The universe is a work of art. From the patterns of galaxies and the patterns of subatomic structures to the diversity of the mountains and oceans, everything in the cosmos exhibits beauty: precision, harmony, elegance and color. Nothing in nature is truly chaotic, and nothing in nature is perfectly orderly. Perfect order is boring; art is about variation.
Among the many marvels of creation is the miracle of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, a complex molecule that amounts to a rudimentary computer program. The DNA molecule somehow is able to replicate itself in a way other molecules cannot, and it copies its code onto another molecule called ribonucleic acid, RNA, which then conveys messages to other complex molecules for the creation of amino acids and proteins. This process occurs over and over, billions of times, to create life as we know it.
Yet the marvel is that, in a process that occurs so many times over and over, the DNA almost always remains the same. The vast majority of the time, it copies itself exactly, and only rarely does the process go wrong, resulting in what we call mutations. From these mutations arise the diversity and variation in life.
The universe was created in love by Love Himself. For God is Love, and God is Beauty, and God is Perfection, but God wanted to extend love outside the Trinity. He created the angels with free will and the ability to love. He created the material world to express beauty, and to image love in their relationships, whether the gravity of stars or the reproduction of animals. Yet He created man with three abilities: to love, to reflect beauty and, in the quality which separates man from both beast and angel, the ability to create.
Angels can think, and angels can love, but angels, as spiritual beings, are incapable of creating. Animals procreate, but they have no free will in their procreation. They are driven entirely by the rules of nature programmed into their DNA.
Among the animals, only Man is capable of applying will to the process of procreation, and among thinking beings, only man is capable of conceiving ideas which he then constructs into material form.
Thus man is made “in the image and likeness of God” in that, unlike all other creatures, He is capable of art. Unlike all other creatures, man reflects God’s love, God’s intelligence, God’s will, and God’s ability to create.
A perfect vision, it would seem. Yet the vision is hardly reflected in our daily experience of wars and famines, bills and bad weather. Where is the beauty in a terrorist? Where is the love in a drug dealer? Where is the creative ability in a wastrel? How could a loving and beauteous God have created a world where such ugliness and hatred occur?
The mystery is, of course, tangled up in the mystery of our own freedom to love, our freedom to choose, but what of another level?
What of the storms, the earthquakes? What of the mutations that cause death and pain and disorder, which seem to bring discordance to the harmony of the human body?
Did God make a mistake? Did we?
Some of these aberrations are more common than others. Once in every 10,000 to 20,000 conceptions, statistically speaking, there is a sour note in the formation of a small gene that scientists have labeled FBN1, located on Chromosome 15. Maybe some of the base pairs get changed. Maybe part of the gene just breaks off. Something goes wrong, and the result is one of those children whose very existence either decries or demands the existence of God. For how can a God who created a universe of beauty, in which human beings are supposedly the pinnacle of that beauty, have created human beings whose very DNA causes them to lack harmony in their bodies, disproportionate and distended? How could a loving God have allowed those who are allegedly His most precious children to suffer so horribly by design? How could such pain and death result from a nature that is orderly and beautiful? And, yet, most importantly, how could such an unfortunate creature, born into so cruel and loveless a world, find meaning in the pain? Could such a person, whose existence seemingly mocks the idea of order and beauty and love, yet personify these ideals?