We are molecular machines

Way back in the 1980s, Eric Drexler wrote a world-changing book called Engines of Creation. His ideas were heavily influenced by the greatest, and least-hyped, physicist of our era, Richard Feynman (please visit his website if you’re not familiar with Feynman—you will be enlightened). Feynman and Drexler posited that it was possible (and better) to create physical objects from the “bottom up.” Rather than cutting down a tree and whittling away and sawing pieces and assembling a table from that tree, we could manufacture a table molecularly.

A table is made out of wood, which comes from a tree, which is made out of bazillions of individual molecules arranged in a form that, to us, looks like a tree. This is the way everything in the universe is built: molecularly (and sub-molecularly, as it turns out). Planets, stars, flowers and blades of grass, eggs and chickens all have molecular structures. A Chicken isn’t built by taking pieces of Chicken from a giant Chicken tree, then assembling those pieces so they look and act like a chicken. A Chicken is built one molecule at a time, from the genetic recipe stored in DNA. Feynman, and later Drexler, theorized that humans should be able to build this way as well, and the age of molecular nanotechnology and molecular machines was born.

Today, we have engines and propellers and assemblers the size of one molecule. We can assemble primitive objects, and the advances in this field have already led to new treatments for Cancer and other diseases. Feynman’s theories and Drexler’s institutes have encouraged and financed an entirely new field of medical research and entirely new, molecular, engineering techniques. Some of our cars already have a reactive issue of nanoparticle paint, which helps it prevent cracking and fading in the sun. Some cosmetics are infused with nanoparticles. Panes of glass have embedded nanomachines that react to sunlight, polarizing and dimming the window automatically, no need for window shades or curtains.

These are all stepping stones to Drexler’s dream of molecular machines that self-build everything from mattresses to steak, to his dream that one day, the world would be able to create enough housing and food for every man, woman and child because everything could be built to order from the basic elements of all things, which are abundant in the universe. 
Visit Drexler’s website and you’ll see how molecular nanotechnology might be used to change the world. His latest book is called Radical Abundance. Sound familiar?

Is not radical abundance the very reason most of us are compelled to traverse this difficult spiritual path? When we read the great spiritual texts of our ancestors, do we not see people like Drexler who look at the world and think, “Wait a minute, everything is way out of balance. Why does the King have all the food and money, while the people starve?” This was Siddhartha’s (later called the Buddha) transformative realization, when he left the palace and saw people suffering. This was Jesus’ primary mission—not to convert people into Christians, but to end the inequity of a world he saw drastically out of balance. This is the dream of every scientist I have ever met. They’re not in it to make new things or to prove God doesn’t exist. They’re in it to learn more about how the universe works, and hopefully by so doing, change the balance of power in the world and provide abundance for the ever-growing numbers of human beings populating this very small planet, in this unfathomably large universe.

By realizing the spiritual and scientific worlds are working toward the same common, worthwhile goal, we take ever-greater steps toward creating the sort of world Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and thousands of others have dreamed of since the dawn of humanity: A world of peace and equality; a world where all our resources are distributed and shared equally. To get there, we need to have faith that God is continually revealing new ideas through reason and science. We must also become ever more aware that the molecules that are the engines of creation are in fact the creative molecules of the conscious mind of God. That moment of enlightenment will be the even horizon that transforms humanity into the likeness exemplified by the Christ (perhaps we should start calling him the Christ Buddha), who was so aware of his molecular oneness with God, that he has become indistinguishable from God. That is our molecular future, as well.

Meditation: You are my engine of creation, God who infuses every molecule of existence with consciousness. Propel me to act with love and compassion. Amen.

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