More Religious Chemistry

‘Benedictions on the way you catch and neutralize food additives, drugs,/ poisons, germs, excess sex hormones (too much of a good thing)…bless you Liver, for accepting this crimsom/ dye,/ Transforming it to the folksily-named red bilirubin and green biliverdin…Astonishing, Liver, how you begin as a vestigal yolk sac…You do more for me every day than the Mayor. I think I shall call you/ The Honourable Liver./ You do much more for me than the Governor. Liver for Governor. Liver/ for President. Liver for King./ I’d say “Liver for God”, except you may already be. Hail Liver, full of grace./ Our liver who art in Heaven…Organ whose name contains the injunction to live, O Liver, O great One-Who-Lives, so we can too.’ Liver, Charles Harper Webb

‘Make no mistake: if He rose at all/ it was as His body;/ if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle/ the Church will fall.// It was not as the flowers,/each soft sptring recurrent; it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddles eeyes of the eleven apostles;/ it was as His flesh: ours//… And if we will have an angel at the tomb,/ make it a real angel,/ weighty with Max Plancke’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in the dawn light…’ Seven Stanzas at Easter, John Updike

‘Memory is probably stored chemically,/ in the synapse,/ microscopic gap that is Lethe’s antithesis:/ molecules ferry across/ rivers of remembering,/ reversing Charon’s way,/ between axon and dendrite.’ ref

Jesus had DNA

Jesus had DNA,

dreaming codes

spinning his physicality,

chemical mechanisms -

holy and physical strings

spiralling and stretching -

linked forwards,

and backwards -

stitch on stitch to first water,

spirit moving in that water -

to space, the brilliant stars,

Word singing among dust;

and as all who are human -

right the way home to God.

‘And the Word  was made flesh, and dwelt among us.’ John 1, The Bible

Jesus brought God what he had learned

Jesus brought God what he had learned of human love;

at first hand from Creation, overwhelmingly expressed.

Jesus had DNA, body - encompassing the mystery

of how flesh is called to the language of chemicals;

realises the message gloriously, spins from darkness,

breathing in such harmony with Earth, atmosphere -

how must it have been to feel the Creation underfoot,

bury his nose in a flower, experience evening’s slow

defeat; the strange deathly oblivion of sleep, stars appearing

for the first time to his evolved eye, as old inventions of light.

Imagine how it was to tap dejection, rejection, betrayal,

like bitter red liquor from the bleeding cross - potential

of a heart now negatively realised; to truly understand

how it feels to call from the depths - hear nothing back.

‘…honor the chemistries, platelets, hemoglobin kinetics,/ the light-sensitive iris, the enzymic intracies/ of control,/ the gastric transformations, seed/ dissolved to acrid liquors, synthesized into/ chirp, vitreous humor, knowledge,// blood compulsion, instinct: honor the/ unique genes,/ molecues that reproduce themselves, divide into/ sets, the nucleic grain transmitted/ in slow change through ages of rising and falling form…the precise and/ necessary worked out of random, reproducable,/ the handiwork redeemed from chance, while the/ goldfinch, unconscious of the billion operations/ that stay its form, flashes, chirping (not a/ great songster) in the bay cherry bushes wild of leaf.’ A. R. Ammons, Mechanism

‘Out of Russia came the patriarchal voice of a prophet of chemistry… this was the year 1869. The age of miracles was long past. Yet here was a distinguished scientist, holding a chair of chemistry at a famous university, covering himself with the mantle of the prophets of old. Had he gathered the information from inside the crystal glass of some sorcerer? …But this oracle disdained the robes of a priest. Rather did he announce his predictions from the stillness of his chemical laboratory, where midst the smoke, not of a burning busy, but of the fire of his furnace, he had seen visions of a great generalization in chemistry.’ Bernard Jaffe, Crucibles, 1930 (on Dmitri Ivanovitch Mendeleyev, chemist)

God the Chemist (2)

God the Consummate Chemist

works His living art in codes -

chemicals, elements,

dreaming molecules.

Beginning with stars

in ultimate blackness,

turning so slowly human;

stone into bone and skin -

water and salt into blood,

light into soul: vice-versa.

Drawn from earth

Drawn from earth

by the word of life;

codes and chemicals

coalescing in water -

replicating and joining,

making new creatures.

The force of the world

is to create, join, move

forward, while keeping

so much switched off -

sleeping; maybe waiting

for a new, different time,

sample of life, to be better,

co-exist more peaceably -

this is understood by soil,

by the molecules scripted.

To be is to be like God

The smile of my sunny child being more like light

than any muscle-and-lip thing - physical product -

everything offered by the world could not wrench, buy

this freshly crumpled, leaf-damp little hand from mine;

without this gurgling cup of happiness - brimming over -

Earth’s shining blue bowl would implode, as a black hole,

like an eye falling down its own pupil; return to original dust -

then darkness before stars, absolute nothing, original desolation.

It is love that makes us like God, not this form or that;

limbs, fingers, wings - beauty gluing flesh molecules -

love that roots unearthly spirit in the dark, a closed blood rose;

deepest, deathly red, until the body’s earth is broken, crumbles,

and returned, moulds back to stardust, stone coming flowers.

We are not mannequins, wearing changing skin - evolution’s

fashion victims; not made in gingerbread moulds,

but each time slip into existence - bundles bound

in different ways; as every far-off star looking the same

has name, light, environment, wish, in relation to others.

We have become familiar to ourselves, yet are all things

that have ever been, as God is - their memory and being;

as the sycamore stores itself in keys - God is stored

inside our souls, honouring everything that has been.

For to be - is

to be like God.

‘Complex biological organisms can be reverse-engineered to to discern what they are ‘designed’ to do…Pinker and Cosmides both contend that the same applies to the human brain. Its modules, like the different blades of a Swiss army knife, are most probably designed for particular functions. The alternative, that the brain is equipped with random complexity…defies all evidence. There is simply nothing to support the conjecture that the more detailed you make a network of microprocessors, the more functions they will acquire. Indeed, the ‘connectionist’ approach to neural networks, largely misled by the image of the brain as a general-purpose network of neurons and synapses, has tested the idea thoroughly and found it wanting. Pre-programmed design is required for the solving of pre-ordained problems. There is a particular historic irony here. The concept of design in nature was once one of the strongest arguments advanced against evolution. Indeed, it was the argument from design that kept evolutionary ideas at bay for the first half of the nineteenth century. Its most able exponent, William Paley, famously observed that if you found a stone on the ground, you could conclude little of interest about how it got there. But if you found a watch, you would be forced to conclude that somewhere there was a watchmaker. Thus the exquisite functional design apparent in living creatures was manifest evidence for God. It was Darwin’s genius to use the argument from design just as explicity but in the service of the opposite conclusion: to show that Paley was wrong. A’ blind watchmaker’ (in Richard Dawkin’s phrase) called natural selection, acting step by step on the natural varation in the creature’s body, over many millions of years and many millions of individuals, could just as easily account for complex adaptation. So successfully has Darwin’s hypothesis been supported that complex adaptation is now considered the primary evidence that natural selection has been at work.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

No conflict in the slow watchmaker

No conflict in the slow watchmaker,

imaginative artist-craftsman - using

his tools, plastic materials, molecules -

over and over to rehearse his art, widen

his creativity in multiple acts of Creation –

who said his watch must be made in a day,

or seven; that a fuse lit, burning, smouldering,

might not burn the whole world in time - leaf

by leaf - as Autumn travels the globe silently;

that principles of design might not be adapted,

expressed, worked on by life, infinitely

adaptable Nature - her tough creativity

with what can be done, bettered or saved -

encrypted by practical and aesthetic means.

Best Proof of Paley’s Watchmaker

Not a watchmaker for the Genome, but force,

will of life, driving the wondrous chemistries

of Nature; why should men not call such chemistry

a miracle - not blind, handless chance but creativity;

that residual energy guiding artist’s brush, writer’s pen.

What should we call it but God - not dull randomness -

meaningless experiment, desperate struggle for survival -

squeezing the wonder, spiritual sense from every concept.

How Paley would have loved the Genome; not just a watch

but an underwater, atomic timekeeper - capable of re-telling

the time to the last nanosecond of history, biological life -

not mythical but real, extant; best proof of his watchmaker.

Darwin is studying the Genome

Darwin is excitedly studying the Genome,

with a human prayer on his lips, smiling -

God whom he thought had been proved

out of existence by his reluctant theory

is possible once more; compatible.

So many years of his guilt, unease,

not for his own soul but those whom he loved,

the believers - always pouring over Evolution

for that still brilliant chink of holiness;  

here coded in the Poem of Existence -

life’s material realisation, scripture;

calling all His evolving creatures -

binding them from stardust,

first swimming molecules -

through millennia, all products -

evolved expression of the Word.

Some self-halo of darkness dissolving;

light fills celestial studies - notebooks.

Note from the author
exploring the project

    The Human Genome Project
    – Public versus private
    Gene Patenting
    Blood Poems
    Holy-Moley-More God!
        Holy Physics
        More Religious Chemistry
        Artificial Life
        Genomic Vision

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