50% c), though the energy required for such speeds boggles the mind. Science fiction writers and theoretical physicists are always theorizing that there may be loopholes in the way reality actually works. Perhaps we can figure out a way to circumscribe the peed of light conundrum (a wormhole anyone?). Only science will tell.

  17. Are we alone in the Universe?
    Will SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life) one day finally receive that long awaited telephone call? Will the Phoenix lander discover microbes beneath its microscope (albeit very tiny ones)? Will future craft find beings inhabiting the oceans of Europa that make whales look like shrimp? Our own galaxy contains roughly 100 billion (yes – 100 thousand million) stars. In addition, there are about 100 billion galaxies in our observable Universe. That’s 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars (assuming our galaxy is average). Considering the frequency with which we are discovering new planets, it seems more than possible that many planets are habitable and may harbor life. The question boils down to the likelihood of life making that first step from non-life, which is a complete unknown. But it is a question sure to be at the forefront of human thought and scientific curiosity. Perhaps we are already being visited. Scientific evidence is lacking, but it doesn’t seem so unlikely to be impossible. See the Drake Equation to play with more astronomical number on alien life.

  18. Is the Universe inherently deterministic or is there “true randomness” in nature?
    Do steadfast laws underlie quantum physics? At the macro level, all physics seems deterministic; i.e. every action is causally linked and predictable in theory based on the events preceding it. Current quantum theory seems to indicate an inherent randomness in the behavior of quantum particles. Some claim that this is due to an incomplete understanding of nature – that there are hidden variables and even at the quantum level, causality holds true. The question remains: is there “true randomness” inherent in nature at the subatomic levels? I have read that most physicists currently lean toward true randomness. If there is no “true randomness,” then every event in existence was determined by those before it, thus eliminating the possibility of free will. However, if there is randomness, this at least leaves open the possibility of true free will. Obviously, we are edging into philosophy here – and a topic which we could debate for years, no less. Nonetheless, if physicists can reconcile quantum physics with Newtonian physics and relativity, and all the other weird quantum stuff I am light years from understanding, perhaps they may answer the question of the nature of the existence.

  19. What is the maximum carrying capacity of the Earth? Will we enact global population control measures?
    Just how many people can live on the Earth? Some would argue that we have already surpassed the carrying capacity, while others believe we have a ways to go. Given current birth rates and ever-expanding life spans, it seems inevitable that we will be forced to enact population controls on a world scale. It is science that will have to tell us exactly what our resources can handle. No doubt, technology can increase our carrying capacity, if utilized properly.

  20. What is the Ultimate fate of our Universe? Will our observable Universe eventually cease in a frozen motionless entropic heat death? Or will the dark matter and energy pull all matter back into the singularity from which we exploded (The Big Crunch or Gnab Gib? This is still a hotly debated topic. We lack much crucial data. However, current measurements indicate that the Universal expansion is accelerating and not decreasing in its rate of expansion. How much dark matter is actually out there? And…

  21. What is dark energy and dark matter, anyway?
    I don’t have much to say about dark matter or dark energy, and I’m not sure that physicists have much more. Actually I’m sure that they do – I am probably just avoiding them. Something seems to be out there, swirling within galaxies, holding them together, and pulling groups of galaxies into clusters and superclusters. We have inferred its existence from its effect on other mass. More than that I cannot tell you. I hope that science will tell us much much more in the coming years.

  22. Is time travel possible? Yes. Forward at one second per second. I jest. Again, theoretical physicists have come up with scenarios in which some form of time travel might be possible. They all seem baffling to me. I had high hopes for the Time Traveler Convention of 2005, but unfortunately it seems that humans will not eventually discover time travel, or that when they did, they will have never heard of the Convention and so failed to show up.

  23. What is the true nature of existence? Parallel Universes, multiple dimensions, strings?
    Physicists – I leave this one to you. I have tried on many occasions to wrap at least a few brain cells around string theory (may those neurons rest in peace). If science ever comes to grips with the nature of our physical reality and devises the Grand Unified Theory of everything, I sure hope the math can be translated into more conceptual terms. If it turns out that we live in only one (or four) of 13 dimensions or some other such craziness, we prove it, and I still cannot understand it, it will be a sad and anticlimactic day.

Well, those are the best questions I have to offer. Again, please feel free to leave your own two cents. I am sure there are worlds of interesting and important scientific questions left to be answered.

5Aug/08Off

NPR This I Believe: Hope in the Black Void of the Unknowable

Update: This essay can now be found on the NPR "This I Believe" website.

Recently, I wrote an essay for This I Believe, an NPR radio series that asks Americans to answer this simple question. My essay has not yet been reviewed; however I doubt my chances of getting selected on the radio program. It is a bit too impersonal, too “what I don’t believe,” and not nearly as eloquent as many of the best essays (for the absolute best – see below mine). My essay is actually a shorter and reworked version of another essay I wrote on the same subject.

Note: If you find that you believe in something strongly and have a story to tell around that belief, I highly recommend you submit your own essay to NPR This I Believe.

This I Believe: Hope in the Black Void of the Unknowable

As a scientist studying the development of the brain and as a student of all scientific knowledge, I find it highly probable that all life and human experience is devoid of inherent meaning or purpose. The Universe seems nothing more than an enormous cosmic accident – an accident that will be corrected in due course as the Universe and its inhabitants are eventually destroyed in an equally pointless cataclysm. At least this is the view of my Universe as seen through the eyes of empiricism, the only eyes through which I know how to look. My morals, my accomplishments, my feelings and thoughts, and my connections to others and to the world in which I live are apparently no more than blips of energy in an inconsequential cosmic blink. However, underlying all of my knowledge and all of science I hold one major faith, one prime assumption. This is the assumption that my senses and experiences are relating real information about reality. That I am not merely in “The Matrix.” There is simply no philosophical workaround to this argument – it is impossible for me to absolutely know anything.

Thus, I cannot conclude anything definitively about my ultimate creator. I cannot absolutely believe in anything. I can only think from within the pragmatic view of science – that my senses work and my experiences along with the collected experiences of my brethren explain my reality better than any other means of purported knowledge. I can only decide to educate my future children about where we as a species come from, though I cannot guess where we may be going. I must make them understand that our science, our knowledge, is the closest thing to an explanation of our Universe we will likely ever have. However, just as importantly, I must admit where this knowledge can never reach, and allow that place to be inhabited with hope – a hope that maybe, just maybe, in that dark void of unknowability lies a meaning to my existence, a meaning I can never know or comprehend.

I must make them understand that although the fables passed down from our ancestors are no longer useful as a defining belief, the true possibilities of our meaning and our worth may be infinitely larger than I ever imagined. I believe that if we take into consideration the grandness of nature, the mind-boggling array of galaxies in our Universe, and the insanely complex biology and chemistry within ourselves, the unknowable creation of our Universe will seem only that much bigger and infinitely more awe-inspiring. I have seen but a glimpse of this awe in the intricate networks of neurons speaking to each other in unintelligible chemical languages, and I can almost fathom an entity setting it all in motion with a mere equation.

Almost.

As the philosopher Karl Popper once said, “Our knowledge can only be finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.” I believe that it is in this infinite ignorance where my only hope for greater cosmic meaning may lie.

The Best "This I Believe" Essay Ever:
NPR This I Believe: I Am Evolution

by Holly Dunsworth, a physical anthropologist at Penn State.

I believe evolution. It's easy. It's my life. I'm a paleoanthropologist. I study fossils of humans, apes and monkeys, and I teach college students about their place in nature.

Of course I believe evolution.

But that is different from believing in evolution.

To believe in something takes faith, trust, effort, strength. I need none of these things to believe evolution. It just is. My health is better because of medical research based on evolution. My genetic code is practically the same as a chimpanzee's. My bipedal feet walk on an earth full of fossil missing links. And when my feet tire, those fossils fuel my car.

To believe in something also implies hope. Hope of happiness, reward, forgiveness, eternal life. There is no hope wrapped up in my belief. Unless you count the hope that one day I'll discover the most beautifully complete fossil human skeleton ever found, with a label attached saying exactly what species it belonged to, what food it ate, how much it hunted, if it could speak, if it could laugh, if it could love and if it could throw a curveball. But this fantasy is not why I believe evolution — as if evolution is something I hope comes true.

After all the backyard bone collecting I did as a child, I managed to carve out a career where I get to ask the ultimate question on a daily basis: "Where did I come from and how?"

If our beliefs are important enough, we live our lives in service to them. That's how I feel about evolution. My role as a female Homo sapiens is to return each summer to Kenya, dig up fossils, and piece together our evolutionary history. Scanning the ground for weeks, hoping to find a single molar, or gouging out the side of a hill, one bucket of dirt at a time, I'm always in search of answers to questions shared by the whole human species. The experience deepens my understanding not just about what drives my life, but all our lives, where we came from. And the deeper I go, the more I understand that everything is connected. A bullfrog to a gorilla, a hummingbird to me, to you.

My belief is not immutable. It is constantly evolving with accumulating evidence, new knowledge and breakthrough discoveries. For example, within my lifetime, our history has expanded from being rooted 3 million years ago with the famous Lucy skeleton, to actually beginning over 6 million years ago with a cranium from Chad. The metamorphic nature of my belief is not at all like a traditional religious one; it's more like seeing is believing.

So I believe evolution.

I feel it. I breathe it. I listen to evolution, I observe it and I do evolution. I write, study, analyze, scrutinize and collect evolution. I am evolution.

Amazing, no? If you enjoyed this beautiful and poignant essay, I highly recommend you read the interview with Holly Dunsworth on the excellent Forms Most Beautiful blog (one of my favorite blogs on the internets).

27Mar/01Off

Science: the death of God or corroborative evidence for Him?

I've recently been reading "The Brothers Karamazov" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a nineteenth-century Russian novelist, and I came across the following quote:

"Remember always, young man… that science which has become a great power in the last century, has analyzed everything divine handed down to us in the holy books. After this cruel analysis the learned of this world have nothing left of all that was sacred. But they have only analyzed the parts and overlooked the whole, and indeed their blindness is marvelous. Yet the whole still stands steadfast before their eyes…" p. 171

It struck me as a statement in fitting with much of the sentiment of those who think that science is incompatible with religion. Many believe that science is simply trying to explain and thus take away many things and events that could previously only be attributed to God. Of course, science is completely incompatible with a literal interpretation of the bible, but if it is interpreted a little more loosely - keeping in mind that it HAS been altered through the centuries by translation - then NOTHING that has been learned by science is in direct contradiction with the bible. I should also note before I get going that I am not Christian myself, and I believe that if there is a God he is infinitely more complex and powerful than any God we have yet imagined. OK, that being said… back to the topic at hand.

The point of the quotation is that science analyzes only the individual aspects of physical reality, i.e. physics, astronomy, physiology, evolution, geology, etc. Science looks at all these parts and fails to look at the whole of reality and creation, and thus it is blinded to the divine nature of this reality. I think that I can safely say that I both agree and disagree with those sentiments. When I say that I agree, however, what I mean is that I can understand why one might say that, standing from a highly religious or spiritual position. Most science as seen from the public's eye, seems very cold and removed from any spiritual awareness of reality. In fact, virtually the only science that the public sees are those aspects of science that end up being applied in consumer technologies and medicine. We see on the news everyday articles dealing with some new genetic discovery that might save lives or some new property of some alloy that will make faster computers. Even the science in space, i.e. the International Space Station or Mars exploration, is reported to the public as something that will lead to new consumer products or give us another place to live in the coming centuries. There is no focus on the underlying meaning of any of these discoveries and thus very little in the way of religiosity, awe, wonder, or spirituality - that is from the perspective of the public and media.

However, when you look at the actual science being conducted through the eyes of the researchers you see the discoveries in a different light. This is where I disagree with the quote. Almost every major scientific discovery has shown one thing: reality is way more complex, ordered, and awe-inspiring than seems intuitively possible. Think about quantum physics (not that that is easy to do), or recent discoveries in genetics, or discoveries about the past of Mars, or some of the recent pictures of entire planetary nebulae taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. I promise you that when those researchers are sitting there thinking about the implications of their results, they are experiencing a kind of spiritual epiphany. Imagine being Robert Hooke in the 1600's and looking at a piece of cork through a microscope. There's no way of knowing what he expected, but when he saw that it was made of millions of smaller units, which he termed cells, he had to be overcome with excitement and awe. What I'm trying to say is that science does not offhandedly dispel the mysteries of life and reality and it does not try to make anything less sacred. On the contrary, for every question answered ten more arise. There is still plenty for God to do. We may be able to explain how a planet orbits or an apple falls based on gravity, but where did gravity come from, what causes it, why does gravity work with exactly the right force necessary to sustain an orbit at a precise distance from the sun, and why do the laws of nature allow for the exact chemical reactions necessary for thousands of process, which are themselves necessary for the existence of a living organism. Ask any physicist what gravity is or the strong and weak nuclear forces that hold atoms together. All he/she can do is explain what these forces do. No one on this earth has the faintest inkling of what gravity actually is. It's a force. But what does that mean. We have all these mathematical laws of physics, but no one understand why they are the way they are or what makes them like that. Did you know that if the gravity constant (force of gravity) was altered in the slightest bit, by something like 0.000000000000000000001 or many factors less, then matter would not be able to hold together like it does, stars wouldn't exist, planets wouldn't exist, and life would be impossible. There is much that God can still do in our scientific world and the powers science is leaving to him are much more elegant and complex than the powers that most current religions want to give him (not that we could ever prove or know there was a God involved - but this article should be taken to heart by those with "faith")

What seems more powerful and awe-inspiring to you: a God that says "poof" and has created the heavens and earth and living creatures in seven days, or a God who can slowly orchestrate the evolution of an entire universe, complete with trillions of galaxies, each filled with hundreds of billions of stars, many with hundreds of orbiting smaller bodies. He can orchestrate it for billions of years with stars dying out and giving rise to new stars all the time, obliterating all planets of the old star. He can control it so precisely that fifteen billion years after the first explosion of matter, on one of these ultramicroscopic grains of sand (probably millions more in the universe - but one for sure) actually evolves an extremely simple life form that evolves over the course of 4 billion years into a being that has the ability to look out from that grain of sand and wonder how the rest of the rocks got there? You can read my article on determinism that explains how a God could possibly orchestrate this entire existence of the universe by simply laying down the laws of physics, taking a ball of matter, and throwing it into the mix in a specific way. Now that is an all-powerful God!! All science does is show us how incredibly intricate and complex this "plan" is and how infinitely intelligent this God (should he exist) would have to be to accomplish it all.