Should we trust science?

Andy Stanley is a preacher and a highly-rated Christian apologist. Son of Charles Stanley, a famous Baptist minister, Andy has forged his own way and formed an independent Christian church that makes videos of his messages available on YouTube.

He once said when we are sick, we go to a doctor and if the doc says get an X-ray and then an ankle boot and take this medication for pain, our broken ankle will heal. Most of us have faith in medicine, which is a branch of science that has been developed over two hundred years since the invention of smallpox vaccine.

The pig kidney transplant.
And its still developing. A recent example is a pig’s kidney was transplanted into a man1. Not an ordinary pig, but a pig that was bred using gene-editing technology called CRISPR. And not just a single pig, but a family of cloned pigs, so that a separate pig kidneys could be transplanted into primates where they could be tested before the human transplant.

As a result, the pig kidney, the same size of a human kidney, contained 69 genetic changes. The scientists deactivated three pig genes that would have caused the human immune system to reject the kidney. And they added seven genes to fool the human immune cells into thinking the pig tissue looks human. Last, they shut down viral genes in pig cells that could cause infections in the human.

It was a leap forward. In the words of the chief operating doctor, Dr Tatsuo Kawai:
Upon restoration of blood flow into the kidney, the kidney pinked up immediately and started to make urine… Everyone in the operating room burst into applause. It was truly the most beautiful kidney I have ever seen.

Richard Slayman holding hands with partner, Faren, before leaving hospital.

The four-hour surgery was performed on 62-year old Richard Slayman at Massachusetts General Hospital on March 16, 2024. The future? 100,000 people are on the waiting list for kidney transplants, but only 20,000 human kidneys are available each year. The doctors don’t know how long the pig kidney in Slayman will last, but the procedure may be a lifesaver for some of the 600,000 patients undergoing kidney dialysis in the US alone.

Slayman is now eating things he’s been craving, and bathing in a long hot shower – stuff he couldn’t do in the past year.

A cosmic explosion — the brightest ever seen at earth.
In October 2022, a new telescope called the James Webb caught in its detector a gamma-ray burst that blinded the instrument2. Gamma rays are high-energy X-rays, and this burst of gamma-rays was unique. First, it was 100 times more powerful in gamma-rays than ever recorded before. Gamma-rays lie at one end of the electromagnetic spectrum which includes other wavelengths such as visible light, infra-red, and radio waves at the other end. These gamma-rays were not dangerous to humans because they were weakened by traveling so far to get to earth.

Second, the burst lasted only seven minutes. Third, the burst came from a stellar explosion that took place 2.4 billion light years away, meaning the burst occurred 2.4 billion years ago, and the gamma-rays took 2.4 billion years to travel all the way to earth (they started a long, long, way away).

A supernova explosion. Source: BBC.com

Fourth, when the glow faded, the telescope was able to see a supernova explosion that was behind the gamma-ray burst. Fifth, the supernova explosion, which happens when a big star runs out of hydrogen fuel, wasn’t an enormous one, but more like mediocre. The scientists are puzzled about what might have produced such a powerful gamma-ray burst inside such a mediocre supernova explosion.

Sixth, special detectors saw no evidence of gold or platinum or lead in the chemical signals of the light from the explosion, even though current theories of star formation and star lifetime predict this is how most heavy elements are formed. Yes, even these same metals in our little ‘ol planet earth were formed in supernova explosions, the theory says.

Concept of a focused gamma-ray burst from a collapsing supernova. Source: Space.com

The best explanation for the brightest-ever gamma-ray burst is that the beam emitted by the supernova explosion was highly focused, more like a laser beam than a flashlight beam.

The astro-scientists have no explanation for the absence of chemical signatures of gold and platinum and lead in the supernova. Perhaps the current theories of star formation and death are dead wrong!

Down through history, science has created theories to explain observations. If a new observation doesn’t fit the theory, the theory needs to be adjusted or replaced by a new theory.

In summary, even though science doesn’t know all the answers, it knows a great many of the answers, and this is why science can implant into a human a gene-modified kidney from a pig, and can also build detectors on spacecraft that can measure gamma-rays that reach earth, and can identify their source in a supernova in a galaxy far, far away. If other, competing scientists come to believe the new science, when their views tend to be highly critical, this is why we can trust established science.

References:
1. Alice Park, Are Pigs the Future of Organ Transplants, Time Magazine, p 14, April 8, 2024.
2. Pallab Ghosh, Brightest-ever Cosmic Explosion solved but new Mysteries Sparked. BBC News.com, 11 April, 2024.

The Gray Nomad.…still writing about science, inspiration, and hiking. My professional articles on energy and oil and gas for Forbes.com can be found elsewhere in this website.
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So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

[Genesis, chapter 1]

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DonM
DonM
10 days ago

Good Explanation Ian. Thanks for this interesting blog post.

Karen
Karen
22 days ago

Fascinating, Ian; especially about the gamma ray burst!

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