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volume II: Synopsis

page 5:


Christian religions see our bodies as a burden, damaged by original sin and prone to temptation, sickness and death. They propose an alternative world of disembodied entities, pure spirits, and claim that we will live on in this world after death. The bad news is that this picture may not be true and there appears to be no way to tell, since it is assumed that we cannot see these purely spiritual creatures. Aquinas 261, Paul

What is my body? Quite simply: I am an ordered set of atoms. By mass, I am approximately 65% oxygen, 18% carbon, 10% hydrogen, and smaller amounts of other elements. Because atoms are so small, I contain a huge number of them, about ten to the power of twenty eight, or one hundred million million million million. This enormous figure indicates the amount of atomic order and cooperation required to create one human being. Composition of the human body - Wikipedia

We will burrow down into the atom in a moment. Moving toward more complex structure, we see atoms bonded into molecules. Some molecules are small, like water, with three atoms; others like proteins and DNA may contain thousands or millions of atoms in an ordered array analogous to a written text. The molecules of life work together to form cells. Cells are structured into tissues, and tissues into bodies.

This gigantic system is maintained by a dense and layered networks of communication within and between atoms, molecules and cells. The whole structure is driven by the energy stored in food. This energy comes from the solar radiation collected by plants. Tanenbaum

It seems to be a fact of life that all information is encoded physically in states of matter. The ancients thought of matter as inert and passive, but modern physics sees matter as embodied energy, forever active, moving around a transfinite space of distinct states.

Although we began constructing a body with atoms, atoms are by no means simple entities. Apart from their ability to bind together to form an endless variety of molecules, each has an infinity of invisible internal states which it can communicate to other atoms by sending and receiving packets of information, particles we call photons.

This interatomic communication maintains the structure and function of our bodies and so makes us what we are. Although atoms of the same element may substitute for one another, we cannot exist independently of atoms.

Quantum mechanics, like ancient philosophy, distinguishes between visible and invisible reality. During the confused birth of quantum mechanics, Heisenberg crystallized the distinction between observation and theory. Heisenberg Using quantum mechanical terminology, we may say that the body is observable. The spirit is not directly observable, but its outlines can be discerned in the observable activity of the body. All language is body language. Heisenberg

How did this vast structure come to be? How were we created? The answer here is the same as the Christian answer: we were created by God. The difference being, of course, that here we identify God with the Universe, and God's acts of creation with evolution by variation and selection, the subject of the next page. We exist inside God, not outside.

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Further reading


Click on the "Amazon" link below each book entry to see details of a book (and possibly buy it!)

Aristotle, and (translated by W S Hett), On the Soul, Parva Naturalia, On Breath, Harvard University Press (USA) ; William Heinemann Ltd (UK) 1975 Introduction: 'This collection of treatises belongs to subjects on the borderline between bodily and mental. Aristotle was the son of a doctor and himself a biologist, who believed in experiment and dissection as a means of collecting evidence. Thus his views on the soul are influenced by his physiology. Yet he never falls into the meshes of materialism, and appears quite certainn that the body cannot possibly explain the mind. ...' 
Damasio, Antonio R, The Feeling of What Happens : Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness , Harcourt Brace 1999 Jacket: 'In a radical departure from current views on consciousness, Damasio contends that explaining how we make mental images or attend to those images will not suffice to elucidate the mystery. A satisfactory hypothesis for the making of consciousness must explain how the sense of self comes to mind. Damasio suggests that the sense of self doe snot depend on memory or on reasoning or even less on language. [it] depends, he argues, on the brain's ability to portray the living organism in the act of relating to an object. That ability, in turn, is a consequence of the brain's involvement in the process of regulating life. The sense of self began as yet another device aimed an ensuring survival.' 
Feynman, Richard, QED: The Strange Story of Light and Matter, Princeton UP 1988 Jacket: 'Quantum electrodynamics - or QED for short - is the 'strange theory' that explains how light and electrons interact. Thanks to Richard Feynmann and his colleagues, it is also one of the rare parts of physics that is known for sure, a theory that has stood the test of time. ... In this beautifully lucid set of lectures he provides a definitive introduction to QED.' 
Pais, Abraham, Inward Bound: Of Matter and Forces in the Physical World, Clarendon Press, Oxford University Press 1986 Preface: 'I will attempt to describe what has been discovered and understood about the constituents of matter, the laws to which they are subject and the forces that act on them [in the period 1895-1983]. . . . I will attempt to convey that these have been times of progress and stagnation, of order and chaos, of belief and incredulity, of the conventional and the bizarre; also of revolutionaries and conservatives, of science by individuals and by consortia, of little gadgets and big machines, and of modest funds and big moneys.' AP 
Sacks, Oliver, Seeing Voices: A Journey into the world of the Deaf, University of California Press 1989 Jacket: '... begins with a history of deaf people in the United States, the often outrageous ways in which they have been treated in the past, and their continuing struggle for acceptance in the hearing world. And it examines the amazing and beautiful visual language of the deaf - Sign - which has only in the past decade been recognised fully as a language - linguistically complete, rich and as expressive as any spoken language. ...' 
Tanenbaum, Andrew S, Computer Networks, Prentice Hall International 1996 Preface: 'The key to designing a computer network was first enunciated by Julius Caesar: Divide and Conquer. The idea is to design a network as a sequence of layers, or abstract machines, each one based upon the previous one. ... This book uses a model in which networks are divided into seven layers. The structure of the book follows the structure of the model to a considerable extent.'  
Heisenberg, Werner, "Ùber quantentheoretische Umdeutung kinematischer und mechanischer Beziehungen", Zeitschrift fur Physik, , 33, 1925, page 879. English translation in B L van der Waerden, Sources of Quantum Mechanics, Dover Publications, New York, 1968, pp 261-276. 'It has become the practice to characterize [the] failure of the quantum-theoretical rules as a deviation from classical mechanics, since the rules themselves were essentially derived from classical mechanics. This characterization has, however, little meaning when one realises that the Einstein-Bohr frequency condition (which is valid in all cases) already represents such a complete departure from classical mechanics, ... that even for the simplest quantum-theoretical problems the validity of classical mechanics simply cannot be maintained. In this situation it seems sensible to discard all hope of observing hitherto unobservable quantities, such as the position and period of the electron, and to concede that the partial agreement of the quantum rules with experience is more or less fortuitous. Instead it seems more reasonable to try to establish a theoretical quantum mechanics, analogous to classical mechanics, but in which only relations between observable quantities occur.' (van der Waerden pp 262-263.). back
Maniatis, Tom, Robin Reed, "An extensive network of coupling among gene expression machines", Nature, 416, 6880, 4 April 2002, page 499-506. Review Article: 'Gene expression in eukaryotes requires several multi-component cellular machines. Each machine carries out a separate step in the gene expression pathway., which includes transcription, several pre-messenger RNA processing steps and the export of mature mRNA to the cytoplasm. Recent studies lead to the view that, in contrast to a simple linear assembly line, a copmplex and extensively coupled network has evolved to coordinate the activities of thje gene expression machines. The extensive coupling is consistent with a model in which the machines are tethered to each other to form 'gene expression factories' that maximise the efficiency and specificity of each step in gene expression. . back
Aquinas 14 Summa: I 3 1: Is God a body? 'I answer that, It is absolutely true that God is not a body; and this can be shown in three ways. First, because no body is in motion unless it be put in motion, as is evident from induction. Now it has been already proved (2, 3), that God is the First Mover, and is Himself unmoved. Therefore it is clear that God is not a body. .. .' back
Aquinas 261 Whether an angel is altogether incorporeal 'I answer that, There must be some incorporeal creatures. For what is principally intended by God in creatures is good, and this consists in assimilation to God Himself. And the perfect assimilation of an effect to a cause is accomplished when the effect imitates the cause according to that whereby the cause produces the effect; as heat makes heat. Now, God produces the creature by His intellect and will (14, 8; 19, 4 ). Hence the perfection of the universe requires that there should be intellectual creatures. Now intelligence cannot be the action of a body, nor of any corporeal faculty; for every body is limited to "here" and "now." Hence the perfection of the universe requires the existence of an incorporeal creature.' back I sing the Body Electric, Whitman, Walt, 1900. Leaves of Grass 'I SING the Body electric; The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them; They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them, And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the Soul. back
BBC BBC Science | Human Body & Mind back
Catholic theology of the body - Wikipedia Catholic theology of the body - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'Catholic Theology of the Body is a review of historical positions and views on the role of the human body. Catholic Theology of the Body is based on the premise that the human body has its origin in God. It will be, like the body of Jesus, resurrected, transformed and taken into heavenly glory. Theological anthropology is based on this premise. The 1950 dogma of the bodily Assumption of Mary, is the latest dogmatic manifestation of the Catholic Theology of the Body. It defines that Mary, Mother of God but also a human being, "was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. Anyone, who should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt, has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith".' back
Composition of the human body - Wikipedia Composition of the human body - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'The composition of the human body can be looked at from the point of view of either mass composition, or atomic composition. To illustrate both views, the human body is ~70% water, and water is ~11% hydrogen by mass but ~67% hydrogen by atomic percent. Thus, most of the mass of the human body is oxygen, but most of the atoms in the human body are hydrogen atoms.' back
Molecular biology - Wikipedia Molecular biology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'Molecular biology (pronounced /məˈlɛkjʊlər .../) is the branch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity. This field overlaps with other areas of biology and chemistry, particularly genetics and biochemistry. Molecular biology chiefly concerns itself with understanding the interactions between the various systems of a cell, including the interactions between the different types of DNA, RNA and protein biosynthesis as well as learning how these interactions are regulated.' back
Paul Galatians, 5:16-24, English Standard Version '16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.' back
Paul Halsall Documentary Sources on Catholic Teaching 'This document was created to list the documentary sources of Catholic teaching for members of the extremely contentious Internet maillist, the Free Catholic List. I hope it will be of use to others, perhaps less contentious.' back is maintained by The Theology Company Proprietary Limited ACN 097 887 075 ABN 74 097 887 075 Copyright 2000-2018 © Jeffrey Nicholls