We are created in the image of God. (Come Follow Me Lesson: January 3-9)
The brother of Jared must have been raised in a tradition much like many people today, not knowing that God has a body of “as tangible as man’s” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22). As,
“…the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger…the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.” “And the Lord saw that the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth; and the Lord said unto him: Arise, why hast thou fallen?” (Ether 3:6-7)
The brother of Jared said, “…I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.” (Ether 3:8)
“And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger.” (Ether 3:9) Then, “…the Lord showed himself unto him…” (Ether 3:13)
The Prophet Joseph Smith stated, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22)
The current common Christian belief concerning God, in my opinion, is stated at: gotquestions.org. Michael Houdmann is the CEO of Got Questions and, “is ultimately accountable for our content.” He has a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies from Calvary University and a Master’s degree in Christian Theology from Calvary Theological Seminary. The website states: “The teaching that ‘God is spirit’ is found in John 4:24…The fact that God is spirit means that God the Father does not have a human body. God the Son came to earth in human form (John 1:1), but God the Father did not.”
But what, then is spirit? The gotquestions.org website states: “The human spirit is the incorporeal part of man. The Bible says that the human spirit is the very breath of Almighty God and was breathed into man at the beginning of God’s creation…(Genesis 2:7). It is the human spirit that gives us a consciousness of self [and]…includes our intellect, emotions, fears, passions, and creativity.” This explanation draws on a very old notion of soul, which predates any idea of what the brain is or does.
The gotquestions.org website continues:
“The words spirit and breath are translations of the Hebrew word neshamah and the Greek word pneuma. The words mean ‘strong wind, blast, or inspiration.’ Neshamah is the source of life that vitalizes humanity (Job 33:4 [“The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”]). It is the intangible, unseen human spirit that governs man’s mental and emotional existence.
“Every human being has a spirit, and it is distinct from the ‘spirit,’ or life, of animals. God made man differently from the animals in that He created us ‘in the image of God’ (Genesis 1:26-27). Therefore, man is able to think, feel, love, design, create, and enjoy music, humor, and art. And it is because of the human spirit that we have a ‘free will’ that no other creature on earth has.”
I agree with Mr. Houdmann’s definition of the word “spirit” from the Hebrew and Greek. In anatomy and medicine, the Greek word pneuma is the root word for many terms related to the lungs, such as pneumonia. So how did God breathe into Adam the breath of life if God has no lungs? How is it that we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27) if God is only a “strong wind, blast, or inspiration?” Did Stephen see the resurrected Jesus standing on the right hand of the wind?
“Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.” (Acts 6:9)
“When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him...” (Acts 7:54-58)
Joseph Smith had an experience very much like that of Stephen. He stated in his History (1:17): “… I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (italics in original)
As a result of this and other visits, the Prophet Joseph Smith could testify, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also…” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22) Together with Sidney Rigdon, Joseph declared, “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God. (Doctrine and Covenants 76:22-24)
But how can we be created in the image of God if we are the products of a random evolutionary process? Richard Dawkins, in his 1986, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design, “Evolution has no long-term goal. There is no long-distance target, no final perfection to serve as a criterion for selection...” In contrast, I propose that God made laws to govern creation but did not, thereafter, micro-manage the process. Science has yet to discover most of the laws of nature governing our structure.
I will take two examples, which challenge Dawkins’, and other’s view of stochastic evolution. The first example is a protein called cytochrome c, which transports a single electron within the electron transport chain inside mitochondria. (Seeley, R.R., Stephens, T.D., and Tate, P., Anatomy and Physiology, McGraw-Hill, Dubuque, 8th edition, 2007) Actually cytochrome c attaches heme c, a specifically-shaped small molecule, which, in turn, attaches the electron. In fact, cytochrome c is literally a “target.” It is a protein of approximately one hundred amino acids, only five of which (three being invariable) make up the “bull’s eye,” to which the heme c attaches in the center of the coiled protein.
The rest of the cytochrome c protein amino acid sequence can vary, within strict limits. Among over thirty species examined, 34 of the 104 amino acids are identical. But even among species with as much as fifty percent amino acid difference, such as humans and wheat, the cytochromes are cross-reacting. Therefore, the shape of cytochrome c can be viewed as an evolutionary target, whose functions are critical to the cell and also critically related to its shape. Thus, its shape cannot be modified significantly without disrupting its function. And, therefore, in the evolution of cytochrome c there indeed was a specific target – making a small protein that can specifically bond heme c, which is a small molecule with a very specific shape.
An even more dramatic example of strictly conserved structure among proteins are those proteins containing the so-called homeodomains – a highly conserved sixty amino acid sequence with a very specific association to DNA. This amino acid sequence supercoils into precisely the right pattern to fit exactly into the major helix of the DNA molecule. DNA is constrained by its molecular nature into a very specific shape. Thus, the structure of proteins directly interacting with DNA to regulate its function, are structurally highly constrained. Therefore, the homeobox (Hox) genes, which code for the homeodomain proteins, although first appearing very early in evolutionary history, have remained highly conserved throughout all of creation. These genes play a critical role in organizing the embryo into specific patterns. Animals with very simple structures, such as sponges, lack Hox genes, simpler animals have few Hox genes, whereas more and more complex animals have more and more Hox genes. Humans have 235 Hox genes and another 65 similar pseudogenes (structurally similar genes but without function).
The structure of Hox genes is not random. The 60-base homeodomain is a key that has to fit into a specific DNA lock with a specific structure. Proteins are not developed in a vacuum. They must interact with other molecules to be useful. Genes are also arranged in a collinear fashion in the chromosomes. All of these pieces of information tell us that there must be still, as yet, undiscovered laws that govern the creation of animals. More research into the conservation of protein structure based on specific structure-related functions may in the future open new doors into understanding laws governing such structure-function relations. Castoe and colleagues have stated, “This result [molecular convergence] implies that the protein adaptive landscape is sometimes highly constrained.” And , therefore, “…careful genome-wide assays for convergent molecular evolution are warranted.” (Castoe, T.A., de Koning, A.P., and Pollock, D.D., Adaptive molecular convergence: Molecular evolution versus molecular phylogenetics, Commun Integr Biol., 3:67-9, 2010)
In his 1944 book, What is Life?, the Austrian, Nobel prize-winning quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger, proposed that the macroscopic organization seen in living organisms was the result of laws and order at the quantum level. He suggested that, at that level, life was uniquely different from the non-living world. Concerning Schrödinger’s ideas of quantum biology, Jim Al-Khalili, a British theoretical physicist, and Johnjoe McFadden, an Anglo-Irish molecular geneticist, both at the University of Surrey, stated in 2014,
“Schrödinger’s argument was based on the paradoxical fact that the laws of classical physics, such as those of Newtonian mechanics and thermodynamics, are ultimately based on disorder. Consider a balloon. It is filled with trillions of molecules of air all moving entirely randomly, bumping into one another and the inside wall of the balloon. Each molecule is governed by orderly quantum laws, but when you add up the random motions of all the molecules and average them out, their individual quantum behaviour washes out and you are left with the gas laws that predict, for example, that the balloon will expand by a precise amount when heated. This is because heat energy makes the air molecules move a little bit faster, so that they bump into the walls of the balloon with a bit more force, pushing the walls outward a little bit further. Schrödinger called this kind of law ‘order from disorder’ to reflect the fact that this apparent macroscopic regularity depends on random motion at the level of individual particles.” (Al-Khalili, Jim, and McFadden, Johnjoe, You’re powered by quantum mechanics. No, really… The Guardian, 25 Oct 2014; theguardian.com/science/2014/oct/26/youre-powered-by-quantum-mechanics-biology; see also McFadden, Johnjoe, and Al-Khalili, Jim, Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology, Bantam Press, 2014)
Al-Khalili and McFadden continued,
“Schrödinger pointed out that many of life’s properties, such as heredity, depend of molecules made of comparatively few particles – certainly too few to benefit from the order-from-disorder rules of thermodynamics. But life was clearly orderly. Where did this orderliness come from? Schrödinger suggested that life was based on a novel physical principle whereby its macroscopic order is a reflection of quantum-level order, rather than the molecular disorder that characterises the inanimate world. He called this new principle ‘order from order’.”
Al-Khalili and McFadden stated, “…the signs of quantum mechanical behaviour in the building blocks of life are becoming increasingly apparent. Recent research indicates that some of life’s most fundamental processes do indeed depend on weirdness welling up from the quantum undercurrent of reality.”
Al-Khalili and McFadden presented several examples of quantum activity in living systems. One they provide is the function of enzymes – which catalyze reactions within cells that can occur in milliseconds. Left to themselves, without enzymes, those reactions could take up to thousands of years to occur on their own.
“Life would be impossible without them. But how they accelerate chemical reactions by such enormous factors, often more than a trillion-fold, has been an enigma. Experiments over the past few decades, however, have shown that enzymes make use of a remarkable trick called quantum tunnelling to accelerate biochemical reactions. Essentially, the enzyme encourages electrons and protons to vanish from one position in a biomolecule and instantly rematerialise in another, without passing through the gap in between – a kind of quantum teleportation.”
Al-Khalili and McFadden concluded by stating,
“Just as Schrödinger predicted, life seems to be balanced on the boundary between the sensible everyday world of the large and the weird and wonderful quantum world, a discovery that is opening up an exciting new field of 21st-century science.”
Al-Khalili said that senior colleagues tried to dissuade him from this line of research, calling it “wacky,” but he stated, “I have since realized that some of the best ideas come out of seemingly crazy thoughts, because otherwise they wouldn’t be new.” (Merali, Zeeya, Solving Biology's Mysteries Using Quantum Mechanics, Discover, December 2014)
We are told in the scriptures, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Genesis 1:27; compare Moses 2:27) But we are not told how He created us. For hundreds, if not thousands, of years, people have apparently believed that He made us by some magic trick – like pulling a rabbit out of a hat – in a single, 24-hour day. When William Paley compared us to a watch in 1802, neither he, nor anyone else at the time had any idea the complexity of the human body – with its roughly thirty five trillion cells, nearly five billion miles of DNA, and three hundred heptillion proteins (3 x 1023).
As we move from the molecular and biochemical levels to the whole organism level, other factors also come into play that constrain our ultimate shape. For example, our eyes are in front of our heads so we can see where we are going. They are located above the mouth so that we can eat and see at the same time. We are not simply the result of random, uncontrolled events. But are constrained by specific laws that govern the overall outcome of the evolutionary process. Indeed, there are numerous “targets” that guide evolution. If we come to discover all of them, we will see that the shapes of our bodies are highly predictable.
Read more about the constraints governing our shape, as well as much more about the relation between science and religion in my recent book, The Infinite Creation, Unifying Science and Latter-day Saint Theology (Cedar Fort Inc., 2020), as well as the companion book, The Infinite Fall, A Scientific Approach to the Second Pillar of Eternity (Cedar Fort Inc., 2021). Much of what is posted here is excerpted from The Infinite Creation.
Trent Dee Stephens, PhD