Have you thought about the complexity of life lately? Even the word ‘life’ is complex. Do I mean your individual life, our collective life, the way our bodies operate to enable our existence? Yes.
I’ve been thinking about this topic since talking to a student about the beauty of science. Science, after all, is here to help us to understand the complexity of life and our universe. If you bore down on the processes that enable life on earth, one goes from the macro – living organisms such as humans, plants, and animals – to the micro – tissues/organs, cells, molecules, and atoms. Each micro component is comprised of complicated matrices of the components from the contributing subunits (cells are comprised of molecules which are comprised of atoms). Even atoms consist of subatomic particles, and then we are once again into domains where the complexity of forces and interactions of those subatomic particles and forces are largely outside our comprehension.
In addition to the orchestra of interactions occurring at each level, each of those elements must also be dynamic in order for the unit to be static. For example, for a cell to continue to function as a cell, it must take up nutrients, create waste, continue to synthesize new components and degrade others. In other words, to remain constant, the cell must be dynamic. In this manner, nature balances birth, growth, and stasis by a combination of birth, growth and stasis in a beautiful symphony of events. The same dynamic seems to be at play at every level, from the sub-atomic on up through the organism level.
Now let’s consider the super-macro level (I’m making up terms here, can you tell?) If we dial upwards from our proximity of human-on-earth, we humans further organize ourselves into complex systems. We are part of a family unit which is part of the community, which is part of a nation and the human species which inhabits the earth which is part of the solar system which is part of the galaxy and then the universe (whew). Like the micro level, the macro level contains its own balance of actions, interactions, birth, growth and stasis in a dynamic but complex equilibrium. The role of the earth is to be part of the solar system and revolve around the sun. The role of the nucleotide is to be a part of DNA or a catalyst for reactions. Each has a unique and defined role within the matrix within which it resides.
We humans are no different. We play a role in the ecosystem of the planet and on up through the macro levels and on down through the micro levels. Whether the essence of our existence is defined by an unseen hand or biological accident is a question for the philosophers and religious leaders of our past, present and future, not for someone like me. However, just like the enzyme catalyzes reactions and ligands bind receptors, I believe that each of us have a specific purpose we are meant to fulfill during our brief time on the planet. Whether this is driven by the unseen hand or a biological accident is again not for me to say.
Next blog: our unique role.