Chapter 1: Blood: The Incomparable Liquid of Life (7/10)
Inside the body there is a system that in terms of complexity, is little different from the social life among human beings. The only difference is that the starring role in the internal system is played by cells.
Nonetheless, we can see extraordinary resemblances in terms of the methods employed, the tactics implemented, and the precautions taken. Like conscious human beings, the cells possess similar abilities to defend themselves, behave intelligently and take precautions. One of the most important examples of this takes place, again, among the defense cells.
Some germs know how to protect themselves against the lymphocytes ready to attack them inside the body. They install themselves on or inside a cell in the body and effectively disappear. The bacterium that causes tuberculosis, for example, is particularly cunning, installing itself inside the macrophage that comes to destroy it.
There are manifestations of an infinite intelligence in all the systems created by God. The way that a single-celled microorganism is aware of the dangers awaiting it in the human immune system and applies a method requiring a conscious strategy are just two of these manifestations. What causes this bacterium to behave in this way? How it is aware of the coming danger? How has it managed to conceive of entering inside the macrophages? These questions and hundreds of others remain unanswered by the theory of evolution and its supporters, who seek to offer accounts based on random mutations. It is impossible for the proponents of evolution to account for the conscious behavior in the micro-world in terms of chance. This is God's superior creation.
Many other proofs of the incomparable intelligence are displayed within a single cell. For example, no matter how much foreign agents conceal themselves inside the cell, a defense system in the body identifies that hiding place. After the bacterium has entered the macrophage, a special molecule inside the latter takes a part of the bacterium and carries it to the surface of the cell. The helper T-cells recognize this combination in front of them and release a substance that allows the macrophage to realize that there is a foreign body inside it. After its location is established, the enemy can then easily be destroyed.
Enemies that enter other cells of the body are located by killer T-cells and also destroyed. Special molecules inside the cell report that an enemy has installed itself in the cell. Killer T-cells strike the virus and completely destroy the cell inside which the virus was hiding.50 This actually represents a kind of self-sacrifice on the part of the cell inside which the virus installed itself. It risks being destroyed by the killer T-cells for the sake of defending the body as a whole.
On close inspection, no single stage in any of these processes is random or left to chance. Indeed, the phenomena observed are indications of a superior consciousness that one would never expect from a minute cell. All this activity described here is actually combat between single-celled organisms just a few microns in size, in areas of just millimeters. Since we cannot expect a cell with no decision-making mechanisms to wield intelligence, and since we cannot ascribe the conscious processes performed to its own abilities, then we clearly need to direct our amazement to the sole possessor of that intelligence—Almighty and Omniscient God, the Creator of all.
The Immune System Returns to Normal
This activity, which has been described in some detail, depicts the situation in the body under exceptional circumstances. Were it to continue in an uncontrolled manner—if the B-cells continued to multiply even after the disease was vanquished, and if the T-cells rushed everywhere setting all the defensive cells in motion—then an unrestrained and pointless war would drag on. This would lead to healthy cells being damaged and the body suffering extreme fatigue and exhaustion.
In order to prevent this, the "news" that the war is over needs to be spread throughout the entire body. This duty falls to yet another class of blood cells: The suppressor T-cell enables the immune system to return to normal by calming down the defense cells. Substances released by the suppressor T-cells slow down the actions of the B-cells and cause the killer T-cells to stop their war. They reduce the numbers of helper T-cells and calm down the body's defenses.
The war is now over, leaving many dead cells, bacterial debris and ruins all around. At this point the phagocytes enter the picture. Phagocytes spread over the battleground and clean up all the debris and dead cells. During this mopping-up operation, they also apply first aid to damaged tissues around them, and renew damaged regions.
The T and B-cells die within a few days of the end of the battle. A small group of survivors continue to live for a long time, however. These cells are witnesses to what has taken place inside the body, and their survival is of the greatest importance to the survival of subsequent generations of cells. They identify the recognition signal of the enemy—in other words, the antigen that caused the war to begin. They are therefore no longer referred to as defense cells, but as memory cells. The immunity acquired to a virus that has previously attacked the body comes about thanks to these memory cells. On any subsequent occasion, they will meet a cell of the same type that has entered the body and will ensure that it is eliminated before it is allowed to multiply or do any damage.
The "enemies" referred to here are two different cells that are quite unaware of one another. One lives in the body, and the other is a visitor from the outside. How is it that these different cells can possess such an ability to recognize each other? How, and through what decision, does a cell carry the information about another cell it regards as hostile? How—and why—does it survive when all its fellows die?
Can you really believe that this flawless defense system, of which you have seen many details, could come into being by means of random events, and uncontrolled and blind coincidences? It is of course impossible to think so in the face of so much evidence. The conscious events taking place here are so flawless and controlled as to exceed the management capacity even of a conscious human. This system, which cannot come into being through the intervention of conscious human beings, let alone random mutations, clearly demonstrates the fact of Creation.
God, Who has created all things merely by commanding them to Be, has created these tiny organisms from nothing, endowed them with a perfect compatibility and order, and inspired in them the tasks they need to perform. That is why a defensive cell recognizes its body's enemy, holds it in its memory, and stands guard to prevent harm befalling subsequent generations. Just the existence of these microorganisms, which God has created with a superior wisdom, is enough to lead a person in the direction of faith, and is proof of God's infinite might.
In the Qur'an God reveals:
All praise belongs to God, the Lord of the heavens and the Lord of the Earth, Lord of all the worlds. All greatness belongs to Him in the heavens and Earth. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise. (Surat al-Jathiyya: 36-37)
Intelligent Bodyguards in the Blood: Complement Molecules
The white blood cells, or leukocytes, which come in several cell types, have been programmed to war against anything that might do you harm, right from the moment you drew your first breath. The lack of even the smallest component of this impeccable mechanism could lead to you dying from a simple illness.
In addition to this perfect system in your body, there are guards who remain active even if you do not actually fall ill. These bodyguards have been programmed to attack every cell in your body, from birth until death. What is astounding is that though they exist in order to protect the body, they regard all the cells that comprise that body as hostile.
The system they comprise is known as the complement system. Complement molecules consist of 20 different proteins, produced in the liver, from where they enter the bloodstream. Under normal conditions, these cells that move haphazardly in the veins and arteries have no effect. But when aroused, they suddenly decide to destroy all the cells they detect.
The stimulus they receive is spread throughout the body by means of a single complement cell; and upon receiving this signal, they are unable to distinguish friend from foe in the body. They may therefore attach themselves to the body's own cells and seek to destroy them. Yet they are not actually permitted to do so, because the body cells possess the capacity to defend themselves. They recognize the complement cells the moment they encounter them. As soon as complement cells contact a body cell, the body's own cells neutralize them. This way, the body is prevented from being attacked by its own troops. On the other hand, foreign organisms that enter the body will inevitably and unexpectedly be assaulted by these guards.
When a complement molecule binds to a foreign body, it changes shape. This is followed by the first protein of the complement molecule binding to the invader. Later, the other proteins in the complement molecule attach themselves to the invader one by one, until the complement hunters cover the whole surface of the invading cell. The final element of the complement system is responsible for attacking the cell membrane. This clever molecule opens a hole in the cell membrane of the now defenseless foreign cell,51 which absorbs extracellular fluids, swells and eventually bursts.
Following their attack, complement molecules sometimes use another method. They cover the foe with a fine membrane, and thus indicate it to other ingesting cells.
As we have seen in this example, there is an imposing intelligence in every part of the human body. Every organism has this intelligence that protects, defends and keeps it alive. It is essential that a body's cells recognize the complement attackers; otherwise a single assault could result in the death of the individual. These powerful guards have to be standing ready at every moment.
Now consider: How many people are aware of the existence of this flawless complement system in their own bodies? Apart from scientists who are experts on the subject, no doubt the number of people who know of this mechanism is very small. Nevertheless, every human being, without exception, is equipped with this perfect system which operates at all times, non-stop. That is because our Lord God creates it, and He gives the cells the knowledge with which to protect the body.
God inspires in them the knowledge of which cells to fight, and when. God determines their duties, and the flawlessness they possess is a blessing to them from Him. And you are protected against invaders that enter your body because He wills it, and in the manner willed by Him. In its every detail, this perfect system is the work of our Almighty Lord.
The war inside the body may not result in victory every time. The entry of bacteria that are more competent than the complement molecules can totally undermine those molecules' order. When that happens, the mutual display of intelligence in the body is utterly astonishing.
Before they even enter the body, for example, pneumococcal bacteria, which give rise to lung inflammation, recognize the warrior molecules that will attack them. It is our Almighty Lord Who introduces them to these molecules, Who knows the properties of both organisms, Who created them, and Who watches and keeps them under His control at all times. These bacteria which enter the body in order to infect it possess a slippery membrane that makes them unrecognizable to the complement molecules, so that the latter fail to realize that these bacteria are uninvited and harmful guests.
You might imagine that after this, the bacteria can continue on their way through the body unimpeded. But foreign invaders that overcome the first obstacle in the human body will encounter a second, even greater one. Giant macrophages tear the slippery membrane that prevents the bacteria from being recognized. They trap the bacteria with their long pseudopods and devour them. If they do not use this method, they release a substance that tags the bacteria. As the bacteria are marked, complement and other molecules recognize and destroy them.52
All this shows that the foreign bacteria that enter the body, as well as the molecules that combat them inside the body, are all the products of a single Creator. The bacteria are clearly aware of the kind of dangers they will face. The body's cells, on the other hand, have taken precautions against bacteria that might enter the body, long before they ever do so. This, of course, is just one of the instances created by Almighty God, Lord and Absolute Ruler of the universe, to reveal the truth of His creation. He reveals this truth in verses:
Say: "I seek refuge with the Lord of humanity, the King of humanity, the God of humanity ..." (Surat an-Nas: 1-3)
Exalted be God, the King, the Real. There is no god but Him, Lord of the Noble Throne. (Surat al-Muminun: 116)
AIDS, a fatal disease for which no cure has yet been found, is another important example of how both aggressor and defender are the work of a single Creator. The HIV virus which causes the disease enters the body with a tactic already planned against the body's defense mechanism. It knows what it will be fighting against in a body it has never seen before. For that reason, the moment it enters the body, rather than concealing itself like other viruses in any random cell, it enters the helper T-cell charged with directly eliminating intruders in the body and reporting this to the other defense elements. It damages the cell and prevents it from reporting the danger. A system whose elements have been damaged no longer functions as effectively as before. As a result, the body is no longer in a position to combat even a simple flu infection. Due to the HIV's damaging effect on the immune system, even a flu virus can prove deadly.
If There Were No Defense Cells ...
The cells that make up the defense system act dependently of one another through a complex network. Some perceive the danger, others begin the initial halting operation, some notify the other defense cells, others deal the lethal blow to the enemy, and still others wait in the wings to serve as reminders in the event of future attacks. Remove just one link from this chain, and you are left with no defense system at all. For example, if you remove the helper T-cells, then the killer cells left in the body will be unaware of danger. If you remove the B-cells and killer T-cells, then the helper T-cells will have no superior unit to which to report any threat.
If you do away with the natural killers, then it will be impossible to eliminate resistant enemies that enter, and any single bacterium will cripple the body. Remove the memory cells, and the body will have no immunity to foreign organisms, and the defense cells in the body will have to fight the same enemy time and again, leading to a rapid weakening of the defense system, leaving the body exposed to new infections and repeatedly the same illnesses.
Therefore, the leukocytes comprising the bloodstream's defense system are irreducibly complex. It's impossible to reduce or remove a single component of this mechanism. If any one part of the system is missing, then the system cannot function. As a result, even a common cold virus will soon lead to death. Since no virus entering the body will encounter any obstacle, it will be able to enter any cell it chooses and reproduce as much as it likes. Under normal conditions, the production of cells is tightly supervised. Yet since the virus will not be subjected to any similar supervision, soon it will occupy the whole body by using the means available in the cell. That is why AIDS sufferers and people whose immune systems have been destroyed by such techniques as chemotherapy are so extremely vulnerable to illnesses of all sorts. If defense cells are lacking, then a system by which the body can defend itself needs to be added. If this is impossible, the inevitable consequence is death.
Like AIDS, leukemia is a fatal disease resulting from a deformation of the defense cells. The leukocytes in the blood assume different shapes and are no longer able to function. This leads to retardation of the general defense mechanism. In almost all types of leukemia, cells multiplying in an uncontrolled manner spread to all the surrounding tissues. Therefore, the tissues are thus impaired and soon become unable to discharge their previous functions.
The fact that the tissues with leukemia begin rapidly producing new cells gives rise to a need for excessive nutrients in the body fluids, particularly amino acids and vitamins. The body's energy thus quickly decreases. Excessive amino acid use increases the consumption of normal body proteins. The tissues with leukemia thus grow, and other tissues are weakened. Even if the system continues in this form, it may soon lead to death.53 The most effective way of treating patients is transplanting into their systems new bone marrow that can produce sound and healthy white blood cells.
As we have seen, it is impossible for the system to have emerged through evolution, because it serves any purpose only when all its components are present together. This system is an example of a perfection created together with all its properties and that operates with the coordination of all its components. It is therefore important evidence for creation. Once again, we find ourselves faced with the flawlessness in God's creation. He reveals this fact of creation in a verse: This is God's creation. Show me then what those besides Him have created! The wrongdoers are clearly misguided. (Surah Luqman: 11)