Navigating Knowledge: God Knows Each Nucleotide

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For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139: 13-14 (ESV)

Reflection

Scripture tells us that God knows each hair on our head (Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7). Each strand is counted. God almighty, creator of heaven and earth, knows you—intimately. God made us, loves us, and understands how we are put together.

But God didn’t give us a lot of the details! Instead, we get to discover our inner workings for ourselves. Science is how we learn all about how God has made us. It’s how we become familiar with ourselves and with our Creator. It’s about getting to uncover the minute workings of the universe, as well as the grand mechanisms of our own biology.

As scientists, we get to discover aspects of God’s creation for the very first time. We are the first to learn facts about the world that only God has known. We hold in our hands the fruits of God’s labor, and personally observe His handiwork on this earth.

When I uncover some new molecular interaction, no matter how minor the discovery, I remember that it was our Elohim that set that detail in place. I imagine God saying “Ah! You noticed! You see what I did there? I’m glad you like it. I’m glad you took the time to notice what I have made!”

DNA is one of those details of God’s craftsmanship. As the instruction manual that helps shape us into who we are, DNA reflects God’s workmanship even more deeply than scientists originally realized. We used to think that the long stretches of non-protein coding DNA were just “junk.” But God doesn’t make junk. We now understand that there are lncRNAs and snoRNAs, transposons and retrotransposons, epigenetic regulatory regions, and essential SNP mutations.

One of these recent revelations was the discovery of microRNA (miRNA). miRNAs are small (~22 nucleotide) non-protein coding sequences transcribed from our DNA. miRNAs challenge our long held ‘central dogma’ that DNA leads to mRNA, which leads to protein. Instead, miRNAs never become proteins, but bind by specific nucleotide base-pairing to other RNA to inhibit their translation. miRNAs are transcribed from intronic and intergenic regions of our DNA, folding onto themselves to form elegant hairpin loops, which target them for further processing. miRNAs are essential to survival, required during early development and late into life. But we’re not even close to understanding exactly how they work. But God knows.

There is no one else in the universe with DNA that is just like yours. God made each of us exceptional and distinctive. God wrote our uniqueness into our DNA. God knows the hair on your head, and God knows each sequence in your DNA. All 3,200,000,000 nucleotides.

As scientists, we get to see for ourselves God’s care and attention to detail. God takes time to form each one of us, to notice each aspect of us. Surely we can likewise take time to truly notice each other.

Questions

Where do you see God in the details of your work? In what ways does that work bring glory to God simply by noticing His good work? How might you model God’s care for His people to those working beside you this week?

Prayer

Great Elohim, thank you for your intimate love and attention to detail. You set the grand universe in motion, even while knowing each hair on our head. You delight in each of us, caring for even our smallest needs. We confess we are not always so attentive with one another. Help us to model ourselves after your example, to give such care to detail in our walk with each other. Amen.


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Katelin Hansen

Katelin Hansen (@BTSFblog) is pursuing a doctorate degree in neuroscience at Ohio State University (OSU). At OSU she is active in InterVarsity’s Christian Graduate Student Alliance and the Emerging Scholars Network. In addition, Katelin edits By Their Strange Fruit (BTSF), an online ministry facilitating justice and understanding across racial divides for the sake of the Gospel. BTSF explores how Christianity’s often-bungled relationship with race and racism affects modern ministry and justice. Recognizing that racial brokenness hinders our witness to the world, BTSF strives to increase the visibly of healthy and holy racial discussion by approaching justice and reconciliation from a Christ-minded perspective. Katelin also serves as the Minister of Music at UM Church For All People, a multi-class, multi-racial church in an underprivileged neighborhood of Columbus, OH. To learn more about her academic journey read A Full Education (The Well). You can find her on Twitter at @BTSFblog

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2 Comments

  • james.kath@gmail.com'
    ErrorCatastrophe commented on December 29, 2015 Reply

    While I agree with the sentiment and theology of the post, a lot of those (transposons, retrotransposons, endogenous retroviruses) are “junk” in the sense that they are selfish genetic elements (and often inactivated ones at that). And they do attest to our evolutionary relationship with all of life, a clear record of God’s creation.

    • khansen@4allpeople.net'
      Katelin commented on December 31, 2015 Reply

      Thanks for your comment! Some it indeed still turns out to be unproductive, but some of it will reveal quite unique and clever modes of regulation–that’s what’s exciting! And even if it isn’t to our own genome’s benefit, you’re right that their very presence gives a story and a testimony that is indeed ‘not junk’ at all!
      Thanks EC!
      -Katelin

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