Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bingo -- a billion times over

So you're playing Bingo. The caller says a number, and you have it. The caller says another number, and you have that one too. Pretty soon you stop worrying about whether or not you'll have the number -- you know you will. Bingo! In no time you're clearing out the kitty. Not only do you win the plastic prizes, you get the honor and glory of being a champ.

Is this possible? Is this probable? If this happened in real life, would you stop and wonder, "Was this a setup?"

For all the analyzing "we" scientists are known for (I put the "we" in quote marks, because my status as a scientist is at present extemely debatable), there's quite a few things taken at face value.

For instance, today I heard a practice talk on drug design. The presenter was making the point that often a good place to start when you're designing a drug library is -- Nature. Surprise! "Nature" has some pretty good drugs up "her" sleeve. (You would be amazed to hear the number of high-level researchers who refer to "Nature" as a "she." At least they're not calling her "Mother" yet. I take that back. A Nobel-laureate actually used that term a few weeks ago while he was speaking here. He talked about "returning to Mother." From the context of his talk, this meant looking back at Nature and "her" way of doing things.) Sure, we have synthesized analogs of penicillin such as ampicillin, but the original idea wasn't presented during a meeting of highbrows at Harvard -- the original idea came when a petri dish was fungally invaded by Nature. "Nature" has also inspired treatments for leprosy and burns. Many of the active ingredients in common medications were originally derived from natural products.

But doesn't this seem like a setup? Sure, it's convenient that so many natural compounds would have such beneficial effects, but what's the purely scientific explanation for so many "good" products being readily at our disposal? How could we even be guaranteed ONE such medically active compound? And where's the guarantee that this compound or any compound must have a beneficial effect?

With so many people bustling in their labs, synthesizing this and that modification of this and that naturally-inspired compound, does anyone ever stop and ask --


WHY is this medically beneficial compound present in nature?
WHY is it so convenient to get my hands on it?
WHY is there consistency in nature?
WHY is there consistency in chemistry?
WHY am I able to reason?
WHY am I alive?
WHY have I rejected the existence of God?

At the same time, I can ask myself --


WHY do I put any stock in purely naturalistic arguments?
WHY do I take the creation's consistency for granted?
WHY do I forget to thank God for His gifts, liberally sprinkled in His creation?
WHY am I silent when God has commanded me to speak?
WHY don't I stand in awe before my Creator?

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