Recently the Guardian reported an experiment done on some baby rats. Some were stroked by their mothers in the first seven days of their lives while others were neglected. Those who were stroked matured as calm animals, while the neglected baby rats grew up reacting badly to stress.
This in itself is not surprising, if only because it has been known for a long time that experiences in childhood can affect an individual for the rest of their lives. But what is now becoming clear is that this type of character is actually passed on in reproduction, and, indeed, apparently persists for a number of generations. If nothing else, it thoroughly underlines the importance of parenthood.
True and false ideas
The parts of our bodies which determine what we are and how we behave are our genes. It was thought that if you had certain genes then you would always show certain features, such as blue eyes, or dark coloured skin. Up to a point this view remains correct, but we now know that for many characteristics in the body it isn’t anything like as simple as that.
It was further believed that if there were any changes which occurred because of things which influenced us, such as bad food, or ill treatment, these changes could not be passed on to our children. That is now known to be false.
This is a major upset in Biology, and has profound implications for Evolutionists. It has some rather intriguing implications for us as well, quite apart from bringing up children!
How does this work?
What appears to be happening is that genes are being switched on and off, and, more importantly, the switching is persisting through the processes of reproduction. Exactly how this is happening is something of a puzzle, even though some of the actual switching mechanism has been discovered.
However, happen it does, and this whole area of biochemistry, called Epigenetics, is turning part of the traditional science of genetics (and, it may be said, Darwinian Evolution) on its head.
But why is this important?
Part of the reason is that any new scientific discovery tells us more about how our world works. It’s easy to think “science explains everything”, whereas scientific discoveries like this clearly show us that life itself is not as simple as we may once have thought. It confirms the view that life has been created by God and has not simply evolved.
This particular scientific discovery may also explain a rather obscure Bible verse about how God plans to change the way living things work in the future. We read in Isaiah 65 verse 25:
“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock” (KJV).
This verse suggests some fundamental changes in the way these animals behave and their bodies work. While the first change (wolves not eating lambs) is just about conceivable, short of a direct miracle it’s very difficult to understand how a lion could survive on straw.
How God works
What we do know is that God uses natural forces to do His work, and there are several scriptures which support that contention. Perhaps that’s how God will make these changes happen too?
Even at present, although it is not generally known, carnivores eat plants as well as meat. Polar bears, for example, have been observed eating seaweed, and cats are known to eat grass, although whether that last example is for nutrition rather than to help regurgitate a hair-ball is, perhaps, arguable.
Nevertheless there would have to be some fairly basic changes in body chemistry and internal structure for a lion to live entirely by eating grass. However, if the appropriate genes are present in lions at the moment, but merely switched off, it might need very little time to alter the genetic state to make all that possible without recourse to discrete miracles.
Either way, the God who created the world must know how best to make these changes. But these new scientific discoveries help us believe in Creation and may also be telling us more about how God will make these changes happen.