#10 Emergent Properties

Emergence – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  When a system reaches a certain level of complexity, a new phenomenon emerges.  It is the idea that if evolution keeps on adding ingredients to a biological system, it will finally transform itself into something new and qualitatively different from what existed before.  The concept of Emergent Properties has been applied to the origin of life whereby a soup of organic chemicals becomes a metabolism and its emergent property is life. 

The concept has also been applied to the question of humanness with the idea that in the course of evolution, when the brain reaches a certain threshold of complexity in neurons, consciousness emerges.  Thus, the complex animal brain attains the emergent property of human thought, an example of which is belief.

The Concept of Emergent Properties and the ideas of Stuart Kauffman have been taken up recently by Theistic Evolutionists.  Traditionally, Theistic Evolutionists have believed that God guided evolution such that chance events were not accidental.  This would make God into an unseen agent of evolution.  Today, it is generally affirmed by Theistic Evolutionists that God has not been an agent in evolution, and He has not caused the evolution of human beings.  This was not necessary, they claim, because God knew that humans were going to emerge anyway due to the constraints on evolution (this was discussed in Chapter 8).  The role that God plays is to gather in and embrace whatever has emerged, and lead it to an eschatological end (happy ending in heaven).

The role of chance in the coming into being of life has now mainly been replaced by the unknown law.  This makes the origin of life seem easy again, in fact, inevitable!  I think that those faithful to the unknown law will find themselves sacrificing on the altar of the unknown god.

Emergence certainly sounds good.  But the details are less convincing.  There are no mechanics behind it.  I believe that Emergence will eventually join the science text books not as an explanation as to how phenomena came about, but more as a descriptive quality.  This has also been the fate of the concept of Punctuated Equilibrium in palaeontology.


The images used for this series of posts on Incarnation and Jesus’ DNA – all belong to the genus Alstroemeria of the Lily family of plants. The other names are Peruvian lilies or Lily of the Incas. In Spanish they are called ‘lirios’.

The lilies I found and photographed were growing in the Atacama Desert of Chile, but they are found all over South America.

I included a flower locally known as ‘Copitas’ – copita means small glass for alcohol. Copitas have flowers identical to yellow Alstroemeria, but they have almost no stalks, and so grow low to the ground.

Alstroemeria is a favourite with florists. The much-loved cut flower we buy in England is, in fact, identical to the wild flower. The wild flower is exuberant, bright and varied just like the cultivated varieties.

Alstroemeria cut flowers in England

#20 Incarnation: Sign that God Created DNA

The Incarnation is the sign that God created at least one gene on at least one specific occasion.  This sign that took place at the overshadowing of Mary by the Holy Spirit shows how God could create life through the creation of the genetic code of life, the creation of genes.

God created life that could evolve.

God created DNA that could mutate.

Evolution consists of on-going processes that take place in a fallen world. But creation belongs to God.  It is about purpose; it springs from Mind; life is inherently complex.

Evolution consists of natural processes.  It is about the modification of pre-existing life forms; adaptation to new conditions; and diversification of species.

Let us put evolution in its rightful place, and not in the place of God.

#19 The Specialness of Mary

There are various very important conclusions to draw from this.

The first great conclusion is that God can and did create at least one gene at one point in time.

Secondly, the significance of the Virgin Mary:  She actually supplied the DNA of the human body of God Incarnate.

If Mary alone provided the genome of the Christ, the Messiah, God Incarnate, she must have been chosen very carefully.  She would impart to the Son of God her body type, physiological health, personality and intelligence.  This is an insight into the specialness of Mary. 

The Gospels testify to the closeness of Jesus to Mary, Mary to her son.  If they were the male and female version of the same genome, with identical DNA, this in part, would explain their closeness.  They would have the same physical type and personality traits in everything except in masculinity and femininity.

#18 The Y Chromosome and a Male Messiah

It is my belief that Mary’s DNA became Jesus’ DNA.  Something like a clone produced by genetic engineers.  However, if this alone were the case, the Messiah would have been female.

A male human or any mammal has a Y chromosome.  The mother cannot supply this chromosome since she only has X chromosomes; only the father can pass on the Y chromosome.

Thus, a second miracle must have taken place.

The Y chromosome is much shorter than the X chromosome, but it carries one crucial gene for maleness.  This gene is called TDF standing for testis-determining factor.  The same gene has also been named SYR standing for sex-determining Y region.

This TDF or SYR gene is switched on very early in fetal development.  It produces a protein transcription factor that causes the gonads to develop into testes.  The testes produce testosterone that inhibits the development of female structures and causes male structures to develop instead in the fetus, the child and later in the adult.

Both males and females have testosterone, but males produce five times more testosterone than females; it is the higher level of this hormone in males that has masculinising effects.

The sex chromosomes in most males are XY.  However, in rare cases a male can have an XXY genotype.  It has also been known that a male had a genotype that was XX, but the TDF gene had been transferred to an X chromosome through mutation.  Despite having female chromosomes, this one gene made the individual male.  The condition is called XX male syndrome.  These individuals are infertile.  There are also people with an XY genotype, but who lack the TDF gene, and they are female.

Therefore, for Mary to give birth to a male Messiah, one of two possibilities must have occurred:

Either God created a whole Y chromosome and added it to the genome of the egg cell provided by Mary giving an XXY genotype, or God created only the TDF gene and inserted it into one of the X chromosomes.

Thus, the minimum requirement for the incarnation of a male Messiah is firstly that Mary supplied a diploid egg cell rather than the normal haploid egg cell.  Secondly, that God created one gene – the TDF gene directly and inserted it into the genome.

The other option is that God created a full set of autosomal chromosomes carrying every human gene and a whole Y chromosome.  I have opted to believe in the minimum requirement.

#17 Jesus’ DNA came from Mary

Human beings have 22 sets of paired chromosomes plus two sex chromosomes which in the female are XX and in the male are XY.

Mary would certainly have supplied the maternal set of chromosomes, but what of the paternal set in the absence of a biological father?

It is not possible for a human being to have a haploid genome.  Only bacteria have haploid genomes with only one copy of each gene.  All multicellular organisms including humans have diploid genomes with two sets of chromosomes so that each gene is represented by two copies called gene alleles.  One gene allele is of maternal origin and the other corresponding gene allele is of paternal origin for each gene.

It is our belief as Christians that Jesus was fully man and fully God.

There are two possibilities:  Either God created a complete set of 22 paternal chromosomes and a Y chromosome carrying one copy of every human gene at the moment of the overshadowing.  Or the Virgin Mary miraculously supplied an egg cell that was diploid and contained the full set of 23 paired chromosomes that included the two X chromosomes.

Normal egg cells are haploid because they have undergone the reduction divisions of meiosis when they were formed as gametes.  The eggs in a woman’s ovaries were formed while the woman was still a fetus herself in her mother’s womb.  When the woman becomes an adult, the eggs are released one per month from the ovary until they run out and menopause is reached.

The more minimal belief is that the Virgin Mary supplied a diploid egg cell that had not undergone reduction divisions like other egg cells.  This diploid egg cell contained the full complement of chromosomes containing the two copies of each human gene.

If this were the case, the special egg cell would have been prepared in the ovary of the Virgin Mary while she herself was a fetus in the womb of St Anne.  Traditionally, Catholics believe that Mary was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah at her conception in the womb of St Anne, her mother.  (This is named the Immaculate Conception).

Thus, Mary would have been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah before she was born.  A special egg cell that had not undergone reduction divisions would have to have been designated in Mary’s ovaries before her birth, awaiting her ‘yes’ to God’s plan at the appointed time.

#16 God Created at Least One Gene

I believe that God created life through what I call Nanocreation.  This is the idea that God created life by creating the genetic code made of DNA.  It is creation at the microscopic nanoscale at the level of cells.

The creation of new genes would be a rare and specific event at the turning points in the levels of complexity of life forms.

How could I convince other Christians that God created life through creating complex codes called genes?

I had been working on the theory for nearly 14 years.  I was thinking about this in the lead up to Christmas 2005.

An inner voice spoke to me and I felt something significant was about to occur.  I waited.  On Christmas morning I got up, and then the vision suddenly opened up before my mind’s eye, and I knew.  I felt such joy; it was the best Christmas present ever. I knew that every Christian believes that God directly created at least one gene.

Gospel of Luke 1:26-37 paraphrase:

The angel Gabriel is sent to Nazareth to a virgin called Mary pledged to be married to a man called Joseph.  The angel announces that she will conceive a son and name him Jesus.  How can this be? She asks.  The angel explains that although she is a virgin, the Holy Spirit will come upon her and the power of the Most High will overshadow her.  And so the holy one she will conceive will be called the Son of God.  The angel says, “Nothing is impossible with God.”  Mary replies “I am the handmaiden of the Lord; may it be unto me as you have said.”

And so Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Joseph played the role of father, but he was not the biological father of Jesus.

This is what we say in our Creed:  “by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”

This means that Jesus’ DNA came from Mary his mother.

#15 Summary

The creation of life through the creation of genes made of DNA was:

  • Perfect – this means that the information encoding the living being was complete and whole
  • Each act of creation was specific and instantaneous
  • Creation was a rare occurrence and happened only at the major branching points in the tree of life
  • Creation happened according to the purposes of God

The evolution of this created life was:

  • Based on random mutation which is an error in the replication of DNA and so imperfect
  • Natural selection conserves the useful errors
  • The processes of evolution occur over time.  A time scale of millions of years reveals the changes that have taken place
  • Evolution occurs in accord with general laws of nature

A true understanding of science and a true understanding of what evolution actually consists of – could lead to a true theology that would glorify God as the true Creator of life.

#14 Summary

Charles Darwin presented his theory of evolution in 1859. For various reasons Atheism arose at the end of the 19th century and during the 20th century in the Western world. During this time evolution became the big idea – so rather than saying ‘God created it’, people now say ‘it evolved.’

The church survived the Atheist secular climate by proclaiming that the natural processes of evolution were God’s method of creation.

In our society science is equated with truth, while religious belief is an irrelevant side show, ignored by most people. Theology bows to the theories of modern science – in this way we avoid conflict with a secular world.

But who is this Creator God? Can he do anything? Can we do anything?

Is it right that we should bow down to the idols of science to the extent of not daring to question the theories of science?

Science was my first love and remains the focus of my life.  But I serve God by asking the questions, searching for new understandings, and I believe I have found many of the answers.

When I examined genetics and what is known through the Human Genome Project (which is on-going), I found that mutation does not build up new genes, mutation disables genes and switches them off.

The switching off of genes may lead to genetic disease – this is disadvantageous mutation.  But when the non-expression of genes is useful, it is selected by natural selection – this is advantageous mutation.

I developed a new theory of evolution called Entropic Evolution.  Life was created able to evolve.  For evolution to be possible, it is necessary to start with a high level of complexity.  Complex life can evolve in many different directions and produce a great diversity of species.

It is right that the church should uphold science and accept belief in evolution – but in the right way. As citizens and as Christians we have the right to debate the meanings of things.  The church is a good platform for debate.

So I put it to you – that evolution properly understood – does not fit into the picture as a means of creation, but as part of the fall.

#13 The Fall and Mutation

Genesis expresses theological truths – our relationship to God.

God’s perfect creation is symbolized by the Garden of Eden.  Perfection is followed by the fall.  The fall is the coming into the world of sin and disorder. Genesis puts all the blame on a woman – I don’t want to argue about that just now. 

In essence, Genesis shows that God created life and it was good.  But over time it fell.  It became imperfect.

Evolution fits into the picture as part of the fall.  It is imperfect, based on mutation and it occurs over time.

There are two parallels here: the fall was a rebellion against God and a mistake, but it led to our redemption – so the fall was not all bad news.

Likewise, evolution is based on mutational error and so a mistake, but it leads to diversity and adaptation in the natural world, so evolution is not all bad news.

Evolution produces what is beautiful as well as what is ugly.  The beautiful is the many different species of plants and animals we see around us; the ugly includes parasites that not only look ugly but also do horrible things to other creatures.  So evolution is part of a fallen imperfect world.

It is not all bad news:

In the Easter Vigil liturgy the priest sings about the fall of Adam and Eve, ‘Oh happy fault, the fault that brought our redemption’.  He sings this because the fall brought about our redemption through Jesus Christ.  But just as the priest sings ‘Oh happy fault’ at the Easter Vigil referring to the fall, we can sing ‘Oh happy error’ referring to mutation since the processes of evolution have led to a great diversity of species adapted to the different environments on earth.

It is the original perfection and complexity of the genetic system that has allowed the evolution of diverse forms of life through genetic switching off.

Genetic switching off produces ‘lucky dysfunctions’ in that it guides a complex system towards new ends.  You could call this a ‘tuning up’ of the original system.