Blueprints for Everlasting Life
IN THE prime of life, your body contains more than a million million tiny living cells. Some scientists believe that these cells hold instructions that could be unlocked for everlasting life. The reason for such a belief is the amazing blueprint that cells have for reproduction and repair.
All the many kinds of cells in your body were grown from the single cell that represented you at the time of your conception. The nucleus of that cell contained the blueprint to direct your development. As each cell in your body was made, it was given an exact copy of the blueprint. This blueprint is named deoxyribonucleic acid, generally referred to as DNA.
The Amazing DNA
The gene is the carrier of heredity. There are tens of thousands of genes in each cell. The key part of each gene is the compound called DNA. A coiled, threadlike molecule, DNA may be likened to a twisted rope ladder.
The two sides of the ladder are made of phosphate and a type of sugar called deoxyribose. These two sides are joined together by the ladder’s “rungs” which are composed of millions of pairs of chemical bases.
The number of rungs, or bases, totals in the millions. Yet there are only two types, The two types are (1) adenine paired with thymine, and (2) cytosine paired with guanine. The sequence in which these pairs are arranged, linking the two sides of the spiral ladder, makes up the genetic code or blueprint for life.
Building from the Blueprint
From conception onward, the blueprint issues instructions for duplicating and constructing. Cells are added until a baby is formed. After the baby is born, cell duplication continues until growth to adulthood is complete. Then it continues at a slower rate, to replace cells that have died.
DNA duplicates itself in a remarkable manner. This starts when the two interlocked sides of the ladder begin to separate, or “unzip,” from each other. Each side has one half of every one of the millions of pairs of bases attached to it.
Like “spare parts,” additional adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine, which are manufactured in the cell’s nucleus, are attracted to both separated sides of the ladder. The half pair of every chemical base left on each side picks up an appropriate mating base (and none other) until two new sets of interlocked sides have been built, making two twisted ladders. These two new sets are the exact duplicates of their parent. They become the key elements in each nucleus of the two cells that replace the original parent cell.
Man’s understanding of this process is far from complete. For example, it is known that each cell in your body contains the same blueprint. Yet not all cells are identical. Instead, there is an astounding variety of cells. There are bone, nerve, lung, muscle and blood cells, to mention some. How can one blueprint be read in so many different ways? Why are not all cells identical to the original cell? Such questions continue to baffle scientists.
Furthermore, the cells do not occur in shapeless groupings. They are organized into structures that have distinct functions. Some make up your skeleton, others the nervous system, still others the eyes, ears, heart, lungs, stomach and skin.
Clearly, DNA is an amazing blueprint for body building. It makes possible the birth of new cells, both for growth and to take the place of those that die. Its qualities are such that one reporter was moved to write: “The idea [of everlasting life] is by no means ridiculous.”
The Aging Process
Cell duplication should theoretically keep the body alive forever. Even brain cells, said to be unable to replace themselves after childhood, are now thought by some to renew themselves almost daily by a process described as “perpetual rapid growth.” An authority on brain cells, Paul A. Weiss, suggests that while they may not divide in the adult, they constantly manufacture “spare parts” and thus keep renewing themselves.
So the body can manufacture the cells and other substances needed for continued rejuvenation of itself. Yet, the firm flesh, soft skin, supple joints and healthy organs of youth inevitably give way to the flabby flesh, leathery skin, stiff joints and deteriorating organs of advanced age. Why?
Loss of weight and declining capacity as the body ages are attributed to the progressive death of cells. As time passes, the body is not able to replace all the cells that die, as it does in younger age. But why not? Cell biologists simply do not know.
Some have suggested that the DNA blueprint in the cell is like a computer having a “program” for living, but that eventually the program runs out. Other scientists speculate that repeated duplication of the cells clogs the DNA with “transcription error.” They liken this to continued rerecording of a beautiful melody, which eventually makes it an unrecognizable noise. Some think that the cell poisons itself with age. Another says that the body forgets what it should do and commits suicide by rejecting its own cells as it would a transplanted organ.
Experiments Provide No Answer
This bewildering array of theories often results from the many experiments conducted in regard to aging. Some of the most famous were those of Alexis Carrel. Carrel supposedly kept living cells from chick embryos alive in cultures for more than thirty years.
However, Leonard Hayflick, reporting in Scientific American of March 1968, shows that these experiments were improperly conducted. Carrel’s nutrient evidently contained live chick cells that replaced his original colony of cells instead of sustaining it. Such cultures invariably died out when care was taken to keep living cells out of the food given them. In any event, these experiments did not provide any answer to the question of why man ages and dies.
In some experiments it was found that substances in the cells of old animals inhibited the manufacture of protein. But cells of young animals do not contain those substances. Since the manufacture of protein is essential to life, it was felt that this discovery might hold a clue to the cause of aging. But does it? Why does it happen? What can be done about it? Such questions find no sure answers.
In other experiments mouse skin was kept alive twice as long as a mouse normally lives. How? By transplanting the skin from one live mouse to another. This seemed to show that the individual cells in mouse skin possessed the ability to live longer than the mouse from which they came. But does it solve the problem of aging? No; all it shows is that cells may have a potentially longer life. Yet, they eventually die. And these experiments were artificially contrived, not representing life as it really is.
It must be kept in mind that cells do not live in a glass dish. They live in YOU. Your body, with all its complex, interacting and self-regulating systems is a far cry from a sterile bowl. For this reason experiments in culture dishes that seem to show this or that possibility are not as significant as they may seem. Nor are experiments with animals. God created man distinct and separate from the animal realm. So results from experiments with animals may not necessarily apply to humans.
The fact remains that no such theories or experiments come to grips with the real answer to the problem. Whether there is “transcription error” in the DNA, cell poisoning or some other cause, we still get old and die. No matter what the theory or experiment, people are still living only the Biblical average of seventy or eighty years. (Ps. 90:10) Nothing that science or medicine has done has altered this basic truth.
Whatever the reason, the amazing DNA blueprint is not now programmed to sustain cells in perfect balance. In old age those wearing out and dying are not always replaced by new ones through cell division. So degeneration and death follow.
The One Who Knows
A computer can be changed, or reprogrammed. Man’s DNA blueprint needs to be reprogrammed for everlasting life. If it could be reprogrammed to keep the right balance in cell replacement and renewal, man could live forever.
But who could do such a thing? Obviously, no human, however intelligent he may be, knows that much about man’s blueprints. And it is a vain hope to think that dying, imperfect man will someday find a way to eliminate death. Only the One who created life, who gave mankind the DNA blueprint, knows enough about it to reprogram it for everlasting life.
The Creator of man, Jehovah God, knows every detail of your marvelous DNA blueprint. He should. He designed it and put it into operation. Writing under the inspiration of God’s powerful holy spirit, the psalmist said of the Creator: “I shall laud you because in a fear-inspiring way I am wonderfully made. . . . My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, . . . Your eyes saw even the embryo of me, and in your book all its parts were down in writing, as regards the days when they were formed.”—Ps. 139:14-16.
The Creator does not take a negative attitude toward the possibility of living forever. Dozens of times in his own Word he states with certainty that everlasting life will be a reality, without fail. For example, Romans 6:23 says: “The gift God gives is everlasting life.” Psalm 37:29 foretells: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”
So the Maker of the DNA has promised that man will live forever on earth someday. That was God’s purpose when he created man. He equipped man’s body for everlasting life. Had man remained faithful to his Creator, he would be able to live forever right now.
But that was not the case. The first human pair disobeyed God’s law and thus lost the opportunity to live forever. They became defective, imperfect. (Deut. 32:5) Their bodies lost the capacity of sustaining cell replacement in perfection. Precisely how that happened, just what the technical matters involved were, the Bible does not say. But from their rebellion on, their bodies were “programmed” for death, not eternal life.
All of Adam’s descendants inherited that same “program” in their bodies. We are all Adam’s offspring. That is why we all die. As Romans 5:12 states: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men.” We inherited death just as we inherit certain physical characteristics.
Another Blueprint for Life
Jehovah has arranged a way for persons to regain the opportunity for everlasting life. You can, too, if that is what you really want.
What is involved? First, a study of God’s Word, the Bible. The Holy Scriptures can be regarded as another blueprint for life. In them we find God’s specific written instructions that lead to eternal life. If we carefully examine these instructions, and then follow them, we can be confident that Jehovah will grant us eternal life in his new order.
Such confidence is surely not misplaced. Jehovah has set the limits on how long we can hope to live now, and he can remove those limits. Scientists do not know how to make your body parts go on living forever. But Jehovah does. All your body parts are in writing in his “book.” Death is no mystery to the Creator of the amazing DNA. He knows exactly what causes aging and death and precisely how to stop that process. He knows how to bring cell replacement into perfect balance.
Jehovah has given us his guarantee that there will be a time when honest-hearted persons will live forever on earth. The prospect of eternal life is thus not a vain hope. It is not a lie, because God himself has promised it, and God cannot lie.—Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18.
The Bible can now become your personal blueprint for everlasting life. Study it. Place your confidence in the promises and power of God it tells you about. (John 17:3; Prov. 2:1-5, 21, 22) Always keep in mind that humans can only be students of the living cell. But Jehovah is its maker. He alone can direct it so that we can have everlasting life in his new order.