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Deciphering the Code of Life and the Human Immune System: Part 1

There are 3 billion base pairs in human DNA. Each is a rung on the latter of the double helix structure. But it is not as though each rung is a gene. Instead, a collection of them will define a single gene, of which there are over 20,000. The feat of mapping them all was accomplished in 2000. “Today we are learning the language in which God created life," President Clinton said at a White House ceremony celebrating the deed, reported in the New York Times. It is both an echo and update of Galileo’s quote from long ago: “Mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe.” It may be that Clinton’s statement was said for expediency, as Galileo’s certainly was not—the latter meant it. But I like when people are respectful toward God.

At about the same time, beginning with single-celled organisms like bacteria, other researchers were finding identical segments of DNA that didn’t seem to do anything and were interspersed among the segments that did. Says the above New York Times article: “. . . human DNA is full of repetitive sequences—the same run of letters repeated over and over again—and these repetitions baffle the computer algorithms set to assemble the pieces.”

Sean Carroll, in his 2007 book, The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, incorrectly called these sequences ‘fossil DNA,’ though he surely knows what they are by now. At almost the exact time of his book’s writing, that DNA was being revealed as anything but ‘fossil.’

Things must be given a snappy acronym for memory’s sake. CRISPR did the trick: “clustered regularly interspersed short palindromic (reads the same backward and forward) repeats.” Now—just what were they, those repetitions that would “baffle the computer algorithms?”

One researcher ran the middle sections of such repeats through a database. He found that they were exactly the same as the DNA segments of attacking viruses!—as though the host ‘remembered’ its attacker. Walter Isaacson uses the analogy of copying and pasting a mug shot. That way, should that virus ever show its ugly mug again, it will immediately be spotted. Without fail it will be spotted, since the mug shot is not just there once at the post office, but interspersed again and again throughout all the DNA corridors!

Adjacent to these clustered regularly interspersed short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) are enzymes* that not only do the copy and paste, but also the search and destroy. They’ve been dubbed ‘CRISPR-associated enzymes’—‘Cas enzymes’ for short. Since there are several of them, and they all perform different functions, they are numbered: Cas1, Cas2, and so forth.

*Enzymes are proteins that initiate chemical reactions but are not consumed themselves. The Cas enzymes molest an invading virus, one targeting it, one holding it down, one cutting it up into harmless bits, one posting the mug shot for future reference. What all this means, and this with the Cas enzymes only in 2008, is the structure and mechanism of the immune system is revealed!

Now, before progressing to what is annoying, let’s stop and savor the accomplishment, for it is monumental. You don’t have to right away reveal yourself an old codger forever posting signs ‘No turn-arounds in this driveway!!’ It’s proper to savor the accomplishment first. That’s what ‘The Code Breakers’ does, subtitled ‘the Future of the Human Race,’ the Walter Isaacson book completed in 2021. Isaacson has make it his specialty to write biographies of the world’s memorable innovators—even geniuses—such as Leonardo DaVinci, Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, Steve Jobs, and just now, Elon Musk. The Code Breakers is more of a collaborative story. The names are not as recognizable. Isaacson wrote a similar book on the digital revolution in which most names are not as recognizable. Jennifer Doubna is the main focus of The Code Breakers. She is not the one who gave CRISPR its name, though. That fellow is Francisco Mojica.

It’s all very proper to name names when relating a human play, and Isaacson’s book is a must-read for anyone wishing to be brought up to speed on the topic. Only the Watchtower does not name names, and that is because it is a superhuman play that they follow and relate. You don’t have to know the names of the actors to follow the play; it can even be a distraction if you do. Besides—it is a bit of a self-reinforcing cycle—because they’re not following the human actors, but the play itself, they don’t always know just who the actors are. With just mild exaggeration, Elon Musk reduces to ‘one wealthy businessman,’ Vladimir Putin to ‘one Russian politician.’

But that’s an aside. Isaacson is telling a human story, and he does relate the names and the interplay between them. For an interesting read, you must relate the names. Besides, it’s risky if you don’t. There is no sweeter sound to a person than the sound of his own name. “Libraries and museums owe their richest collections to men who cannot bear to think that their names might perish from the memory of the race,” writes Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People, a book that is largely forgotten today but shouldn’t be. His observation is true enough. I can’t walk though a park without passing benches emblazoned with the names of those contributing to it.

But that’s another aside. The works of the code-breakers are truly momentous. Name them all—not a problem with that. Now—on to what is aggravating:

To be continued:

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

The Newbie Who Eclipses the Vets

Working in the ministry with a 75-year old who just became a Witness, he makes a better impression than me (who can be accused of having been around so long as to know every spiel.) But not him. With him, it is pure conviction and sincerity. ‘I had never read the Bible,’ he said, despite his long church affiliation. ‘When I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.’

It was at a home where no one had answered at first, and you wonder whether that is on purpose or not; sometimes people don’t answer. But upon returning, there she was, an older woman, puttering around in the garage. We crossed the street to speak with her.

She was guarded about my invitation to read a scripture, get her thought, and then be on our way, observing that she was Roman Catholic. ‘Fortunately, we’re not recruiting,’ I told her. ‘It’s just a scripture from a book you know as well as us.’ She then added that there were some Witnesses in her extended family—with the air that ‘They keep me informed so you don’t have to?’ Dunno. Could be, but dunno.

I offered a ‘deal’ which was—sometimes when there are Witnesses in the family, you wonder why they do this or that, you have some views of them which may be good or bad, usually some of both, but you would not just come out and say it to them because—well, they’re family. You don’t want to mess with the chemistry. ‘But us you’ll never see again,’ I told her, ‘so anything you wonder about them we can tell you about.’ 

All this either loosens a person up or shuts them down. If it shuts them down, then off we go. In this case, it loosened her up. Family members had responded differently to her Witness relatives, she mentioned, but as for her, she is open-minded. It was plain that she was open-minded when we finally did read that scripture—in this case it was Matthew 6:9-10, the ‘Our Father’ prayer; I prefaced it by saying, ‘This is where Jesus tells his disciples how to pray,’ upon which she interjected, ‘Supposedly.’

‘She doesn’t really believe it,’ Keith observed to me as we were discussing the call later. Just like he hadn’t really believed church things either during his nominal time as a member. That’s not to say he disbelieved them—only, that he had formed no decisive opinion—they might be so or they might not be. 

Keith had come into his own during this short call. I had gradually yielded to him. They had some things in common, such as having recently lost a spouse. One never knows how someone will respond to the Bible until you run a few verses past them and they get to put it in context.

Strange how some, like Keith, say that once they started reading the Bible, they ‘couldn’t put it down.’ Even I was able to put it down, if he’s speaking of reading it straight through. But once a person is given a few keys to it—then one is not able to ‘put it down’; then they are forever flipping back and forth to see that this portion really does explain that portion. They are just drawn to that basic Witness approach to understanding the scriptures: for any given passage in question, gather together all other passages on that same topic and on that basis decide what the scripture means. In the process of doing so, one sees through and jettisons a truckload of religious doctrines that serves to impede understanding.

But others will read the Bible and see a lot a nasty doings chronicled. ‘If it’s there, it must be A-okay God,’ they figure. What is wrong with people to think that way? It’s just history. It’s history of what people did when they knew of Jehovah, when they didn’t know of Jehovah, and when they knew but were oblivious to his requirements. Obviously, he has requirements. The creator of humanity—we are going to have requirements of him or he or us? That doesn’t mean people pay any attention to them. Sometimes comeuppance for such straying is prompt and sometimes it is not. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all and is one of those things for which we must stay tuned.

And here I am, on another occasion, with a fellow long-time Witness. Keith, meanwhile, is working in the field service with someone else new—in this case, someone who ran a local youth agency until he retired. He and Keith are chatting up a storm at one door. No one had given my fellow and me the time of day.

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Could Disfellowshipping be Likened to Time in the Penalty Box?

Could you liken disfellowshipping to time in the penalty box? It depends on your criteria.

It is time spent out of the game. It is also not forever. After a stint of cooling one’s heels, you get readmitted to the game; an outcome never in doubt—assuming a player wants that outcome, of course, and they all do in hockey.

In disfellowshipping, they may not. They may even decide the spiritual game sucks and they’re not going to play anymore. You do have to believe in God to be happy as a Witness. Occasionally, a DFed one even goes into full vengeful Haman mode, plotting revenge upon the ousting congregation. But I like the ones who view it the hockey way. At any rate, it is possible to do so, and say, ‘Ah, rats! Here I am in the penalty box. But not to worry. Do my time and out I come.”

Meantime, there you are watching the game. Same thing in the case of disfellowshipping. No one excludes you from the Hall. There you are watching the game. You just don’t take part for a time until you get your act together.

Of course, another main difference is that the refs in hockey don’t try to gauge repentance. They hold no conference to judge whether a player feels bad about slamming another into the boards (even spearing them with the stick!) or is apt to do it again. To the penalty box they go—whether they feel bad or not. But in the congregation, repentance will cut you slack every time. If you have it, you’ll avoid the box entirely, though you still may have your skates restricted for a time. Of course, if you slam them against the boards, apologize, and then go off to do it again, congregation refs start to wonder just how repentant you are.

Playing with the notion a bit, here I notice that Wikipedia calls that penalty box the ‘sin bin’ or the ‘bad box’—a point on viewing in my way, isn’t it? See how repentant this fellow looks.


[[Photo:Richard Gynge going to penalty box.JPG|Richard_Gynge_going_to_penalty_box . . . No, this post has nothing to do with him personally.  He’s just here for the pic.]]


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

‘Controlling’ People—the Very Notions of Society and Morality Can be Spun in Terms of ‘Controlling’ People

The modern-day anti-cult obsession is that religious teachings are used (and even designed) to “control” people. They see it where they want to see it and overlook it where they don’t.

What of the Pink Floyd song, the one with the chorus of children? “We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control.” Whose plaintive cry is it it? Helpless cult victims? Maybe. I wasn’t thrilled to be made to go to school every day. It is the school systems of the world, put in place by the governments of the world! But it too, uses, ‘thought control.’ It is the boss cult which thereafter exempts itself while pointing a finger at everyone else.

I made a quip in Go Where Tom Goes that today’s anticultists would go bonkers at the seating system of early Charleston churches. There, you purchased your pew. Thereafter, you always sat there. Today’s anticultists (and only they) would spin that as ‘manipulating’ people to attend church since if you weren’t there in your pew everyone would know it. Peer pressure would do its dastardly work. There was zero chance you were sitting anywhere else. 

Instead, I liked Bro Sanderson’s talk that if you’re going to talk manipulation, do it with something that counts. He cited the Nuremburg trials, and how fear of death ‘manipulated’ people to do the most despicable things, a fear from which they would have been released had they known and exercised faith in Christ. The very notions of both society and morality can be portrayed in terms of ‘controlling’ people. If you’re going to play that game, do it with something that counts, such as fear of death that will manipulate you into being a mass murderer. 

On those endless trips in the family car, restless kids in the back, my dad would sometimes yell, ‘If you kids don’t stop crying back there, I’m going to pull this car over and give you something to cry about!’ I thought he was just being mean. I did not then realize he was proffering the wisdom of the ages, for sometimes that is exactly what must be done.

******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

The Man Who Memorized the Bible—and Still Wanted to Become a Jesuit.

It’s a bit of a cheap shot—but on account of that Babylon the Great scripture we Witnesses are known to take such shots*—John Barr, the GB member until he died, related an amazing feat: a candidate who was rejected as a Jesuit for being too short. Whereupon, he memorized the entire Bible to prove his worthiness.

The truly amazing thing, John Barr related, was that after having done so, he still wanted to be a Jesuit.

As I recall it, the account was included in Barr’s talk at a District Convention. Such GB talks would often find their way into the Watchtower magazine within the year. When his did, the magazine dropped the line about still wanting to become a Jesuit. Instead, it skipped right over to the more milquetoast, “Surely, however, it is far more important to understand God’s Word than it is to memorize it.” It declined to take the ‘cheap shot’ that Barr could not resist.

The Watchtower paragraph, from the February 1, 1994 issue (pages 8-9):

“In the 17th century C.E., a Catholic man named Cornelius van der Steen sought to become a Jesuit but was rejected because he was too short. Says Manfred Barthel in his book The Jesuits​—History & Legend of the Society of Jesus: “The committee informed van der Steen that they were prepared to waive the height requirement, but only with the proviso that he would learn to recite the entire Bible by heart. The story would hardly be worth telling if van der Steen had not complied with this rather presumptuous request.” What effort it took to memorize the whole Bible! Surely, however, it is far more important to understand God’s Word than it is to memorize it.”

___ *As for ‘cheap shots,’ nothing is a more cardinal sin in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ eyes than obscuring Bible teachings. Examples are the teaching of trinity, which makes God incomprehensible, someone impossible to know. Another is the hellfire teaching, which makes him cruel, someone you would not want to know. The Jesuits were firmly in that category, never mind whatever good things they did.



******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

An Updated Explanation of Everything: Part 1

I’m starting to play with the notion, for an upcoming talk, that if you wanted the policies of one party to prevail, would you vote for the other party? So it is that Jesus demonstrates control over the elements (fed the crowds, stilled the windstorm, healed some sick)—deeds that neither of the two political parties can touch. And yet people keep voting for the human parties that can’t do these good things.

To be sure, the promises of the kingdom of God are future, whereas those of the two squabbling human parties are here and now. Still, since they so eclipse human promises, one would almost think more people would ‘vote’ (take interest in) the doings of that kingdom rather than campaign incessantly for the human parties.

Similarly, if you consistently vote for one party, can you be livid that the policies of the other do not prevail? So it is when skeptics and atheists fume at God for not eliminating suffering—blaming him for every famine and natural disaster. Why didn’t he stop it from happening? Well, they keep voting for the wrong party. You would think they would vote for the party that can control these things. Instead, the vote for the party[s] that not only can’t control these things, but that exacerbates, even causes, them. The previous New York governor said he didn’t want to weigh in on the climate change debate, but 100-year floods were now occurring every two years, so clearly something was happening

To be fair, the ‘here and now’ will generally capture attention before that of ‘the future.’ That will favor the promises of the human parties, even if so many of them aren’t realized. There are some people who give barely a thought to the future—how do they know it will bode them any good? Maybe it will be like Nicholson’s character in Batman, who yells, “Hey, Eckhert! Think of the future!” before putting a bullet through the creepy lout.

The reason kingdom promises (feed the crowds, still the storm, heal the sick) must wait is that time is needed to complete and clear out the wreckage from the failed experiment of human self-rule. Put in a nutshell, that ‘experiment’ goes:

God: ‘You can’t rule yourselves.’

A&E: ‘Watch us.’

God: Okay, I will, and when the elapsed time is done, we will see if you have capably ruled the planet or brought it to the precipice of disaster.’

A lot of time is spanned.

The planet is not at the precipice of disaster today? Just like the Barry McQuire song; “You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction?” Accordingly, our Lord provides a few examples of feeding, controlling, and healing. He didn’t do everyone, for his time was not then. He provided a few tokens, as evidence of what he will do when his rulership arrived. If a candidate promised to heal the sick and provided no evidence he could do so, would you believe him?

Yikes! That song of Barry Mcquire? He sang that 60 years ago. As though a false prophet!! I know someone else who has been called a false prophet a time or two.

On the other hand, if you have labor pains and they subside, it doesn’t mean that a birth is not coming. Not wanting to take anything for granted and knowing the importance of proof, I ran this statement past my wife. She confirmed it was true.

To be continued…


******  The bookstore

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'

Keepers from Psalm 119–the Longest (by far) Psalm

Make God’s law our concern “all day long” and become “wiser than [our] enemies,” “more insight[ful] than all [our] teachers,” and “with more understanding than older men.” (Psalm 119:97-100)

Or at least they’ll stop mopping the floor with us.

Those verses are probably my favorites from Psalm 119; there are 176 to choose from. The odd thing is, just two psalms before is Psalm 117, with only 2 verses. Is it only me who wonders why bother to write a psalm at all if it will only run two verses—especially when big brother shows up just two psalms later to drown you with his 176?

You have to admit, it’s a draw to think you might become wiser than enemies, teachers, and older men through application of Bible principles:

(98) Wiser than my enemies your commandment makes me, Because to time indefinite it is mine.

(99) More insight than all my teachers I have come to have, Because your reminders are a concern to me.

(100) With more understanding than older men I behave, Because I have observed your own orders.

As for other verses, it’s probably worth, for those aggravating nights of insomnia or when you wake after 2-3 hours and can’t get back to sleep, posting something like this on your wall:

(vs 62) “At midnight I get up to give thanks to you for your righteous judicial decisions.”

It’s not a bad idea, is it? I mean, I don’t wake up purposefully for that object, but if I do wake up, I might as well do that as anything else.

Another fine runner up in the very long psalm is verse 165: “Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, And for them there is no stumbling block.” It reminds me of how my father-in-law would say, “People have let me down, but Jehovah has never let me down.”

Of course! As a Witness, you get a relationship with God and his Son. As a pure bonus, a freebie, God throws in a united brotherhood—a network of believers the world over, numbering in the millions. Anyone would be crazy to let that slip by. But you’d also be crazy to put all your trust in it. They’re people. People can let you down.

It is God’s “law” that brings the abundant peace. That way, if the people ever mess you up, you’re still good. God’s “law’ will do that, along with the closely related terms that comprise the theme of Psalm 119: his reminders (mentioned 22 times), orders (20), regulations (21), commandments (20), and judicial decisions (21). Immerse yourself in those things and it serves you well.

The long psalm has a unique construction. Divide the total number of verses (176) by 22 (the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet) to get 8. Accordingly, the psalm is usually displayed in stanzas of 8. The first 8 verses begin with (rendering this as though English, to make it easier) ‘A’, the second 8 verses each begin with ‘B’, the third 8, ‘C’, and so forth. It is said to be a memory aid, though it would take a lot more than that for me to memorize this monster.

Honorable mentions for winner verses—not that any of them are dogs, but it sort of depends upon your circumstances and mood at the time—would include 65: “You have dealt well indeed with your servant, O Jehovah, according to your word.” This would be in accord with a mindset of counting blessings, see the glass as half full rather than half empty, and so forth. It is healthier when you can look at life that way. One counselor said that even if your reason tells you it isn’t that way at the moment, it still benefits you if you can see the glass as half full.

Somewhat related is verse 71: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, In order that I may learn your regulations.” This verse is in the theme of pulling victory from defeat. You wouldn’t choose ‘affliction,’ but when such a period abates, hopefully you can come out of it with a renewed appreciation for life. Or, if not appreciation, at least better adjusted. If you come out of it with only bitterness, you tend to hurt only yourself.

There are people who have seen plenty of affliction. It resets their attitude. A friend who has spent time in developing countries now says she would be ill-suited for her former customer rep job in the West. It would be too much for her not to say, “I don’t care, you spoiled rich person!”


******  The bookstore












Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'