SweMore 06-1-4


Fascinating Glimpses of God’s Power and Design


Richard A. Swenson, M.D.

NavPress, 2000, 205 pp., ISBN 1-57683-069-1

“Drawing on his background in medicine and the natural sciences, Dr. Swenson examines the wonders of creation and reveals a majestic God whose mastery of detail is evident everywhere, from the breathtaking complexity of living cells to the awesome grandeur of the cosmos.” (back cover)  “This is a book about science.  On a deeper level, this is a book about the design of science.” (16)  Swenson studies the human body, physics, and cosmology.  Very cleverly written with many detailed facts and lots of subtle humor.


“It is not that God has failed to clearly demonstrate His nature....  It is just that we are slow to understand.  Our eyesight is dim.  This world is too much with us.  What we need is a new vision of God.  The real God.” (11)


“When we lift up any stone of the universe, God’s fingerprints stare back at us.”  “God shows Himself everywhere, in everything—in people, and in things and in nature and in events.” (15)


“When God set out to create humanity He put His genius on display.”  “The human body contains 1028 atoms. (1 followed by 28 zeros).”  This is more atoms than there are stars in the universe.  (17)


“Science devises new and sophisticated technology to penetrate ever smaller levels, only to find yet another little critter winking mischievously at our machines.” (19)


“A mere three weeks after conception, a sheet of electrically excitable cells organize themselves into an immature heart and begin beating (the first rock band?).  At fourteen weeks this heart is already pumping seven gallons per day....” (23)


“It has been calculated that the chance that amino acids would line up randomly to create the first hemoglobin protein is 1 in 10850.”  (26)


“Even sound waves that move the eardrum less than the diameter of a hydrogen molecule can be perceived by the brain as a sound.  It is this sensitivity that makes it possible to hear a cricket chirping one-half mile away on a still night.” (35)


“God is an aesthetic genius...and all His gifts are for the purposes of His glory, never to be abused.” (38)


“The brain is capable of thinking at a rate of 800 words per minute, far exceeding the speed of caution.” (51)


“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.” (55, quoting W. C. Fields)


“The brain is the realm of data, information, and knowledge.  The spirit, however, is the realm of understanding, wisdom, and Truth.  The brain and the spirit need to register for classes together in the halls of education, and their togetherness needs to be fixed.  Harvard University, for example, had in its original charter this statement: ‘Let every student well consider...that the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ.’” (57)


“‘Knowledge puffs up,’ explained Paul.  Following two millennia of progress, the puff factor has now grown quite pompous.” (58)


“The brain is having trouble even understanding itself, let alone God.”  “If the brain were so simple that we could understand it, we would be so simple that we couldn’t understand it.” (59-60)


“The cell...is the basic structure of living matter.  An adult human body contains tens of trillions of cells.  Because trillions of these cells die every day, the body always has a repair kit on hand to make duplicate copies as rapidly as the old cells disappear.” (61)


“The cell itself is intricate and complex, made up of many tiny specialized structures.”  The mitochondria are the tiny engines of each cell busily making the fuel ATP. (62)  “The cell is a very active, crowded place.” 


“A single fertilized ovum, smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, ...with apparent ease directs the proliferation and differentiation of tens of trillions of cells, as various from each other as the retina is from the toenail.  As I said, think about it.” (63)


Encoded in the DNA are instructions on how to recreate the entire human body.  “The combined initial single-cell DNA of every person alive today (all six billion) would weigh one thousandth of an ounce.” (63)


“The purpose of the chromosomes and DNA is to carry the genes.  And the purpose of the genes is to make proteins.  And the purpose of the proteins is to...well, to do everything.” (65)


“Any serious thinking is confronted with two unavoidable questions: How did non-life first step across the threshold to become life?  And how did life encode immensely complex amounts of information on DNA?  Time + chance has no answers for these questions.  Randomness is a non-starter, not a solution.” (72)


What about bioethics and designer genes?  “First, it is inevitable that as a society, a nation, and a world we will relentlessly pursue biogenetic research and intervention.”  “Second, these things will be presented to us as a benefit, a promise.”  “Third,...the final result will be mixed.”  “Whatever humans use, we also abuse.” (73-4)  “We are playing with an explosive never before touched by human hands, while still not quite sure of God’s opinion on the matter.”  (78)


“The digestive tract is a 95 percent efficient energy extractor.  If we eat something rich in calories, it is unreasonable to hope that much of the caloric burden will not be absorbed.” (87)


“It is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion.  God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.  There is no such thing.” (87, quoting C. S. Lewis)


“No tissue, no organ system is so simplistic that it fails to elicit awe.” (90)  “Every human body is a miracle exceeding comprehension.  The complexity and dimensions involved are staggering to the mind, straining our abilities to apprehend the grandeur.” (93)


“God has a triple claim on us: as creator, redeemer, and sustainer.”  “This is a hands-on God....  “He watches over us more intimately than the human mind has the ability to perceive.” (94,93)


“Within the miracle of the human body, there is sanctity, hope, and glory.  More important, this same awareness also helps us to appreciate that such a Creator is rightly regarded with awe.  When we see Him more clearly, we have more faith in His power and less anxiety about our circumstances.”  “Perhaps we should reflect more on the meaning of the words infinite and sovereign” (97)


Paul says our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  “The definition of a temple is a place where God dwells.  In calling our body a temple, God is signaling that He desires to take up residence there.  Andy why not?  He created it; He sustains it; and He paid a great price to buy it back.  Why can’t He also inhabit it if He wishes?” (98)


“One noted physicist commented: ‘If we need an atheist for a debate, I go to the philosophy department.  The physics department isn’t much use.’” (100)


“Physics is the science of energy, force, matter, and their interactions.  Chemistry is the science of the composition, structure, and properties of substances.  Both point to God, causing British astronomer Fred Hoyle to complain that the universe looked like a ‘put up’ job.  Hoyle, no friend to theistic faith, continued by saying that ‘a common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as chemistry.” (101)


Stanford’s Roger Shepard noted, “We may be headed toward a situation where knowledge is too complicated to understand.” (102)


“All known life forms are carbon-based.”  “That carbon exists at all is either a cosmic freak accident or a miracle—depending on whether you prefer the odds of fluke or faith.” (104)


“An atom is almost scary.  If you don’t understand what I mean, it is because you don’t yet understand the true nature of the atom.”  “When things get this small, the nature of reality itself changes.”  “Subatomic particles are bursting in and out of existence as if they can’t make up their nanosecond minds.”  “New particles just keep coming, like bedbugs jumping out of a moldy mattress.”  “Today, we know of over 200 subatomic particles....  (106)


“Electrons move back and forth from an energy state to a particle state.”  “The behavior is so bizarre you almost have to suspend a ‘scientific’ mind to even entertain the possibility...”  Electrons obey weird rules, “performing quantum leaps, for instance, which means disappearing from one spot and appearing at another without having traversed the space in between.”  (107-08)


Gravity remains a mysterious force.  “Why does the pencil drop?  At the deepest level, we don’t know.” (114)


“Our sun is essentially a gigantic continuous hydrogen bomb.  Every second it converts 650 million tons of hydrogen into 645 tons of helium, with the extra 5 million tons being converted into energy and released.” (119)


Einstein taught us that energy can be converted to matter and vice versa, but the sum of energy and matter cannot be changed.  “We can’t make them; we can’t get rid of them.”  “This fundamental law teaches us important lessons about God’s creative efforts.  Scripture says that in the beginning, God created ex nihilo—out of nothing.  He took nothing, and out of nothing He made something.  When He stopped, creation itself froze in its tracks.  No more.  The universe became thermodynamically closed.  In a very real sense, nothing more has since appeared or disappeared.  Everything that changes is simply rearranging itself.” (123-24)


Explore the implications through these two questions:

1)     How much mass-energy did God create out nothing?

2)     How much mass-energy have humans created out of nothing? (124)



       God = >100,000,000,000 galaxies

       Humans = Zero.  Not even a single atom.


“For the unbelieving scientist, to explain how something as massive as the universe popped into being out of nothing is a formidable task.” (125)


“The law of entropy implies that the universe as a whole is irreversibly running down and cooling off.”  “The universe flows irrevocably in the direction of hot à cold and order à chaos.  Heat naturally dissipates.  Order decays.  All things naturally wear down.”  “Indeed Einstein called it the premier law of all science.  This law is not reversible.” (126)


“Going backward, we can deduce from the law of entropy that the universe had a beginning—a highly ordered beginning.  If the universe had a beginning, how did it begin?  And if the universe was highly ordered, where did this high level of order come from?  Those questions are scientifically compelling, yet not answerable by science.” (127)


“Nobody understands quantum mechanics.”  “As we descend into the quantum realm we find a completely different reality awaiting us.”   “It is extraordinarily difficult to make sense of the picture of the world that it delivers.” (133)


“Science...is augmenting, not subverting, the sense of awe that undergirds religious yearning.” (142, quoting George Will)


“God has, in fact, left clear evidence of His creative role in all universal artistry.” (144)


“The universe is but one vast symbol of God.” (158, quoting Thomas Carlyle)  The hand of God is seen through beauty, through power, and through precision.  “There can be little doubt to any objective observer that the universe was indeed a behind-the-scenes, fully-manipulated ‘put up’ job.”  “Scientists have identified 109 characteristics of our galaxy and solar system that require exquisite fine-tuning for life’s existence and sustenance” (159, quoting Hugh Ross)


“We should never fall into the trap of thinking that if something is hard for us to imagine, it is therefore hard for God to do.” (163-64)


“God conceals from us vast stretches of ultimate reality.”  “As the centuries and millennia pass, however, God slowly pulls back the curtain and opens up the door.”  “...the Creator has allowed us to see new spiritual truths and scientific principles that demonstrate His nature.  As the ‘glass darkly’ lightens, our understanding of the greatness of God deepens.” (181)


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