I am a rocket scientist; science has been my religion, but I have found God through science. Not the God of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, or any other organized religion, but a very different God. Let me explain. I will take you step-by-step through the evidence in science that has led me to conclude that if there is a god, the god is within us.
I will touch upon these key theories in science to make my case — the Big Bang, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, how life emerged from matter, the path from a single-cell organism to a human being, the organ systems that make up the human body, the structure of the brain and how the brain processes information to create our reality.
Buckle up for the ride.
- The Big Bang: According to science, the Universe was birthed fourteen billion years ago at Big Bang. In the beginning, there was matter and energy. All the energy that existed during the Big Bang still exists because energy is neither created nor destroyed. Matter merged to form galaxies and planets. Our planet was formed four billion years ago. There is scientific proof for each step in this chain of events. What is not known is what was there before the Big Bang and what happened a few moments after the Big Bang (inflationary theory). But the evidence of what happened a few minutes after the Big Bang is solid. The religious faithful have alternate beliefs about the universe’s origin though the scientific evidence to support Big Bang is rock solid (pun intended).
2. How life emerged from matter: Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, and Phospate are the five elements from which life emerged, according to the latest theories in science. The prebiotic phase shown in the figure below is when the five elements combine to form the macromolecules of life. The macromolecules of life, carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acid, are shown in the second figure. There are several scientific theories on what could have caused the creation of macromolecules, but there is no consensus. Religions doubt the entire theory of evolution because there is no proof for how life emerged from matter. Even if we accept legitimate skepticism about this one aspect of the theory of evolution, there is scientific proof for every step after that.
The third figure is my favorite. It shows the macromolecules and their essential role in our lives.
3. Structure of a cell and DNA: Macromolecules took a billion years to form a living cell, and it was another billion years for the forerunner of the human cell to emerge in the conditions that prevailed on planet earth then. The image below shows the intricacies of a human cell. Every element identified in the picture is a marvel of nature. Each is assembled from macromolecules; for example, the cell membrane is made from lipids and proteins. My DNA makes me who I am and different from you and all other humans, alive or dead. The structure of the DNA, genes, and chromosomes is shown in the second figure. Our genes carry the instructions for making us who we are (physically). Each gene is a sequence of DNA with instructions for making a specific protein. DNA is the “god molecule.” It carries instructions for the development, growth, and reproduction of life. And it is constructed from just five elements hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and phosphate. Just FIVE!! Pause and marvel at this miracle of life. Many see the hand of God here. Science can explain the chemistry behind DNA, but it has competing theories about how the five elements combine to form the macromolecules, the building blocks of the DNA, or how matter becomes life.
4. Single-cell organism to 37 trillion-cell organism (us): It took 2–3 billion years since the emergence of a single-cell organism to evolve into us humans.
5. Cells to tissues to organs to organ systems to man/woman:
6. The ten organ systems that keep our bodies humming: 1. Skeletal 2. Muscular 3. Nervous 4. Cardiovascular 5. Respiratory 6. Digestive 7. Lymphatic 8. Endocrine 9. Urinary 10. Reproductive.
This video produced by National Geographic is an excellent primer for understanding these ten systems and their functions.
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7. The crowning achievement of evolution is our brain: The human brain, to me, is the most amazing, breathtaking, extraordinary, and mind-blowing (pun intended) structure. If I had known then what I know now, I would have become a neuroscientist instead of a rocket scientist. I have spent the last thirty years trying to understand how our brains convert thoughts (intangible) to tangible matter (electrical signals), which move our muscles, and, conversely, how sensory information (electrical signals) is converted to perception (intangible). Simply put, if you understand how the brain works, you know yourself, nature, and god.
These brain images, with descriptions of what each region of the brain specializes in, are key to understanding how we think, feel, remember, believe and act. Our beliefs about anything, including religion, science, and philosophy, result from neurons firing in the cerebral cortex. Yes, it all happens in the brain. This is how:
Our sense organs transmit information (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) about the world outside us as electrical signals to our nervous system. The nerves transmit this energy to the thalamus. The thalamus acts like an internet router; it processes information and passes it onto the cerebral cortex (parietal lobe), where perception happens, and electrical signals become our reality.
How the internet works might help us understand how our brains process information from our sense organs.
Our sense organs are the modem; the thalamus is the router; the cerebral cortex is the computer that receives the signals, decodes them, and creates what we perceive. In computer jargon, the cerebral cortex renders our reality. It took me years to grasp the full implication; it blew my mind when I did.
This is not all; the brain takes the signals from the nervous system to create a perception of who we are, the “I.” No material or physical thing inside us is “I.” There is no homunculus. We create the “I” we think we are. The book by neuroscientist Prof. Antonio Damasio “Self Comes to Mind,” explains the neuroscience of how we construct our “I.”
Our brains not only create our reality but also create us. We are not who we THINK we are. Who are we? Who am I?
This is the question each of us should ask. This is the question that science made me ask. I did not know who I was. This is where religion came in for me.
After reading the scriptures, the Vedas, and Buddhist texts (the three religions I am familiar with), I have concluded that all religious texts are prescriptions for discovering who we are. The three religions say, in different ways, that there is a divinity within us, and that is who we are. All three have different approaches to getting in touch with this divinity. Prayers, meditation, and reading the scriptures are different ways to the same end.
I am committed to discovering who I am. I am religious in that sense. Science has led me to become religious but not a follower of any religion.