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It's All About the Genes

Chris Holland
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Chris Holland

Chris Holland is speaker/director of It Is Written Canada. 

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It has stood the test of time with God's Book the Bible. Still relevant in today's complex world. It is written. Messages of hope around the world. Thank you so much for choosing to watch it is written we are in the third part of a three part series designed with purpose did you know that every cell starts out with long strands of D.N.A. oxy rival nucleic acid now we more commonly call this huge molecule D.N.A. It is essential for life to exist as it serves as kind of a chemical paper on which the plans for all are proteins as well as much of the other information necessary for a bodies to exist that information is divided into units called genes and if that sounded confusing to you here to help us sort it all out and help us understand it and its implications for our faith is Dr Tim Standish Dr Standish thank you so much for joining us well thank you so much for having me and I am excited to talk about Gene Yes You know Dr Standish we've had a number of times together we've actually known each other for quite a while we met. Twenty years ago at Andrews University where you were an associate professor of biology and I was a student. Studying theology and your career has taken you far and wide many different places you before coming to Andrews you are an associate professor of biology at Union College there in Lincoln Nebraska you have a Ph D. in environmental biology and public policy a master's of biology and a Bachelors of Science in zoo ology and now you're the senior scientist at the geo science research institute and that sounded really big and confusing and so unraveling this confusion before we all the D.N.A. confusion let's kind of unravel of that confusion that I all talk about what is our that mean what is that what do you do Dr Standish you know sometimes I think I know what I do but but I listen to my wife and then I know immediately Yes that's now I work for the Jew Science Research Institute and this is an Institute located in Southern California we're interested in how the Bible and the information that's recorded in there and science interact with one another most of the time they're in complete agreement sometimes there is some tension between the claims of science and the Raechel of scripture and that's where we think you know what this something interesting to find out there and so you spend a lot of time researching exploring these tensions finding ways in which. These tensions can either be explained or actually maybe they're not even attention or maybe this tension is actually a complementary and intentional tension somebody wanted to read more about the things that the geoscience Research Institute is doing if someone wanted to read maybe some of the research papers that you have written where could they find that information the best place to start would be at the. Research Institute Web site which is just G R I S D A dot org very good so Dr Standish we open the show talking about D.N.A. So let's just begin very basically what is D.N.A. But D.N.A. is a molecule So that means that it's it's a structure that's made up of lots of atoms all joined together now most molecules are very small relative to the scale of things that we we deal with you can't see molecules typically with the naked eye but D.N.A. has to really interesting properties just just on a on a global scale first of all it is really a big molecule that doesn't mean that you can necessarily see it with your naked eye OK but it is very very long. You have in pretty much all of your cells forty six chromosomes and the D.N.A. is is a major component of those chromosomes if you just took the D.N.A. from those chromosomes it's all forty six of them and stretched it out straight. It would be about six feet a little over six feet approximately two meters long so my D.N.A. if I just sort of lined it up all those bits of D.N.A. inside myself would be about as tall as I am when I'm standing up. And just to make sure I understand correctly is that the D.N.A. and all of your cells are the D.N.A. in just one cell that is about two metres long that would be in one cell and we have lots of cells throughout our body so you're talking if you took all the D.N.A. that's inside of us. You're talking about something that's huge Oh yes you have something on the order of a you know approaching a trillion human cells in your body and so. There's a lot of D.N.A. in there at least in terms of length while so you're talking about almost two trillion meters of length in just one human body this is a huge molecule So let's talk a little bit more about this D.N.A. So what is this D.N.A. do for us how is it it information encoded in it let's talk about this D.N.A. The information is probably the most interesting thing about the D.N.A. I mean the structure of D.N.A. itself is very elegant and beautiful everybody see this structure it's that sort of double helix twisting structure yes that you see showing up when people want to talk about science kind of things they frequently have a picture of D.N.A. in there and finding that. That structure was a very very big deal in one nine hundred fifty three James Watson and Francis Crick along with a couple of other people where they've been the big sort of movers and shakers with us they published a paper that got them this Nobel Prize in nature Interestingly enough the paper itself is only about a page long but it reported this double helix will structure and that's very very important in terms of recording the informational storing the information in there you can think of the D.N.A. language as being spelled out in just the same way that we spell out words our cells OK just like letters of the alphabet instead of using letters it uses slightly different flat molecules that are attached to the. So what sticks into the middle of that sort of twisted lab a structure those are the those are the parts of the molecule that contain the the information and each one of those is like a different letter there are only four different letters in the D.N.A. alphabet OK So we frequently symbolize them as a T. G. and C. and I when I first saw that I thought well how can you spell very much using only that many letters. And so so the key to D.N.A. Is it in codes information holds information now and it's a very good molecule for doing that yes why is it such a good molecule for doing that and how does the how does it get the information I mean how does it get that information OK let's let's first talk just a little bit about why it's a really good molecule for storing information first of all it's very stable so it doesn't. Break very easily it doesn't change very easily it can be broken and it can be changed but it's pretty pretty amazing for such a huge molecule and because it's so stable it actually stays around for a long time you can find D.N.A. and samples of. Boneless save thousands of years old wow that's so we've been able to actually retrieve for example D.N.A. from mammoths. Obviously quite old it's kind of a cool thing it lets us find out stuff about the past. And some information about those organisms back them so that's one of the great things about D.N.A. another. Thing about it is that it's double stranded so it has to these two strands that are twisted around each other. If you want to you can unzip those strands remember they're held together by these molecules parts of the molecule I should say that are sticking into the middle right and those are not physically joined together they're held together by forces. And those forces are pretty easily broken so you can just sort of under the D.N.A. The great thing about that is that both strands actually contain one hundred percent of the information so you're asking where does the information come from what happens is to make a new strand of D.N.A. you take an old strand of D.N.A. you pets. And you synthesize the opposite strand on each of those original strands and you have a perfect copy so that's another reason why it's a fabulous molecule for storing information because it can be passed from. Mother cells to daughter cells themselves divide so you can you can easily it's easily copied. And and obviously then the big ultimate question is Where did that information come from in the first place Yes where does it count from and. To answer that question it's probably worth looking at the kind of information that's actually stored in D.N.A. Yes I should give you warning OK we probably don't fully understand all of the information stored in D.N.A.. It saves the every few months something comes out. It is absolutely jaw dropping when it comes to that but let's talk about the gene our writers Gene you think of a gene as being something like a. Maybe it maybe a chapter in a book OK and I'm going to use different analogies here because they're a little bit easier to understand Sure but don't be angry with me if I switch from one analogy to another analogy we're trying to understand something that isn't exactly like this but it's close for sure so. If you've got a long strand of D.N.A. from one of your chromosomes there will be these genes in there and they will be like if the long strand as it is a book then a gene might be a chapter now there are a lot of chapters in the book yes it's a long book just to put it in perspective those letters that I mentioned that code the information there are about three billion of them in the human genome and you have two copies of the human genome in most of the cells of your body so that's that's it's it's a pretty. There are a lot of letters in these chapters but it is now it is I just want to make sure because it because we're talking some big things here. Six billion Did I hear the word RATS billion total you three billion. Of these D.N.A. letters in a complete copy of the human genome and you got what copy from your mother and you got another copy from your father so that's why you have two copies in every cell in your body fabulous Oh and that is a really important thing by the way yes because if you've got a if let's say there was a problem with with one of the genes that your father gave you you have a backup copy from your mother so it's it's. A very clever redundant and robust system yes it's been thought through very well yet. God who created humans lie believe ultimately put the put the information into into the D.N.A. for human beings chose a really good material to encode that information into and a really good system for passing that down through the generations so that we can survive and thrive in the world that we live in but anyway getting back to genes Yes I'll tell you an embarrassing story about myself when I was teaching. The universe we were both that one day I stood up in front of my molecular genetics class and gave a truly brilliant lecture on estimating the number of genes that are in the human genome we're big complicated creatures so you'd expect that there be a lot of information that would need to be encoded in our D.N.A. And and there is. I used. Absolutely correct data. And made what I think everybody would agree were very reasonable assumptions and demonstrated to my class that there are about one hundred twenty five thousand genes in in in coded into the D.N.A. of a human being. But the next day the human genome was published. So that was the first time it was fully sequenced and then it was published and I of course immediately grabbed my copy of science the journal Science where it was and I read and I read and I read and I felt more and more foolish because there are not one hundred twenty five thousand genes in the human genome. There were only about fifty thousand genes in the human genome and yet my biological brain so good nobody really knew why there were so few genes this was one of the big surprises now since that time the number of genes has actually gone down further there are you know between twenty and twenty five thousand genes now we think in the human genome how can this be we make so many more proteins than there are genes in our body yes it. Has it turns out genes are not what we thought they were we thought that a gene was just the plan for one protein. So we thought there's one dream one protein but that's not the way it works OK in reality each gene can make multiple proteins now some genes only do make one protein but there are other genes that make a whole lot of them OK And instead of being just sort of a simple string of information. The genes are more like little computer programs. And there's all kinds of input that comes in via various molecules that bind with the D.N.A. and bind with each other and bind with other molecules particularly R.N.A. possibly they them well there's there's a whole lot of things yes that come together and that and a decision is made about whether the gene is going to make a protein or whether it isn't going to do so in addition to that the genes. Will be talking with basically with other genes and and that information is also being integrated. Had gene might decide to make one version of a protein and at another time because of other input decide to make another version of that gene and I can give you a specific example if you'd like please there's there's a gene called P I T E X two. And we won't worry about what that stands for but P I T X two has an interesting role in development it helps to determine the shape of our face. But it does some other things as well now sometimes that gene needs to or needs to make a protein that is embedded into a cell membrane. At other times it needs to make a very similar protein that isn't him bear that into a membrane so it needs to make two kinds of proteins actually it makes more than two kinds of proteins How does it do that well the self has saved months of information remember that this of all lined up on this long string of D.N.A. and you can take a segment these are called Exxon's. Take a segment from here in a segment from here in a segment from here and join those all together and those are the information for let's say the version that floats around inside the cell Yes Whereas if you take you know a slightly different combination of them that's the one that's the code then for the protein that sticks into the cell membrane It sounds so technical Yeah it's fabulous The point is genes much more fantastic than we thought they were. It it's not just simple information it's complex integrated information. And I don't I don't want to take too many leaps here Dr Standish but if I hear what you're saying. We have D.N.A. and within that D.N.A. We have genes in genes are the chapters of the book D.N.A. and those chapters. Instead of necessarily those chapters are written but then those chapters then help write other things proteins Yes I actually mixing a metaphor here OK Well yeah I said the kind of like chapters but they're also kind of like a computer program yes they're like a dynamic chapter OK like. That's why they they're not just a passive kind of thing like a book that doesn't change they are interacting with the environment they're taking information and integrating information and then they using that to make the right kind of protein so it's like a little computer and this little computer what it sounds like as you're talking is not something that could exist or function in partial pieces. It seems like doing things in bits and pieces would be a. An unlikely way of getting this kind of system because it's it's not just a matter of getting one bit of information right it's a matter of getting several kinds of several. Bits of information correct but also the information about when to use that information and a whole mechanism for making that decision. And so it seems like once again Dr Standish we are looking at something that points to a plan that points to does. I know. It in our normal experience. We know the computer programs that are probably the closest analogy that we can make to genes at this particular point we know where they come from and we've we've got literally many thousands probably millions of examples now of the source of this kind of information it's engine is human beings computer programs to come about by random number generators random number generators themselves to come about by random number generator these are engineered systems and so where did the information come from if I look at a computer I say all that information came from a computer engineer is software engineers and so on. Why would I come to a different conclusion about quite similar kinds of systems that we find inside the cells of every living thing that we know of. And so if I hear what you're saying Dr Standish. What you're saying is that as we look at D.N.A. as we look at genes. The possibility or probability that these genes just came together by random chance something unguided something unguided. What is the probability that that's the case. In my opinion that zero Now you could probably figure out a probability using various assumptions and I've seen people try to do this sort of thing but that's not the way science really works you know science is about seeing patterns things that. A repeatedly. And saying that the way things work. When we look at where information like the information that we see in genes comes from when we look at that we can see the with absolutely one hundred percent. You know of the time it comes from intelligent minds. It never comes from any other source. And so when we look at D.N.A. Once again we see a plan. And a plan or a design and a designer. And so as we are kind of wrapping up here Dr Standish. Let me just ask the question as straightforward as I can did God write the D.N.A. into every cell in our body I believe that that original information was written by God just as much as I believe by the way that God wrote the Ten Commandments in the tables of stone it's there is no difference he is the sauce the ultimate source of that information now it has been passed down through many generations obviously yes but I believe that the ultimate source of that information was God Himself. And what a fascinating conclusion to this series designed with purpose to talk about D.N.A. the very building blocks of who we are show us the actual fingerprints so to speak of God that each of us was made with a purpose planted by the master planner the. Christ himself Dr Standish thank you so much would you be willing to pray for us as we end our program today you. Give father in heaven I thank you for all that you did only you planned so that living things can exist I thank you that part of that plan was also a plan of salvation for each one of us I thank you for coming down dying on this earth so that we can be saved and my prayer is that each of us will seek to know you as our Creator and our redeemer I pray this in Jesus' name amen amen. Dr Standish how exciting it is to know that God's very fingerprints are on each and every one of our cells throughout our D.N.A. You know today we want to offer our viewers the D.V.D. king of creation tell us a little something about it we've talked about really technical stuff but sometimes it's great to just BE STILL AND KNOW that God is God king of creation is beautiful cinematography beautiful music and beautiful selections from God's word all put together into what we call a devotional D.V.D. that is wonderful friend if you would like to receive today's offer here's the information you need. To request today's offer just log on to W.W.W. dot it is written canada dot ca That's W W W dot it is written canada dot ca for Canadian viewers the offer will be sent free and postage paid for viewers outside of Canada shipping charges will apply if you prefer you may call toll free at one. Eight eight eight I I.W. That's one eight eight eight call I.I. W or if you wish you may write to us at it is written Box two thousand and ten Oshawa Ontario L. one age seventy four. Dr Standish thank you so much for joining us today thanks for having me my dear friend thank you for watching and if you want to learn more about our one are full creator join us again next week until then remember it is written man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

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